It Turns Out Scooby-Doo Was Combating Unprincipled Gentrification

Last week my organization was notified that we were being awarded funds for a grant we wrote to address the issue of blight in our community. The project was inspired by a comment a friend of the venue while indicating a house she felt was the place everything went wrong for her family.  We will be pulling stories together of houses that exist and no longer exist (demolished to create an industrial district that was in turn abandoned) to raise awareness that the solution to blight may not always be a bulldozer.

I say this to provide a little context for a story I saw in CityLab today that suggested that Scooby-Doo cartoons were responding in their own way to the widespread destruction of Victorian houses during the 1970s. The article notes that most of the stories in the cartoon were set in creepy Victorian era buildings, addressing a general perception of that style of architecture during that time.

Victorian neighborhoods fell prey to demolition during this period as urban renewal projects smashed through buildings that were often seen as musty, decrepit hangovers from a poorer, miserably car-less past.

San Francisco’s Fillmore District, for example, was substantially redeveloped, scattering its mainly African American residents to the East Bay, while the now celebrated Victorian district of Old Louisville saw over 600 buildings demolished between 1965 and 1971 alone. These losses didn’t go unnoticed, and the early 1970s was also a time when grassroots historical preservation societies fully ground into action,…


Indeed, the show sometimes tackles these issues directly. The classic Scooby-Doo villain is a developer or greedy landowner, scaring people away from their property by dressing as a ghost or monster, only to be unmasked and confess everything to the band of “pesky kids” just before each episode’s final curtain. Occasionally, even urban renewal itself crops up. In one episode a developer constructing new buildings in Seattle is also secretly plundering treasures from the subterranean street network built in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1889.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the cartoon was a reflection of the times. The Flintstones, also from Hanna-Barbera, was originally aired during prime time for an adult audience, and was not intended primarily for a younger demographic. As we have recognized in recent years, the content of comic books does not necessarily address non-serious themes.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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