Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! If you think about it, and I do, the whole concept of the series is driven by desire.
The formula is the same. The Mystery, Inc. gang happen upon a paranormal experience that is interrupting the usual goings on of some sort of establishment. Through a series of mostly illogical events, the dastardly ghoul very nearly gets away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those “meddlin'” kids.
Note that we’re talking about a corporation here, Mystery, Inc. Who gave these minors a business license, anyway? And just what is their business? Putting businesses back in business after a paranormal hoax interrupts operations. It must be a lucrative business, as none of them seem to have day jobs, and they are generally well-kept in Scooby Snacks.
Anyway, the gang wraps up this mystery within a single episode, and all, the audience included, experience some brief pleasure at the unmasking of the menace at the end. But, then there is another mystery to be solved in the next episode. For some brief pleasure at the revelation of the hoax. But, then there is another mystery to be solved…
No more mysteries? No more Scooby-Doo. But, there’s ALWAYS another mystery. Another object of desire. Desire, for Lacan, is a continuous grasping to fill that lack you’ll forever seek to fill. Desire is always for that thing just out of reach– the thing you can never unmask.
It’s addiction, desire. Always after the next better thing. There is no best, no superlative thing, only an endless series of objet petit a, b, c… with each objet more or less objeter than the last. Nonetheless, we are always striving to find the always already unavailable objetest. That is what Freud referred to as the Triebe, the Drive, or to use Lacan’s preferred translation, the “drift.”
The plot, too, is a kind of chain of desire, say Shoshana Felman and Peter Brooks, at least in terms of literature. But I suspect the same may be said for other forms of popular culture, Scooby-Doo, for instance. We drift from scene to scene through the plot, desiring both to reach it’s inevitable conclusion and to enjoy the delays and setbacks of that conclusion. Plots operate on the reader’s desire, and no plots play upon that desire like mysteries. Just ask Hitchcock. Or Daphne.
I am driven, in some way, to binge watch an entire season of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in one sitting. These are episodes I’ve seen dozens of times in re-runs as a kid. Still, I desired to watch the whole season, and I did it. Now I want to do the same with the next season. My scopophilia knows no bounds when it comes to that meddlin’ mutt, those hippie teens, and all their gettings-up-to.
It matters not a bit that I already know the terrible Black Knight is really Mr. Wickers. I still live for that unmasking at the end. There is something so satisfying when the mask of the supernatural is stripped away to reveal someone so very mundane. That’s catharsis, the established order is returned and business at the Hotel or Candy Manufacturing Plant goes back to normal.
The Black Knight, and other Doo villains of his ilk, though, signify irruptions of the Real in the Symbolic order and interruptions of the working of ideology. The stripping away of their masks actually places them firmly in the Symbolic order, as their actual roles in the story world are revealed. It was the dog trainer, after all! What are we left with? The image of a sad, grown man, wearing a rubber suit, being carted off to jail.
This image we can assimilate into our established Symbolic order. We can explain away the menace. So these villains, themselves aren’t the Real. The Real can’t be comfortably accommodated by what we know. That’s when we feel the sensation Freud called unheimliche, the uncanny. There’s nothing uncanny about Scooby-Doo. All becomes assimilable by the end of an episode.
Everything is explainable in language. Until another episode starts.
So, how do these villains signify the irruption of the Real?
What if, when Fred rips the villain’s mask off, there’s nothing there. Literally nothing. What’s there is mundane enough to be insignificant. To not signify. To signify nothing.
If you rip the Velma mask off, strip the ego who thinks herself to be “Velma,” there’s a void at the center. That’s not just because she’s a snarky know-it-all.
Now this isn’t as nihilistic as it all sounds. The void to be found there is the unconscious.
The unconscious is the thing we can’t think about ourselves. It’s the thing from whence the thought to think about oneself has sprung. The unconscious thinks you into being. It shapes your patterns of behavior, of speech, of being. It’s the origin of Shaggy’s insatiable drive toward overdosing on Scooby-Snacks. It drives Buck Masters to kidnap the competition. It drives Bluestone the Great to search for the Vasquez treasure. It drives C.L. Magnus to dress as Redbeard and raid his own cargo ships to save his dying business. And it drives Fred to drive the Mystery Machine.
It writes the mysteries you don’t even know you’re acting in. It hides things from you. It’s this unthinkable, yet thinking, thing.
As Freud put it, “The ego is not master in its own house.” We’re not what we think we are. We’re what thinks what we are.
And that thing that thinks us desires more Scooby-Doo.
Apparently, there’s a current incarnation of the show called Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! airing on Cartoon Network, though I haven’t seen it yet. The mysteries just do not stop. That’s desire, folks.