How Velma’s Nerdy Relatability Is Expanding Inclusion in the ‘Scooby-Doo’ Universe

How Velma’s Nerdy Relatability Is Expanding Inclusion in the ‘Scooby-Doo’ Universe

In early October, two weeks ahead of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Oct. 18 physical release of Scooby-Doo Trick or Treat! , The animated feature had already received a lot of attention online.

While watching the direct-to-video’s digital debut, eager fans learned the movie had done something only a few previous creators in the Scooby-Doo universe had publicly even attempted to do in the franchise’s five-decade history. Director Audie Harrison gave Velma a female love interest in Coco Diablo, the fashionista behind all those Scooby-Doo villains.

“The creation Coco Diablo was initially a way to streamline some ideas in the story but we quickly realized that Velma crushing upon a villain had dramatic and comedic potential,” Harrison explains about the creative mechanisms behind queering Velma. “The villainous head and Velma’s crush were two separate people, but once we combined them, we realized the comedy potential that could emerge out of such an awkward complication.”

The Trick/Treat film showed that the iconic character did not only show romantic interest in someone (a rarity for the nerdy teenage investigator), but also someone other other than a man. The movie cleverly satirizes the franchise’s long-standing treatment of Fred the leader and Daphne the damsel. Velma’s storyline was driven in part by the director’s desire explore the “comedic possibilities of these classic characters,” with live action comedy inspirations Airplane! , The Naked Gun .

“Putting Velma through a gambit of emotions while struggling to flirt with her while at the same time defending Coco’s suspicious activities to the rest of Mystery Inc. was irresistible fun to be had,” says the director, whose credits in the Scooby-Doo universe also include animating for the live-action Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.

Fred, Daphne, Coco Diablo and Velma in 'Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo'

Fred, Daphne, Coco Diablo and Velma in ‘Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo’

Warner Bros.

The movie, which screened for fans in person a few days later at New York Comic Con, would see its historic moment quickly followed by another: the first look at the Mindy Kaling-led HBO Max animated series Velma.

The panel presented a preview of the upcoming animated comedy for adults, Velma, at the country’s largest East Coast entertainment and pop culture convention. It was a creative move that Kaling had developed for the character and his belief that “in none way is the gang defined according to their whiteness, except Fred”. This notion was met with laughter from the supportive audience.

Kaling and executive producer Charlie Grandy would also reveal during the 30-minute Q&A that their series would explore Velma’s sexuality. Although the pair remained largely tense about how it would turn out, the Velma voice actress and the EP did eventually address the “love triangle” in the room after the first episode aired.

She said that while I don’t want any spoilers, a lot of characters have sexual tensions with Velma. This is fun. “It was her journey of self-discovery that drew me to this story and this character. We want to honor other interpretations we feel is modern .”

.

Grandy explains that the show will focus on identity-based elements narratively.

“We don’t tackle big issues related to race. He adds that we don’t address big issues of gender identity. “I think it was a lot about us just deciding, ‘OK. We have this really aggressive mystery, and we want to kinda service this. How do we do this? ‘”

Although historically significant, Harrison and Kaling, Grandy’s Velmas, are not the only instances in which the character’s sexual identity is shown as something other than straight or white.

The 2020 theatrical release Scoob! featured Gina Rodriguez, a Golden Globe winner and actress from Puerto Rico. And in the late 2000s, actress and singer Hayley Kiyoko, who is half-Japanese and has since publicly identified as a lesbian, played the sleuthing teen in two made-for-TV, live-action Cartoon Network movies, Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins & Scooby-Doo Curse of the Lake Monster .

Velma’s sexuality was also of interest to James Gunn, who wrote the Raja Gosnell-directed 2002 live-action Scooby-Doo film. The writer-director has repeatedly pointed to his own unsuccessful efforts — acknowledged at the time of the film’s initial release — to make Linda Cardellini’s Velma a lesbian. The 2010 animated TV series Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated found a little more success with writing Velma as a lesbian through a brief onscreen crush, which TV series’ producer Tony Cervone acknowledge on social media.

Linda Cardellini as Velma

Linda Cardellini as Velma in ‘Scooby-Doo’

The Halloween film and the upcoming streaming series are clear indicators that the long-running franchise sees diversity as a key element to its continued success. It also highlights Velma’s power as one of the best vehicles to do so.

Harrison states that Velma is relatable because she is the only person in the gang that isn’t objectively cool. “Fred is confident, handsome. Daphne is bold, beautiful, and confident. Scooby and Shaggy are two laid-back, chill guys (when they’ren’t being terrorized by monsters). Velma is an oddball. She is socially awkward, self-conscious, and can obsessively think about everything.

He continues, “Velma is also genius at what she does. She totally owns who and what she is.” “So, in many aspects, she’s probably the most genuine and admirable character of the bunch.”

Kaling spoke at the NYCC panel about how Mystery Inc.’s lack cultural specificity — being defined more by their tropes than anything else — helped her to see herself in the character.

“I identified with Velma growing up. Kaling stated that she was cute, but not very hot. She was super-smart with super-thick glasses and a questionable haircut. “I think most Asian American girls can see this hardworking, skeptical and underappreciated character and can identify with her .”

,” Kaling said.

Grandy said Velma’s description “was the most defined” but not in a constricting manner.

“I watched the original and there is some canon, but they have reinvented it. It’s not like you’re Batman. This gave us a little freedom,” the Velma EP said. “And I think everyone feels like ‘I’m the one doing all of the work. I’m the smartest, but I’m not the one in the front seat. Fred and Daphne sit in the front seat. It’s not just aspirational. It’s relatable.”

YouTube video

Although Velma is a character everyone three acknowledges is easy to superimpose on oneself, it’s her personality, role within the group and title’s humor that make her so compelling narratively.

“From a comedy perspective, it’s such an amazing character. Grandy explains that Velma is the smartest person present, but she doesn’t get credit for anything. “So what would it look like to tell an origin story about that person when they were still quite rough around the edges, before everyone was getting on, when they could still make mistakes and could be a little flawed?

While Harrison says there is a danger in “meddling” with the “magical formula” of Scooby-Doo too much, he also notes that the franchise and Velma’s ability to endure generationally and cross-culturally may be tied to the IP’s potential to evolve.

“It might be impossible to pinpoint what makes the characters of Scooby-Doo so enduring. Perhaps it’s their appealing character designs. Perhaps it’s their charming personalities. Maybe it’s the right mix of fun and spookiness. Or that it’s all just too darn groovy,” says he to THR .. “Whatever it is, I think that these characters are so ingrained into our culture that the only way to keep them fresh and exciting is to see them evolve through different interpretations.”

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