Two health associations called out the Scooby-Doo-inspired spin-off series, “Velma” earlier in 2023, accusing the show of making an “insensitive” joke regarding sickle cell disease (SCD).
The HBO series, already slammed by critics and viewers for its allegedly irreverent portrayal of beloved characters, was further panned by the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA) and the Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research (FSCDR) after an episode purportedly made light of the illness by tying it to a character’s apparent shallowness. (RELATED: What Do A Cartoon Robot, Tampons, Transgenderism And Kids Have In Common? Disney’s Latest Attempt To ‘Queer’ Content)
“I have a disease where I can’t recognize people who aren’t hot…. My doctor says it’s basically sickle cell for rich people,” Fred tells the titular character, Velma, Bounding Into Comics reported.
HBO Max Dud ‘Velma’ Facing More Backlash Over Insensitive Sickle Cell Joke https://t.co/hy2qWPSDy3
— Bounding Into Comics (@BoundingComics) February 14, 2023
SCD refers to a group of inherited red blood cell disorders which can cause a shortage of red blood cells in affected patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Potential complications from SCD include blood clots, liver issues and anemia, according to the CDC.
“Sickle Cell is neither a choice nor a reflection of someone’s character. Invoking the disease as a gag furthers the stigma against those who suffer from it,” the FSCDR said in a statement on Twitter.
The FSCDR called out show-runner Mindy Kaling, saying it was “shocking” to see her pushing such “negative wording through her current outlet” considering India reportedly has the “second highest incidence” of the disease.
“While the poorly crafted joke might have appeared harmless to show runners, messaging like this can have a detrimental effect on the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from the painful disease worldwide,” the FSCDR continued.
The SCDAA echoed the sentiments, writing, “For the 100,000+ Americans impacted by SCD & their families, this disease is anything but a laughing matter.”
The SCDAA argued “stereotypes & misinformation” portrayed in the media about the disease have an impact on patients who suffer from the disease.
“SCD patients struggle to be taken seriously and receive proper care, even when they present with life-threatening symptoms in the emergency room,” the association tweeted, saying the “insensitive jokes” found in shows such as “Velma” only make their work towards progress more difficult and spreads misinformation about the disease.
A second season of the HBO Max series is already in the works, Screenrant reported Feb. 13.