How the Netflix show Never Have I Ever is paving the way for more nuanced diversity on TV screens

As an adolescent youth growing up in this country, the life of a South Asian teenager was rarely centered or reflected on screen. Except Bend it like Beckham, looking for Alibrandi was probably the next film or TV show that captured the boredom and thirst for rebellion as a teenager that I possessed – which contained the nuance of a non-Anglo upbringing.

So if Netflix is I have never came, produced by Mindy Kaling, a generation of South Asian millennials finally had a contemporary franchise that combined the angst and sex drive of our hormonal peaks with the influences of our heritage and customs. The global movement to diversify stories on our screens can sometimes seem like a cynical attempt to capitalize on a desire for social change. However, its impact cannot be denied.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi in ​​Netflix's Never Have I Ever.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi in ​​Netflix’s Never Have I Ever.Recognition:Netflix

While shows how That’s OK and Dawson’s Creek focused on Betty and Veronica’s age-old dichotomy of promiscuous blondes vs. intelligent brunettes, I have never‘s Devi Vishwakumar is a different kind of heroine. She’s both beautiful and academically sharp while also being sexually inexperienced, and it was refreshing to see a more sexually coy portrayal I have never than we usually see on teen TV shows.

The focus of the series is Devi’s crazy boy. Seeing her at the center of a love triangle and being viewed as sexually desirable by the most desirable boy in school despite her myriad insecurities is confidence-inspiring for South Asian millennials who grew up intimidated by the long, leggy shadows of Marissa Cooper and Joey Potter.

Their friendship group is also ethnically diverse and all actively meet up, with or without the knowledge of their parents. There are expectations of sexual confidence, particularly in the final season as Devi explores her new relationship with the much more experienced Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), but in the climate of approval, the show’s main girl gang is presented in a more empowered position around the resisting social pressure to have sex and resisting slut shaming.

Watching has a duality I have never and his pinpoint capture of the South Asian cultural context. For older audiences, it’s the nostalgia of reflecting on their own experiences of growing up, and for younger viewers, it’s an opportunity to reflect their experiences in popular culture. The show has an innate ability to push the line on taboo subjects. Devi, who is seeking therapy to help cope with family, friendships, dating and loss, is back to normal. It’s the cross-generational viewing experience that makes it so worth seeing.

Devi and Paxton (Darren Barnet) in the show created by Mindy Kaling.

Devi and Paxton (Darren Barnet) in the show created by Mindy Kaling.Recognition:Netflix

For some, Kaling’s particular style of cross-cultural storytelling may seem a little too serious, as it’s meant to appeal to the white gaze; but perhaps this reflects our own desire to feel valued and accepted by the blonde, popular girls we compared ourselves to in high school. In the latest season of I have nevereven Devi’s prejudices against South Asian men are challenged by new love Nirdesh (Anirudh Pisharody) when he calls her “one of those Indian girls who only like white men”.

Kaling has made the hot nerdy Asian or brown girl character commercially viable for a Hollywood palate. From TV adaptations of Jenny Han’s bestselling young adult series To all the boys I’ve loved before and The summer I got prettySimone Ashley’s new appearance Bridgeton season two, Mrs Miracle and even Kaling’s own more recent series That College Girls Sex Life, an Asian lead is the new coveted asset for any ensemble cast. It helps bring together diasporic communities of all backgrounds from around the world through shared lived experiences. How the Netflix show Never Have I Ever is paving the way for more nuanced diversity on TV screens

Jaclyn Diaz

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