The newest Scooby Doo spin-off animated series Velma is facing backlash online after the show failed to appease fans.
Velma was first announced in February 2021. At this point, we knew that Mindy Kaling would be both producing and starring in the series. In an interview with Seth Meyers in July of that same year, Kaling said that response to the series was positive right up until Velma’s ethnicity was announced. In this new show, Velma Dinkley is an Indian girl, while other characters, including Daphne Blake and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, are no longer portrayed as white either.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon reaction from fans when a beloved character is changed to appeal to a diverse audience. Most recently, Disney faced criticism for casting Black actress Halle Bailey as Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. The backlash, rooted in racism, resulted in the hashtag #NotMyAriel trending, with internet users directing hate and discriminatory comments toward the young star.
Though commentary about Velma was similarly racist prior to its release, the majority of viewers now seem to be criticising the show because of its failed attempt at youth humour, as the script is filled with “jokes” that tread the line of transphobic, sexist, and offensive whilst trying to celebrate diversity.
As TikTok creator @dragonboyz97 says, “The show is equivalent to having a lego piece superglued to the bottom of your foot and you can’t remove it.”
The series is also receiving criticism from South Asians, with many creators expressing disappointment in how it represents the community.
TikToker @movieswithriddhi points out that Kaling seems to use Velma to focus on Indian stereotypes around hating their culture and making fun of their body hair and food. This is a pattern that South Asian creators on TikTok have pointed out in many of Kaling’s projects including Never Have I Ever, Sex Lives of College Girls, and The Mindy Project.
As for how the show ended up being “so bad”, there are several theories floating around the internet— some more tangible than others.
The most popular theory seems to be that Velma serves as “sacrificial trash”— a term originally coined by YouTubers Sarah Z and Lady Emily when they released a video analysing the online response to another animated series, High Guardian Spice.
As Ryan Broderick for Garbage Day writes, “‘Sacrificial trash’ is a piece of media that tries to pander to young audiences with woke identity politics to cover up how mediocre it is, which, in turn, creates a chaotic feedback loop of online discourse.”
In the case of Velma, some online critics believe that the creators made the show bad on purpose “so the culture war YouTubers make a million videos about it to boost its SEO.”
This theory is a favourite on right-wing TikTok and Twitter as it becomes increasingly conspiratorial.
While YouTubers certainly are making many analysis videos on the series, others believe that it is unlikely that a Hollywood studio would deliberately hand over the rights to the Scooby Doo narrative for intentional ruin.
There’s no denying that Velma might deserve its fair share of criticism, but with only two episodes released (at the time of writing) and increasing backlash coming from right-wing online spaces, it’s important to consume the scrutiny with a critical eye as we wait for the remainder of the series to unfold.