Mindy Kaling is set to star in a new “Scooby Doo” spinoff series called “Velma” on HBO Max. Kaling will play the titular character, the brainiac of Mystery Inc. But months after the original announcement, some are criticizing the choice – with some making racist arguments against it.
Kaling will executive produce the 10-episode animated series that is a comedic take on the character’s origins, Entertainment Tonight reported in February.
In reaction to the news, one person on Twitter posted a gif of Michael Scott from “The Office” shouting “No!” That tweet was deleted – but not before Kaling, a writer and actor on that sitcom, got to respond.
“I wrote the episode of The Office this gif is from,” she replied.
Last week, Tom Ascheim, president of Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics, revealed more about the show and more critics began blasting the idea on Twitter. During the The TV Kids Summer Festival, Ascheim said the show was “not for children,” and Velma, like Kaling, will be of East Asian descent.
She will also live “in a different world” where “there’s no dog and no van,” he said.
Some critiques on Twitter were harsh and even racist. One person wrote a “Scooby Doo show without Scooby Doo where the soul purpose is to race swap a character, written by and staring Mindy Kaling,” sounds like it “would be played in my personal hell 24/7.”
“Another attempt to changing the past of much loved cartoons, movies, books, anything and everything we LIKE. Sorry guys all your memories going down the drain,” another person tweeted.
“It’s Velma, except she’s Asian and there’s no Mystery Inc. in other words, it’s not Velma,” another tweeted.
While the original “Scooby Doo” cartoon first began airing in the 1960s, there have been several adaptations – and Velma has been played by an Asian woman before.
Hayley Kiyoko, who is of Japanese descent, played Velma in two live-action TV movies that aired on Cartoon Network in 2009 and 2010.
Many others online defended Kaling’s casting. “Velma is trending because of the new imagining of her design and I’m down for more POC in our old school series,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Why are people so mad abt Velma being East Asian in Mindy Kaling’s version she’s not real, she’s not connected to any culture and if you don’t like it scooby doo has been around for decades. There’s like a billion white versions of Velma you can watch,” another person wrote.
Others were only critical of the other changes in the adaptation. “Genuinely love the idea of an East Asian Velma! …Genuinely don’t understand the point of making a new series based on Scooby Doo [intellectual property] if you’re going to remove Scooby Doo from the IP? Seems odd, even as a marketing move,” one person tweeted.
Asian Americans are seldom featured as main characters in films in TV shows – even though they are the fastest-growing ethnic or racial group in the U.S. according to Nielsen, a research firm.
Pamela Pan, Ph.D., a professor of composition, literature, and reading, says representation is important for Asian Americans in films. “Even when the characters do not represent our lives, at least they represent the culture, the language, and the heritage,” Pan writes in a Medium post.
“The situation has to change. How? More minorities need to be in the decision-making chairs. More Asian Americans need to write their own stories,” writes Pan, who has done research on multicultural literature. She added that more Asian-American directors are also needed.
With Kaling not only playing an Asian-American character, but executive producing the series, there will be East Asian America representation on and off screen.