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The Student News Site of Central Oregon Community College

The Broadside

The Student News Site of Central Oregon Community College

The Broadside

Velma: Another Mindy Kaling show where Indian women are the butt of every joke

Image from HBO Max

Throughout pop culture, certain characters have been reimagined countless times. The Scooby Doo gang, first appearing in 1969, are no exception to the reboot cycle. There are now a total of 15 TV series and over 37 movies, according to this Wikipedia list.

Mindy Kaling’s new series titled simply, Velma, is the newest addition to the ever growing Scooby Doo lineup. And I’m sorry to report that it’s one of the worst ones yet. Netizens and the general public agree, rating it a 1.4/10 on IMDb and giving it a 10% like rate on Google.

Let’s get this out of the way: Scooby Doo, yes, THE Scooby Doo himself, is nowhere to be seen in the HBO Max series. Granted, it is called Velma, not Scooby, but having all the original members of the mystery gang (or at least, characters in their clothes with the same names), you’d think that the dog would appear in some small aspect of the show.

Instead, it’s centered around the antics and dark politics of Velma’s town, Crystal Cove. Kaling’s initial goal was for this reboot to be an edgy, darker version of Scooby Doo for mature adult audiences. Scooby Doo meets Riverdale meets Euphoria, if you will. And of course, there’s no way a mature adult audience could ever enjoy an adult cartoon that features a talking animal, right? Because those definitely have never existed… *cough, Bojack Horseman, Family Guy, Regular Show cough*…

However, the most glaring issue here is Velma, the main character, voiced by Kaling herself. In a lot of her previous shows (Never Have I Ever, The Sex Lives of College Girls, the Mindy Project, The Office), the female Indian lead is shown actively hating herself for her culture, body hair and other things that are unique to their identities, all while obsessing over a sub par white man. Even in Velma, the main character is seen starting to obsess over Fred’s opinions partway through the story. Along with severe internalized racism, these characters are also introduced with other forms of self hatred, such as over their weight and interests.

This leaves a copout and predictable character type to be reused again and again in slightly different variations throughout all of Kaling’s shows; a young Indian woman, loud-mouthed and brazen, most likely a nerd. With insecurities about her appearance and culture, with strict parents. 

When Kaling’s first character, Kelly Kapoor appeared on The Office in 2005, it was unusual to see an Indian American woman in mainstream comedy, and her character’s foibles could be viewed as charming and distinguishing. But now, after several versions of the same character, it’s hard not to see Kaling’s portrayal of Indian women as reflective of her own self-loathing.

It is as if Kaling’s attempts to be boldly self aware and feminist pathetically backfires. She ultimately insults herself, along with a whole minority of people instead of boosting them up through her opportunities to gain positive representation in the highly saturated western entertainment industry. Ultimately, this leaves us with a show that can’t be enjoyed by the group that is supposed to be able to relate to it, and everyone else who might be looking for a darkly comedic adult cartoon to watch.

Speaking of the characters, the main cast is nothing like themselves. And I don’t mean in terms of appearance. I’m all for representation in reboots of an originally all-white cast, but when you change the characters’ entire personalities and set of values, there starts to be a problem. To briefly break it down, Fred is made a submissive malewife, Norville (Shaggy) is nothing like, well, Shaggy, and Daphne is selling drugs by episode two.

None of the characters have any kind of charisma, and are very mean to each other to the point where it’s unfunny and unnatural. The dialogue feels forced; like a string of unrelated jokes are constantly crammed together, no matter the context. If that isn’t irritating enough, it’s a normal occurrence in the show for characters to explain the joke right after it happens, immediately taking any humor from the joke and killing it.

Not only does this show massively fail in the main character department, the actual storyline and supporting characters themselves are also a complete mess. Every episode is written as if a bunch of chronically online Twitter users sat together at a table and simultaneously dropped all of their worst takes into a blender to produce the script.

Overall, I’ll save you the time and anguish. This show is two stars out of ten at best, and just another addition to Mindy Kaling’s show lineup where Indian women are depicted as self hating and white dude obsessed.

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Miina McCown, Editor in chief
Miina McCown is editor in chief of The Broadside.

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