Amid ‘Velma’ Backlash, ‘Lightning Rod’ Mindy Kaling Holds To An Impossible Standard, Some Critics Say

A week later, the response to “Velma,” HBO Max’s new animated series, isn’t the stuff of reboot dreams.

The series is now the third lowest rated TV series on IMDB; HBO Max Turn off comments on the show’s trailer; And the South Asian community has vocally expressed concerns that although the show includes diverse characters, it does not explore identity further.

But there is a resounding voice from critics who say the negative commentary may be misleading because Mindy Kaling, the voice of Velma and executive producer on the series, is held to unfair standards as one of the only representations of South Asian women in the industry.

“I’ve become a blocker for this kind of criticism,” said Lakshmi Srinivas, associate professor of Asian American studies at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

The new reboot of “Scooby-Doo” is the origin story of Velma – now a South Asian and bisexual teen – trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.

The series received disappointing reviews from reviewers and viewers. Critics gave the series a positive rating of 50% and audiences gave it 6%. On Rotten Tomatoes. Several users said they were disappointed that the show excluded Scooby, and that the story line did not hold up to the original series.

Critics had a mixed reaction, with some of them being critical He said The show was cheeky for its quirky jokes and fun story line, while others were He said The characters were unpleasant to watch, saying that Velma acted selfishly and Fred was portrayed as a rich, helpless snob.

Kaling and HBO Max did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

One of the main points some South Asians make in “Velma” is in line with a long history of what some say Kaling picks out the most negative stereotypes about South Asians while not properly exploring racial dynamics. The jokes in the show and its characterization are similar to most of Kaling’s characters in the past.

Velma’s body hair, his “masculine” features and weight were soon the dominant subject of jokes. In the first episode, Fred, a white man who is in love with Velma, tells her that she was a “fashionable loser [the students] He relies on her for group projects”, and that he has mistaken her for his housekeeper. In another scene, Velma says she is telling the truth without a filter, “like every comedian before #MeToo.” Criticize The line that it wasn’t funny sheds light on the social movement. “it’s not a joke!!!” one tweet said.

The backlash towards “Velma” quickly turned into backlash towards Kaling and her past projects, with viewers flocking to TikTok and Twitter to share their opinions.

A few viewers came to Kaling’s defense, giving context to her influences and obsessions.

“You have to remember these two [Kaling and TV creator Shonda Rhimes] He spent his formative sex years at Dartmouth over 20 years ago. That’s all there was,” RohitaKadambi said in a tweet.

From Mindy Lahiri in “The Mindy Project” to Devi in ​​”Never Have I Ever” to Bela in “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” some have pointed out that Kaling’s leading South Asian characters share similar qualities: self-deprecating humor, and Separation from their culture, obsession with sex, making inappropriate comments and romantic affinity towards white men.

Lahiri navigated her medical practice and a wide range of white male romantic interests. Bella reminded viewers that she was a sweaty Indian loser with acne and glasses, and Devi said her arms looked like “a barbershop floor.”

Blaming only Kaling is unhelpful and that the real issues are systemic, said Harleen Singh, associate professor of South Asian literature and women’s studies at Brandeis University.

“She is one [person]. We collectively critique how people of color and bodies of color always tend to represent the collective rather than the individual. But that’s exactly what we’re doing to her by putting the onus on her to speak for all of us,” Singh said.

In 2021, South Asian women made up 0.3% of on-screen representation in television and films, to me Study by Nielsen Corporation. South Asian men made up 2.3% of the screen representation.

Srinivas said, “Putting it all on one popular media artist, who also has to go with the traditions of Hollywood… is not easy, because Hollywood itself has a problem with diversity.”

Srinivas sees why the South Asian community feels incorrectly represented by Mindy, Devi, Bela or Vilma.

“As her characters became so popular with mainstream audiences, I think it’s understandable that the South Asian community was somewhat outraged by the portrayal of a South Asian individual,” she said.

But she also said that Kaling doesn’t get it all wrong.

“It’s not inauthentic for the experience of South Asian children growing up in this society. They face a lot of discrimination and a lot of bullying at school. Their names are mocked, their food is mocked, so they may grow up with this terrible defensive attitude towards that culture,” she said. “She’s very similar to the characters Mindy portrays.”

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