Mindy Kaling Under Fire After Release of “Velma”

(Image via hbomax.com)

Staff Writer: Sakara De Gil-Balija

Email: sdegilbalija@umassd.edu

As an adult take on the hit 1969 show Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, HBOMax’s new show, Velma, prefaces the story of the ‘Mystery Inc. Gang’ through Velma Dinkley’s eyes.

While the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is a children’s show, Velma is rated TV-MA. 

This reboot was one that fans were initially eager about, but after the show’s release, many are unhappy with this new version of the beloved classic. 

PopCrave has even announced that it is “the #1 worst-rated animated TV series in IMDB history with 1.3 out of 10 stars.”

The series also has an audience score of 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, with 10,565 audience ratings.

Why is this show doing so badly, you might ask? Mindy Kaling, the producer and voice actor for the role of Velma, made some very interesting changes. 

For one, Scooby-Doo is not in the series at all. While critics understand that the show is based on Velma’s life, removing the original main character from the prequel is a major change to the source material.

Some other changes include Daphne being a drug dealer, Fred being shot numerous times, and Shaggy being an avid seller on the black market. These kinds of changes are what make Velma rated TV-MA. 

(Image via theatlantic.com)

Charlie Grandy, the series showrunner, says, “we wanted to be respectful… We didn’t want to just kind of take these beloved characters and put them in outrageous or gross situations and say, ‘Isn’t it crazy you did that to Velma?’”

However, many find the show to be disrespectful, especially to South Asian viewers.

The main point that South Asian critics make is that Kaling is stereotyping Velma’s South Asian heritage, including jokes about body hair, weight, and Velma’s studious attitude.

Though the backlash was initially aimed toward the show itself, people are now turning their attention to Kaling, who has played into these stereotypes while creating and portraying these characters.

However, some critics say that the negative feedback is unfair since Mindy Kaling is one of the few South Asian celebrities in mainstream media today. Professor Lakshmi Srinivas from the University of Massachusetts Boston says, “she has become a lightning rod for this kind of criticism.”

Srinivas goes on to say that “it’s not inauthentic to the experience of South Asian kids growing up in this society. They face a lot of discrimination and a lot of bullying in school. Their names are made fun of, their food is made fun of, so they might grow up with this terrible defensiveness about that culture,”

As a woman of South Asian descent myself, I have to agree with Srinivas. The stereotypes that are being portrayed are very much real issues that South Asians have to deal with and maneuver around. 

Are there ways to rewrite the narrative and portray Velma’s, along with other characters,’ culture, and background in a better light? Of course. But the discrimination that Velma faces is very realistic, especially for Indian viewers.


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