People were naturally intrigued when they heard of a new adult-aimed animated origin story about everyone’s favourite childhood sleuths, Mystery Incorporated. It seemed a bit tough to swallow at first, having such an iconic group of characters who hold such a special place in millions of childhoods being placed in edgy, adult situations. But then again, Scooby-Doo reimaginings have happened before. And besides, having an adult-aimed animation didn’t do DC any harm, with the Harley Quinn series now being a much-loved DC property and one of my personal favourites. I thought that, just maybe, Velma could be the Scooby-Doo equivalent.
And my God, I don’t think I’ve ever been so completely and utterly, unbelievably wrong. This show is nothing short of horrendous. The dialogue is cringe, the jokes are unfunny, and the writing as a whole is offensively bad. Velma makes such an overcompensated effort to subvert stereotypes that it unwittingly runs right into them, making for a cast of extremely unlikeable characters with whom the prospect of spending an entire series is utterly insufferable.
But what makes it worse is that these characters are so beloved by many, and this Robot Chicken wannabe assassinates them right before our eyes. If you took away the names and switched up the outfits, you would never guess that this show had any connection to Scooby-Doo whatsoever.
First, we have Fred, who, predictably, becomes the punching bag used to jibe at every white, straight man. Devoid of the quick thinking and motivational leadership skills we’re used to seeing with Fred, he is now presented as a rich, sheltered brat who talks down to women, is mildly racist and too dumb to use a knife and fork. And while such people do exist, the show refrains from making any kind of commentary on these destructive behaviours and instead counter it with an unfunny onslaught of small penis jokes. Hilarious. A widespread insecurity for anyone endowed with such anatomy, the show counters its own self-proclaimed image of ‘being progressive’ by further perpetuating body-shaming. Congratulations.
And speaking of inadvertently leaning into stereotypes, I’m sure you can already guess what they did with Daphne. While she began with a two-dimensional image of the pretty girl who gets kidnapped all time, the character of Daphne has evolved significantly over the decades and has since become a feminine icon, showing young girls everywhere that you absolutely can be a fashion-loving girly girl while also being intellectual, competent and, most of all, taken seriously. However, in Velma, this is all flushed down the drain, and Daphne becomes the typical Regina George character, who is dim-witted, shallow and unbearably bitchy. Great job subverting the ‘pretty girl’ stereotype, HBO.
This leads me to Velma herself, who, as the title character, you’d think would be in some way likeable. However, it seems that HBO has fallen for the typical trap of ‘let’s make this female character feisty, and that will make her avant-garde and interesting’. But, in typical form, they seem to have misunderstood the definition of feisty. There’s a big difference between someone who is feisty and someone who is a genuinely nasty individual. The line isn’t even thin, and yet, like so many before them, they’ve missed it by miles. Known for her book smarts and unparalleled intellectual ability, the Velma we know and love faces the world with steady preparedness and a dry, biting wit. However, this bastardised version of her exploits and judges everyone around her, throwing out distasteful stereotypes left, right and centre, and walks around bragging about how much smarter she is than everyone else with absolutely zero evidence of the fact. Hate to break to you, HBO, but belittling everyone around you doesn’t make you better than them – it just makes you a prat.
You may have noticed that I haven’t talked about Shaggy (or Norville, as he’s known in this version), and that’s because there really isn’t much to say. Our favourite food-loving, comic-relief coward has been reduced to a character who perpetuates stereotypes towards the black community and dotes hopelessly on a girl who treats him like trash, all the while making unfunny meta-jokes at the audience about his hatred for drugs. The only thing that connects Norville to Shaggy is his green shirt.
However, the terrible humour and the character assassinations are one thing, but one of the show’s biggest problems is its relentless sexualisation of minors. The thick layers of sex and nudity become disturbing when you remember that this show depicts characters between the ages of 15 and 16, and in a country in which the age of consent is 18. And it’s not even about young people exploring the emerging development of sexuality – it’s gratuitously, meaninglessly raunchy, and quite frankly, it’s gross. These characters are children.
Furthermore, this show’s open disdain for its target audience is mindblowing. There seems to be a real underlying hatred for the Scooby-Doo franchise and those who still enjoy the show as adults, whether it be for the warm and fuzzy nostalgia, or just because they like a wacky cartoon. Taking this direction in its constant onslaught of meta-jokes is asking for trouble, given that this is the exact demographic that this reimagined prequel will attract.
As such, many have been asking who this show was for. It can’t be watched by children who are fans of Scooby-Doo due to the overabundance of graphic content, and adult fans can’t watch it due to its open disdain towards that target audience and just the simple fact that it’s beyond terrible. The truth is, this show comes off as nothing more than a vanity project for the creators that feels more like a cursed parody that you’d find in the deep depths of YouTube at 4 am. All I can really say is I’m glad Scooby-Doo himself was left out of it. He doesn’t deserve to see this.
Have you seen Velma? Dare I ask your thoughts on it? Let us know how you feel in the comment section below!