A new movie has put to rest decades of fan speculation and suggestions from previous stewards of the “Scooby-Doo” franchise by confirming that Velma Dinkley, the cerebral mystery solver with the ever-present orange turtleneck, is canonically a lesbian.
To many fans who had long presumed as much and treated her as a lesbian icon, it was not a shocking revelation. But her appearance in “Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!,” which was released on Tuesday on several digital services, was the first time the long-running franchise openly acknowledged her sexuality, thrilling some fans who were disappointed that it took so long.
“Scooby-Doo,” created by Hanna-Barbera Productions, first appeared as a Saturday morning cartoon in 1969, and has been frequently reinvented in TV shows, films and comics. It generally follows a group of teenage sleuths, consisting of Velma, Daphne Blake, Fred Jones and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, along with their mischievous Great Dane, Scooby-Doo.
Previous “Scooby-Doo” writers and producers have said that Velma was a lesbian, but said pushback by studios would not allow them to depict her as one on screen. The new movie, which was directed by Audie Harrison, leaves no doubt as to her sexuality.
In one scene of the newest iteration, a blushing Velma, voiced by Kate Micucci, is smitten at the sight of a new character, Coco Diablo, who mirrored Velma’s fashion sense with her own turtleneck and oversize glasses. In a later scene, she denies Coco is her type before admitting: “I’m crushing big time, Daphne. What do I do? What do I say?”
It was the kind of overt reference to her sexuality that had failed to make it into final cuts before.
Responding to a fan on Twitter, James Gunn, who wrote the screenplay for “Scooby-Doo,” a 2002 live-action film, wrote in 2020 that “Velma was explicitly gay in my initial script.”
“But the studio just kept watering it down & watering it down, becoming ambiguous (the version shot), then nothing (the released version) & finally having a boyfriend (the sequel),” he wrote in the tweet, which was reported widely at the time and has since been deleted.
That same year, Tony Cervone, the co-creator of “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated,” a 2010 series on Cartoon Network, posted an image on Instagram of Velma standing in front of a Pride flag.
“We made our intentions as clear as we could ten years ago,” Mr. Cervone wrote. “Most of our fans got it. To those who didn’t, I suggest you look closer.”
In response to a fan, he said specifically that “Velma in Mystery Incorporated is not bi. She’s gay,” according to a screenshot saved by Out Magazine.
While most of the gang has had many romantic interests, notably between Fred and Daphne, Velma “has never really had a main love interest,” said Matthew Lippe, a 22-year-old marketing student who runs the Scooby Doo History account on Twitter.
She had occasional flirtations and brief relationships, notably with Johnny Bravo in a ’90s cartoon crossover, but her romantic feelings were rarely as central to the story as other characters, Mr. Lippe said. When she dated Shaggy in “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated,” he said, “it’s something that doesn’t feel natural for both of them.”
More recently, the shows and movies have increasingly hinted at her interest in women, so “it’s not something that’s coming out of the blue,” he said. He said Velma is a fan favorite because she speaks to a common struggle: She’s the smart, awkward one who often leads the gang in the right direction but doesn’t get as much credit as the others.
“A lot of young women, and a lot of people in general, could just look to her as a great example and role model to look up toward,” he said.
Another change to Velma’s character is coming soon. In 2021, HBO Max ordered a spinoff adult animation series called “Velma.” Mindy Kaling will voice the character, who will be South Asian in the show.
“Nobody ever complained about a talking dog solving mysteries,” Ms. Kaling told a crowd in May at a Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront presentation, which offered a first look at the show, expected later this year. “So I don’t think they’ll be upset over a brown Velma.”
Warner Bros., which owns the “Scooby-Doo” franchise, declined to comment.
The rise of lesbian characters on television was a slow process, marked often by gimmicks and blatant plays for ratings. It often came in the form of “lesbian kiss episodes,” written largely to titillate rather than to explore genuine relationships.
In recent decades, lesbian relationships on television have become more complex, even if the tropes aren’t entirely gone.