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‘Velma’ Deserves Criticism, but Not Like This

Daphne, voiced by Constance Wu, sasses a trio of band nerds in the animated series 'Velma'

Velma is far from a perfect show. As I wrote in my review, the characters are a little too mean to be interesting at times, and the body-shaming passes through social commentary into straight-up fat jokes. There are legitimate reasons not to like Velma.

What’s weird, though—and honestly 100% predictable, for reasons I’ll get to in a bit—is that now that the first two episodes are streaming on HBO Max, people on social media are hating on Velma for a whole bunch of other reasons.

Mainly they’re upset that star and executive producer Mindy Kaling and writer Charlie Grandy are messing with the sacred lore of Scooby-Doo?

In case you’ve just beamed down to Earth from outer space, or if nostalgia for your lost childhood has put a gauzy filter over everything you experienced up to age 12, let me remind you what the deal is with Scooby-Doo. It was originally a Hanna-Barbera children’s show from the ’60s. It comes from the same creative minds as The Flintstones and Quick Draw McGraw, and it is cringe as hell. Seriously, even as a kid I was vicariously embarrassed by Scooby-Doo.

Hanna-Barbera’s original properties were so bad—yet, to their credit, so weirdly creative!—that they naturally lent themselves to parody, which is why Cartoon Network reinvented a bunch of them in the ’90s and aughts. The original Space Ghost and Sealab 2020 may have been unwatchable, but Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Sealab 2021 were works of twisted genius. Scooby-Doo itself has been subjected to more than one parody, like the Scooby-Doo Murder Files in Family Guy, or the homicidal Groovy Gang in Venture Brothers. The Groovy Gang is upsetting as hell, but I don’t remember an outcry among diehard Scooby fans over that.

But Velma‘s the parody that’s making people angry?

What is it about Velma that sets it apart from other Hanna-Barbera reimaginings and Scooby-Doo parodies? Why are those parodies fine, while Velma is reviled?

I dunno, could the fact that it stars a woman of color have anything to do with it? Maybe? Do you think that aspect could maybe be playing some tiny little part in people’s outsized reactions to the nostalgia factor, when the body-shaming stuff doesn’t seem to bother anyone? Maybe? Are you willing to concede that it maybe-might be playing some teeny tiny little role in all this??

No? There’s no chance at all? Okay, forget I said anything. You’re right, Groovy telling Sonny that he has to kill people because he’s the “Hand of the Master” is just lighthearted fun, but Velma saying swear words is a cardinal sin.

(featured image: HBO Max)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. She lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and makes yarn on her spinning wheel. You can check out more of her writing at https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.