If you haven’t heard, Mindy Kaling is starring in the HBO Max animated series Velma. In June, it was announced the iconic Scooby-Doo character would be reimagined as South Asian, just like Kaling.
According to Kaling, some people were “not happy.” And of all the mysteries she’ll soon face, this one is already weighing heavy on her mind.
The Emmy-nominated actress, writer, author, and producer wants to know why it’s so hard for some people to imagine “a smart, nerdy girl with terrible eyesight who loves to solve mysteries” as Indian. And that’s a very good question.
Kaling Responds to the “Not My Velma” tweets with “Who Cares?”
In an interview with Seth Meyers, Kaling tried to wrap her head around the issue people seem to be having. The 42-year-old says the backlash has only been coming from a small group of people, but it’s definitely there.
Her response to critics who say Velma can’t be Indian: “Who cares?”
After all, this is not the first time a fictional character or even historical figure (hello, Hamilton!?) has been recast or reimagined to not be white. But as noted by The Office star, audiences often become extremely attached to how they’ve already seen and envisioned characters, especially ones with lengthy legacies in pop culture like Velma.
In response to the announcement, tweets like “Not My Velma” and “Dead on Arrival” began making the rounds. Many against the idea wanted to know why Velma suddenly had to be Indian. The better question is, why not?
Not the First Time
Historically, Velma Dinkey is frequently thought of as white. Kaling’s not denying that. But those taking issue with a person of color portraying the character forget that it’s already been done.
Yes, in the 2002 live-action Scooby-Doo, Linda Cardellini was cast as the brainy myth buster. But a few years later, Hayley Kiyoko (who is of Japanese, English, and Irish descent) took on the role of Velma in the live-action Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins.
Gina Rodriguez (who is Puerto Rican) voiced Velma in 2020’s Scoob!, and the character was reimagined with a darker complexion. Now a cartoon version of Velma will be reimagined as Indian and voiced by an amazing Indian actress for the first time.
Who Is This Mystery Woman?
Those who say Velma must be white have also conveniently forgotten another crucial aspect of her character’s background: We don’t really know 100% certainty where she came from.
In fact, there have been ongoing debates about Velma’s race for decades. Many have suggested maybe she’s not white after all, often making a strong case for Velma actually being Asian.
When assessing Velma’s identity, she’s also often revered as an LGBTQ+ icon. As noted by NBC News, Twitter has erupted with another debate related to this. Those who believe Velma is a quintessential queer character say this aspect of her identity is much more important to who she is than what color she is.
And it’ll be interesting to see how or if that controversy plays out.
Velma Is Not the Only One Getting a Modern Makeover
Backlash aside, the overall response to the concept of an Indian Velma voiced by Kaling has been largely positive. And it’s not just Velma that will be different this time.
For the 2021 series, much of what we’ve known about Scoob and the gang will be reimagined as well. Kaling says the spin-off will pick up where the last movie left off, but that’s about all we know right now.
Reportedly, the entire premise will be very different, but most details remain hush-hush. As noted by Salon, those behind the series claim that Velma will take place “in a different world” and “there’s no dog and no van, but we have our four key characters through a different lens.”
Some people’s inability to accept a change in a cartoon character is much more damaging than the change itself. Cartoons should be seen as a place to expand possibilities, not limit them. Luckily, Kaling is barely sweating the online hate and says she’s “excited” for the role.
So are we!