I wish we didn’t.
I wouldn’t raise the issue except that the conservative blogs and commentators seem to be horrified by this most minor of pop culture developments—the sexual orientation of a five-decades-old Hanna-Barbara cartoon character?–and the usual progressive suspects are awash with joy. (Well, I guess you have to take your victories where you find them, however minuscule.)
The ethics issues are encompassed in the routine question, “What’s going on here?”
What follows are some related questions and suggested answers. For those of you who are completely popular culture-starved, Velma was and is the most forgettable and dispensable member of the teen ghost-hunting team portrayed in the Saturday Morning cartoon series, “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” Scooby-Doo was a talking Great Dane who was scared of ghosts, and, as the title might suggest, was the star of the show. Shaggy, his hippie-dippie owner (there were hippies in 1969) was Scooby’s comic foil, and the rest of the gang was basically window dressing, especially Daphne, who, as cartoon characters go before the advent of Jessica Rabbit, was kind of hot. But Fred, a big blonde dufus who wore an ascot for some reason (many suspected that he was gay), was the bland and useless leader, and shapeless, plain Velma had the least to do and say of all, though she was supposedly the smart one (she wore glasses, after all).
The survival of this thoroughly unfunny and repetitious show through multiple incarnations, a couple of live-action movies and video games is a tribute to unselective nostalgia and creative bankruptcy, but never mind—the point is that they are still churning out this crap, and in the latest Scooby-Doo retread, Velma is shown to be a lesbian: you can see how smitten she is with the alluring “Coco Diablo” in the shot above.
Now the questions:
1. Why make Velma a lesbian? Good question. These are cartoons for kids, presumably pre-teens. Why should sex be a topic in them at all? The original seldom (if ever—I didn’t see too many of these things) even had romantic subplots: the gang was too busy proving that the “ghosts” were really part of a plot for a land speculator to chase people out of some valuable property or an equivalent conspiracy.)
When a really, really stupid controversy arose with the Religious Right claiming that Bert and Ernie on “Sesame Street” were gay, the terse PBS reply was that Bert and Ernie were not gay, and they weren’t straight: they were puppets. The same should apply to Saturday Morning cartoons and their progeny. Sexual matters don’t belong there, or in the brains of their intended audience.
As for the adults and older teens who relish this junk—well, they have bigger problems.
2. Is there any ethical, valid reason to highlight Velma’s sexual orientation? The argument is that LGBTQ children, who already know they are “different” and are thus prey to feeling isolated, oppressed and depressed, benefit from seeing “someone like them” in as many places as possible being accepted and considered “normal.”
Okay. That’s the same theory—rationalization?—that supports grammar school teachers introducing LGBTQ characters, issues and instruction in public school classes. There is some utilitarian justification there.
On the other side, however, is the wisdom of making everything in the culture about sex, no matter how young its audience, and doing so for the theoretical and unproven benefit of a small minority. My ethics verdict is that even accepting arguendo that this has a potential benefit for some children, it is irresponsibly reckless, risky, and unsupported by experience, research or common sense to be tested on a whole generation. Innocence isn’t something to be feared, nor thrown away. Doing so to further very adult political and social agendas is indefensible.
3. What does Gay Velma add to the entertainment values of “Scooby-Doo?” To ask the question is to answer it. Nothing. It’s a talking dog show about hunting ghosts. Is Velma being a lesbian supposed to be funny? That wouldn’t seem to advance the LGBTQ community’s interests. This is a cartoon comedy: how do sexual proclivities add to the yuks? Would it be an enhancement to show Shaggy as a compulsive masturbator? Would 11-year-olds find the show more amusing if Fred wore a bra under his shirt? Would the Roadrunner be funnier if Wiley Coyote was a gay stalker?
I don’t think so.
4. Is Velma worth getting upset about or even thinking about? Tough one. I hate to say it, but I have to conclude that “Scobby-Doo Where Are You!” Lives Matter. American culture, values and sanity are being subjected to a death by a million cuts, every one of them sneaking into our societal bloodstream via Rationalization #33. The Management Shrug: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” Letting what seemed at the time to be silly, trivial, nutty stuff that ideologues, fanatics and revolutionaries seemed determined to fight over go forward because it didn’t seem worth the effort and energy to take a stand is how we ended up with Leftist indoctrination factories as our universities, open borders, violent criminals being released without bail, legalized recreational drugs, drag shows in libraries and toppled statues, and much more.
“What’s going on here” is that gay, trans and whatever activists are seizing every opportunity to inject political and social propaganda in support of their—what? I’m looking for a non-pejorative description. It’s not “grooming,” exactly: distorted priorities, maybe? It would be as if I had the power to make an admirable character in every movie and TV show a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. That’s an abuse of position, power and influence.
Dumb as it seems to be and is, it matters.