How Into The Spider-Verse Inspired Mindy Kaling's Take On Velma

In a phenomenon that's a bit unusual for a fictional character, Velma Dinkley has been in the news a lot lately. The cartoon crime-solver has been under fire from all sorts of subhuman internet dwellers since news broke that she'll be portrayed as a lesbian in the upcoming "Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo" movie. This has, of course, angered some of the worst people on the planet who fear any iota of change in their children's media properties.

Well, those awful folks now have another change in Velma to be mad about, as it's come out that in HBO Max's new adult animated series, "Velma," Velma will be Indian. The new series, which will act as an origin story for the titular detective, will be headed up by Mindy Kaling of "The Office" and "The Mindy Project" fame. Kaling, who will also voice Velma, was a bit shocked by the level of backlash she received from the lowliest goblins on the internet, which she spoke about on "Late Night with Seth Meyers."

"There were a lot of 'so not Velma' tweets. Like, those kind of tweets. 'Not the classic Velma that I'm always thinking about!' First of all, I didn't know that she elicited such strong reactions, in either direction ... She's such a great character, she's so smart. And I just couldn't understand how people couldn't imagine a really smart, nerdy girl with terrible eyesight and loved to solve mysteries could not be Indian. Like, there are Indian nerds. It shouldn't be a surprise to people."

Despite surely knowing that racists would be angry, Kaling went through with making Velma Indian because she was inspired by "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," according to a new interview.

A refreshing take

When "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" came out in 2018, it faced its share of criticism from virtual bigots. The movie, which centered around an Afro-Latino teenager named Miles Morales becoming Spider-Man instead of the traditional, pearly-white Peter Parker, was deviating too much from the classical texts about a man who dresses like a spider for some fans.

For any reasonable person, however, "Into the Spider-Verse" was a revelation. It was a beautifully animated film that side-stepped all the usual pitfalls that the seemingly never-ending parade of superhero movies seem to fall into every time. The movie was not only visually stunning and emotionally poignant, but it also served as a better love letter to the medium of comic books than any other movie had. All of this while featuring a non-white lead in a genre that often does not feature enough diversity.

Seeing a beloved childhood character be revived with such love while also being unafraid to take it in a new direction was surely part of how "Into the Spider-Verse" inspired Kaling, which she spoke about in an Entertainment Weekly interview.

"We knew it would be fun for me to play Velma, but we had a conversation where Velma is white, and we have this new choice to do the show and if I'm voicing her, should she be white or should she not? We were really inspired by 'Into the Spider-Verse' — it's animation, we can do anything. The essence of Velma is not necessarily tied to her whiteness. And I identify so much as her character, and I think so many people do, so it's like, yeah, let's make her Indian in this series."

Decent reboots

Reboots and re-imaginings are all too common these days. They're basically unavoidable, as often only films and shows involving existing intellectual property can make the loads of money that studios desire. If the reboots are unavoidable, we'd all better hope they're made with love and care.

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is a great example of a reboot that was made with the proper effort. Its impact has not only been felt in the increase in the use of unique animation styles it inspired, but in the inception of shows like "Velma."

With "Velma" on its way, and a stellar supporting voice cast of Sam Richardson, Constance Wu, and Glenn Howerton portraying the other members of the Mystery Gang, I think we have reason to allow ourselves to be optimistic. Kaling said herself in her "Late Night with Seth Meyers" interview how much she cares about the project.

"It really made me think, 'Okay, we've got to be really careful with this character.' Which we will be because we really love her and she's going to have great adventures."

Combining a proper love and reverence for the source material with the willingness to change things is the key to a successful reboot.