Flim-Flam and the Poochie Effect
As longtime readers are no doubt aware, I am more than a little obsessed with Poochie, The Simpsons/Itchy & Scratchy’s perfect, endlessly quotable and useful parody of pandering, obnoxious characters cynically tossed into fading TV shows in a desperate, transparent attempt to stay on the air and appeal to what they haplessly envision is the hip, edgy, contemporary sensibility of the kids today.
I’m probably not the first person to use the phrase “The Poochie Effect” as a catch-all label for characters like these. It would be hard to imagine a more overt, infamous and infamously annoying example of the Poochie Effect than Scrappy-Doo, the pint-sized, tough-talking cartoon sidekick Scooby-Doo brought in in a sad effort to target small children and the disturbingly vast percentage of people who enjoy things that are terrible.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Scrappy-Doo was part of the primordial goo that eventually evolved into the satirical conceit of Poochie. Scrappy-Doo’s crassly commercial nature and obnoxiousness has become something of a running joke in later, Scrappy-free versions of the franchise, like Mystery Incorporated, and the James Gunn-written (yay!), Raja Gosnell-directed (no!!!) live action movies.
Scrappy-Doo is seemingly the purest example of the Poochie Effect this side of Poochie himself so you can imagine how surprised I was to discover that, astonishingly, Scrappy-Doo isn’t even the purest example of the Poochie Effect on Scooby-Doo. Incredibly, Hanna-Barbera apparently took a long, hard look at the squeaky-voiced, obnoxiously precocious, odiously conceived menace and apparently though, “We can do worse.”
That thinking resulted in the creation of Flim-Flam, a character that, despite my many, many, many, many years on this planet, my love of horrible, obscure shit, my recent obsession with Scooby-Doo and the Poochie Effect, I either did not know about or deliberately repressed along with a lot of other painful, traumatic memories. I have a lot.
You think Scrappy-Doo is insultingly ill-conceived? Film-Flam is a small, doe-eyed, orphaned Hispanic child who joined Scooby and the gang to hunt down a chest of demons for The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. He’s a liar and a huckster by nature, with a wild mop of black hair. To make things even more insufferable, Flim-Flam did not replace Scrappy-Doo. No, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo augmented the core mystery-solvers with both Scrappy-Doo and Flim Flam.
True, Flim-Flam’s reign of terror did not last anywhere near as long as Scrappy-Doo's. Scrappy had close to a decade in the limelight before being phased out on account of the blinding hatred the character engendered from everyone older than five. But Flim-Flam’s day in the sun was brief. He didn’t even have much of an opportunity to get on viewer’s nerves. He was one season and done, like Coy and Vance Duke on Dukes of Hazzard.
Granted, there is an insane amount of Scooby-Doo related stuff out there, ranging from a gritty science-fiction comic book called Scooby Apocalypse to the 1980s kiddie version A Pup Named Scooby Doo but it’s nevertheless fascinating that Flim-Flam could be erased from the public’s memory like the victim of a Stalinist purge. Of course, it doesn’t exactly help that making a Hispanic child a lying criminal and con artist is, at best #problematic but it seems like the racial component appeared to be one of many, many troubling elements of the character.
So now I am of course gripped with a morbid curiosity about Flim-Flam. How bad could he really be? Could he possibly be as offensive and obnoxious as he seems on paper? And why for the love of God was he allowed to exist in the first place?
I’m curious about these questions but even my curiosity has its limits, so I’m not sure I will waste any further time hunting down answers. Sometimes it’s enough to merely ask pointless, pointless questions, queries nearly as useless as good old Flim-Flam himself.
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