Never Have I Ever Season 1: Mindy Kaling’s Take on Adolescence. By Smrithe Rajesh
Last weekend, while I was bored at home, I went on Netflix and stumbled upon this gem of a show called “Never Have I Ever.” I normally would have skipped past it since it seemed like every coming-of-age show to exist. However, something caught my eye as I was watching the trailer. The story was told through the eyes of an American-raised South Indian girl named Devi. Now, this was one of the rare times that I had ever seen an Indian girl be the main character of a show which didn’t solely revolve around the usual stereotypes attributed with Indians that I had seen multiple times in shows and movies and as an American raised South Indian myself, I was excited to finally see some good representation in Western media. So, I decided to give it a shot, and boy was in for a major surprise.
I want to mainly unravel the complex character which is Devi Vishwakumar in the first season (since I’ve only gotten through the first season). For starters, she is one of the most flawed characters I have ever seen. Suffering from the sudden death of her father, Devi tries to focus on reinventing herself in her sophomore year of high school with her best friends, Eleanor and Fabiola all while she butts heads with her rival since the second grade, Ben, who, major spoilers, has a secret crush on Devi. It’s important to note that Devi has an immense crush on the popular jock at her school named Paxton who she has liked since the third grade. The main plot revolves around how determined she is to become his girlfriend, and honestly, the more she works toward this goal of hers, the more infuriating she seems to me. It’s pretty obvious from the start that she doesn’t want to change anything about herself but instead is trying to find a way to cope with the traumatic experience of losing her father.
So, she goes into this chaotic spiral, pushing her friends and family away and determined to win Paxton’s heart, even though she realizes she doesn’t really like him, she just likes what he can provide to her. A sense of familiarity and the popularity which comes along with becoming his girlfriend. She eventually realizes that she doesn’t love him but instead actually loves Ben. We’re left at a cliffhanger at the end of season one with her having to decide between Ben or Paxton, and slowly mending the fractured relationship she has with her mother. Overall, as much as I complained about the main character, there are some real lessons taught about family, growing up, coming out, and dealing with grief are constantly presented within each episode. I never expected a show about a teenage girl to take on such dark themes and although Devi’s actions are insufferable, you can’t help but root for her because at the end of the day, she tries to become a better person, whether she knows it or not. That being said, I’ll be spending the next few weeks finishing the show and rooting for Devi, despite all her flaws and horrible decision making skills.
Smrithe Rajesh (she/her) is a 15-year-old rising Sophomore currently residing in the United States. Her work has appeared multiple times in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and she has had her work published in the Incandescent Studio and other notable publications. She enjoys reading and eating ice cream in her free time.