Scooby-Doo is 50: Yes it really was all about drugs
Growing up on cartoons that soaked up psychedelia as blotting paper soaked up LSD
Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, Fred and Scooby in the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, which premiered in 1969 and ran for three seasons. Photograph: Hanna-Barbera
Imagine an alternative universe in which children’s television of the early 1990s was taken up with references to ecstasy. The Adventures of Mandy and Molly ends with the heroes, bears in hooded tops, blowing whistles while dancing on a podium in rural Hertfordshire. If the shows got truly daring they could make reference to Scooby Snacks. That was, after all, an occasional nickname for MDMA.
Which brings us neatly to the 50th anniversary of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! The Hanna-Barbera show was conceived to fill a gap after Action for Children’s Television (ACT), one of those endless busy-body organisations concerned with filth on telly, forced the cancellation on US TV of several cartoons deemed too violent. ACT had, in the era of the Altamont rock festival, no problem with a bunch of young weirdos travelling the country in a brightly coloured van.
Fred (cravat), Daphne (damsel in distress) and Velma (intellectual with Agnes Varda’s haircut) bounced off outer levels of the counterculture. But Shaggy and Scooby were something else. Voiced by popular DJ Casey Kasem, Shaggy spoke in, like, the unmistakable patois of the dope fiend, man, and moved with a lobotomised languor that suggested he should stay away from heavy machinery. Both he and Scooby, apparently a great Dane, were always hungry. It’s almost as if they were in the grip of something the uninformed ACT wouldn’t balk at hearing described as “the munchies”.
The creators all expressed bewilderment about the subsequent associations drawn by stoned students
The American television of my childhood was permeated with now-bewildering allusions to the just-expired counterculture. It soaked up psychedelia as blotting paper soaked up LSD. Documentaries about the era describe how the rise of the hippie drove the firmest of wedges between generations. Novels such as Philip Roth’s American Pastoral wax movingly on that often painful divide. Yet the kids (and I do mean kids) were revelling in the reflected, smoky glow of Haight-Ashbury.
Just two months ago, streaming services welcomed The Banana Splits Movie to their menus. The enjoyable horror spoof revolves around a similarly titled show that, from 1968 to 1970, ranked up the chemical surrealism to dizzying levels. The eponymous Splits, a power-pop rock band, comprised four creatures of terrifying aspect – Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky – who, when not blasting out their theme tune, talked back to a sentient cuckoo clock or parried comments from a stuffed moose head.
Children’s entertainment had touched on surrealism before, but the crash zooms and swirling dissolves made it clear than we were in neighbouring territory to drug-culture movies such as Roger Corman’s The Trip. Everybody was involved in the same addled conversation.
The spookiest and trippiest series of that era was, however, the still ineffably strange HR Pufnstuf. I know middle-aged people who, to this day, shudder at the thought of the Krofft brothers’ series concerning a boy shipwrecked on island inhabited by talking trees, singing frogs and a talking flute. Of course, such things appear throughout fairy tales, but the tone of HR Pufnstuf rooted it firmly in the acid penumbra. The colours were exhausting. The camera angles were freaky. The puppets all seemed on the point of pharmaceutical breakdown. The show was actually called HR Pufnstuf, for Pete’s sake. Puf-n-stuf? Get it?
Inevitably the creators all expressed bewilderment about the subsequent associations drawn by stoned students. Then again, John Lennon always claimed that, rather than referencing LSD (perish the thought), Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds got its title from a drawing by the Beatle’s young son. Yeah, right. “We did not intentionally do anything related to drugs in the story,” Marty Krofft, co-creator of Pufnstuf, said years later. “They may have lent themselves to that culture at the time, but we didn’t ascribe that meaning to them.” The folk behind Scooby-Doo were similarly appalled at such accusations.
A bit of this made its way across the Atlantic. Dylan, the rabbit in the Anglo-French production The Magic Roundabout, was always suspiciously stoned of speech. Lord knows what was going on in Wanderly Wagon. But the more explicitly psychedelic stuff tended to be an American phenomenon. We must take the makers at face value when they say they weren’t trying to lure children towards hashish dens, but they cannot have been entirely unaware that they were drawing influences from a controversial, sometimes notorious counterculture.
What surprises now is that there was so little fuss from conservative curtain-twitchers. We are wrong to assume retrospective wisdom when re-evaluating popular entertainment – plenty of writers saw the problem with Friends 20 years ago – but the shifts in culture were, in the late 1960s, so jarring that it was hard for gate-keepers to maintain focus. Maybe the dog was just hungry. Maybe the Banana Splits were just everyday aliens. It hardly mattered. By the time of Watergate, the brief, weird riot was over. It was a trip while it lasted.
Growing up on cartoons that soaked up psychedelia as blotting paper soaked up LSD
Say Goodbye to Your Childhood: Why Shaggy from Scooby-Doo Is a Stoner
It’s hard not to feel the nostalgia when you look back on your childhood TV shows. Can you still remember waking up on a Saturday morning and turning on the TV to primetime TV shows with its unique art styles? You might even have asked for a birthday party with your favorite show as the theme or still have a giant cartoon character plushie hidden somewhere in your house.
While these shows were made for kids, it’s easy to forget these shows were made by adults. And often when you look back, you’ll see a few inappropriate but cleverly hidden adult jokes that you might have overlooked as a child but might have made your parents smirk at the reference. Instances such as Miss Sara Bellum’s address in The Powerpuff Girls to Dexter’s assistant briefly in Dexter’s Laboratory may have innuendoes that might have slipped your notice but going back to it today makes you wonder how the reference made its way to a kid’s show back then.
Out of all the grown-up realizations we’ve had on our beloved childhood characters, one reference seems unclear and has started a lot of fan theories and debates about whether the theory is true or it’s just a coincidence. You might remember Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, one of the five members of the Mystery Machine of the Scooby-Doo franchise. You might remember him as the best friend of Scooby-Doo, the one who likes to eat a lot, and the one who’s always first to suggest they leave at the mention of ghosts or ghouls. However, there is also evidence – from the way he talks, to the way his character is built – that suggests a much more adult theme: Shaggy is a stoner.
At this point, you’re either shocked and in disbelief, thinking “Is Shaggy really a stoner?” or shrugging and claiming it’s something you already expected. But there is evidence in episodes that suggest Shaggy – and to an extent, his best buggy Scooby –are smoking weed. While it’s never visibly seen in the franchise, their personality and actions hint at the stereotypical stoner attitude.
While many people – including Matthew Lillard, the current voice actor playing Shaggy, and series creators Joe Ruby and Ken Spears – deny the theories, you can’t help but look at all the hints throughout the TV shows and its movies that support it. And based on the evidence we found, we think it’s possible.
1. His Huge Appetite and Love for Scooby Snacks
You’ll remember that part of Shaggy and Scooby’s loveable quality is their never-ending appetite and willingness to do anything for food, especially their Scooby Snacks. The series attributes this, based on their dialogue in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island due to their constant state of terror always makes them hungry. And in Scooby-Doo! And the Monster of Mexico, Fred mentions that Shaggy can eat so much and maintain his slender physique is due to his high metabolism.
It seems like a convenient excuse, but their large appetite may be due to something else. Huge appetites induced by weed, commonly known as “the munchies,” are one of the well-known effects of getting high on weed. Marijuana’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, stimulates appetites.
It’s also why Shaggy’s food cravings are a bit… odd. From an extra cheese pizza with pickles in Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo to chocolate-covered hot dogs and liverwurst, the show says it is due to Shaggy receiving a garbage disposal unit as a toy when he was younger. But in the book Pot Psychology: How to Be, the authors Tracie Egan Morrissey and Rich Juzwiak claim that when people get high and do not prepare their snacks ahead of time, stoners find whatever food they can, which includes making up weird food combinations or substitutes.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of food, those Scooby Snacks? A cookie which, in Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins, Shaggy admits to making the recipe for? Yup, that’s right. If you don’t believe me, look at the 1988 series, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. Before they were called Scooby Snacks, they were called “Mellow Mutt Munchies.” A bit on the nose there, Hanna-Barbera.
2. His Personality
Shaggy’s personality is that of a cowardly, absentminded, and goofy but loveable character. But the reason why fans speculate on his weed habits is also due to his personality and how it matches the behavior of people under the influence of marijuana.
For someone so afraid of ghosts, Shaggy often fails to notice the ghoul in the room until it moves or screams. He tends to space out, and when it’s time for them to run, he and Scooby are often slow to respond. When they’re not looking for ghosts, Scooby and Shaggy tend to laugh and act giddy for the slightest reasons. It could just be part of their character, but their personality would easily be explained away when you consider they might be under the influence.
3. The “Hippie” Stereotype
From the van to his appearance, Shaggy was most likely modeled after the stereotypical hippie stoner stereotype in the ‘70s. They couldn’t show him smoking explicitly on a kids’ show, but they could use direct reference that only adults would understand.
Shaggy was always unkempt (hence, the name “Shaggy”), caring very little about hygiene or his facial hair. His hairstyle could be traced to the Beatnik stereotype of people who also smoked pot. He was always talking about food or the munchies. He always rambles, both in high and low speeds.
As for the van, it originally belonged to Fred, who was almost always seen as the one driving the Mystery Machine. However, in Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, Fred supposedly gave his van to Shaggy, who went on to solve mysteries with Scooby and Scrappy. The series took place in the late 1970s, and the idea of a stoner like Shaggy driving a windowless van decorated in the flower-power theme associated with hippies and marijuana during that time only drives the theory deeper.
4. Mary Jane is His Favorite Name
The theory that Shaggy is a stoner has been around as early as 2002 when director Raja Gosnell took that subtext and planned to hint at it throughout the live-action film, Scooby-Doo. According to Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly, he had shot several scenes as a running gag referencing his weed use, but those scenes were cut from the final film to make it more family-friendly. You’ll find the deleted scenes in home media releases
However, one scene remained which may have been a bit inappropriate for its PG-13 rating. When Shaggy, Scooby, and the rest of the Mystery, Inc. gang take an airplane to Spooky Island, Shaggy meets and instantly falls in love with a girl named (surprise, surprise) Mary Jane. Seems like an innocent coincidence, until you hear the rest of the dialogue.
“I’m Mary Jane,” she introduces herself. Shaggy then has a look on his face and exclaims, “Like, that is my favorite name!”
Given the running theories about Shaggy’s hobbies, they maybe should have removed this scene too if they didn’t want to further strengthen the argument for Shaggy as a stoner.
While Shaggy’s pastimes remain a subject of theory for now, it doesn’t change the fact that we enjoyed watching him and the rest of the gang solve mysteries and drive around in their iconic van. This growing interest also shows that, seeing the signs, references, and innuendos, we’ve never seen before, how much we’ve grown and understand more than we did in the past.
Most Generation X’s and millennials will remember Scooby-Doo and the Gang as part of their childhood. However, a fan theory that’s been circulating the internet claims that one of its characters, Shaggy, may not be as innocent as you once thought. And we have proof.