What It Means To Be Creative And Marginalized

​The hard part about being in a minority is that, no matter how privileged you are, you get some reminders that you are still part of that minority. I fully admit that I am very privileged as an Asian-American that got a wonderful education and numerous opportunities. Hence, I try to keep that in mind when talking with friends.

Some friends were talking about the Velma show on HBOMax, with Mindy Kaling as the producer and the newest voice behind the title character. Not that Charlie Grandy, a white comedian who has worked with Mindy before, is the creator and showrunner, and he wrote the pilot. Yet his name is strangely absent when people discuss the show, while Mindy gets more flak as the star. She does have power as producer to suggest changes, but we don’t know what has happened behind the scenes.

I admit that I haven’t seen it yet, because I am super picky as a Scooby Doo fan about what I watch. My taste for Scooby Doo shows run for the sillier but well-animated incarnations, that find way to affectionately poke fun at the cliches without tearing them down completely. Considering that Velma’s story has a few actual murders rather than villains in costume that are seeking treasure, real estate or inheritance, it didn’t pique my interest. Dead End: Paranormal Park was doing that job much better, with a dog and some silliness and balancing the sadder moments. I will post about that on Medium soon.

Do I think that Mindy Kaling has been roasted unfairly for the Velma reboot? I can’t say for certain because the show doesn’t interest me. Scooby is the main draw of any Scooby Doo show, so it seems counterintuitive that a new incarnation doesn’t have the beloved Great Dane.

It seems unfair that Mindy is receiving the lion’s share of the blame, however, because she didn’t write the pilot or the scripts. Someone else did. In addition, one person does not make a show. You have other writers in the room, plus other producers and executives that create many mandates. The only thing that one could criticize are the parts that Mindy has directly contributed to in the story, like her voice work, producer contributions and any scripts where she has writing credit.

In any case, Velma has had a controversial reception. People complain that no one is likable in the show except for maybe this Shaggy incarnation, Norville, and Velma seems vindictive. That is legitimate to say. Then complaints veered to how the only people who liked it were those that were mad at shows that were “remotely white.”

Um, excuse me?

I admit I got mad on hearing this. While part of the bias is that I am a Mindy Kaling fan and that this is her first show that was undoubtedly sus rather than plain funny, it reminded me how Othering can happen in social spaces. 

The fact of the matter is that if you are POC, queer, disabled, or otherwise marginalized, you have to make the call about the fact that pressure is higher on you to make a greater show, book, or piece of art. The more awareness people have, the more scrutiny that you will face. Creative spaces tend to be predominantly white with established biases and notions, and creators with privilege get more chances with quality or behavior. Challenging those norms by existing means that you risk facing more of that backlash.

Making these choices is a constant. It’s what I have to decide as a creator, and what happens when a mainstream POC work is imperfect. Do we criticize the choices? Or do we let them exist, acknowledging the flaws but not saying them out loud to avoid dooming a project? When we do criticize choices, are they lobbied at the right person? If they aren’t, then we have a social problem. 

I’m part of this space. And I want to keep making it better with contributions. That means making the decision when my marginalization keeps recurring.