“Velma” Devil’s Advocate Review

Velma is the story of a high-school misfit struggling to cope with the loss of her mother while she attempts to reconnect with her best friend (and possible crush), a naive member of the social elite that comes between them, and another misfit friend who cares for Velma as she is.
It’s mean, bloody, meandering, and sharp witted even if it takes stabs at too many familiar targets to seem fresh. It’s an animated take on the CW’s reimagining of “Riverdale” and the overwhelming bottom line is that people HATE this show.

This series is meant to take the Rotten Tomatoes score for a story and argue against the judgment passed, regardless of this author’s belief, so I intend to argue the merits that would deserve a “fresh” rating.

THE CRITICS- The show (still airing episodes) boasts a 44% with an average score of 5.9 out of 10, And this is something Velma deserves. After being rated lower than “Dragonball Evolution” for leaning “annoyingly into the awkward racial and sexual humor,” being a “cringy, eye-rolling slog,” with “edginess” that “punishes the audience for being invested,” there is even a recurring theory that the show was made to intentionally stir negativity from the audience.

It’s easy to point to shows like “Harley Quinn” and draw direct comparisons due to the similarity of animation, but it seems like in contrast people have expectations for romance narratives to be clean and progress in expected ways or for a certain division of mystery, humor, and self-reference that most feel is off balance.

So what does Velma do well? It’s edgy, doesn’t shy from racial or sexual humor, and cares more about exploring it’s own world than appeasing an audience. Was this made to intentionally stir controversy? Isn’t everything meant to create discourse? What harm has the show done? It’s clearly for adults, aimed particularly at audiences engaged in media familiar to childhood but adapted to tell an original story. Familiar and original can be difficult to balance, but I feel like starting in an unfamiliar place and justifying the foundation of familiar elements has worked for other origin stories.

My synopsis above intentionally avoids mentioning it’s an adaptation from “Scooby-Doo” because this really feels no different from any original show that would have released on “adult-swim” in the early 00’s. I think people are trying to reconcile the show with it’s brand and, as a result, missing the chance to see a genuine take on a character who doesn’t have everything figured out the way she thinks she does.

Every episode has resulted in Velma checking a bias, learning lessons about sexuality and relationships and the darker, adult truths behind the problems we wish were as simple as a ghost we could dispel. This should resonate with a young-adult and teen audiences that are increasingly overexposed to adult conflicts and issues at younger ages.

THE AUDIENCE- This show sits with 6% of it’s reviews averaging a 0.9 out of 10 rating, and the commentary is more vitriolic than the critics, filled with notes that don’t explain why the show is bad and sometimes just speaking to the reviewer having known they wouldn’t like the show before watching. ONe half-star review complains about changes to “Fred” from the original show and another complains it’s “Scooby-Doo” so it shouldn’t be sexual or anything like it is. The reviews are full of unwritten rules people have drawn over what a brand must be and therefore barely any review reflects an opinion of the show for what it is.

Also, I can’t stand seeing criticism of the animation style given the insane amount of work it takes to create a cohesive, believable world and how literally every animated show in history has moments where they intentionally flex stylistically while several shows have combined seemingly disparate artistic voices (think “Drawn Together”).

WHY is it not funny? WHY would Derek J “rather take out both of my eyeballs and rip off my ears than spend any more of my time rotting my brain with this filth?” And what makes it filth? The sex? the violence? The truth is it’s a show that’s trying to be thoughtful regarding how a teenager would develop the friendships she has and how that would involve becoming a detective. Nothing else was promised.

I laugh, often, watching this. Sometimes at jokes I’m not proud of but most of the time at the conceptual jokes like pitting Velma and Daphne into a physical competition revolving around vulnerability. I may groan when Velma asks for a don’t-kill-women class, but it’s a point worth being stated, and I’m laughing again by the time Daphne is taking out classmates to the point of absurdity. I’ve seen very few reviews of the voice cast, with some claiming none of them are “trying” which is a bizarre take listening to Glenn Howerton alone.

THE VERDICT– “Velma” is a surprisingly imaginative, effective animated show for adults that explores the concerns of teens and young adults. That seems to mean adults don’t care, as they’ve grown past these issues, and teens feel the violence and sexuality explored are unfamiliar and unnecessary. I do think the show relies too much on self-reference, and it feels like certain arcs, like that of Norville becoming Shaggy, are drawn out in a manner that feels like the show is avoiding becoming a mystery procedural. But what is wrong with that? What if he stays Norville? What if it’s an origin for a story that isn’t just “Scooby-Doo” for the fifteenth time? Shouldn’t we want that? I say the Rotten Tomatoes scores are a misjudgment of the show.


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