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Examining the controversy and mixed reactions to ‘Velma’

Graphic by Ethan Nelson

As a shameless “Scooby-Doo” fan, I was pretty excited when actress, comedian and producer Mindy Kaling announced that she would be creating a new series, “Velma,” centered on the origin of the beloved sleuth. The show features every character from the original Mystery Gang except for Scooby, but Kaling’s twist on the series has drawn a lot of internet ire.

“Velma” follows the titular character, voiced by Kaling, as she tries to solve several murders at her school. In addition to the mysterious serial killer on the loose, Velma is determined to find her missing mother while receiving help from Shaggy, Daphne and Fred along the way.

One of the biggest issues among viewers is that the characters don’t have their original personalities. Shaggy now goes by his real name, Norville, and isn’t quite as laid-back as he was before. Velma is still nerdy and sarcastic, but Norville does her schoolwork for her and she is no longer the smartest in the gang. Daphne is popular and has a rivalry with Velma while Fred is portrayed as an increasingly shallow spoiled rich kid. 

Although the main cast has different personalities, I don’t think it’s the central reason for the backlash the series has received. The animosity is likely rooted in the fact that Velma is now Indian, Shaggy is Black and Daphne is Asian. In addition to the changes in races, Velma and Daphne are involved in a romantic relationship.

The different races and sexualities of the characters don’t directly impact the plot, and yet viewers were still upset about it. Initially, this is what caused fans to hop on the critical bandwagon before the show was even released.

Surprisingly enough, the overall dynamic between members of the gang still works and everyone overcomes the issues that they have with one another. Regardless of their differences, the characters are still able to bond and solve mysteries much like in the preceding series.

Velma and Daphne also interestingly balance each other. Their romance is properly developed, and it allows for some much-needed animated LGBTQ+ representation. It’s also notable that both Norville and Fred develop unrequited feelings for Velma, which leads to a ton of humorous moments.

Overall, I think that the HBO Max series is funny and enjoyable. There is a healthy amount of humor, suspense and romance in every episode. I would have liked to see Scooby in the cast, but there is still hope that he might be added in the next season.

“Velma” is not exactly what I had expected, but it isn’t completely horrible either. I appreciate the diversity mixed in with Kaling’s take on the series, and it’s nice to see fresh ideas put in motion.

Even though it isn’t the same dynamic of the “Scooby-Doo” characters that we’ve come to know and love, “Velma” is an interesting watch. People generally don’t like change, and that’s why the show got a bad rap from the very beginning. However, sometimes change can be good, and I think “Velma” is evidence that not every reimagining of a popular series has to mirror the original.

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