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Scooby-Doo explains the world?

Over at UN Dispatch, John Boonstra adds to Stephen Walt, Dan Drezner, Mike Tomasky, Fred Kaplan, et. al.’s discussion of the television shows and movies most relevant to foreign policy. The past suggestions have ranged from the highbrow to the lowbrow, the obscure to the obvious, Children of Men to Duck Soup. Boonstra’s addition? The ...

585311_090603_MysteryMachine5.jpg

Over at UN Dispatch, John Boonstra adds to Stephen Walt, Dan Drezner, Mike Tomasky, Fred Kaplan, et. al.’s discussion of the television shows and movies most relevant to foreign policy.

The past suggestions have ranged from the highbrow to the lowbrow, the obscure to the obvious, Children of Men to Duck Soup. Boonstra’s addition? The show that took hijinks, mashed them with the teenage detective and paranormal mystery genres (yes, both of them), added in a dash of Timothy Leary and the Mamas and the Papas, and baked it all together in an irresistible biscuit: Scooby-Doo

Consider the Scooby Doo villains as rudimentary terrorists. They dress up as scary monsters, terrify the local population, and chase Shaggy and Scooby through endless halls and mismatched doorways.  That they wear masks, and often are after financial gain, may make them seem to resemble old-school bank robbers, but the crux of their power is the terror they invoke in residents.

The mysteries are inevitably solved by the members of the team — Fred, Daphne, and Velma — who remain relatively calm and treat the monsters as criminals — not, say, “enemy combatants” of the beleaguered town.  This is despite the fact that they are impersonating what is, in terms of fear-inducing presence, essentially a child’s equivalent of a bomb-laden terrorist.

But no lockdowns are conducted, there is no torture for information on the monster’s identity, and no pre-emptive strikes.  (The only “operations” are limited to Rube Goldberg-esque traps that are conducted only once the team has accumulated enough evidence to identify the villain, who, naturally, “would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for you lousy kids!”)  The culprit is then arrested by the local police, and, instead of bundling him in the Mystery Machine and sending him/her to Guantanamo, s/he is presumably headed for a normal civilian jail.

I’m charmed by the comparison, but I’m not sure it holds up. The Scooby Doo villains were hardly conventionally motivated terrorists, striking fear into civilian populations to attempt societal revolution; they were always after cold-hard cash. (Often from empty bed and breakfasts located in swamps. Weirdly.)

If anything, I think of the Scooby Doo Five as a decent analog for the United Nations weapons inspectors: mobile and peripatetic, spooked by the astral, often kicked out of the amusement park, much derided but really fairly decent at digging out the truth.

So what cartoons do explain the foreign policy world? I’m going to do a little reading of Louis Menand and will get back to you — the ones springing to mind (Darkwing Duck? Jem?) don’t seem very relevant. Pinky and the Brain perhaps. And maybe more on The Smurfs later. 

Photo: Flickr user MagnusK

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