TV Tropes: Scooby Gang

Looks like the gang’s all here.

Gabrielle Costa

March 1, 2014 | Fog | March 2014

When I say Scooby Gang, you probably think “Buffy,” if you’re the average inconnu reader. You wouldn’t be wrong. But a Scooby Gang – i.e., a group of young people who solve mysteries – has become a trope of mystery, monster-of-the-week type TV shows other than just Whedon’s greatest (objectively in size, subjectively in quality) work.

The original Scooby Gang included 5 archetypes: the brains, the brawn, the damsel, the fool, and the heart.

Velma – The Brains

velma

If you go back and watch Scooby Doo, you’ll realize that without Velma, those crazy teenagers would have died within the first 7 minutes of every episode.  The Brains is the one who works out the logistics of the plan, and often is the one to uncover the villain’s weaknesses. On Buffy, this archetype is translated into a different nerdy, sweater-wearing girl. Willow as a character certainly surpasses her initial designation in later seasons, as do many characters of various archetypes, but until she reaches that point in her development, her superpower is her brain, and she plays an integral part in defeating every major big bad (…except herself).

Fred – The Brawn

Fred Scooby Doo Vector 2-500x500

Fred, a jock with an odd fashion sense (here’s looking at you, orange ascot), is often the one to save the “weak” members of the gang when they get into trouble.  He doubles as the leader in most cases, making the big decisions for the group, though he often relies on Velma’s knowledge to do it.  The brawn does not always have to mean ultimate physical strength, but a penchant for fighting and physical ability are necessary traits.

Daphne – The Damsel

153px-Daphne_Blake

Ah, the damsel. Quite possibly the bane of modern feminism’s existence. It’s important to remember that the damsel does not have to be stupid or completely incompetent, but for one reason or another, by character flaw or by fate, often ends up needing saving before a mission’s end. Daphne’s (and other damsels’) willingness to continue crime-stopping and mystery-solving despite her apparent station in life is pretty impressive, and indicates a strong will and sense of morality that feminists can totally get behind.

Shaggy – The Fool

ShaggyRogers

While most over the age of 15 will recognize that Shaggy is probably constantly tripping on something, he’s still the epitome of the fool archetype. Shaggy is usually cowardly and hesitant to participate in the plan, which is pretty understandable considering he often doesn’t understand what’s going on and the only way he contributes to the group is that they use him as bait.

Scooby Doo – The Heart

Scoobydoo

Scooby is often the most enthusiastic member of the group, even if he is ultimately a bit of a coward when it comes to enacting the plan. The heart is the one who keeps the group going when things seem impossible; they’re the most trustworthy and loyal of all of the group members, and they’re often the glue that keeps potentially clashing personalities together. Scooby and Shaggy are often featured together; in later iterations of the Scooby Gang, the fool and the heart are often the same character. Xander from Buffy is the ultimate example of this.

The cartoon, Scooby Doo, Where Are You!, is not only the most obvious origin of the Scooby Gang trope, but a clear influence on the character dynamics in Buffy (which in turn has been a major formative influence on most uses of the trope to follow). However, the earliest model of the trope can actually be found 40 years before Scooby Doo, in the Nancy Drew novels.  Unlike with the TV shows, the archetypes found in the novel, while similar, are not always clearly defined.

Nancy is The Leader, Veronica Mars’ lady-sleuth ancestor. She often doubles as The Brains, though this isn’t a common trait across all leader archetypes. While Buffy and other leader types certainly act as the brawn on some missions, The Brawn is sometimes attributed in part to the token boyfriend. In Nancy’s case, her boyish friend George is The Brawn. (George is allowed to mostly ignore gender roles only so long as the book clearly notes the fact that she is “different” over and over again, but hey, the fact that a girl named George is something that existed in 30s popular culture is something I’m 100% here for.)

Bess, ever the feminine flirt, is the damsel, constantly hesitant and cowardly, especially in comparison to George’s own bravery in the face of danger. This isn’t to say that Bess is incompetent, and it’s important to note that she was not always placed in immediate danger, even sometimes playing an integral role in catching the criminal. Modern shows like Buffy, Angel, and Veronica Mars often play on the genre’s expectation of a damsel with characters like Cordelia and Fred, or in Veronica’s case, the identities she assumes during her detective work.

Ned Nickerson, Nancy’s beau, is the token boyfriend moreso than Scooby Doo’s Fred; Ned would not be part of the group without his relationship with Nancy, and his presence is usually related to swooping in at the last minute to save his girlfriend in some way.  (Still, Nancy’s not quite the damsel, as she’s competent and able in her own right, and Ned is not always necessary to the story.) The token boyfriend, though not the brawn, is relatively strong; he’s usually not an idiot and contributes positively to the group’s plan as more than just a little minute savior. He’s mysterious and usually has a life outside of the group; more often than not he has the potential for evil/immorality and is faced with a difficult moral choice, but he’ll end up doing good by the group (and his girlfriend) at the last second. Over the course of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, her boyfriends are accepted into the Scoobies – some more readily than others – and though they can’t always be trusted, they come to the rescue of almost every member of the gang at some point.

BuffyandGiles

The most important “member” of Nancy’s Scooby Gang in terms of its existence as the origin of the trope, is her father. Carson Drew is Nancy’s mentor and completely supportive of her detective work. He not only advises her, but often helps her find more casework. The mentor archetype plays a crucial role in the later reincarnations of the Scooby Gang trope, especially in Buffy. Giles is a mentor to the entire Scooby Gang, and not just Buffy. He is a father figure to all of them, a teacher to all (but Xander, bless his heart), and a guide to dealing with a world they didn’t know existed until he came along.

TV Scooby Gang Breakdowns

Buffy

Buffy – Leader

Willow – Brains

Xander – Fool/Heart

Cordelia – Damsel

Giles – Mentor

Angelus – Token Boyfriend

Spike – Token Boyfriend

Oz- Token Boyfriend

Dawn – Heart

Angel

Angel – Leader

Cordelia – Heart

Wesley – Brains/Token Boyfriend

Gunn – Brawn

Fred – Damsel

Doyle – Fool/Heart

Veronica Mars

Veronica – Leader

Wallace – Heart

Mac – Brains

Logan – Token Boyfriend

Keith – Mentor

Teen Wolf

Scott – Leader

Stiles – Heart

Lydia – Brains

Allison – Brawn

Derek – Mentor/Damsel

Jackson – Token Boyfriend

Alias

Sydney – Leader

Vaughn – Token Boyfriend

Jack – Mentor

Marshall – Brains

Dixon – Fool/Heart

Gabrielle Costa

Gabrielle attends the University of Chicago, where she studies Character Development (for real). She hates the phrase “guilty pleasure,” but loves “chick flick.” Her dream is to tell stories about the people she isn’t and to never grow out of her 90s teen angst phase (which she entered relatively late, at the age of 18). She can be found tweeting on one of six Twitter accounts at any given time.

2 Comments

  1. Anthony Costa
    March 1, 2014

    Leave a Reply

    Great article. As applied to Costa family; mommy is the Brains, Dad is the Brawn; Gabrielle is the Damsel; grant is the Fool; and Noah is the Heart. Did I get it right??

  2. Kellie

    Kellie
    March 18, 2014

    Leave a Reply

    The O.C. is a fun one.. though i’m not sure there’s an obvious leader.
    Ryan – Brawn
    Marissa – Damsel
    Summer – Heart/Brains
    Seth – Fool/Heart
    Sandy – Mentor
    Taylor – Brains
    Luke – Fool

    Anyone agree/disagree?

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