Okay, so evidently I have time enough on my hands not just to watch but to take notes on an episode from What’s New, Scooby-Doo? called “Pompeii and Circumstance,” which aired in February 2003. Suffer along with me, won’t you?
The opening shot shows tourists in front of the famous Octopus and Lobster mosaic from the House of the Faun. This particular mosaic is not still in situ, but has been removed to the Naples Museum, nor was it on the wall but on the floor. Perhaps we should see this inversion as an early indication of the upside-down nature of the events about the transpire? And the struggle of the sea-creatures foreshadows the battle of wills to unfold between the gang and the forces of evil corruption?
It’s notable how often the culprits in Scooby Doo episodes are connected with real estate development, though the trope hardly originated with Saturday morning cartoon shows. There’s Alec Baldwin’s Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), for instance, Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor in Superman (1978) and of course, Lionel Barrymore’s Mister Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). No doubt you can think of about a million more examples, and there’s an even an article on the topic entitled “The Real Estate Developer as Villain: Notes on a Stigmatized Profession.” All of this makes so much sense in the Age of Trump, by the way. Scooby, why didn’t we listen to you?
The bad guy, Udo, is voiced, by the way, by Mark Hamill, no less! He is actually one of the great cartoon villain voice actors.
Ovid’s Daphne famously took to flight when pursued by Apollo and eventually turned into a tree. Scooby’s Daphne was far more passive, or at least she was in the 1960s cartoons. By the time of the 2002 live-action version of Scooby Doo, though, the character of Daphne had been rethought. As played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, she was a martial arts expert who at one point says, “I am so over this damsel in distress nonsense.” In Pompeii and Circumstance, Daphne is likewise more liberated. When Freddy stays behind to fend off the Gladiator, the others as instructed take cover. Daphne, however, finds a big golf cart and bears down on the ghoul with all the fury of Tullia trying to run over poor old King Servius. When they later realize that they’ll need faster vehicles if they want to catch the gladiator, they rent a Maserati. Alas, Freddy can’t drive a stick, so ends up Daphne driving, wearing a headscarf with sunglasses while she does it and looking very Dolce Vita.
In the end, the culprits are caught. “And I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling bambinos,” intones Udo as he’s led away by the authorities. Yes, and don’t forget the dog. Or, as it is written in Pompeii, Cave canem.