Velma has had a journey from stereotypical nerd to queer icon.
Scooby-Doo fans have seen the evolution of fan-favorite Velma Dinkley over the years from merely being the smartest of the Scooby gang to a queer icon. The latest Scooby-Doo animated movie, Trick or Treat, Scooby-Doo!, finally canonized Velma (voiced by Kate Miucci) as a queer teenager, with the film featuring her crush on the film’s anti-hero, Coco Diablo (voiced by Myrna Garcia Velasco). Even Velma, the much-hated HBO Max show from Mindy Kaling, has reinforced Velma’s now canonical queer sexuality.
When I first started watching the old Scooby-Doo reruns in the ‘90s, I could see how Velma was written within the confines of what the ‘60s and ‘70s determined for a smart character. Back in the day, smart characters weren’t seen as “relatable” or “aspirational.” They were often depicted as derogatorily “nerdy.” Velma’s not the only character to be labeled as a nerd in a negative sense–1940s character Dilton Doiley from the Archie Comics, for example, was originally seen as just a glasses-wearing dork. Family Matters’ Steve Urkel and Saved by the Bell’s Screech is a great example of how these stereotypes persisted even into the ‘90s.
But as time has gone on, Dilton and Steve grew beyond their nerdy personas–Dilton eventually dated Riverdale baddie Cheryl Blossom for a time in the ‘90s. Also in the ‘90s, Steve became associated with his alter ego, Stefan Urkelle and eventually, Steve himself began dating Myra Munkouse, started dressing differently and finally got Laura Winslow, the girl of his dreams. Clearly, it’s time that Velma, one of the rare female examples of an “undateable dork,” got her time in the sun too to showcase that nerds have feelings too.
In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, the Scooby-Doo film resurgence began showcasing Velma as a sexually-interested person. In the animated films for instance, Velma (voiced by B.J. Ward) started showing interests in men, such as gardner/undercover cop Beau (voiced by Cam Clarke) in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and author/villainous occultist Ben Ravencroft (voiced by Tim Curry) in Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost. Then, in a fun crossover episode of Johnny Bravo, Velma comes on extremely strong to Johnny, who is trying to get with Daphne (voiced by Mary Kay Bergman). Recently, Velma (Miucci) and Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) have a bit of a romance happening in the “Scoobynatural” episode of Supernatural–they even kiss.
But running parallel to Velma’s life as a straight character is the growing push for Velma as queer representation.
The early 2000s saw the advent of the first live-action Scooby-Doo films written and directed by James Gunn. According to The Wrap in 2022, Gunn always intended for Velma (played by Linda Cardellini) to be “explicitly gay” in his script, but he had to walk it back because of the studio.
In Cartoon Network live-action film Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins, Velma is played by Hayley Kiyoko, who has confirmed her status as a lesbian in recent years. She has since become extremely vocal about her sexuality journey and has been nicknamed “Lesbian Jesus” by her ardent fans.
And in the late 2010s, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated was intended to be a vehicle to show Velma (voiced by Mindy Cohn) discovering her queer identity after her relationship with Shaggy (voiced by Matthew Lillard) falls through. Tony Cervone, supervising producer for the series, wrote on Instagram in 2020 how he intended for Velma to be gay.
“We always planned on Velma acting a little off and out of character when she was dating Shaggy because that relationship was wrong for her and she had unspoken difficulty with the why,” he wrote in a now-deleted comment under his post about Velma. “There are hints about the why in that episode with the mermaid, and if you follow the entire Marcie arc it seems as clear as we could make it 10 years ago. I don’t think Marcie and Velma had time to act on their feelings during the main timeline, but post reset, they are a couple. You can not like it, but this was our intention.”
And now, with Trick or Treat, Scooby-Doo!, Velma is officially gay, much to the delight of fans and queer icons like Kiyoko, who wrote about the news on social media.
“I remember booking Velma in 2008. It was my first big role in a movie. I also remember thinking, ‘I wonder if they know they hired a lesbian as Velma,’” she wrote on Twitter. “Here we are, 14 years later!!!! I’m happy for her coming out! I’m surprised and also not surprised whatsoever.”
I’ve been a fan of Velma getting seen as an attractive and desirable character when she was being paired with men (back in the ’90s and early ’00s) because I–as someone who felt like a nerd growing up–felt like I finally had representation that nerds can get love too. Now that Velma is canonically gay, I can hope that LGBTQ kids can feel the same way I felt when I saw Velma pursue relationships.
I think Velma being gay also makes sense with how her characterization has evolved over the years. Even within the Mystery Inc. gang, Velma has seen a little bit of an outsider, partially because her attractiveness was never exhibited like it was for Daphne. We’ve seen many queer-coded characters get treated as “anti-sexual,” for lack of a better word, in the media, and the initial silence around Velma’s sexuality fell in line with queer-coded treatment.
As Velma has been developed in other projects, we’ve seen more hints at Velma being a young woman who is steadily becoming more comfortable exploring her sexuality, and that visibility means a lot to kids (young and old) who wants to feel like someone else understands their journey. It’s heartening to see a fully-realized Velma have same-sex crushes and is still treated like a member of the team.
What do you think about Velma being canonically gay? What other updates do you think need to happen with the Scooby-Doo characters?