The Real-Life Lesbian Inspiration Behind Scooby-Doo’s Velma
Prior to becoming a widely-adored, albeit unlikely object of everyone's apparently unchecked thirst, Scooby-Doo's Velma Dinkley, the orange-turtleneck-clad sleuth of our collectively horny dreams, was an icon among another group of people – the LGBTQAI+ community.
Although fans had speculated about Velma's sexuality for years, a testament to her lack of interest in pretty much anyone, unparalleled smarts, wit, and overall status as the voice of reason among Mystery Inc., last year Velma's (weirdly horny) fans finally got the confirmation they were hoping for. As we all suspected, Velma is definitively a member of the LGBTQAI+ community – well, at least in the early 20-teens animated series, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
“I obviously don’t represent every version of Velma Dinkley, but I am one of the key people that represents this one," wrote producer Tony Cervone in the caption of an Instagram post depicting Velma linking arms with Marcie Fleach – a.k.a “Hot Dog Water” -- in front of a rainbow pride flag. “We made our intentions as clear as we could ten years ago. Most of our fans got it. To those that didn’t, I suggest you look closer. There’s no new news here.”
Yet the early 2010's iteration of Scooby-Doo wasn't the only one to toy with the concept with a lesbian Velma. The following month James Gunn – a.k.a. the Guardians of the Galaxy director with a penchant for spilling behind-the-scenes Hollywood secrets (a habit that is definitely not compensating for any major controversies at all whatsoever), revealed that he also “tried” to portray Linda Cardellini's Velma as a member of the LGBTQAI+ community in the original screenplay for the 2002 Scooby-Doo reboot.
“In 2001 Velma was explicitly gay in my initial script,” James Gunn replied to a fan asking him to make their “live-action lesbian Velma dreams come true.” Yet just like with his pitch for a cannibalistic reboot of every boomer's favorite sitcom, Gilligan's Island, it seems this concept didn't make it too far past the brown suits. “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 recalled, referencing the ambiguous ending of 2004's Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, in which Velma ends up implicitly dating Seth Greene's Patrick Wisely despite seeming generally uninterested in him.
However long before both of these confessions confirmed what we essentially already knew, the question of Velma's sexuality has long fascinated queer pop culture fans, Velma finding herself an unofficial queer icon, and the theory that she's a lesbian appearing in an early 2000s Washington Post article discussing her sex symbol status – particularly among queer women – however, the roots of this widespread speculation has seemingly traceable origins – more specifically, the IRL inspiration behind her character.
Yep, Velma Dinkley is based on a real-life lesbian – well, sorta. Before banding together to solve capers generally perpetuated by bitter old white men hiding behind monster costumes in Scooby-Doo's original 1969 iteration, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (nice) the characters had a different basis – a popular live-action sitcom entitled The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis from roughly a decade earlier. Featuring a cast of characters consisting of a hot popular jock, his gorgeous, but sometimes superficial love interest, a mousy, but tack-sharp brainiac, and a relaxed, lazy stone- sorry, I mean beatnik, the teen TV program's characters evidently served as a blueprint for the makeup of Mystery Inc, according to a 2017 retrospective (or should we say ruh-ret-rospective) from MeTV.
Zelda K. Gilroy – a.k.a Velma's live-action counterpart with a very rhyme-y name – in all her, short-bang-wearing, nose-scrunching glory was portrayed on the series by actress-later-turned-politician, Sheila Kuehl. Considering the show first hit the very, very small screen in the 1950's, an era of television in which married couples sharing a bed and seeing even the tiniest glimpse of a belly button on national television sparked national controversies full of pearl-clutching and probably fainting, Gilroy's character was straight as an arrow. The same, however, could not be said of Kuehl, who is a lesbian.
Although she evidently attempted to keep her sexuality publicly under wraps while working on TV, rumors began spreading that she was gay, ultimately bringing her acting career to a screeching halt, according to an archived report from NPR. While her beloved character was supposed to have her own spin-off series entitled Zelda, a series initially met with much enthusiasm, it seems questions surrounding her appearance and sexuality may have catalyzed the show's demise. “I was too butch,” Kuehl told the Windy City Times of her TV star days back in 2013.
Despite this setback, Velma's IRL counterpart forged ahead, finding success in different arenas – law and politics. Throughout the 1970’s, the star left Hollywood behind and went full Elle Woods, studying law at Harvard University where she was named one of the top five students in the nation by the American Bar Association’s Law Student edition, per GayStar News. By the mid-'90s, the former actress had made a name for herself as a women's rights lawyer and lesbian activist, later taking the plunge into politics, where she was elected as the California State Assembly's first openly LGBTQAI+ member in 1994. At 80 years old, the star now currently serves as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the third district, a position she earned due, in part, to her loyal base of supporters, earning 63% of the LGBTQAI+ vote and 58% of the female vote in the 2014 election, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
So, folks, here's to Velma and Kuehl, her IRL counterpart. Thanks for inspiring generations of queer people and showing that Jinkies! It's pretty damn cool to be smart.
Shout out to commenter JoeCowboy for inspiring this story