So this new show ‘Never Have I Ever’ has been getting all the buzz on all media and I think it’s about time I shared my opinions about the show. Not only is this just another TV show, but another form of representation. Let me give some background info before I jump into it. ‘Never Have I Ever’ is a new Netflix series that was released on April 27th. It was created by Mindy Kaling, who has acted in and written many different popular tv shows such as The Office and The Mindy Project. The series is based on the life of a high school Indian American girl and the battle between her social and home life. It reveals many clips of Indian culture, LGBTQ+ acceptance, the disabled community, and family struggles, which makes it a very diverse show to binge. Now that you got the recap, let’s dive into the details.
For not seeing any trailers or spoilers before starting the series, I was very happy to see how diverse the cast is for this show. I wasn’t really expecting a very diverse cast since I am familiar with Kaling’s past work in ‘The 17Mindy Project’ where the cast is predominantly white. The main character, Devi Vishwakumar, is Indian American, her best friends, Fabiola Rodriguez and Eleanor Wong, are African American and Asian American, and Devi’s crush, Paxton Hall-Yoshida, is half Japanese. Only one main character who is Devi’s nemesis, Ben Gross, is white. I was very pleased with how many ethnic communities were being represented. Not only were ethnic communities being represented, but also the disabled community. It’s not very common for shows aimed at youth to include disabled actors/actresses. In fact, it showed Paxton’s sister having a job and living a normal life. I thought this promoted the integration of disabled people in our society and places of work, so I was glad it was included for a younger audience who may not be exposed to much of this. The series also includes a very common struggle of a teenager, which is coming out about their sexuality to society. Fabiola is a lesbian African American who comes out to her friends, mother, and eventually the whole school in just this season. Her feelings and struggles are shown through the way. The show promotes the acceptance of the LGBTQ community in society when every single character accepted her for who she is. Although the show is primarily about Devi, there are many meaningful scenes of all the characters which give representation to many communities. The main community however, the Indian Americans, have the most representation with one of the first shows to reveal so much Indian culture. With an Indian American main character, the show includes her conflict with family and cultural norms. I mean an Indian believing in and going to therapy is probably as diverse as a show can get. This series definitely exceeded my expectations when it comes to diverse representation. I hope this show is the start to a future with more diverse casts, especially lead roles.
Devi kinda sucks?
So Devi Vishwakumar is this teenage girl who suffered a horrible freshman year with her father passing away from a heart attack at her orchestra concert resulting in her getting a stroke from the trauma and ending up in a wheelchair. I guess events like that really give you a rep around school, because everyone knew her as the girl in the wheelchair. However, this sophomore year she’s back on her feet and wants more than ever to be “cool.” This resulted in her distancing herself from her friends, choosing a boy over her bffs, and shitting on her culture. Basically everything you grew up knowing to be wrong, Devi did it. This made her a very unlikeable character for the duration of the series. Every episode shows her making the wrong decision and facing the consequences from it. At one point, I would get happy when something bad happened to her because I disliked her so much. Not only did she make bad decisions, but complained about absolutely everything in her life. She had problems with her too indian mom, too perfect live-in cousin, and too lame best friends. Her only priorities were to be better than Ben Gross and to get with Paxton Hall-Yoshida. Basically she didn’t appreciate anyone who was actually there for her. I guess teenage girls are guilty for not being appreciative, but this made her unlikeable as a character for the show. I don’t know if that’s what Kaling was going for, but that’s what happened.
Apparently Indian Culture is Weird and Embarrassing…
As an Indian American myself, I was super excited to see my culture being represented in such a mainstream show. However, the culture I saw being represented was shattered by Devi, who was too embarrassed to be associated with it. Imagine being embarrassed by one of the richest cultures in the world. Can’t relate. I was infuriated to see Devi shit on the best parts of being Indian. If you understand what I’m talking about, then you probably know I’m referencing the Ganesh Puja episode. I was so excited for this episode to see all the culture be represented to people who are unfamiliar with it. Instead, the episode portrayed negative feelings towards the culture, making it an unpleasant experience for Devi and her family. The reason I got so triggered by this episode is because events like Ganesh Puja are the one time Indian American children come together and celebrate their culture together. Large events such as these were events I would look forward to all year so that I could properly celebrate my heritage with people just like me. It was the one time I would meet friends from other schools whom I could relate to. The fact that the Indian community was represented by rude Aunties who get into everyone’s business was just disappointing. There was a 1 minute scene of Devi asking a boy who attends college why he would ever come back to this Puja. His response was the only good part of the episode. Not everyone is as miserable as Devi to have such negative views on their culture. Even if many people identified with her and feel that these gatherings are weird, is it really a good idea to portray that in the show? Being embarrassed of your culture is something many youth feel as a result of integrating in society. However, that’s something that everyone should be striving to fight against. I definitely have felt embarrassed of my culture when I was younger, however when I came to high school I realized that my culture is something I should be proud of. I wish I had people who helped me see that earlier so I never felt like that. This series just adds to the youth’s mindset that they need to integrate in the white people’s world. I don’t understand how the show could be forward thinking in so many aspects, but remain backwards in embracing culture. Normalizing different cultures is something that this country needs a lot more of and this show definitely did not help with that in my opinion. There were so many opportunities to share the culture in a positive aspect, but it was ruined every time.
You Got Representation. Be Grateful For That.
There are many debates on social media that people are being too harsh when commenting on the show. Many people, including Indian Americans, are saying we should be happy that we got representation in the first place and that we shouldn’t be complaining. Yes, I am happy I got representation. However, there’s a different between positive and negative representation. From what I saw, if I were a white American, I would think the Indian culture is weird because the main character told me it was. When the different parts of the culture were introduced, when Devi could have portrayed it as something interesting and worth learning more about, she brushed it off as weird and not attention-worthy. The show could have showed off the Indian culture for what it truly is, but it stayed on the sidelines. I’m insulted that my culture was so negatively introduced to such a large audience, especially in this day and age. I’m happy that my culture was included in the show, but I’m not okay with people thinking that my culture is weird and something to be embarrassed of. I hope the next season shows the culture in a more positive light and intrigues the audience. Is negative representation better than no representation at all?
Even though there were many flaws in the show, there were many things that were accurate and relatable which kept me hooked. Of course not everything will be spot on. The parts of the show that were accurate were really accurate, which is why I didn’t hate it. It was overall very entertaining and it grabbed my attention the whole season. It was very easy to binge as each episode is very short. I am looking forward to season 2 and am expecting it to be even better than this season. The characters experienced a lot of development in season 1, so I’m expecting even more development in the next season. I do recommend watching the show, as the good parts of the show outweigh the bad. If you have already watched the show, leave your thoughts in the comments below! I would love to read your opinions. If you haven’t watched it yet, happy binging!