When it was first reported that Mindy Kaling would create a Scooby-Doo spinoff series titled Velma, the most talked-about aspect of the show was that the title character, voiced by Kaling herself, would be South Asian. In response to racist trolls who criticized her vision, Kaling stated, “Hopefully you saw that my Velma is South Asian. I don’t care if people flip out about this.”
Now that the show has aired, it appears that Velma’s role is not receiving criticism. Instead, it’s the fact that the show has rendered a cherished cast of characters unlikeable. Brittany Vincent notes in the Decider review of the series, “Velma herself is a despicable character who adds little more than nasty remarks nearly every time she is onscreen. Because she makes it so difficult to care about her suffering or her desire to discover what happened to her mother, it is actually impossible to sympathize with her. Shaggy has been converted into Norville, a vlogger who records mukbangs (his true name).
She continues, “It’s difficult to comprehend why anyone deemed it necessary to replace the heroine’s kindness, intelligence, and helpful personality (with a dash of endearing shyness) with this snark machine who can barely stand herself, let alone anyone else.”
However, we are not alone in wondering why the series has taken the path it has. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show has an appallingly low 8% audience approval rating, with the bulk of audience reviewers expressing dismay that the series pays little homage to or resembles its source material.
“Horrible take on a beloved character, missing all the points of what makes the original show fun and entertaining,” one user remarked, while another asked, “If your goal is to diverge as far as possible from the original work of art, why even use the same IP?”
The new series, which is rated TV-MA, contains a number of adult themes and some sexual content, indicating that it is not intended for children like the original. One scene depicts a locker room shower filled with high school ladies who are all naked with the exception of some deliberately placed suds. This scene has been criticized for sexualizing adolescents and making jokes that are, for lack of a better word, “cringeworthy.”
One of these jokes exploits #MeToo as a punchline, which feels particularly odd for a comedy that appears to otherwise champion diversity and feminism.
Also, employing Velma in this manner is at best unsettling. I refuse to think that Velma does not totally support the MeToo movement. It simply feels improper. pic.twitter.com/XuAiHfxP8W
— Anna (@MaybeAnnatar) January 13, 2023
All this debate, and only two episodes of the show have been released! However, given that it is on HBO, we will be on the edge of our seats awaiting the inevitable moment when it will be removed from the content catalog.
Velma premieres new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max.