Scooby-Doo spinoff series Velma, released earlier this year, has attracted widespread attention for largely the wrong reasons.
Created by Charlie Grandy, the animated series serves as an alternate origin story for Mystery Inc. based around Velma Dinkley (Mindy Kaling). The show also features new versions of other Scooby-Doo characters, including Fred Jones (Glenn Howerton), Daphne Blake (Constance Wu) and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Sam Richardson).
While Velma has received mixed reviews from critics, sitting at 56 on Metacritic at the time of writing, the response from viewers has been overwhelmingly negative. On IMDb, where users can rate shows between one and 10, Velma has earned an average score of 1.3.
Why do so many people hate Velma?
Before it debuted in January, the spinoff faced an uphill battle by not featuring Scooby-Doo. As reported by Variety, this was due to the show’s adult nature. “It felt like what made it a kids’ show was Scooby-Doo,” Grandy said. “That coincided with Warner Bros. Animation saying, ‘Hey, you can’t use the dog.’ So we were like, ‘Great, this works out well.’”
Beyond the removal of Scooby-Doo, Velma takes bold leaps away from the original cartoon series. All the characters have been reimagined as a diverse group of teens with drastically different personalities. Velma is now South Asian, Daphne is East Asian and Norville is Black.
Speaking about changing the races of the characters to Variety, Kaling said: “The original Scooby-Doo, which we’re a fan of, is also really rooted in another era and reflective of the cultural landscape of the ‘60s and the ‘70s and what people traditionally put on TV. It just felt like, if we can have the characters be anything, why not do something new?”
While perhaps well-intentioned, the changes have uniquely provoked both sides of the political spectrum. The show has become an obvious target for right-wing critics who deem it a “woke disaster”, but some progressives have also criticised the show’s diversity as purposefully “edgy” and lacking in thoughtful writing to substantiate the changes.
Velma isn’t good. But the anti-SJW crowd will use this show to sell their grift that the simple the appearance of diverse people is the issue. But the real issue is the show was made with shallow, cynical “provacative” caricatures rather than authenticity. https://t.co/AvSzoPxnLD
— Jessie Earl (@jessiegender) January 15, 2023
The fact that Velma goes from weird transphobic jokes in the same episode mocking how comedy shifted after "MeToo" to "woah guys! Diversity win!!" Has officially made this the first ever show without a demographic to appeal to. pic.twitter.com/XjAhYGPuoR
— Somari! 💙 (@somari8591) January 13, 2023
It's going to be a very long time until America can compete with Anime when this is the current standard. pic.twitter.com/EebWijEu2B
— 🇯🇵 Colonel Otaku Gatekeeper 🇯🇵 (@politicalawake) January 13, 2023
Aside from political divides, Velma’s tone and humour have also provoked criticism. The show has been accused of being transphobic, racist, of sexualising its teen cast and of making light of sickle cell disease. A joke about the MeToo movement’s impact on comedy has also become a sticking point.
The show’s misfires carry weighted disappointment when it comes to queer representation. Velma was depicted as openly gay for the first time in last year’s animated movie Trick Or Treat Scooby-Doo, and while this series does follow suit – showing a kiss between Velma and Daphne – the misguided jokes elsewhere drag down its impact.
On a broader level, Velma represents another attempt to modernise a cartoon classic – something that’s been a trend in recent years with mixed success, ranging from The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly OddParents, Rugrats and others.
Velma is available to stream on HBO Max in the US. A UK release has yet to be announced.