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  • Writer's pictureRohini Pillay

Why Never Have I Ever is a Must-Watch in 2022

Written by: Rohini Pillay

The third and penultimate season of Never Have I Ever was released on Netflix this summer leaving fans with feelings of warmth, excitement, and sentimentality. The show is well known for being one of the first t.v shows in Hollywood to center around an Indian-American family and is written and directed by Mindy Kaling. The hilarious comedy follows the life of Devi Vishwakumar (Maiyetri Ramakrishnan), a young South Indian girl living in the San Fernando Valley. The show encompasses her romantic endeavors with Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) and Ben Gross (Jaren Lewiston) after the loss of her father. In a true coming-of-age fashion, the show explores teenage struggles such as love, friendship, high school, and the college admissions process which makes the show relatable to teens of all races in the U.S. The show utilizes voiceovers by John McEnroe for comedic effect as well as increased saturation to provide the audience with a warm and light-hearted feel to the film. However, Never Have I Ever also tackles themes of racism, colorism, mental health, and immigration. The show features lead actresses of color such as Maiyetri Ramakrishnan, Ramona Young, Lee Rodriguez, and Megan Suri.

The famed t.v series explores the hardships of the Indian-American experience, highlighting issues of racism, colorism, immigration, and identity. The story sheds light on the immigration experience of many Indian American families in the U.S, portraying difficulties concerning assimilation and preserving one’s culture. Flashback sequences often show Devi’s mother, Nalini (Poorna Jaganathan), and father, Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy) experiencing cultural shocks and struggles as they moved to California around the time of 9/11. Furthermore, the series presents the issue of the “model minority” within the U.S among Asian Americans. The model minority stereotype suggests that Asian Americans' ability to achieve the “American Dream” results from their hard work, perseverance, and most importantly their docile nature. This stereotype can be extremely harmful, painting Asians as passive and furthers harmful stereotypes concerning both Hispanic and African Americans.

Never Have I Ever further highlights and subverts traditional representations of Indian Women. Indian women are often represented as docile and subservient as well as often very one-dimensional characters in western films. However, Devi is a multi-faceted and complex character who struggles to accept her identity as an Indian woman. She is portrayed as stereotypically “smart”, taking several AP classes and wanting to go to Princeton. Furthermore, her cousin Kamala is a scientist studying at CalTech. This representation is common within Hollywood when representing Indian characters. However, Devi possesses more depth, subverting the one-dimensional nature of most Indian characters in western cinema through her struggles with mental health and identity. Due to several instances of racism she neglects her Indian culture and heritage in her attempts of gaining popularity. However, as the show progressed she becomes more confident in her own culture. Kaling was further praised for her decision to include an Indian love interest this season.

As a woman of color living in the United States, I found this show to be incredibly heartwarming and rewarding to not just myself but many of my Asian-American friends. I rarely saw a representation of my ethnicity in western media. Furthermore, the show overturns the limited representation South Asians received in Hollywood such as sidekicks to white main characters and racist stereotypes such as I.T specialists and cab drivers. Never Have I Ever marks a new age in Hollywood in which women of color can take the center stage.

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