Only a few things are certain in life: death, taxes, and if you smoke a lot of weed in a horror movie then you’re going to die. Ever since the earliest days of the slasher movie’s moralistic war on teenage bodies, stoners have been a regular part of the bountiful body counts. And though these far-out fleshbags haunt the blood-soaked R-rated campgrounds of slasher history, their far friendlier fictional forefather actually debuted on a kids cartoon in 1969.
Norville “Shaggy” Rogers made his first appearance in the Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? episode “What a Night for a Knight.” Created in response to complaints about violence in kids programming, the series introduced viewers to four crime fighting kids: preppy Fred, pretty Daphne, nerdy Velma, and silly Shaggy (with his similarly humored dog, Scooby-Doo). It’s clear from the moment that he steps on screen that Shaggy was meant as a counterculture pastiche. Shaggy was based on a character from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Maynard G. Krebs, who is cited as TV’s first beatnik. Shaggy is relaxed to the point of inaction with a raggedy bowl cut and unending hunger for snacks. It made him the perfect comedy relief for the supernatural spookiness of Scooby-Doo and his somewhat straight-laced mystery solving teammates.
Shaggy’s stoner status has become, over the years, something of pop culture lore. In fact, in the 2002 Scooby-Doo live-action movie there are multiple jokes hinting at just that. And if he was inspired by beatnik culture, then the obvious subtext that Shaggy — and maybe Scooby — were stoners makes a lot of sense. But according to the show’s creators, that was never the intention or even something that crossed their minds. Despite that, the character has arguably become the template for the stoner stereotype. Making his name chasing — and hiding from — ghosts, ghouls, and monsters, there’s no mystery why Shaggy’s influence is particularly potent when it comes to the nature and characterization of slasher movie stoners.
The premise of Scooby-Doo is essentially a slasher movie without the slashing: people are being terrorized, bad things are happening, and either it’s someone in a mask or something (questionably) supernatural behind it all. Shaggy’s stoner archetype translates directly from his own innocent setting to the malice of the horror movies we love. His playful attitude and slacker persona can provide comedy relief and surprising reality in equal doses. That probably explains why the Shaggy-esque stoner stereotype has become such a slasher staple. After all, who doesn’t love to see a sweet-hearted blaze head bite the dust?
The things that made viewers so sure that Shaggy was a stoner are the exact archetypes we see in some of the most well known cannabis lovers in slasher movies. Friday the 13th III introduces not one but two stoners. One of the most memorable examples is Freddy vs. Jason’s ≈. Sharing Shaggy’s facial hair and positive outlook, he has one of the most epic stoner deaths in horror movie history. Even while embarking on an adventure to stop Freddy with his very own Scooby Gang, Freeburg just has to have a little smoke. This leads to him smoking a hookah with caterpillar Freddy Kruger, but he’s then choked by that very same Alice in Wonderland-inspired nightmare.
In Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Spencer (Breckin Meyer) embodies Shaggy in every “cool” and “whoa.” His straightlaced father even echoes the background of Scooby’s BFF. He also introduces what would become a future classic stoner trope: a love of video games. That passion — along with his choice to do those baaad drugs — leads to his death as Freddy utilizes his heightened state and imagination to trick him into thinking he’s in a video game. Alas, Spencer is actually being tossed around in the real world, where he eventually dies after being thrown down a flight of stairs into an inconvenient hole. His death also features its own meta moment as it’s prefaced with a Johnny Depp-starring anti-drug PSA.
During the very self-aware fake out opening of the 2009 Friday the 13th movie, Wade (Jonathan Sadowski) — another video game loving stoner — comes face to face with Jason Vorhees while looking for a crop of mythical marijuna. Just like Shaggy, Wade is dismissed by his friends, passionate about his hobbies, and slightly slow on the uptake. His nerdiness is key to his character and ultimately, sadly for Wade, his demise.
Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods targets many a horror trope on its satirical spear, including the slasher movie stoner. Marty (Fran Kranz) may as well be a Shaggy clone. Kranz’s mussed hair, cheeky humor, and ever more paranoid personality make him instantly recognizable as the burnout stereotype who’ll be gone before the final act. Here, though, Marty’s stoner status actually saves his life … for a while. His stash is what helps him survive as it gives him insight and hyper-awareness, helping him figure out the truth at the heart of Cabin in the Woods. But Marty has smoked far too much high grade to actually survive — there are rules, after all — so as the movie ends he’s left with the fate of the world in his hands, and he chooses to let it end. Shaggy would never.
Now, of course, smoking weed in horror movies isn’t always fatal. But even in cases where characters don’t die, smoking weed often foreshadows the nightmarish events to come. Before she’s hunted down by her sometimes brother Michael Myers in Halloween, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) shares a joint with her soon-to-be dead buddy Annie. It’s not just teenagers either as Poltergeist so deftly warns viewers. The parents of the soon-to-be haunted family are shown casually smoking in bed just before their lives are turned upside down by their choice to move into a home built on an indigenous burial ground. So beware if you smoke weed in genre flicks at all, your luck is about to run out. Although, if you look and/or act like Scooby-Doo’s best bud then your days are far more likely to be numbered.
Over the years, the slasher stoner has shifted from stark morality tales in films like Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Friday the 13th III to subversive comic relief. Through all of that, Shaggy has stayed as a staple influence. But where does the trope go next? As recreational cannabis becomes legal across the country, does the stoner become less disposable? Only the future of horror can answer, but it’s interesting to remember that when Shaggy debuted the legal status of weed was also in flux. Maybe as that landscape shifts once again, Shaggy’s influence can even shift how stoners are treated in horror. After all, Shaggy has survived for decades, so maybe one day a true slasher stoner can, too.