Yesterday HBO Max he bragged that Velma, the new Scooby Doo animated movie for adults, was the most-watched animated premiere in history. I’m not sure exactly what that says, given that the only other original Max animated series I can even think of is Harley Quinn, as well as some other older series that WB Discovery recently murdered.
But people are definitely talking about Velma, that’s true. Just… not very positive. Velma currently has the lowest viewership rating I’ve seen for an HBO or HBO Max production, 7%. Not only does it take “review bombing” to get that low, but your program probably has to be…really bad.
And this is. Velma is very, very angry.
Velma is so in fact, it’s bad that it spawned conspiracy theories that creator Mindy Kaling created, which is basically a parody of how the right wing thinks about left wing comedy. As in a show that not only transforms most of the roles with new races, but also features plenty of “white guys, right?” jokes. The point is Kaling is secretly a conservative force in the media trying to make the left look bad by making a pathetic adult cartoon full of “that rich white guy has a little dong” joke that the right can point to as everything that’s wrong with race – transformed media influenced by social justice.
I don’t want to go down a big rabbit hole about Mindy Kaling’s personal beliefs and influences here. And yet if this there was no the intention of the show, it definitely feels like it in practice. On the one hand, it absolutely works to elicit ridicule from the right, just as you can imagine. But on the other hand, it just can’t be defended by those who would normally welcome a progressive series.
Take She-Hulk, for example. It was a very controversial show he was on very explicitly about baking misogynistic comic book fans, perhaps often lacking in subtlety. But I would still defend the show a lot because I think its humor and breaking the fourth wall works, and most of the people who were upset about it were the same people they openly make fun of… for being upset.
Velma is not that. Velma cannot be defended in any way by the imagination. It’s just bad. Making progressive jokes is fine as long as the jokes are good. They are not good. I heard the show was described somewhere as a series written by TV writers who only talk to other TV writers. That’s a pretty good summary. And the idea is that it’s so, so bad at punching right-wingers that it almost feels like self-sabotage.
There is a world where this concept could work. I see an “adult” Scooby Doo series where an overlooked Velma tries to reclaim credit from the favored Fred, the “leader” of the gang. And yet, this isn’t just about stabbing Fred for being an overconfident white dude, but literally “he’s such a whiny white boy his mom is cutting his steak and he hasn’t finished puberty so he has a small dick.” Like just… no distant subtleties or nuances or anything that would make progressive humor work.
An easy counter-example to turn to is the R-rated Harley Quinn series, also on HBO Max, which still feels true to the characters it focuses on, is full of left-wing messages on misogyny and LGBTQ issues, but importantly…he is funny and convincing. I mean, this show recently did a bit about the Joker running for mayor as a progressive socialist and that worked.
Velma? I don’t know what Velma is doing. I’m not sure I subscribe to this “Mindy Kaling did a series of dog whistles for right-wing trolls” theory, because the explanation for Ockham’s razor is that the show is just… bad. The jokes are… lame. That’s really all.
I can still watch it because of morbid fascination, but man, it really is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen.
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