Children's fiction employs this trope so often that it fits a formula. A wise character tries to convince the protagonist that something wonderful will happen if only he or she will earnestly believe an improbability. Consider, for instance, how Yoda tells Luke to cast aside all doubt if he wants to levitate his x-wing from the swamps of Dagobah. "Do, or do not. There is no try," Yoda explains. Following the usual script, Luke resists, courting disaster, before he finally embraces faith and wins its rewards.
But I'd like to put in a good word for one of my favorite childhood television characters, who for close to four decades has served as an important counter-weight to this theme -- the incomparable Scooby Doo.
Once you get past the obviously fantastical notion of a talking Great Dane, what I've always felt was great about Scooby's gang was that the way they inculcated in young viewers a healthy dose of subversive skepticism. Week after week, through application of science and reason, the Scooby gang face down their fears and discover that, once you look closely enough, what appear to be super-natural events and ghostly apparitions inevitably reveal themselves to be the work of charlatans and hucksters with sinister motivations.
Yes, the plot was so repetitive as to almost constitute a Zen koan, but that scenario repeats itself (ad infinitum) in real life, as well. From Jeanne Dixon to Uri Gellar to James Van Pragh to John Edward and Sylvia Browne, the song remains the same.
And this, in my humble opinion, is one of the many reasons why the recent and quite shitty live action movie versions so badly missed the heart and soul of the show. In both 2002's Scooby Doo and its ill-conceived sequel, the filmmakers thought it cute to pit the Mystery Machine gang "real" super-natural baddies. As if making fans suffer Freddie Prinze Jr. in any context weren't betrayal enough.
And on that, I close with a quote from that most eminent wit, Eddie Izzard, on the international significance of Shaggy and Scooby:
Shaggy and Scooby are interesting characters. They're two of the most major characters in American literature. Because, and I mean this sincerely, and I think it's fantastic, because they are cowards. They are cowardly characters - they believe in cowardice and sandwiches. And can you think of any in the whole realm of the English-speaking literature that are characters like that? Cowardly characters that you identify with. ‘Cause you identify with them, you're with them all the way! "Go Shaggy! Go Scooby!"...
...the only other character -- I mean, tell me now if you can think of any character ‘cause I'm willing to learn -- but somebody mentioned Falstaff. A Shakespearean character! It's that level of greatness! Falstaff, you sort of identify with him, but he has a melancholy with him. But Shaggy and Scooby are upbeat all the time, saying "ruh ruh ruh roo." And you love 'em! You're with 'em! There's part of us that are Shaggy and Scooby at every stage of the way.
So if you travel around the world, and, you know, ‘cause your American foreign policy does give you a difficult time to exist around the world, two tricks: one, say you're Canadian, that helps. It works in Europe, it's very good! And the second is just say, "Shaggy and Scooby." And they'll go "Raggy and Rooby!" International credit card, I think!