Dear Fred Jones's Ascot,
Congratulations on being one of the only outstanding survivors of the Great Fashion Disaster of the 1970's. I hope you are proud.
I hope you're proud to be remembered, because you are truly an anomaly. You outlived the speckled cave-smocks of The Flinstones, the spacey Jetson's jumpsuits, and the cutesy vests and dresses of The Brady Kids (and they had catchy songs, a dog, a magical bird, and two pandas to help sell their style). You have prevailed throughout the years as a staple in American animation.
Producers tried to get rid of you in the early 2000's show, What's New Scooby-Doo? But you could not–no, would not–be eradicated. In the still-running Scooby-Doo,Mystery Incorporated, Fred Jones is Ascot-less no longer.
You made your comeback with a vengence. You dominate the screen with your sheer irony. Your taunting, anachronistic presence goes unquestioned by the laptop-and-cell-phone-wielding kids of Crystal Cove. You are at the height of entertainment, being the focus of almost all Fred's jokes. You are center-stage. You are the star. You. Are. Ascot.
But I ask you: at what cost?
As time went on, he crumpled further, bowing to the power of The Ascot. Adamant belief in bigfoot was not an inherent quality of the usually-logical Fred, but of The Ascot. He tripped, fell into his own traps, not because he was clumsy ole Fred, but because he wore The Ascot. The Ascot became not an accessory, but an identity.
Fred's only true self-expression arose in What's New Scooby-Doo, when he was Ascot free. The producers wanted to modernize Fred's character. They allowed him to grow, made him more relatable–more human. He developed interests in mechanics, technology, music, sports, and he even showed a little vulnerability while still retaining his intelligence and leadership skills. There are several episodes when Fred shows fear at the idea of being alone in a haunted place, or falls victim to the villain's capture instead of Daphne or Velma. This does not diminish the importance of Fred. In fact, his anxiety makes him more likable. Without you, he is a more meaningful character.
You've made a name for yourself. You're an icon. Not only are you representative of an era, but of childhood. All the old time Saturday Morning Cartoon Watchers look back on their younger years and see not the hodgepodge of characters thrown together in a strange, but seamlessly effective mystery-solving team. They see not the eerie villains, the elaborate, often failed trapps, or even the loveable, talking, crime-solving, perpetually-hungry Great Dane who's words only begin with the letter R. They see not time spent laughing with family in the still-sleepy hours of the day with bowls of Puffa Puffa Rice cereal tilting, almost spilling, in their laps. They see only you, Fred Jones's Ascot. Orange and fluttering around the neck of the blonde, bell-bottomed mystery kid, a symbol of strength, endurance, and ingenuity. I hope you are proud.
Ever since the inception of Scooby-Doo, Fred Jones has been tailored to you. As a teen in the 70's, he was the cool kid. He had the smarts, he had the style, he was the leader of the pack. He even had the girl (okay, it was never blatantly said, but everybody knew Fred and Daphne were a thing). As time progressed, though, Fred began exhibiting signs that he was less psychologically sound than he seemed. His traps failed more often, and he became easily distracted by shiny things. In the 90's, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, which showed the gang's beginnings as children solving neighborhood mysteries, Fred (affectionately called Freddy) was a boy who was just trying assert himself, to have his voice be heard, but he kept choking on silly comments and false accusations. It was clear that even at an early age, you were wearing on him. Anything he said or did had to fit the ridiculousness of The Ascot. The other characters could grow, even though their clothes remained the same, but your outlandishness, your idiotic persistence, restricted Fred. You made him fold into a box that wasn't built for him.
There is one episode in What's New Scooby-Doo when The Ascot appears on the floor of Fred's bedroom. The gang looks at it, confused, and an uncomfortable Fred brushes it under the bed. That is not just the animators poking fun at the fashion of the past. That is you, meddling Ascot, resurfacing, proclaiming your indomitable power over the psyche of an innocent man who just wants to solve mysteries in peace. "You will never escape me," you sneer. "You will always be Fred Jones, wearer of Ascot."
When you reclaimed your position as part of Fred's wardrobe in Scooby-Doo, Mystery Incorporated, all the character developments Fred made in the previous series completely disappeared. He became a narrow-minded dimwit whose only interests are setting traps and you. Fred, as we know him, vanished, as he is possessed by the absurd, contemptible, nefarious impression of Ascot. I hope you are proud.
Your tyrannical reign has destroyed a well-respected character, reduced him to clueless, pun-making rubble. You may have survived forty years of children's T.V. comedy, but was the slow and painful murder of Fred Jones worth it? You are the reason he will never get a job at a law firm. You are the reason he will always wear a white after Labor Day because nothing, I mean nothing, goes with orange. You are the reason he can't look his father in the eye or make his mother proud. You make Fred Jones captain of the psychedelic struggle bus, bound in a technicolor-carpet-lined asylum, driving straight on an unending highway toward the farthest outskirts of groovy, groovy misery.
I hope you are proud, Fred Jones's Ascot. I hope you are proud.
Someone who truly cares