I hope Ryan Reynolds will narrate my adolescence.
Mindy Kaling and Lang Fischer decided to create a TV Show about an Indian-American teenager, Devi, and it was the best decision they ever made! Okay, so maybe I am biased because I am a huge Mindy fan. But, I love comedy television. I grew up on shows like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, The Office, Gilmore Girls, The Mindy Project, and New Girl. Naturally, I would gravitate toward Never Have I Ever. Throughout this review I will not talk about major plot points for those who don’t like spoilers.
Never Have I Ever centers around Devi who is recovering from a traumatic freshman year. Her story is narrated by a famous celebrity whom I will let you all discover while binging. After a few months have passed, Devi is ready to reinvent herself and “pop her cherry.” However, she has many issues to work out before any of those can happen. This show isn’t simply about “nerdy, extra thirsty,” teenagers; rather, it addresses many issues that we’ve all faced.
Mindy has never written an “issue orientated” show or film. Instead, she makes issues of race, gender, and social justice accessible in popular culture. For example, the film Late Night centers around a female late-night talk show host and “diversity hire” writer working together to save their show. Although Mindy makes several references to the gender and race of the main characters, the movie focuses on their talents and capabilities. The same applies to Never Have I Ever.
On the show, Devi regularly attends therapy to cope with the traumatic event she faced. However, simply attending her therapy doesn’t solve all her problems. You see Devi constantly deflecting and ignoring the source of her problems. Devi distracts herself with romantic fantasies instead of dealing with her emotions. Not only does her therapist point this out, but also her best friends. From the beginning, the audience knows what Devi needs to do to heal. It’s not frustrating to watch Devi make mistake after mistake. In fact, they’re pretty enjoyable to watch because her mistakes are relatable. Also, Devi’s therapy sessions demonstrate that a therapist cannot help you if you’re not receptive to the help.
Throughout the show, Mindy and the writers don’t play off the teen drama. They show the audience why these issues matter to teens. From small issues like your mother not making homemade goods to major ones like coming out to your parents, the writers handle each issue with dignity and non-offensive humor. Hands down, this show perfectly balances comedy with emotion and drama. Thus, it’s Mindy’s best show to date. (Pick it up for a second season Netflix!)
I’ve never seen a comedy show centered around an Indian-American family before. So, I didn’t know what to expect when clicking on the pilot episode. However, I was not disappointed with what Mindy showed. I enjoyed watching Devi struggle with her “Indian-ness.” For example, she thought it was uncool to be “super-Indian” which means to have strong ties to Indian culture. Devi would poke fun at the Bollywood dance group performing at a Hindu festival. However, Devi is immediately shot down by another girl implying that it’s not cool to make fun of your culture.
Devi does have valid reasons to not identify as “super-Indian.” Her mother, Nalini, is extremely hard on her and puts many restrictions on her. For example, Devi isn’t allowed to date until “she’s old enough to rent a car.” (You’re not alone, Devi! My mom said that too. But, I’ve broke that rule and there is no turning back!) Also, Nalini is quick to judge any man in Devi’s life and isn’t afraid to let that man know it. (Again girl, I could relate.) Lastly, Devi’s mother doesn’t judge other kids for dating or having an active social life. She couldn’t care less if other Indian kids were out partying, but god-forbid her own child do the same. All of this can lead a kid to not appreciate their heritage. To be clear, Devi’s mother isn’t villainized because you will see her reasons for her behavior. You may not agree with her, but your heart will go out for her. (Indian parents mean well, but Indian teens may not agree with their means.)
Moreover, it’s the little things the series demonstrates that I could relate to. In one episode, Devi’s uncle comes to visit. When he notices that no other man is in the house, her uncle starts acting like the man of the house. Although Devi’s mother is clearly the alpha of her home, Devi’s uncle still makes demands as though he’s lived in that house all of his life. Even though it’s a small moment in the show, I’ve seen this happen in my own home. When my dad is not home, one of his male relatives will act like he’s in charge. But, my mom rolls her eyes anytime they give her commands in her home. Devi’s mother does the same. Throughout the show, Mindy normalizes household Indian customs by not explaining them to the audience. Mindy also doesn’t define any of the characters by their gender, race or sexuality, Yes, they’re important aspects of who they are, but their not defining the characters personalities.
Additionally, I could relate to the “what will people say,” culture. In one episode, the narrator describes “aunties” as older-Indian women who have “no blood-relationship to you but are allowed to have opinions about your life and all your shortcomings; but, you have to be nice to them because you’re Indian.” At many Indian gatherings, I’ve been approached by aunties probing into my personal and professional life. And, somehow, they will have learned information about me then proceed to give me their unwarranted advice.
“Nikki,” one said, “you’re going to law school in Cincinnati? But, OSU is better.” I simply replied with an eye-roll.
“Nikki,” another said, “I know your mother works a lot, so if you need a nice home-cooked meal, you can always come to me. I am basically like your mother.”
“Auntie,” I replied, “I just met you…how can be you like my mother?”
“Nikki,” another said, “you should not be representing criminals. You should be a prosecutor or work at a nice law firm until you get married.”
“I represent the criminals to scare off the men who want to marry me…it’s great.” I’d say. (This is why I am not allowed to accompany my parents to Indian-gatherings anymore.) However, it’s not just me who hates these comments. My mother also doesn’t participate in gossip sessions about other people’s children or tell them what her children are up to.
Throughout the show, you will meet an Indian woman shunned from her community because she decided to marry the man of her choice. He was of a different race and religion, but the marriage ended in divorce. Because of this, the poor woman is brutally judged by her own community. The “what will others say” culture allows people to define others by their mistakes and failures. It doesn’t allow people to see anything else which is sad and annoying.
Overall, I enjoyed Never Have I Ever not only because I felt represented but for its great storytelling. You don’t have to be Indian-American to love this show! If you’re a fan of good writing, fashion, and non-stop comedy, then you will love this show. If you’re a fan of some light family drama and characters overcoming obstacles, then you will love this show. In conclusion, I, like Devi, would like a man to say to me, “you have the body of Priyanka Chopra, and the brains of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
That’s all for now. Stay tuned!