Never Have I Ever has graced all South Asian girls screens ever since it hit Netflix in April 2020. The main character, Devi Vishukamar is a sophomore in high school trying to make her way through love, loss, friendship, and self-identity. This show gets an incredibly high rating from me, a brown girl who has never seen someone act as realistically South Asian as actress Maitryei Ramikrishnan did for Devi. From the way Devi interacted with her family to how she viewed herself when she looked in the mirror, it all felt painstakingly realistic to my life.
What this show does so well is highlight South Asian voices, especially South Asian women’s voices. Each episode seems to reject a lot of the tired and drawn-out stereotypes placed on South Asians in the media. A few common stereotypes of South Asians in movies and tv shows are that they are “nerdy” or “weird,” and a huge emphasis on thick accents. We can see this in Princess Jasmine from Aladdin and Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb. Both of these forms of media were generally catered towards children, and most people in Generation Z (those born between the years 1997-2012) grew up watching these TV shows and films. This means that a whole generation was raised on harmful stereotypes that didn’t accurately depict South Asian people. Princess Jasmine was an eclectic mix of South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, as if one individual princess who represents “brown people” would be enough. Baljeet was the nerdy side character and friend to Phineas and Ferb, and was simply there for comedic relief. Both of these characters are examples of how poorly thought of stereotypes seem to define the South Asian characters we see even in the media now.
What I love most about the show are the dynamic and fiery women that they portray, especially the main character Devi. From the first few minutes of the show, we are introduced to brooding, emotional, and un-embarrassingly hormonal Devi, who has just entered her sophomore year of high school. Her main objective? To get the boy of her dreams–Paxton Hall-Yoshida, who is played by Darren Barnet.
As cheesy and cringey as this may sound, I find it quite relatable. When I was in high school, that seemed to be all I cared about as well. But the thing was, when I was in high school, I watched romantic movies and shows that depicted white girls dating their crushes, white girls that got to find love. Watching Never Have I Ever was one the first shows I’ve watched that showed me that people like me, people that looked like me, could be in fact, desirable and get to find love as well.
Another thing that this show does greatly is show an accurate and relatable relationship between Devi and her family. With an emphasis on an immigrant family from South Asia, it was Devi’s parents’ dream for their daughter to be successful in America. We see how this puts a lot of emotional and physical pressure on Devi to be at the top of her class, and we often see her compete with another kid in her class, Ben Gross. Whether it’s her own goal to do well in school or her parents’ dreams at the back of her mind, she feels that there would be severe consequences to her future if she doesn’t do well. I feel as though many children of immigrants feel this way too, and oftentimes have an unhealthy relationship between academia and their mental health. But instead of living with this emotional and physical pressure, the show displays mental health awareness, as we see Devi in therapy. That’s another great aspect of this show, as it highlights mental health within the South Asian community, something we rarely see.
Never Have I Ever is a fresh, fun, emotional, crazy, and romantic show that feels like home to me, because it reminds me of the relationships in my own life, my South Asian life. This show is a great starting point for the future of teen shows surrounding people of color, especially South Asians. Representation of South Asians is now filling up the space that was once occupied by drawn out and racist stereotypes, and it’s exciting to watch these fresh, relatable stories play out on our screens. This show has truly impacted the South Asian community in a good way because of the fact that we now have characters and storylines that we can look at and say, “I see myself in those characters.” I’m honestly quite jealous of all the young people, especially the young girls that get to grow up watching these types of shows, and as the years go on, we see the immense progression of South Asians on our TV screens.
Featured Image, Netflix Cover, Devi at Paxton’s Graduation, Devi and Paxton at the dance, Devi and Paxton, Devi and her friends, Devi and her family
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