Mindy Kaling’s “Velma” puts a new spin on the beloved mystery-solving franchise, but the bitingly sardonic and at-all-times explicit adult-animated reboot leaves audiences and critics dizzy with disillusionment and disappointment.
The show is one of the lowest-rated shows on IMDb and is currently standing at an average score of 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. “Mystery Inc.” fans believe “Velma” ruined the nostalgia of “Scooby-Doo.” Fans took to social media to dunk on the drastic personality changes for the returning gang, or to poke fun at the meta-jokes that fall flat whenever the show over-explains the TV tropes it wants to break.
When “Velma” released on Jan. 12 of this year, long-time “Scooby-Doo” fans tuned into the show to see a fresh take on the titular detective, Velma Dinkley, voiced by the show’s executive producer Mindy Kaling. Kaling is known to have worked on popular comedy shows such as “The Office,” “Never Have I Ever,” and “The Sex Life of College Girls.”
The show first intrigued audiences with redesigns of the beloved “Mystery Gang.” In the reboot, main character Velma Dinkley is reimagined as an Indian-American teenager, Daphne Blake is East-Asian and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers is African-American, with Fred Jones as the only character in the gang without a “race change.” Unfortunately, the face of the “Scooby-Doo” franchise doesn’t join the cast due to copyright issues.
Besides the redesigns, the show also portrayed Velma as more queer, with promotional videos leaning into Velma’s crush on Fred and her intimate, not-just-a-friend moments with Daphne.
The show’s main plot point is Velma investigating the cold-case disappearance of her mother while attempting to solve a string of gruesome murders targeting high school girls in her town, Crystal Cove. With the assistance of her future “Mystery Gang” members, Velma draws red-yarn links between the two cases while dealing with strong hallucinations brought on by the unpacked guilt over her mother’s disappearance.
“Velma” maintains its “adult animation” aspects, with the first episode opening with a censored portrayal of nudity in the showers of a girl’s locker room and a “Carrie-esque” moment where mean-girl Daphne bloodily lashes out at another girl. Other graphic episodes include Velma’s complex, skin-crawling body horror hallucinations and a bloody, severed foot flying across the screen. “Velma” is definitely not like the other kid-friendly renditions.
Although the show offers a bloodier portrayal, a new perspective and banks on an older audience’s nostalgia for the original series, fans and critics dislike the rude and jagged personalities of the four main characters, with their forced relationships and lack of chemistry.
First, Velma is written as a rude, misanthropic and manipulative teenager who would stop at nothing to solve a mystery. Second, Fred is written as a rich, self-absorbed, helpless Nepotism baby who belittles Velma, but suddenly turns over a new leaf and becomes a self-proclaimed “male feminist” who’s obsessed with Velma halfway through the show.
Next, Norville is labeled a “beta-male” who caters to the whims of his ignorant crush, Velma, where his only connection to the original character is his love for snacks and his shirt color. Lastly, Daphne embodies the popular mean girl trope, although she seems to redeem herself after leaving Velma to her shenanigans.
The show is also morally gray in some points, with its sexualization of high schoolers disguised as women empowerment, or with how it problematically portrays mental illness by changing Velma’s “solution” to her hallucinations with each episode.
Then, “Velma’s” pacing is erratic and hard to follow, where it bounces between the sub and main plots too quickly, sacrificing any amount of character development or moments of self-realization made by Velma and the others by replacing it with braindead action and gore.
Despite all the negative criticism, there are some viewers that support the show’s hot take on the beloved characters. Some viewers say it isn’t meant to be a faithful recreation of the franchise, and is instead meant to be a satirical comedic commentary on the tropes the “Mystery Gang” embodies.
“Velma” isn’t meant for the die-hard fans of the “Mystery Gang,” but if viewers are curious about its infamous reputation, keep an open-mind. Be sure to take breaks about every three to five minutes to recover from the whiplash of subverted expectations and try-hard self-aware comedy.
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