The United States Library of Congress delivered a horrible blow to internet users worldwide this week when it announced that it was ending a program that archived every single tweet posted on Twitter. It is a program that seemed novel in 2010 (“Believe it or not, tweets are important!”) and, in 2017, now seems like a deliberate insult. Maybe we shouldn’t remember everything that happens on Twitter.
There was something amusing about the arrangement. Sure, Twitter has somehow become central in international diplomacy (yikes!), but for years, it was unable to shake its reputation as a service where everyone just talked about what they ate for lunch. Why would the Library of Congress want a lot of tweets that basically said “Chipotle again!”? The fact that all of my mundane observations and awards-shows livetweets and bad puns would be preserved for decades to come always stuck in the back of my mind.
In addition to the mundane, there are important tweets. Ellen’s Oscar selfie. The @dril tweet about candles. Millions of posts about Justin Bieber and One Direction. Barack Obama’s elegant reelection tweet. Donald Trump sitting on his own balls, metaphorically speaking.
And thousands of tweets about Scrappy-Doo being found dead in Miami.
I am not making this up. If you search for any variant of “Scrappy-Doo dead Miami” on Twitter, you will pull up hundreds of tweets stating, matter-of-factly, that Scrappy-Doo has been found dead in Miami (I tried using Twitter’s API to calculate how many tweets mention this topic, but restrictions prevented me from getting a full tally. I bring this up only to mention that the Python script I wrote was named “scrap.py”). All of these tweets have been archived by our government. Decades from now — when Twitter has been sold to, I dunno, Tencent? — researchers will crack open the Library of Congress’s Twitter archive and find a long-running conversation about the suspected homicide of Scooby-Doo’s yappy cousin.
A prominent death always trends on Twitter — Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Michael Jackson — yet we never talk about the death of Scrappy-Doo. There will be no obituaries in prominent newspapers. For the sake of future generations, I will try to explain.
This probably won’t surprise you, but the death of Scrappy-Doo in Miami comes from fan-fiction. On January 22, 2011, author WakeGirl14 published “Darkly Dreaming Scooby,” mashing up Scooby-Doo, the crime-solving Great Dane, with Dexter Morgan, the crime-solving serial killer. The latter is the primary character of the Showtime series Dexter, which is set in Miami and ran for eight seasons.
The description for the story reads, “Scrappy Doo has been found dead in Miami, and Dexter and the team are on the case! Who killed him? Why was he killed? More importantly, are Daphne and Fred married? Find out all the bloody details in this wonderful gruesome fan fiction.” The story is 4,123 words long. It is the only story that WakeGirl14 has published, presumably for her sister, who is described as “a hyper-obsessed Scooby Doo fan.” (That sister is also presumably WakeGirl14’s only friend on Fanfiction.net, LilacScoob.)
Three years later, the Twitter account @fanfiction_txt, which posts context-free excerpts from fan-fiction, found the story. It tweeted out the first line of the description, which quickly went viral.
A few months afterward, a Tumblr user named “lymphonodge” posted the same string of text. It now has over 220,000 notes, the unit of interaction on Tumblr.
Since these posts took off, the concept of “Scrappy Doo found dead in Miami” has become something of a mantra in weirder corners of social media; a nothing phrase that has a sort of lyrical rhythm. It at once points to the general animosity regarding Scrappy-Doo (an annoying pip-squeak introduced as Hanna-Barbera tried to further commoditize the Scooby-Doo extended universe) and a funny concept in itself. In just eight words, WakeGirl14 crafted a surprisingly funny concept: a cartoon dog who usually solves mysteries like “Who’s haunting the amusement park?” being brutally murdered in the Florida tropics.
It’s a phrase that calls to mind something like “Back at it again at Krispy Kreme” or “Bees are dying globally at an alarming rate” — hyperspecific, somewhat surreal, and with just a tinge of seriousness. It’s also a bit like “covfefe” in that it’s funny and extremely idiotic.
And now all of these stupid tweets about Scrappy-Doo’s death are making their way into the Library of Congress, so that future generations may know where Scrappy’s lifeless body was found, and also — more importantly — that we, as a collective society, were enormously, gleefully stupid as hell.