Mindy Kaling’s Velma series breaks records despite intense backlash

A still from new HBO Max cartoon Velma shows main character Velma Dinkley wearing a yellow sweater and holding magnifying glass in one hand while Fred dressed in white shirt and orange cravat is standing to the right. (HBO Max)

HBO Max’s Velma has seen huge streaming success in spite of overwhelmingly negative reviews and criticism.

Mindy Kaling, co-creator and voice for Velma, took to Twitter thank fans for making Velma the biggest premiere day for an HBO Max original animated series.

Almost a week after it premiered, the Scooby-Doo spin-off has also become the most-watched HBO Max original animated series of all time.

The series follows Velma as a 15-year-old high schooler who is thrust into a murder mystery after a dead body is found in school.

She begrudgingly joins forces with Fred, Daphne and Shaggy – all of whom hate each other in some way while simultaneously caught up in a love quadrangle.

While the streaming record is impressive, it is only competing with four other adult animations which aired back in 2021.

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Since its release, Velma has been the subject of relentless criticism from fans, and currently has a six per cent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

What is the backlash against HBO Max’s Velma?

Although there have been the usual complaints from right-wing warriors against the show’s diversity, they are not the only ones upset.

The show, primarily written by Charlie Grandy, has also been accuse of perpetuating stereotypes against South Asian women, criticised for poor attempts at self-aware comedy and slammed for losing the essence of what people love about the Scooby Doo gang.

In particular, some have found issue with the crude and explicit adult humour for a show set in a high school – with students made naked in the first episode.

“The level of character annihilation here is beyond disgusting. I loved Scooby-Doo as a kid. Fred was a capable leader and Velma was a nerd who loved and cared for her friends. Everything about this is so mean-spirited and gross. no comedy and no heart. I hate Hollywood,” one fan wrote.

Another added: “Every ‘joke’ I’ve seen posted from Velma reminds me of the main problem with current post-irony comedy especially in shows.

“Nearly every joke is the obvious punchline. Anyone could write it. There’s no distinct voice and barely distinctive usage of visuals.”

Criticism has also been pointed at Mindy Kaling for presenting Velma as a self-deprecating, vindictive South Asian woman – a trope critics say is common in her work.

“I’m happy Mindy Kaling’s style of writing brown girls that hate themselves wasn’t around when I was younger and only became a thing when I was at the age where I loved my heritage and skin colour. I can’t imagine being young and already self-conscious and then seeing that portrayal,” one person pointed out.

The series shows Daphne and Velma finally kiss after years of people campaigning for this relationship – but not many have been able to enjoy the moment.

As angry fans and record streaming numbers clash, time will tell if Velma will be renewed for a second season.

Velma is now streaming on HBO Max.

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