I’d never had the experience of loving something that is popularly recognized as bad, until “Velma,” HBO Max’s new adult animation series reimagining “Scooby-Doo.” According to Rotten Tomatoes, only 9% of its audience liked the show. Well, I found myself in that 9%.
I loved this origin story for my favorite “Scooby-Doo” character and how the character is developed. Velma (Mindy Kaling) blames herself for her mother’s (Sarayu Blue) disappearance. The series has a twist: two stories of this disappearance develop, one from Velma’s perspective and one from her father’s (Russell Peters). Velma believed her mother disappeared, but her father eventually reveals how she left them. Velma initially believes him but uses this proclamation as further means to blame herself.
Velma finds herself unable to solve mysteries until she is accused of murder. She also sees visions while solving mysteries, and while these episodes are disturbing, they serve a further purpose. Her visions reflect her trauma, which she cannot escape.
Velma may be provided with a character arc, but this is not true of all characters. Daphne (Constance Wu) is characterized as a trophy girlfriend who is secretly a rebel, as she deals drugs. This is meant to be ironic, as her moms are detectives. They are not good detectives, however, as they fail to recognize the disguised Velma and Daphne when they catch the drug dealers. This storyline does not work, and falls flat.
Daphne is not the only disappointing character in the show. Fred (Glenn Howerton) is a spoiled rich boy unable to do anything himself. His character is not developed beyond this trait: when he is accused of murder, he is found not guilty as his inability to cut his own steak makes it impossible for him to be the killer.
In the final moments of episode two, Daphne and Velma kiss. This LGBTQIA+ storyline affirms what some original “Scooby-Doo” fans believed to be true about Velma’s sexual orientation. The detail recognizes a group of people who feel targeted for who they are.
Velma is a complex character who faces a number of struggles, and this is what makes me love the show. She is represented by Mindy Kaling and portrayed as a South Asian woman. Peers cheat off her in Spanish because Fred believes her to be Mexican. She is named incorrectly on a newscast. This Velma resonates a lot with me.
The mature themes presented in the series rebel against the presumed audience for animated shows. Cartoons are often treated as a form of entertainment for kids, especially by those who create them. Cartoon Network, Disney XD and Nickelodeon cartoons are targeted towards kids. Velma is not. The show may not please everyone, but at least it is a unique project.
Some may have gone into “Velma” hoping this incarnation of the character would mirror the original detective in “Scooby-Doo.” I view this project as creative and ambitious. As the series continues, I will be watching and enjoying it with the rest of the 9%.
Starring: Mindy Kaling, Glenn Howerton, Sam Richardson
Favorite episodes: Episode 2
If you like: “The Sex Lives of College Girls”
Where to watch: HBO Max
Shamrocks: 3 out of 5
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