Scooby-Doo, one of the most enduring animated characters ever to emerge from U.S. television, celebrates his 50th birthday this month.
Created by Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1969 for CBS Saturday morning, the original series “Scooby-Doo, Where are You!” premiered on Sept. 13, 1969, ran for two seasons and spun off 15 subsequent series. The formula of four mystery-solving teenagers – Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy along with the titular talking Great Dane – remained mostly intact as the group stumbled their way into pop-culture history.
But as I explain in my forthcoming book on the franchise, Scooby-Doo’s creation was no happy accident; it was a strategic move in response to cultural shifts and political exigencies. The genesis of the series was inextricably bound up with the societal upheavals of 1968 – in particular, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
In the late 1960s, the television and film studio Hanna-Barbera was the largest producer of animated television programming.
For years, Hanna-Barbera had created slapstick comedy cartoons – “Tom and Jerry” in the 1940s and 1950s, followed by television series like “The Yogi Bear Show” and “The Flintstones.” But by the 1960s, the most popular cartoons were those that capitalized on the secret agent craze, the space race and the popularity of superheroes.
In what would serve as a turning point in television animation, the three broadcast networks – CBS, ABC and NBC – launched nine new action-adventure cartoons on Saturday morning in the fall of 1966. In particular, Hanna-Barbera’s “Space Ghost and Dino Boy” and Filmation’s “The New Adventures of Superman” were hits with kids. These and other action-adventure series featured non-stop action and violence, with the heroes working to defeat, even kill, a menace or monster by any means necessary.
So for the 1967-1968 Saturday morning lineup, Hanna-Barbera supplied the networks with six new action-adventure cartoons, including “The Herculoids” and “Birdman and the Galaxy Trio.” Gone were the days of funny human and animal hijinks; in their place: terror, peril, jeopardy and child endangerment.
The networks, wrote The New York Times’ Sam Blum, “had instructed its cartoon suppliers to turn out more of the same – in fact, to go ‘stronger’ – on the theory, which proved correct, that the more horror, the higher the Saturday morning ratings.”
Such horror generally took the form of “fantasy violence” – what Joe Barbera called “out-of-this-world hard action.” The studio churned out these grim series “not out of choice,” Barbera explained. “It’s the only thing we can sell to the networks, and we have to stay in business.”
Barbera’s remarks highlighted the immense authority then held by the broadcast networks in dictating the content of Saturday morning television.
In his book “Entertainment, Education and the Hard Sell,” communication scholar Joseph Turow studied the first three decades of network children’s programming. He notes the fading influence of government bodies and public pressure groups on children’s programming in the mid-1960s – a shift that enabled the networks to serve their own commercial needs and those of their advertisers.
The decline in regulation of children’s television spurred criticism over violence, commercialism and the lack of diversity in children’s programming. No doubt sparked by the oversaturation of action-adventure cartoons on Saturday morning, the nonprofit corporation National Association for Better Broadcasting declared that year’s children’s television programming in March 1968 to be the “worst in the history of TV.”
Cultural anxieties about the effects of media violence on children had increased significantly after March 1968, concurrent with television coverage of the Vietnam War, student protests and riots incited by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. As historian Charles Kaiser wrote in his book about that pivotal year, the upheaval fueled moral crusades.
“For the first time since their invention, he wrote, "televised pictures made the possibility of anarchy in America feel real.”
But it was the assassination of Robert. F. Kennedy in June 1968 that would exile action-adventure cartoons from the Saturday morning lineup for nearly a decade.
Kennedy’s role as a father to 11 was intertwined with his political identity, and he had long championed causes that helped children. Alongside his commitment to ending child hunger and poverty, he had, as attorney general, worked with the Federal Communications Commission to improve the “vast wasteland” of children’s television programming.
Just hours after Kennedy was shot, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the appointment of a National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. While the commission’s formal findings wouldn’t be shared until late 1969, demands for greater social control and regulation of media violence surged directly following Johnson’s announcement, contributing to what sociologists call a “moral panic.”
Media studies scholar Heather Hendershot explained that even those critical of Kennedy’s liberal causes supported these efforts; censoring television violence “in his name” for the good of children “was like a tribute.”
Civic groups like the National Parent Teacher Association, which had been condemning violent cartoons at its last three conventions, were emboldened. The editors of McCall’s, a popular women’s magazine, provided steps for readers to pressure the broadcast networks to discontinue violent programming. And a Christian Science Monitor report in July of that year – which found 162 acts of violence or threats of violence on one Saturday morning alone – was widely circulated.
The moral panic in the summer of 1968 caused a permanent change in the landscape of Saturday morning. The networks announced that they would be turning away from science-fiction adventure and pivoting toward comedy for its cartoon programming.
All of this paved the way for the creation of a softer, gentler animated hero: Scooby-Doo.
However, the premiere of the 1968-1969 Saturday morning season was just around the corner. Many episodes of new action-adventure series were still in various stages of production. Animation was a lengthy process, taking anywhere from four to six months to go from idea to airing. ABC, CBS and NBC stood to lose millions of dollars in licensing fees and advertising revenue by canceling a series before it even aired or before it finished its contracted run.
So in the fall of 1968 with many action-adventure cartoons still on the air, CBS and Hanna-Barbera began work on a series – one eventually titled “Scooby-Doo, Where are You!” – for the 1969-1970 Saturday morning season.
“Scooby-Doo, Where are You!” still supplies a dose of action and adventure. But the characters are never in real peril or face serious jeopardy. There are no superheroes saving the world from aliens and monsters. Instead, a gang of goofy kids and their dog in a groovy van solve mysteries. The monsters they encounter are just humans in disguise.
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Kevin Sandler does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
It’s hard to believe that Keeping Up With The Kardashians is about to kick off season 17, but on Sept. 8, the famous reality TV family is back — and as usual, it looks like those who live in their orbit will be coming back, too.
But now that Kylie Jenner’s former friend Jordyn Woods is no longer close with the fam, we could end up seeing Kylie with her other close friends more often. So, could that open the opportunity for Kylie’s pal Stassie Karanikolaou to be on KUWTK?
So far, Stassie hasn’t been featured prominently on KUWTK — at least, not in a huge capacity like Jordyn was — and she wasn’t featured in any of the promos that have aired for the new episodes ahead. But given that Kylie and Stassie have been spending so much time together recently, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if that changed in season 17.
They’ve been going just about everywhere together lately, and if you follow Kylie on Instagram, you’ve probably been seeing a lot of Stassie (or @Stassiebaby, as she’s known on Instagram) on your feed. Case and point:
And yes, before you ask, Stassie was the one who Kylie threw the ill-advised Handmaid’s Tale-themed birthday party for. Sigh. No word on whether or not that was captured for KUWTK.
Their recent exploits have included Kylie’s birthday trip to Italy, riding horses on the beach in Turks and Caicos, and casual hangs by the pool with Stormi. In a post that Kylie made for Stassie’s birthday back in June, she thanked her for being part of her life for so long — nine years, to be exact.
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A post shared by Kylie ✨ (@kyliejenner) on Jun 9, 2019 at 10:17am PDT
“9 years later and you’re still a real one. I love you forever and always,” Kylie wrote in the caption (above).
Seems like this solidifies Stassie’s place on KUWTK, right? Kylie herself isn’t on the show quite as much as she once was — after all, she’s kind of busy running a massive cosmetics company, raising her daughter, and posting on one of the most followed Instagram accounts in the universe. But if the E! cameras have been rolling while she and Stassie have been off having adventures, it’s probably safe to say we’ll see both of them this season.
And honestly, as fun as it is to get to know Kylie’s friends… what we all really need more of is Queen Stormi, and hopefully, season 17 will deliver on all fronts.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
Every generation has its rabble-rousers. Post Malone is beloved by Generation Z. His new album, Hollywood’s Bleeding, is already projected to debut at No. 1 and is the second largest debut of the year, just behind Taylor Swift’s Lover. But there’s one song people can’t get enough of: “Take What You Want.” Maybe it’s because it’s one of those infectious songs that gets wildly popular, or maybe it’s because he put Travis Scott and Ozzy Osbourne on the song, in a combination that only Post Malone could come up with.
Fans enjoyed “Take What You What,” with many on social media praising the inclusion of Osbourne’s vocals on the track.
Posty adding Ozzy Osbourne and Travis to his song pic.twitter.com/fRbkyNFLg5— #StartStarkel (@brycejallday) September 6, 2019
how i felt hearing ozzy on take what you want pic.twitter.com/3GF0ffZv83— roberto (@ikilledroberto) September 6, 2019
Now, social media is blowing up with young Zoomers wondering aloud, “Who is Ozzy Osbourne?” and thanking their boy Posty for breaking this dude’s career — and igniting a generational controversy that has become a snake eating its own tail.
who tf is ozzy osbourne ???!??! this is why I love post malone for shining light on unknown artists— Edd (@Edxxard) September 6, 2019
don’t know who this ozzy osbourne guy is but shoutout post for puttin him on— augie (@AAUGIEE) September 6, 2019
As the youths discovered Osbourne for the first time, the olds clutched their pearls.
Ozzy Osbourne was snorting lines of ants with Motley Crue before your father was having wet dreams about your mother.— Joshua Weikel (@MovieGuru83) September 6, 2019
There’s really kids out here asking who ozzy osbourne is, and saying post malone discovered him.— panic chord central (@_andrewxnj) September 7, 2019
This actually hurts lmfao.
Now, people are making meme jokes about Post Malone featuring unknown artists on his album, because it’s easier to laugh than to cry.
Ozzy Osbourne didn’t get his first Post Malone feature until the age of 70. It’s never too late. #giveyourselftime— Eduardo Cepeda (@EduardoSCepeda) September 8, 2019
So, who is Ozzy Osbourne, exactly — and why should you care about him (outside of love for Posty)? For those who may be unfamiliar, John Michael Osbourn, known as Ozzy, is the English vocalist for Black Sabbath, a metal band that was big in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Black Sabbath are known for hits such as “Paranoid” and “Iron Man.” Osbourne himself is a character: he once bit the head off a dead bat on stage, which is less cruel than the time he got drunk and bit the heads off two live doves. Among his other antics, Osbourne also peed on the Alamo Cenotaph in 1982 and fed hash-laced cake to a church vicar. He starred in an MTV reality TV show about his family called The Osbournes in the early ‘00s that was wildly popular, bringing us the TV legacies of Jack and Kelly Osbourne. The show was a hit, mainly because Osbourne was a hilariously devoted, if drug-addled dad.
Most recently, Osbourne got a bit of a feature when that mythical moment where he allegedly snorted a line of ants while touring with Mötley Crüe was featured in the Netflix take on their history, The Dirt.
This collaboration could only have come from Malone, who today, inspires confusion and scorn the same way as Osbourne did in his heyday. Does Malone, with his face tattoos and genre-bending music, fancy himself as today’s Ozzy Osbourne? It’s possible — minus the animal head-eating, of course.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?