I have to say, Never have I ever seen so many stereotypical representations in a single production.
After a great deal of thinking and hearing so much about the show, I decided to binge-watch the brand new teen drama Never Have I Ever on Netflix.
- Never Have I Ever reeks of stereotypical representation.
- Dabbling in cliches, the show misrepresents the Indian Diaspora.
- The presence of multiple storylines fails to deliver justice to each of them.
Well, I’m not much of a Mindy Kaling fan (yep, not taking it back). However, this one felt more like an attempt at autobiography than a generic show about an NRI family dealing with its fair share of highs and lows.
Too much of everything
Never Have I Ever follows a story of loss at its core. 15-year-old Indian-American girl, Devi Vishwakumar grieves the loss of her father while juggling with her sophomore year in school, her two best friends, and a fair amount of family drama.
What follows the death of her father is a paralytic attack in her legs which puts her in a wheelchair. However, after three months she magically starts walking one day.
While she regularly visits a psychotherapist, much of her coping mechanism dabbles in desperate pursuit of a boyfriend or rather someone who could “rock her all night”. In her quest to get rid of the nerd tag and become cool – seemingly made impossible due to her Indian roots – she ironically prays to the Indian gods for that to happen.
Five minutes into the story and my expectation to see an interesting South Asian representation went down the drain. The plotline survives on cliches and bad humor across the ten episode-long production. If blatant Indian stereotyping in Hollywood needs to be exemplified by one representation, Never Have I Ever would be the answer.
The show fixes on several stereotypes – one being that Indians living abroad are way too much Indian (if you know what I mean) – associating Indians with conservative parenting, attention-seeking kids, nerdy children, gossipmonger aunties, and dare I say arranged marriages.
Instead of being a show much on par with the political climate of India, it practically invoked Islamophobia – a scene where a woman is ostracised by the Indian community for marrying a Muslim guy – and much to my chagrin, went all the way and more in emphasizing how a woman could screw up if she refused to marry the guy her parents consider good for her in an arranged marriage set up.
“I wish I had just listened to my family and married the guy they chose. Then maybe I wouldn’t be divorced,” she says and then adds her two cents on the whole arranged marriage situation – “Don’t screw it up.”
Overdone Indian accents? Spare me!
The stereotypical representation of the show goes beyond all of that with the overdone Indian accent. Why am I not surprised? The accents of the Indian-born characters like Devi’s mom and dad sound made up and compelled me to cringe while reducing my attention span to not more than a few minutes.
Not sparing even the Indian diaspora from cliched and cringy stereotypes, the show portrays Devi’s mother Nalini as a single parent who goes way overboard with strict parenting. She comes off as too much of a strickler and that sure feels overdone. Take it easy, she’s not a villain y’all.
Diversity? A flop show!
In an attempt to promote diversity and inclusion, Never Have I Ever dedicates an entire episode to the celebration of “Ganesh Puja”, which even has a montage of Durga Puja with pictures of Taj Mahal and elephants in the background. Stereotypical much?
Furthermore, I do not remember any Indian girl ever wearing such a grossly stitched half saree with a bindi dating back to the 90s in present India that we’re living in.
The show invests in better storylines for her friends Eleanor and Fabiola. Reconciliation with a lost mother and coming out as gay to the family definitely tops the chart in issues closer to teenage reality than the reality Devi seems to be heading down the road for.
Never Have I ever is an easy-breezy watch and concludes with Devi finally acknowledging the grief over the loss of her father. While this happens, the show leaves a lot to anticipate with the two boys falling for Devi in the middle of everything.
Will you be watching the next season? Comment below.