The lambasted HBO Max cartoon Velma is receiving harsh criticism again and this time it goes beyond the average person or reviewer who found the show unwatchable and painfully unfunny. The series has been called out for insensitive humor about sickle cell disease which they didn’t wait long to deliver. The joke was uttered by Fred in the first episode.

Velma (Mindy Kaling) scrolls longingly through Daphne's social media photos in Velma Season 1 Episode 3 "Velma Kai" (2023), HBO Max

Velma (Mindy Kaling) scrolls longingly through Daphne’s social media photos in Velma Season 1 Episode 3 “Velma Kai” (2023), HBO Max

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Encountering Velma for the first time, he can’t remember her name so Fred explains his problem is a disease like the mentioned illness of anemia: “I have a disease where I can’t recognize people who aren’t hot,” he says. “My doctor says it’s basically sickle cell for rich people.” In response, Velma just plainly quips, “Is it called rudeness?”

Before that, Velma who’s voiced by executive producer Mindy Kaling reveals Fred cheats off her in Spanish class because he thinks she is Mexican. Fred’s reply delivered by Glenn Howerton was, “It is [rudeness]! You’re, like, smart.” The writers thought this was funny but no one is laughing or so much as giggling, especially those sickle cell disease can affect.

Velma (Mindy Kaling) confronts Fred (Glenn Howerton) over his chauvinistic behavior in Velma Season 1 Episode 4 "Velma Makes a List" (2023), HBO Max

Velma (Mindy Kaling) confronts Fred (Glenn Howerton) over his chauvinistic behavior in Velma Season 1 Episode 4 “Velma Makes a List” (2023), HBO Max

Twitter user @Memej99 shared a recording of the scene and reacted in a thread. “#SickleCell isn’t some punchline to put in an @hbomax show. We are discriminated against in healthcare, which causes further harm to our physical & mental. Ignorant jokes like this make it that much harder for systemic changes to occur for better treatment of sickle cell patients,” she began.

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She then called out Kaling directly by adding, “@mindykaling, what might’ve started out as a harmless joke, turned out to show a lack of empathy, compassion for & knowledge of #sicklecelldisease. It prevents others from learning what #scd TRULY is, a rare #blooddisorder affecting All races, predominantly African Americans.” Others point out there is no relation between sickle cell and rudeness.

Velma anemic reaction tweet

@memej99 tweets at Mindy Kaling about Velma via Twitter

“This makes absolutely no sense, and to associate sickle cell to ‘rudeness’ is extremely harmful,” wrote Andre Marcel Harris to HBO Max’s Twitter account. “Sickle cell patients are disproportionately impacted by racism and bias due to the majority of us in the US being Black, and this definitely isn’t helping the issue.”

Harris notes a bit later how “incredibly unfunny” the joke is.

Screenshot - Velma reaction tweet

Twitter user Andre Marcel Harris tweets disapproval of Velma

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Sickle Cell 101, a nonprofit devoted to awareness of the disease, paid attention to the controversy and entered the chat. The organization asked its social media followers if the moment was “offensive” and a “bad joke.”

Hot-take answers ranged from “terrible” and “ridiculous” to “not funny at all” and, yes, “very offensive” to people living with the disorder.

YouTuber Atraes gave his analysis of the situation in a recent video and he wasn’t prepared for how obnoxiously tone-deaf the dialogue in the scene was. After reading it from a Yahoo article, the podcaster was stunned into silence.

“You needed a moment of silence for how bad that joke was,” he said after a prolonged facepalming. “I didn’t even realize how gross [it was].”

What’s your reaction? Tell us below.

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