I Want My Gay TV

Velma’s Hate-Watchers Have Propelled The Show to Massive Success

One quick glance at Twitter and it’s plain to see: almost nobody enjoys HBO Max’s newest animated series, Velma.

The reimagined take on Scooby-Doo sees Velma, voiced by Mindy Kaling, as a 15-year-old thrust into the center of a murder mystery at her high school, forcing her to work with Fred, Daphne, and Shaggy (or, in this iteration, Norville) to solve the case.

Velma’s target audience is … unclear. Its portrayal of Velma, Shaggy, and Daphne as people of color turns off conservative viewers, who condemn the show for being “woke” just by looking at it. But the actual plots and dialogue of the show are frequently anti-progressive, including a now infamous joke poking fun at the #MeToo movement.

Viewers have also pointed out how Velma is only the latest Mindy Kaling project to play into stereotypes of South Asian women as undesirable, awkward or self-hating, tropes Kaling has also used in The Mindy Project, Never Have I Ever and The Sex Lives of College Girls — a pattern some see as a projection of Kaling’s personal insecurities.

Velma’s divisiveness has also led to a broader discussion of Kaling’s controversies as a comedian, including frequent jokes at the expense of Muslims across her projects.

The series does earn some brownie points for finally portraying Velma and Daphne as love interests, something queer Scooby-Doo fans have long wanted to see in some Mystery Inc. media. But for the project that finally delivered some queer Scooby content to be one with almost nothing else going for it has only made those same fans angry, robbed of what could have been.

Velma’s unlikeability has earned it lots of attention — which, of course, means plenty of people are watching it. Whether it’s out of morbid curiosity or for masochistic hate-watching doesn’t matter: since its premiere on January 12, the sheer number of viewers has made Velma the most-watched HBO Max original animated series of all time. (It’s only competing with four other adult animated series, but still.) Thus, despite a tragically poor reception by both critics and general audience — the series currently has a 6% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes — there’s still a chance of Velma getting renewed for a second season. In a time with constant cancellations of beloved shows (rest in peace, Dead End: Paranormal Park), the idea of a near universally disliked project like Velma getting renewed feels especially ironic. Then again, with so many folks tuning into Velma for the wrong reasons, who could blame HBO Max for thinking the show is a hit?

Pro tip: if you watched Velma hoping for an actually funny, nuanced take on Scooby-Doo, just watch Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated instead. It’s also on HBO Max (and also features a Velma who’s into girls), so if you’re watching Velma, you’ve got no excuse not to show this underrated Scooby media some love. 

Read More