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'Velma' Hit With Backlash After Making Insensitive Joke About Sickle Cell Disease

The HBO Max animated series was called out for equating sickle cell disease with 'rudeness' in a recent episode.

Promotional image for HBO Max's "Velma"

The HBO Max animated series Velma—an adult animated mystery horror comedy series based on the character Velma Dinkley from the Scooby-Doo franchise—faced public backlash for equating sickle cell disease (SCD) with "rudeness."

In the series' first episode, the character Fred Jones makes an excuse for not having remembered Velma's name, saying he has a disease "where [he] can't recognize people who aren't hot" and his doctor "says it's basically sickle cell for rich people."

After Velma—voiced by The Office star Mindy Kaling—quips the disease is called "rudeness," Fred confirms her suspicions.

You can see the moment below.

SCD is a group of blood disorders that are typically inherited. The most common type is known as sickle cell anaemia. It results in an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin found in red blood cells, which leads to a rigid, sickle-like shape under certain circumstances.

A number of health problems may develop, such as attacks of pain (known as a sickle cell crisis), anemia, swelling in the hands and feet, bacterial infections and stroke. Long-term pain may develop as people get older and the average life expectancy in the developed world is 40 to 60 years.

Approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Americans have SCD though about 80 percent of sickle cell disease cases are believed to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the United States, there are stigmas surrounding SCD that discourage people with SCD from receiving necessary care. These stigmas mainly affect people of African American and Latin American ancestries, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Studies have shown that those with SCD frequently feel as though they must keep their diagnosis a secret to avoid discrimination in the workplace and also among peers in relationships.

Naturally, the show's insensitive joke has angered many people.

Audience reception to Velma has been overwhelmingly negative, receiving low scores on imdB and Rotten Tomatoes, where it has earned a 42 percent rating based on 33 reviews.

Representatives for HBO Max and Kaling have not responded to requests for comment on the controversy.