The Scooby-Doo formula is comforting: meddling youngsters solve a terrifying mystery and expose a villain with the help of a cute dog. Could you repeat after me? Of course, this issue has been explored in several different ways. Numerous spin-offs have altered the central Scooby legend since Mystery Incorporated first appeared in 1969. Sometimes Mystery Inc. is made up of children, genuine otherworldly threats exist, and other times Scooby and friends work alongside Batman.
However, no matter the modifications, the central conceit of a good mystery and the courageous group that solves it always remain the same. The newest Scooby Doo spin-off to appear on our screens is Velma. The genesis story of Velma Dinkley, the resident brainiac of Mystery Inc., is explored in the adult animated comedy Velma (voiced by Mindy Kaling). How did she begin cracking the case?
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How did she bring together the now-famous quartet of Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, Daphne Blake, Fred Jones, and herself? (Scooby-Doo is not visible in the image.) Velma wants to see everything from a fresh perspective. I expected to like Velma because I adore Scooby Doo, and she is my favorite Mystery Inc. character. With the skills of Kaling, Constance Wu (as Daphne), Sam Richardson (as Norville), and Glenn Howerton, an adult Scooby-Doo series, has a tonne of promise (as Fred).
But as I followed the show’s mystery as it developed, a more profound problem emerged. Why does this not come together when it has all the makings of a fantastic Scooby-Doo spin-off? The combination of erratic comedy, an absence of mystery, and a fundamental misunderstanding of Velma herself provides the solution.
Velma presents a wild twist on Mystery Inc.
In Velma’s own words, the beginning of her story “begins with a murder, bitch.” The community of Crystal Cove is being terrorized by a serial killer who is killing famous females and stealing their brains. Velma must identify the offender. The only difficulty? She is plagued by spectral hallucinations of her missing mother, Diya (voiced by Sarayu Blue), who vanished two years ago, every time she attempts to solve a problem.
Velma gets the chance to test out the show’s horror’s maximum intensity with a more mature audience in mind. It is successful, for the most part. The violent depiction of brainless corpses goes above and beyond Scooby Doo’s norms, alerting us that this isn’t the Scooby Doo of our youth. Additionally eerie, Velma experiences hallucinations of skeleton hands and creepy mother troubles.
Unfortunately, what initially seems like a tremendous narrative strategy to examine Velma’s inner demons quickly becomes uninteresting. Every time the titular protagonist Velma is poised to make headway on the investigation, she experiences the same hallucination, with little to no emotional payoff or buildup. The terrifying aspect of these visions is how much they derail the story.
The issues Velma faces go beyond murders and abandoned mothers. In addition, she must worry about the highs and lows of high school. One of them is her conflict with her ex-best friend Daphne, who deserted Velma in favor of the popular set. Also noteworthy are Velma’s odd attraction to hot jerk Fred, who doesn’t even know her name, and her bizarre bond with Norville, who is obviously into her. All four of the program’s main characters have entertaining performances, but Howerton steals the show by giving a particularly insane Fred a level of wrath comparable to Dennis Reynolds’.
While Velma’s vocal talents are frequently pretty humorous, I can’t say the same about her writing. Although a few lines will make you laugh out loud, most of the jokes are either antiquated references or awkward attempts at meta-commentary. Why do characters in the first episode criticize the rising s*x and nudity in TV pilots while showing a lot of cartoon skin? Why do we get an extensive joke about flashbacks later on? These morsels of comments feel like shabby lampshades because they lack any bite.
Only when Velma makes fun of Scooby Doo itself does its meta-ness benefit it. Norville is a straight-edge nerd who says directly to the camera that he detests drugs, as opposed to the hilarious, maybe high Shaggy we’re used to. I know this is what you’re here for, exasperated Velma says in response to claims that she is a lesbian. These jokes with winks are funny. However, Velma’s parade of illicit behavior—such as doing drugs and allowing Velma to call herself a “bitch”—rarely receives the humorous backing needed for such an idea.
Velma is Velma’s Worst Enemy
The major flaw in Velma is how its main character is portrayed, and I don’t mean this in a hostile, racist sense that implies they changed Velma’s race and looked into her queerness. Therefore I don’t like her. This is meant to imply that “they changed her personality.” Velma’s enjoyment in solving mysteries is one of the things I love most about her as a character.
Traditionally, Scooby-Doo is motivated by her knowledge and mistrust of the paranormal. However, Velma’s constant hallucinations bog down the investigation and remove any enjoyment from solving mysteries. Most of what we see of Velma is vengeful, selfish, and downright cruel because snooping takes a backseat to relationship issues and high school problems.
Velma’s Velma is constantly hurling insults and speaking down to people, unlike Velma’s Velma’s earlier incarnations, which could be sarcastic or sassy. The protagonist of this program attempts to find solace in her rage over her mother’s death and her status as a high school loser. Sadly, it rarely affords her opportunities for repentance or development to counterbalance her steadfast misanthropic behavior.
The Kaling-authored Along with Kaling’s works Never Have I Ever and The S*x Lives of College Girls, Velma also features complex, unruly young women. However, personalities there gradually improve after making mistakes. At this point, Velma is so stubbornly committed to hiding her weaknesses that she hardly resembles the fervently inquisitive figure we know and love. Being Velma Dinkley requires more than just an orange sweater and a pair of glasses. Hopefully, Velma will understand that.