HBO Max’s new Scooby Doo spin-off series has been met with backlash as iconic character Velma has been reimagined as an Asian character voiced by Mindy Kaling.
The popular animated franchise, which began in 1969, was traditionally made up of a cast of all white characters, with white actors voicing the parts.
The standalone series, titled Velma, will serve as the ‘origin story’ for the Mystery Inc. gang’s designated brainiac, says Variety, with the character being of East Asian descent. No pictures have been released as of yet.
However, diehard fans have questioned why the series couldn’t create a new role in order to reflect diversity, while others claimed it was playing up to stereotypes to make the ‘bookish and nerdy’ character an Asian role.
Don’t like change: The new adult animated Scooby Doo series has been met with backlash by fans over the news that Asian actress Mindy Kaling will play Velma Dinkley as they wondered why the show couldn’t just create a new character
Cartoon: The popular animated franchise, which began in 1969, was traditionally made up of a cast of all white characters, with white actors voicing the parts (Velma pictured left)
Twitter was flooded with comments over Mindy’s casting, with fans penning: ‘Changing the race of the character is one thing (it’s weird, but whatever), but if you’re also changing the setting and removing *everything else* Scooby Doo related, why not just make a brand new character?
‘That doesn’t even make any sense??? Why not just make a new show like df???’; ‘ ‘Just saw that they changed Velma on Scooby Doo. WTF! She’s not Velma then @warnerbros @wbpictures @WBHomeEnt What were you people thinking?!!!!’
‘honestly depressing to me that you couldn’t just like … make an animated south asian veronica mars or whatever without having to link it to IP that then has nothing to do with the project at all.’; ‘ Yes, “a Velma from Scooby Doo spin-off that doesn’t exist in the Scooby Doo universe” is a much better and clearer way to pitch a show than just… making a Mindy Kaling-led mystery series…’
Confused: Diehard fans questioned why the series couldn’t create a new role in order to reflect diversity
Another added: ‘I understand mindy wants to make velma an asian character. like i get it.. but it doesn’t make sense to me at least in this situation with a character who has existed since the 70s. why not just create a new character completely in hopes it will one day become a+’ (sic).
Another chimed: ‘I feel like I’ve seen people either being racist about the new Velma, or celebrating she’s Asian. Am I the only one confused why she’s East Asian and being voiced by Mindy Kaling? As a Japanese American, I just… idk (sic). ‘
Others wrote: ‘Ok so Mindy Kaling can’t be Velma but Casey Kasem can be Shaggy. I understand not wanting Velma to fall into the Asian stereotype of being bookish and nerdy. But non-whites have voiced Velma and the other characters before. What is the problem here besides racism?’.
‘That mindy kaling thing and Velma got me really disturbed. I’m cool with the East Indian thing, I’m assuming she’ll be gay too. That’s all good. But to take her out the realm of scooby doo completely would just be a new character. Which isn’t a bad thing, but why not just do that.’
Divided: Twitter was soon flooded with comments over Mindy’s casting, with some voicing concern about the character being ‘reimagined’
But others supported Mindy’s casting and said they were looking forward to seeing her take on the iconic role.
One wrote on Twitter: ‘Some fans are in an uproar over @mindykaling playing Velma in a new “Scooby Doo” spinoff. Frankly, I find a woman dressed as Velma to be extremely hot so I don’t understand the problem.’
Another added: ‘Mad congrats to @mindykaling for being cast as Velma in the new Scooby Doo. The character was MEANT to be smart, cute and curvy. I call it perfect casting.’
A third chimed: ‘I think Mindy would be great as Velma… but without Scooby-Doo? It’s really just a mystery show with a nerdy protagonist. Maybe it will still be great but the SD connection seems forced to get buzz.’
Character: But many supported Mindy’s casting and said they were looking forward to seeing her take on the iconic role
Mindy was born in Massachusetts, to father Avu Chokalingam, an architect, and mother Swati an obstetrician/gynecologist, who are both from India but migrated to America the same year the actress, 41, was born.
Despite some backlash about Velma being reprised as East Asian, others pointed out other women of colour have previously played the character over the decades.
12 actress have voiced the role since its launch fifty years ago, while four stars have played the character in live action movies.
American Japanese actress Hayley Kiyoko played Velma in Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins and Curse of the Lake Monster in 2009-2010, while Puerto Rican star Gina Rodriguez voiced Velma in the 2020 animated movie Scoob!, with the character also having darker skin.
Scooby Doo, where are you? Women of colour have previously played the character Velma (pictured American Japanese actress Hayley Kiyoko in Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins )
Past role: Puerto Rican star Gina Rodriguez voiced Velma in the 2020 animated movie Scoob! (pictured last year)
Sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen told AOL: ‘I grew up with Scooby-Doo and Velma, and for sure I could really see her as East Asian, hopefully not in a model minority way but a quirky way that’s kind of bookish but she’s multifaceted.
‘The fact that she could be nerdy, that was kind of revolutionary back then.”
‘It’s lazy for Hollywood to just try to use old material and try to freshen it up when they could actually create true freshness by centering people of color, centering BIPOC stories rather than just trying to revamp old stories.’
Aside from voicing the series’ main character, Kaling will also executive produce Velma, alongside Charlie Grandy, Howard Klein, and Sam Register.
Velma has been given a 10-episode order by HBO Max, but an official release date for the animated series has yet to be revealed.
New project: Velma has been given a 10-episode order by HBO Max, but an official release date for the animated series has yet to be revealed (pictured last year)
Since airing for the first time in 1969, the Scooby Doo franchise has produced countless animated series’, as well as several live action iterations.
‘It is a tremendous privilege to build on the 100 year plus legacy of cartoons at this company,’ said executive vice president of original comedy and adult animation for HBO Max, Suzanna Makkos, as the network announced their adult animation expansion.
HBO Max subscribers will also be treated to a reboot of Clone High, which was given an optimistic two-season order by the streaming platform, while also picking up the brand new series Fired on Mars featuring the vocal talents of SNL’s Pete Davidson.
Kaling, best known for her work in front of behind the camera on NBC’s The Office, has also been penning the script for Legally Blonde 3 with fellow actress and pal Reese Witherspoon.
The Ocean’s 8 star gushed in a recent interview with Access Hollywood that it has been ‘really fun to imagine’ Witherspoon’s iconic character Elle Woods at age 40.
Brainy: Velma Dinkley is a fictional character in the American television animated series Scooby Doo
‘I love the franchise so much. I love Elle Woods as a character. And when Reese [Witherspoon] asked me if I wanted to write it, I was like, “Absolutely!” recalled Kaling.
‘I can’t wait to see what people think of the way we’ve written Elle Woods at 40. How Elle Woods is at 40 versus when she was 21 has been really fun to imagine.’
The plans for Legally Blonde 3 were confirmed last May, with Kaling and Parks and Recreation writer Dan Goor signing on to write a new script for the beloved comedy.
Teasing the project, Mindy told TODAY in October that tackling a Legally Blonde script was ‘really daunting’ task for her ‘because it’s such an iconic movie.’
Scrappy Dappy WHO? A look back at the famous characters ‘reimagined’ with colourblind casting
The Scooby Doo remake is the latest in a line of reinterpretations of classic TV series and novels opting to embrace colour-blind casting.
Most notably the Netflix hit Bridgerton was a period piece re-imagined.
In January Netflix’s vice-president of inclusion strategy revealed that Bridgerton’s racially diverse cast was the result of an ‘inclusion lens’ being applied to casting decisions.
Diverse: The Scooby Doo remake is the latest in a line of shows to opt for colour-blind casting, most notably following Netflix hit Bridgerton (pictured, Rege-Jean as Simon, the Duke of Hastings, and Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne)
Verna Myers said the company supported diverse lead producers and showrunners for the series as well as its executive producer Shonda Rhymes.
Bridgerton is a romantic drama set in Regency London which re-imagines the period as one where black and white people were equal, with Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page taking on the lead roles of Daphne and Simon.
It features a very diverse and talented cast which also boasts Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury, Kathryn Drysdale as Genevieve Delacroix, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte and Ruby Barker as Marina Thompson.
Story: Bridgerton is a romantic drama set in Regency London which re-imagines the period as one where black and white people were equal (left, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury and right, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte)
Ms Myers told The Guardian: ‘We’ve got to get folks in front of the camera and behind the camera. When that happens you’re going to get something you’ve never seen before. Bridgerton is something we have never seen before.
‘We help out all of our creative folks in content and marketing with what we call an inclusion lens, when they’re casting and when they’re green lighting: see who’s there, see who isn’t.’
Ms Myers continued that the historical lack of black employees in the technology and entertainment industries is down to industry trends and said Netflix has put special emphasis on recruiting black employees.
‘Moving forward’: Channel 5’s Anne Boleyn drama also featured Jodi Turner-Smith as the leading lady, making her the first black actress to play the queen, with Henry VIII actor Mark Stanley defending the casting (pictured together in character)
She explained: ‘We had a special person to think about recruitment, specifically for underrepresented groups, and we started with people of colour, and we really emphasised black.’
The VP added she did not think the problem was specific to Netflix, continuing that companies should back up talk of diversity with action such as Netflix’s £350,000 investment scheme to help develop black creative talent.
Channel 5’s Anne Boleyn drama also featured Jodi Turner-Smith as the leading lady, making her the first black actress to play the doomed queen.
Progress: Jodie (left) also said that she was ‘aware it’s going to be a stretch for some people’ to see her playing the role
She did face some backlash for her casting, however Mark Stanley, who played King Henry VIII in the three-part drama, insisted such colourblind casting needs to ‘be the way forward’ to improve representation, and said Jodie’s performance was more about capturing the ‘energy’ of the Queen.
Speaking to Digital Spy, he said: ‘You look at people from that period, and of course the world was shaped in a certain way back then. But it’s not shaped like that now. And we’ve got to be able to make sure that people are represented.’
Jane Austen’s Persuasion is also set for a modern retelling on Netflix, boasting a diverse class including Nikki Amuka-Bird, who is thought to be playing Lady Russell, who is a widow after her husband Sir Henry died.
One to watch: Jane Austen’s Persuasion is also set for a modern retelling on Netflix, boasting a diverse class including Nikki Amuka-Bird, who is thought to be playing Lady Russell