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There’s a new animated Scooby Doo movie being released to DVD today—Scooby Doo! Frankencreepy—and, unfortunately, the creepiest part of the movie has nothing to do with an overly elaborate plan to scare people away from an abandoned amusement park. Instead, this time, the folks at Warner Bros. Animation decided to subject Daphne, one of the iconic members of the Scooby Gang, to something unspeakable. They subjected her to something that would make her entire juvenile fan base recoil with shock and disgust.
They made her overweight.
(Cue dramatic ‘70s mystery music.)
That’s right. Daphne gets cursed and (horror of horrors) she finds that’s she’s gone from a “size two to a size eight,” even though she’s been drawn by animators who apparently have NEVER seen a size-eight woman in real life before. “Fat Daphne” is drawn like she’s Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka, like she’s puffed up like a balloon. You know, like all of those horribly misshapen size-eight freaks out there in the real world, those social outcasts who are forced to live their lives like… normal women. Like professionals and artists and aunts and sisters and mothers WHO BUY THEIR CHILDREN SCOOBY DOO DVDs.
How completely disappointing. I’ve always been a big fan of Scooby Doo. Even though I’m an almost-forty-year-old man, I will tell you right now—the two-season Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated series that recently ran on the Cartoon Network (which you can find on Netflix) is, in my opinion, better than HBO’s The Leftovers or FX’s The Strain. It was a legitimately great show. So, that, mixed with my nostalgia for the original series, has always made Scooby Doo one of my favorite pop culture properties. I’m a Scooby fan and so is my seven-year-old daughter.
But the decision to fat-shame Daphne in this newest movie is downright repugnant. It’s sad to think that my daughter can’t even watch a cartoon about a dog solving mysteries without negative body stereotypes being thrown in her face. Thanks a lot, Warner Brothers.
The plot of Frankencreepy revolves around Velma finding out that she’s “inherited her great-great-uncle Dr. Von Dinkenstein’s cursed castle in the terrifying town of Transylvania… Pennsylvania” and, of course, wackiness ensues. Traps are set, Velma’s glasses fall off, Scooby and Shaggy are bribed with Scooby Snacks, no doubt. But, since this castle is cursed, the Scooby Gang ends up getting cursed and the absolute WORST thing that Daphne can imagine is losing her looks. Which… sigh… OK, is shallow as HELL, but they could’ve found a way to make that work in a non-offensive way.
Daphne has never been the most progressive character on kids’ TV—too often, she’s been labelled the “pretty one,” while Velma got stuck with the “smart one” label—but there have been more recent takes on the character that have addressed her inherent shallowness in fairly smart and progressive ways. (The aforementioned Mystery Incorporated series did well with making Daphne more than just a pretty face and, as terrible as the live-action Scooby Doo movies were, you have to give them credit for casting Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Daphne and making her main preoccupation to be taken more seriously.)
But, fine, if the creators of Frankencreepy could only see Daphne skin deep, as a teenager obsessed with her looks, they could’ve dealt with the “loss of her looks” in a less offensive way. Why not have her cursed to look like one of the classic Scooby monsters (The Creeper or the Space Kook)? Why not cover her in hair and fangs and turn her into a wolf-girl? Why not give her a third eye, green skin, a tail… why not really make her terrible to look at? (In the most kid-friendly way possible, of course.)
But, alas, that’s not what the Frankencreepy creators did. Instead, they said “How can we make Daphne into something truly ugly? How can we make her the opposite of pretty?” And their answer was… let’s make her overweight. Let’s make her look like people’s friends and sisters and moms. Let’s make her look, not like a supermodel, but rather more like a normal girl you’d see on a normal street, and then let’s have her look in a mirror and RECOIL IN HORROR, just to make sure that all the kids watching at home know that being fat makes you into a monster.
(I’m not even going to get into the hypocrisy of Scooby freakin’ Doo—a show that has, more than any other show I can think of, glamorized consequence-free gluttony for more than forty years—criticizing a woman for putting on a few pounds.)
In Frankencreepy’s slight defense, most of the Scooby gang doesn’t reinforce the fat-shaming in the film (Fred is downright supportive), but the sheer concept of equating being overweight with the loss of physical attractiveness… it’s a vicious message to find in a kids’ animated movie.
As I mentioned, I’m a Scooby Doo fan, but I am severely disappointed in the insensitivity lurking at the heart of Frankencreepy. I hope Warner Brothers Animation is ashamed of what they’ve produced here and I hope that this kind of body-shaming won’t ever reappear in a Scooby Doo movie again.
Reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project.