That HBO Max’s Velma series does not stick to the precedent of the source material when adapting Scooby-Doo is cut and dry at this point. However, the animated show’s star Mindy Kaling and her producers believe they are honoring the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon through the sundry changes they made to everything – to which viewers are saying, in a word, “Jinkies!”
At a press session at New York Comic-Con (via Popverse), Kaling first explained the show is supposed to be scary and is aimed at adults. “This is a scary show with murders,” she said. “I think we’ve been inspired with a lot more scary teen shows of late, which is why the show is for adults.”
She also indicated the show was inspired by Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, especially when it came to modernizing and race-swapping. She stated, “Why not make the character Indian? We’ve been so inspired by Into the Spider-Verse and seeing these other characters that can embody the spirit of these iconic franchises. Why don’t we try that? We love Scooby-Doo so much, and we’re going to honor it.”
Kaling went on to reveal why she decided to make Velma Indian, “I love this opportunity I have now to be able to have representation of modern Indian American teens.”
She continued, “There is not a lot of representation of Indian American girls in 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s animation. And so what I loved about that character, she’s the closest to what I can see. Smart, A-student, thick glasses that are always falling off, and skeptical.”
“She has a lot of these amazing qualities, so as a kid watching the reruns of the original Scooby-Doo I felt like, ‘Man I really identify with this character.’ I love that she exists. She’s not like traditionally gorgeous or anything, she just helps the gang because she’s so smart,” Kaling explained.
Velma showrunner Charlie Grandy confirmed the show was also aimed at adults revealing at New York Comic-Con, “We always wanted to do it as adult animation. nd for me, I loved Scooby-Doo as a kid, but it also scared me. I was scared very easily, but I was interested in kind of taking the comedy and the humor of the original, and sort of adapting it for older audiences.”
Kaling further testified on the choice to make it an an animated adult show, “We’ve loved what people have done with their own versions of it. We felt this was a really interesting and fun way to make a different choice. And it felt worth doing because that hadn’t been done before.”
Specifically addressing all of the race swapping done in the show, Grandy said, “The whiteness of the characters didn’t feel integral to them. Except Fred. Fred just felt like a very white person.”
Kaling added, “Fred had to be white. He’s the whitest character in the history of television.”
Grandy appeared to also indicate the race-swapping, specifically of Velma, was done to self-insert Kaling as the character. As reported by UPI, Grandy stated, “When Mindy came to me and said she wanted to do it, it was because she connected to her because she was this girl who was the smart one who does all of the work and doesn’t get nearly enough credit.”
However, he would then claim they didn’t decide to race-swap character until later on in the production, “It wasn’t until we got much farther down the road where it looked like this [show] might happen that we really started to talk about how the character should look and should they be South Asian. At the time we were like, ‘Why wouldn’t they be in this day and age?’”
Kaling also indicated the reason they are describing the show as aimed at adults is due to the situations they put the teenage characters in, “It’s really just the situations that they’re in because it’s geared towards adults. We can be more like – teens who are 15, 16, or 17, what are those sorts of urges, which you couldn’t have in the show that was for younger kids.”
To that end, Kaling claimed that Velma is an icon for gay women, “[Velma’s] self-discovery is a really big part of this series. We don’t want to ignore that she’s an icon for young gay women, and I think that’s really interesting. Her figuring it out is a big part of the show and why it’s really fun to do.”
Of course they are, otherwise it’s “homophobic” 😐
— Its Just Lag (@ItsJustLag1) January 14, 2023
Kaling went on to indicate she’s received significant support from Warner Brothers to push this on Velma, “Not everyone would necessarily feel comfortable doing this, and we feel so lucky that Warner Brothers animation was open to this.”
Finally, Grandy revealed one of the goals of the show is to provide origins to a number of iconic phrases and even the names of the character. He said, “The fun of the show has really been taking the iconic pieces either the sayings or the sweater and trying to give origins to all of those. Imbue them with meaning.”
He explained, “Why does Velma say ‘jinkies’? That’s a big thing that we wanted to lean into. Same with all the characters. We call him Norville in our series. Well, when does he become Shaggy? That’s one of the real appealing things of doing this project.”
While Kaling and Grandy believed they could take Velma in their own direction. The problem is they aren’t connecting with a wide audience as everyone appears to be checking out after the first episode.
The poor writing and unfunny humor encompass a major complaint.
As one Twitter user put it with context, “I’m halfway through the second episode of #velma and I’m honestly not able to push-on. This writing is so exhaustingly meta, egregious and offensive to its target audience that I’m unsure how it was even green lit in the first place.”
I’m halfway through the second episode of #velma and I’m honestly not able to push-on. This writing is so exhaustingly meta, egregious and offensive to its target audience that I’m unsure how it was even green lit in the first place.
For context: pic.twitter.com/mp6bXe3VZY
— James Sismanes (@JamesSismanes) January 13, 2023
Even the most passionate critics of content like Velma are giving up on it because they can’t power through a single episode. One foremost among those at the roasts on YouTube is creator HeelvsBabyface who, after a few minutes of the season premiere, was able to write the whole endeavor off as more woke Hollywood garbage.