Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the first episode of the classic cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (sic). In my internet recommendations, I found a great essay about the cartoon by a Columbia University PhD. I am in agreement with the themes of this essay... I have been a fan of the show since first watching it.
The original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (sic) championed skepticism and inquiry... the protagonists, those groovy 'meddling kids' used their senses and their intellects to pierce through the veil of superstition and fear that the villains employed to deceive the public in order to pursue their larcenous aims. The true monsters were invariably human (the most dangerous monsters of all), and careful observation, the amassing of clues, was the trick to beating them. The one show I can think of which comes closest to this theme is Mythbusters, and Jamie and Adam would have comported themselves well in that flowered van.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was also unabashedly pro-teenager- it was a good antidote to the 'wild in the streets' junior delinquent movies that the film studios churned out. These kids were smart (even if Shaggy came across as a stoner) and good judgment and ethics superior to those of the adults around them. The show conveyed a message that the kids were right to have a healthy skepticism of authority... if you have a sense that the adults around you aren't on the up-and-up, trust your assessment rather than their appeals to authority. Old Man Higgins could easily stand in for Coach Higgins, Reverend Higgins, or even Major Higgins, and a questioning attitude could save a kid a lot of pain.
The franchise took a turn for the worse when a later iteration when the monsters were real. It blew the original theme of the series out of the water, which is a shame.