The APAHM Project 2021 Days 23-28: Never Have I Ever
Updated: May 31, 2021
Series: Never Have I Ever
Created by: Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher
Where to Watch: Netflix
Wanna Skip? Pick a Movie from APAHM Project 2020
Why it Made the List: Praised for breaking stereotypes surrounding Asians (Southern and Eastern), "Never Have I Ever" is smart, refreshing, and funny. Featuring a diverse cast, and John McEnroe as the narrator, "NHIE" is to premiere its second season this summer.
I had a very mundane high school experience. I wasn't popular but I wasn't a "loser". I was smart, but I wasn't a "nerd". I was involved in extracurriculars, non of which were deemed "cool". I had my go-to friends, I had my acquaintances, I had my people I downright didn't like. So you can imagine, it was hard for me to find high school shows I could relate to when I was in my teens. Either they starred the popular kids or the protagonists were were at the very bottom of the totem pole. There wasn't much in between. And let's not forget to state the obvious: none of those kids looked like me.
Cue shows like "Never Have I Ever" that actually make me want to relive high school through their eyes. NHIE stars Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a 15 year-old, first generation, Indian-American girl who recently lost her father and lives with her mother, dermatologist Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) and her cousin, Kamala (Richa Moorjani) who is earning her PhD at CalTech.
Devi went through A LOT after her father died in front of the entire spring orchestra concert. She was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down and had to go to school in a wheelchair. Devi recruits her friends Fabiola and Eleanor to rebrand themselves as "cool" in the new school year. Devi eventually takes a leap of faith to ask if school hottie Paxton Hall-Yoshida will have sex with her and to her surprise, he says yes. As you can guess, drama, love triangles, rumors, friend feuds, returning mothers, coyote bites, arranged marriages, gross pimples, nuclear bombs, pop culture references, judgemental aunties, last minute photo shoots, emotional harp playing, and talking robots ensue. Okay, maybe you didn’t guess that, but that’s exactly what NHIE does. It keeps you guessing but in a light-hearted way instead of a suspenseful one.
It is true that this show breaks all sorts of stereotypes but none are done so blatantly. Everything that happens seems so natural and Devi, Fabiola, and Eleanor all break stereotypes by just being their genuine selves. Eleanor, an East Asian girl, is an actress like her mother. Fabiola, a queer Black girl, is into robotics. Paxton Hall-Yoshida is half Japanese and the most popular guy in school. Paxton’s sister, is a Down-syndrome fashion model. All of these characters break the mold that society and media has set for them.
Another point that I enjoyed is that while the girls are “nerds,” other ”mean” girls don’t make fun of them. There is not a mean girl group who tears them down. I thought this was such a great change from typical high school tropes, and it actually went unnoticed by me until after I finished the series. Instead Devi and Ben have a rivalry but it’s not necessarily based in gender or status. It’s instead based on academia. They make cheap shots at each other at the expense of their academic rivalry.
The show had its more adult themes too. Like grieving and lost. Tradition and ritual. And the most real being the relationship between mother and daughter. Devi and Nalini don’t see eye to eye and the death of Devi’s father left a huge gap in their relationship. It wasn’t until they were able to grieve that they were able to make amends.
The season leaves off on a cliffhanger - in a turn of events, Devi kisses Ben. Unbeknownst to her, Paxton is at her house and calls her to leave a voicemail because his sister helped him realize he likes her. Kamala is faced with choosing between her boyfriend or the man her family has chosen for her. And the biggest question of all: will Devi move to India with her mother?
I thoroughly enjoyed this series! I smiled so many times, and laughed, too. I took a Buzzfeed personality quiz (I’m Kamala btw) and am looking forward to watching their season 2 table read for charity when I get the chance. I actually binged the show in the course of 2 days. I think this has been my favorite Mindy Kahling project yet. It was so fresh and funny and I cannot wait for Season 2!!!
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*Image source: Punjab News Express
If You Liked This, You Might Like:
The Mindy Project on Hulu
To All the Boys I Loved Before on Netflix