Mindy Kaling is taking a lot of heat for her new HBO show Velma, and much of the backlash is coming from South Asians who are angry about the way she writes about brown girls.
Velma, which is an adult animation series based on the classic show Scooby-Doo, dropped last week on HBO Max, and so far, its ratings are pretty bad. Much of the negative backlash involves not just Kaling's decision to make Velma South Asian, but the way in which she does it.
In the series, Velma is portrayed as a nerdy, unattractive misfit — something that Kaling's critics say she's been doing too often with South Asian girls on screen.
We’ve seen this before from Kaling with Never Have I Ever, The Mindy Project and The Office, and the common denominator is that Kaling was involved in writing all of them.
People quickly pointed out how problematic the self-deprecating character of Velma is and the effect it might have on young South Asian women who already feel a lack of representation on television.
One TikToker called out a scene in which another character makes fun of Velma's "hairy gorilla arms," and ripped her for making brown girls feel bad about themselves.
first devi then bela then velma let me just assure young brown girls that you are not losers #desitiktok #southasian #browntiktok #desi #brown #mindykaling #browngirl #indian #neverhaveiever #slocg #devivishwakumar #belamalhotra #velma #mindykalingshows #greenscreenvideo
Another scene shows a popular jock referring to Velma as a “dog” before her glow up, and then Fred’s character proceeds to say, “underneath this banging new look, Velma is still the fashionably challenged loser we depend on for group projects.”
The TikToker’s caption over the video read: “Trust Mindy Kaling to turn even Scooby Doo into another platform to portray Indian girls as losers who need to completely change their external appearance to be deemed worthy of respect.”
The top comment under the video read, “Mindy come up with a new Indian girl character challenge (IMPOSSIBLE).”
One Twitter user wrote, “I’m happy Mindy Kaling’s style of writing brown girls that hate themselves wasn’t around when I was younger & only became a thing when I was at the age where I loved my heritage and skin colour. I can’t imagine being young & already self-conscious and then seeing that portrayal.”
\u201cI\u2019m happy Mindy Kaling\u2019s style of writing brown girls that hate themselves wasn\u2019t around when I was younger & only became a thing when I was at the age where I loved my heritage and skin color. I can\u2019t imagine being young & already self conscious and then seeing that portrayal.\u201d— sai (@sai) 1673660267
Another TikToker made a few videos pointing out problematic scenes from some of Kaling's projects, including Velma and The Sex Lives Of College Girls.
In one of her videos, the TikToker says, “Mindy Kaling, just because you are an Indian loser, does not mean Indians are losers.”
“Mindy Kaling needs to stop portraying Indian girls as losers. I’m personally extremely cool and sick of it,” wrote another Twitter user.
\u201cmindy kaling needs to stop portraying indian girls as losers. i\u2019m personally extremely cool and sick of it\u201d— A (@A) 1673647857
Another Twitter user pointed out a similar theme in Never Have I Ever and shared a clip from the show where the protagonist, Devi says, “when I get into Princeton, I’m never coming back. I’m going to be an atheist who eats cheeseburgers every day with my white boyfriend.”
The Twitter user's tweet read: “It’s wild to me that Velma was the thing that sparked all the Mindy Kaling criticism.”
\u201cIt\u2019s wild to me that #Velma was the thing that sparked all the Mindy Kaling criticism. Mindy always thrived for white validation in her work. She wrote this scene. A young Indian girl eagerly rejects her culture bc she thinks having a white boyfriend is better & more appealing.\u201d— Sti-ven (@Sti-ven) 1673805727
“Mindy always thrived for white validation in her work. She wrote this scene. A young Indian girl eagerly rejects her culture bc she thinks having a white boyfriend is better & more appealing,” continued the tweet.
Others have been criticizing her depictions of Indian women for years.
\u201ci didn't think i needed to say this but as a brown girl, no, i do not relate to kelly from the office. i don't like her. pls don't bring her up.\u201d— art (@art) 1593485082
Since the show debuted last week, it’s already been hit with dismal ratings.
It's also hovering around the 50% mark with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, although the audience score is a brutal 6%.
Kaling hasn't responded to the criticism about the way Velma is portrayed.