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Home --> Radio & TV --> Television --> Scooby-Doo, What is You?

Scooby-Doo, What is You?

Claim:   The five characters in Scooby-Doo represent five Eastern colleges.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 1996]

Well...I have an awesome story about Scooby Doo, too. I go to Mt. Holyoke College and we are part of a five college system along with UMASS, Hampshire, Smith, and Amherst. It is a fact that the creator of Scooby Doo went to UMASS, so he fashioned all of the characters after the five colleges.

SCOOBY- this loveable, but REALLY STUPID mutt is the representative for UMASS.

SHAGGY- this freaky, stoned, weirdo is supposed to be a guy from Hampshire.

FRED- this gorgeous, intelligent gentleman is mean to embody Amherst College (even though THAT certainly doesn't represent a current day Amherst guy!)

VELMA- she's the lesbian...Smith...definitely.

DAPHNE- the beautiful chick is...of course...the grand prize for any UMASSHOLE, a Mt. Holyoke grrrl.

This theory has been backed up by many people. The stereotypes here are not necessarily true or up to date, but they are kinda funny!

Origins:   A common facet of collegiate life are conjectures that position one's school as in some way distinct from or better than all others, conjectures that come to be believed by the young people who Scooby-Doo gang attend those institutions. Such tales bestow (at least in the minds of the students) certain bragging rights and thus tend to be embraced as fact rather than questioned.

"My school is special because ..." claims tend to concentrate on physical aspects of the campus (e.g., that certain buildings were through an architect's blunder built backwards or that particular items of statuary will do strange things when a virgin walks by, or that a dorm is haunted by the ghost of a co-ed who killed herself or was murdered there) or posturings about the proclivities of the student body (e.g., that the particular college being boasted about was at one time named Playboy's top party school).

The particular collegiate belief that forms the topic of this article is a bit of an exception to the norm because it advances the claim that the institutions of higher learning in question are special not because of something physically or historically part of any one of them, but through their having been ennobled in a popular cartoon that has become a cult favorite among collegians. According to cherished belief, each of the main characters in Scooby-Doo represents one of the schools known collectively as the Five Colleges: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and University of Massachusetts Amherst (also known as U. Mass.) The explanation for this phenomenon is generally attributed to the show's creator being an alumnus of one of those schools, usually U. Mass.

With almost no variation, the cartoon characters and colleges are matched up this way:
  • Daphne, the pretty auburn-haired girl who wears a form-displaying outfit coordinated with a matching hair ribbon and offsetting neck scarf, is Mount Holyoke,
    whose students are represented in this tableau as polished, upper-class young ladies more interested in acquiring rich husbands than university sheepskins.
  • Velma, the bob-haired, bespectacled brunette gal clad in a shapeless thick sweater, unfashionable pleated skirt, and knee socks, is Smith, whose students are represented as frumpy, intellectual lesbians.
  • Fred, the clean-shaven blonde lad dressed in a sporty outfit and loafers, is Amherst, whose students are represented as prep school-educated young men bankrolled through college and into successful careers by family money.
  • Shaggy, the light-brunette fellow with the unkempt hair, several days' growth of beard, wrinkled shirt, baggy pants, and slouched physique, is Hampshire, whose students are represented as "Turn on, tune in, and drop out" sorts — lazy, unmotivated, and heavily into drugs.
  • Scooby-Doo, the ungainly, oversized mutt, is U. Mass., whose students are represented as hyper, immature-yet-lovable youngsters.
Whether the above stereotypes fit the studential norm of these schools is a subjective issue. What is objectively answerable, however, is how the Scooby-Doo series came about, an evolution of a concept that puts paid to the notion that the five familiar characters are representations of what somebody regarded as the typical student attending each of the Five Colleges.

In response to criticism that Saturday morning children's offerings contained too much violence, a number of new cartoons were developed in the late 1960s, including The Archie Show. The original concept of what was to become Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? was of a five-teen musical group touring the countryside and becoming embroiled in mysteries wherever they stopped, a cross between the 1940s I Love a Mystery radio serials and the 1960s teenage television sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. The five characters were named Geoff, Mike, Kelly, Linda, and W.W. (who was to be Linda's brother). The minor character of a dog was included in the concept as the group's bongo player.

The name first given to this proposed series was Mysteries Five, so named for the five teens and their rock group. The drum-playing dog was christened "Too Much" and described as "a big shaggy dog who wears shades and cap, plays bongos with his forepaws."

The Mysteries Five name soon fell by the wayside, giving way to a new series title: Who's Scared? The five teens had become four: Geoff and Mike were melded into the composite character Ronnie (later rechristened Freddie Jones as an homage to Fred Silverman, then director of daytime programs at CBS-TV), Kelly was renamed Daphne Blake, Linda was redubbed Velma Dinkley, and W.W. was given the new name of Norville "Shaggy" Rogers. The former Linda and W.W. (now Velma and Shaggy) were no longer sister and brother.

That iteration was judged by network executives as too scary for its intended audience of youngsters, so the show's concept was consequently retooled: the rock band idea was dropped, and the focus of the show shifted to highlight comic interactions between the characters and to play down its more frightening aspects. In particular, the characters of Shaggy and Too Much were brought into the forefront to reposition the show as a comedy. The dog was rechristened Scooby-Doo by Fred Silverman, who came up with the name upon listening to the vocal improvisation at the end of Frank Sinatra's Strangers in the Night: "Scooby dooby doo ..."

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? premiered on CBS in 1969. The series aired in various forms first on CBS and then on ABC until 1991, making it the longest continually running cartoon series in television history. The original cast had record-spinner Casey Kasem voicing the character of Shaggy. (Don Messick was Scooby-Doo, Frank Welker was Fred, Nicole Jaffe was Velma, and Stefanianna Christopherson was Daphne.)

If all of the above seems a bit hard to wade through, I offer what it boils down to: the Scooby-Doo gang were not conceived as representations of typical students of particular colleges — instead, its four human members were originally modeled on corresponding characters from the 1960s TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and the canine character was elevated from a non-speaking bongo-playing pet into the star of the show when the focus of the cartoon shifted to place greater emphasis on comedy. The five characters now so well known did not spring into being fully formed; they instead evolved throughout the behind-the-scenes development process.

Alternatively, consider this: Hampshire College did not open until 1970, a year after Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? hit the airwaves.

Obligatory strange Scooby fact: The gang is 84% more likely to stumble upon a secret passage than to find it intentionally.

Barbara "passage err pigeons" Mikkelson

Last updated:   22 May 2006

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  Sources Sources:
    Davenport, Misha.   "On the Tail of Scooby-Doo."
    Chicago Sun-Times.   9 June 2002   (p. 11).

    Lynch, Stephen.   "Scooby-Dooby Doozy."
    [Jacksonville] Florida Times-Union.   3 November 1999   (p. C1).

    Mallory, Michael.   Hanna-Barbera Cartoons.
    New York: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 1998.   ISBN 0-883-63108-3   (pp. 178-180).

    Millar, John.   "Scooby Dooby Don't."
    Scotland on Sunday.   30 June 2002   (p. 7).

    The [Newcastle] Journal.   "Scooby Doo's 30 Years of Capers."
    19 October 1999   (p. 28).

    San Antonio Express-News.   "Zoinks! It's Casey Kasem."
    21 October 1998   (p. G3).