When she first made her debut in 1969, Velma Dinkley was the shy, frumpish dressed member of Mystery Inc on Scooby-Doo. And Velma stayed that way for a good 30 odd years — until the character was played in the live-action 2002 Scooby-Doo movie by Linda Cardellini. And then something happened: Velma started becoming the sex symbol to a cadre of fans.
Since then, the sexy Velma pin-up movement has only grown. Google Trends shows that the volume of monthly searches for sexy Velma results quadrupled from May 2005 to October 2014. Cosplay for Velma has also grown over the past decade, eclipsing the results for cosplay for the Scooby character Daphne.
So why has the bookworm of a children’s cartoon transformed into the team’s sexpot? There are a few theories that I can toss out that may explain Velma’s rise to pin-up darlinghood.
Velma is a Nerd, and Nerds Can Now Be Sexy
When the character of Velma was first introduced, she served as the search engine for the group. Velma would have information about the abandoned theme park the Scooby gang were investigating, or the financial difficulty of its owner. Being the encyclopedia of the team, Velma was undoubtedly the smartest of the five humans.
The stereotypical image of a nerd has gone through a complete transformation in society thanks to advances in technology and the public’s understanding of tech benefits. Everyone can now be a Velma Dinkley using a smartphone and a data plan. Add to this the growing number of highly educated women in tech, science or other STEM subjects. Since Velma’s introduction in 1969, being a nerd is no longer equivalent to being something negative. In fact, it’s now related to concepts that society places value on: business skills, better job prospects, and being highly educated.
If they remain relevant long enough, pop culture characters will evolve and change to reflect the values and interests of the latest generation. Superman, Batman, Flash Gordon, even the action heroines of Charlie’s Angels are proof of it. Velma has leapt from being second-fiddle, at least in terms of desirability from her physical looks, to surpassing the model-like Daphne. Whereas Daphne has the common qualities that society likes to associate with sexually attractive women (thin, tall, doesn’t wear glasses), in one area Velma beats her competitor hands down: she’s always had brains.
Sexy in Glasses (That Librarian Look)
Pin-up culture is a wide subject matter, and it can be viewed through many lenses. One way is to see popular pin-ups trends as artistic expressions of a culture’s attitude towards sexuality. One trope that’s been popular since at least the mid-20th century is that of the sexually attractive librarian, generally a soft-spoken, bespectacled guardian of knowledge. Stereotypes can be harmful sometimes, as
“Librarian stereotypes can be traced, in part, to cultural anxieties about the emergence of the profession,” wrote the authors of an article tackling the stereotypes of librarians. “Women were looked to as keepers of the culture, and they took that responsibility seriously. As genteel society became almost entirely embodied by the ‘lady,’ the genteel lady became ‘a new social type—a curious transitional blend of feminist and domestic queen.’ So, as librarianship resisted the hypermasculine modern consumerist culture, it also became a natural harbor for the newly adventurous modern woman.”
So if we were to look at this in the above context, Velma couldn’t be depicted in Scooby-Doo as the leader (Fred), the beauty queen (Daphne), or even as the slacker (Shaggy) or comedy relief (Scooby). It’s true that all of the team were adventurers, but the cultural demands of the era meant that Velma was packaged into a box that would be accepted by the audience as being not too different or unbelievable.
Maybe there is something at the edge of our unconscious suggesting to us that a librarian/guardian of knowledge contains secrets, and therefore, mysteries. That behind their surface looks the librarian can be an unreserved, perhaps even a more adventurous person to those that know the librarian’s private life.
I know; we’re getting deep here. Any further and this may turn into a graduate paper on the sexual proclivities and fantasies that sexy Velma pin-up art satisfies the need of.
Velma is Approachable
It’s easier to imagine you striking up a conversation with Velma than with Daphne, the only other female member of Scooby-Doo. Even if Velma knows way more about the world and statistics than you do, her mannerisms, speech patterns and even the use of the phrase “Jinkies!” to express her amazement or surprise at something make her more three dimensional than what Daphne presents.
With Daphne, one gets the sense that she cares more for her looks and how others perceive her based on her attractiveness. With Velma, she come across as someone that wants to exchange information. It’s only when there’s a suggested attraction between Velma and another character that she becomes tongue-tied and shy.
That “girl next door” attitude is an attractive quality for many of us. Getting to know someone deeper on a personal level can heighten the sexual attraction one feels for an individual. Hey, this is what the psychologists say.
Smart is Sexy, and Velma is Super Smart
“Truth be told, the sexiest thing about a girl really is her mind,” writes the man behind Gutsy Geek, a blog about finding female love with a geeky partner. “Smart, to me, is not necessarily about memorizing lots of data. It encompasses the ability to listen, to learn, to be part of a conversation, and most important of all, to be curious.” And then the author gets into his thoughts on why he believes a smart woman is likely to be more freaky in the bedroom.
The scientists also seem to back that stance. In a 2016 paper published titled “Is Smart Sexy?”, nine researchers claim that, once you find someone that you’re physically attracted to, the thing that takes it to the next level of arousal is their brains.
“The sexes found less intelligent partners less desirable, a more intelligent partner was no more desirable than partner who was equal in intelligence, and intelligence was particularly valued as a long-term mate,” the report summarizes. “In addition, mate value was correlated with rejecting less intelligent mates and desiring more intelligent ones in women only.”
Once Velma Dinkley began to be presented in more desirable physical characteristics, her appeal began to overtake that of Daphne. Why? Because Daphne doesn’t do books and it shows.
Peppy Velma is on the case. Art by Louis Davilla.
A Sense of Suggested Curiosity
Glasses are a staple of a Velma pin-up or cosplay costume, but what about a magnifying glass? On this page you’ll see how popular the Velma pin-up art is that features her holding a magnifying glass in one hand, looking for clues. None of the other Scooby-Doo characters use this detective tool as greatly as Velma has been seen with.
The magnifying glass suggests to us that Velma is more aware of her surroundings. She’s looking more intensely than the others. It also suggests that Velma may be the most curious of the group. Indeed, in many Scooby-Doo episodes Velma is the one that puts the initial clues together that leads to the reveal of who was behind the monster and the episode’s mystery.
Having a curious nature can certainly be suggestive of having a desire to explore one’s sexuality. There are literally entire rows in libraries with books about the subject.
Have a couple of generations of boys (and some girls) been getting subconscious signals that Velma would be down for more freaky fun than Daphne? Perhaps this article is now starting to qualify for funding for a research grant.
Danger Turns Us On
Seltzer writes, “which indirectly suggests that there’s something about abandoning ourselves to our id and behaving in ways that are physically or socioculturally risky that can powerfully turn us on.”
Velma and her friends are constantly putting themselves in danger in every episode of Scooby-Doo. Actually, they are doing more than that: they’re investigating supernatural mysteries, and that heightens the unknown factor.
Even on some small scale, when you watch Scooby-Doo, your body is releasing a little bit of chemicals to remind you of what it feels like to be afraid or in some danger. And maybe, playing out across a childhood of watching episodes of a kids cartoon series, our brain has now attached a slightly (even if it’s marginally) greater sexual desire towards Velma or Daphne because of the glutamate your brain released.
Oh, what’s this that’s just arrived in my Inbox? A notice that I’m to receive $15,000 for continued research into what academics are now labeling “The Velma Experience”. I knew it was coming.
Look, Sexy Velma Is What It Is
Even with backing from researchers and scientists, many of us would prefer to think we’re in control of what turns us on. If that means we like pin-ups of Velma from Scooby-Doo looking hot, then let’s keep things to the point and uncomplicated. It might make it easier to drift off to sleep tonight by thinking this way.
Increased Google searches, corroborating evidence about neurotransmitters in the brain, a preponderance of archetypes relating to a certain category of scholars, and what academics might be calling “The Hot Nerd Factor” all line up with my theory as to why we’re seeing more of sexy Velma.
Or maybe your favorite color is orange. Who knows?
The Maestro Noob created three pin-ups of Velma. Believe it or not, this is the third less risque version. Patron members can view his first NSFW Velma, and a bondage Velma can be viewed on his Deviant Art page.
Now, what are your thoughts? Post ’em below, for academia and posterity’s sake.