Scooby-Doo spoilers ahead (though really, you likely know them already).
Ever since her bright orange jumper and red skirt first appeared on our screens, Velma Dinkley has caused no end of speculation among fans, chiefly about her sexuality. Just take a look at all the artwork, fanfic, and theories online that celebrate this side of her character. There’s even an entire subculture on Pinterest dedicated to it.
Considering Velma's constant worries about Daphne’s safety, not to mention how little she seems to care about boys, it isn’t hard to understand why. If someone had a queer checklist, Velma would tick most, if not all, of the boxes.
Nevertheless, while her history is littered with queer references, it wasn’t until 2020 that the creators of both the live action Scooby-Doo and the rebooted animation, Mystery Incorporated, confirmed our suspicions, revealing that Velma is indeed queer. What made this big, or should we say unsurprising, reveal so intriguing was the forum of discussion that this further opened up about Velma’s tastes.
After all, in the live-action sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Velma ended up with a boyfriend. Not forgetting that she also dates Shaggy in Mystery Incorporated.
Before this confirmation came to light, a lot of fans had long assumed Velma was a lesbian: she wasn’t into boys because she wasn’t attracted to them. But then boys were introduced, and Velma did seem to have a connection to those she dated, even if her relationships didn’t work out in the end.
Whichever side of the debate you fall upon, the main takeaway is that Velma Dinkley’s canon is officially queer. You can view her identity however you wish, but don’t take our queer queen and make her straight.
Velma’s queerness has always been there, even if you watch back the older series of the show; she’s always left on the outskirts of dating topics, never committing to anything or anyone. She had to be that way because there was no other way, at least not without inciting a riot from "concerned" parents — won’t someone think of the children! (If you didn’t say that in The Simpsons Helen Lovejoy’s voice, you should be ashamed).
Back when the Scooby-Doo Where Are You? series first aired in 1969, queerness wasn’t openly talked about or accepted. Of course, it was always a part of society, but, it had to be hidden away because LGBTQ+ didn’t exactly sell the "American ideal" of heteronormativity.
This is where the coded queer really started to take effect. For those not familiar with the term, "queer coding" refers to the ways in which LGBTQ+ content hides in plain view of its audience; it’s been a staple way of embedding queerness into different mediums for centuries without upsetting the heteronormative world in which it resides.
Fast forward 60 years and queer coding is still a popular cinematic device to use: just have a look at the 2019 remake of Little Women. Nevertheless, while queer characters are still being hidden, headway has been made in combating this coding legacy.
Just look at Mystery Incorporated’s producer, Tony Cervone, and how he publicly announced Velma’s sexuality via an Instagram post. The picture in question shows Velma and Marci Fleach (aka Hot Dog Water from the series) standing in front of a Pride flag.
The producer then continued to address Velma’s queerness by taking to Twitter, in a thread that’s since been deleted. Cervone stated without any shadow of a doubt that Velma is a lesbian. "I’ve said this before, but Velma in Mystery Incorporated is not bi. She’s gay. [...] And if you follow the entire Marci arc it seems as clear as we could make it 10 years ago."
Not only does this settle the debate, while also acting as the catalyst for Velma’s official coming-out story, but it also shows how queer coding tampered with the series. It was an injustice that Cervone wanted to bring to light, though he did so at the cost of the fandom nearly losing their minds.
As expected, while there was much celebration, not everyone accepted this idea that Velma is canonically queer; they preferred to believe that Cervone was only referring to her depiction in Mystery Incorporated. If we acknowledge the fact that the aforementioned Marci arc didn’t ever show the two addressing their feelings for one another, but instead led to further coded moments, it’s easy to understand why some people fought against the idea. Especially those outside the LGBTQIA+ community.
Queer fans are used to having to look for secret queer messages that creators sprinkle throughout their content, but others? They’re not looking for it because they don’t appreciate what it’s like to be overlooked: cishet content is still very much in the majority.
This is when James Gunn, the writer behind the 2002 live action Scooby-Doo script, stepped in. He too had been forced to change Velma’s identity due to censorship, and like Cervone, wasn’t willing to sit on that truth anymore. Gunn stated that his original script had made Velma openly lesbian with a scene where she and Daphne kissed. He continued that "the studio (aka Warner Bros) kept watering it down & watering it down."
This is why we end up with no sign of this queerness anywhere in the film, and why the sequel pushed Velma into a romantic encounter with Patrick Wisely, played by Seth Green. Instead of the studio supporting the vision that Gunn had, a vision that was able to clearly see Velma’s sexuality for what it was, they denied her queerness through compulsive heterosexuality.
The only whiff of queerness we get in Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed is a stereotypically sapphic moment when Daphne and Velma crawl into each other, their faces so close they’re almost kissing. It wasn’t much, but it was as open as a '00s family film was willing to be.
During the '90s and '00s, the best that creators could offer their queer viewers were enticing tidbits that something "other" was going on. It isn’t just Velma Dinkley’s history that confirms that either — take Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
However, now that Velma’s been allowed out of the closet (let’s face it, she wasn’t really in it), the latest news that HBO Max will release an adult animated origin story has fans in a frenzy.
Following that announcement, the burning question everyone's asking is whether the show will finally give her a platform to explore her sexuality, free from censorship. Considering how fiercely other depictions of Velma fought for that chance, it feels like the show would be doing both them and Velma a disservice by not addressing it.
That being said, very little is currently known about the show, save that Mindy Kaling will voice Velma. Still, fans can only hope that the creators will discuss Velma's sexuality freely on the show. If not, there’s a 99.9% guarantee that fans will be saying more than "jinkies" about it. Though given the fact that Kaling is regarded as one of the leading feminist voices in modern day film and TV, we feel that the show is in safe hands with her as an executive producer.
Until then, all that fans can do is keep flying Velma’s queer flag. This moment has been a long time coming for our gay icon, so it’s important to make it count.
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