The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
“Never Have I Ever” and “Bridgerton” are two new and popular Netflix shows. Their similarity: South Asian female leads. Their difference: their portrayal of each woman.
Season two of “Bridgerton” was released on March 25 and features two female South Asian leads, Kate and Edwina Sharma. The show, known for its cast diversity, represents the women as beautiful and worthy of being declared the “diamond of the season.” They are not physically different from the other women in their English society and are considered competitive for this season’s most eligible bachelors.
“Never Have I Ever,” features teenager Devi and explores the cultural and social pressures she feels in her high school environment. Devi is written as a teenage girl who makes poor decisions with her family and her love life, alienating friends throughout. The show encourages the audience to feel frustrated with her because of her internal discomfort with the intersection of her Indian culture and her American lifestyle as she explores mature topics.
These two shows spark a new status quo for South Asian female characters in the media.
In “Bridgerton,” the love interests travel from India and although there was mention of where they came from, there was no fixation on it. Their attire and other cultural pieces were celebrated in normalcy and Indian culture made them even more beautiful. Mixing cultures is difficult to do gracefully in television, but “Bridgerton,” took a successful first step: incorporating diversity without fixating on differences.
In “Never Have I Ever,” Devi often has conflicting feelings about the culture of her mom and aunt compared to the students at her school. She is tense with juggling how her mom expects her to be and treading through new romantic obstacles and experiences. These shows demonstrate equally realistic perspectives of a South Asian woman and provide depth and relatability for audiences.
Both shows, with their sex-positive scripts and honest dialogue, are helping to erase toxic diversity and stereotypes from future media.
The most surprising part of both shows was their incorporation of sex, a topic that is stereotypically taboo in western media about the South Asian community.
“Never Have I Ever” explores Devi’s interest in exploring sex through constant casual dialogue with her and her friends. “Bridgerton” doesn’t discuss the topic outwardly, but displays Kate’s sexual confidence and intimacy in scenes with her love interest. This normalization of sex and lack of justification for its place in conversation allows for the acceptance of sexuality by South Asian women. Incorporating these scenes demonstrates that Indian women can be and are worthy of being attractive to different races in the media.
The difference in how the two shows handle intimate subjects is stark but both break precedence by displaying the subject openly with South Asian women. Additionally, the difference reveals how audiences might experience the subject themselves. The historical view of South Asian women being unattractive in western media is being fought by these new shows, mainly “Bridgerton” season two.
Diversity should be the norm in television, where the plot allows it. But the next step in eliminating harmful stereotypes is to express the diversity of personality, culture, and experience within the diversity of race. “Bridgerton” and “Never Have I Ever” have three Indian females with completely different personalities, each valid and realistic.
As the media begins to distance itself from relating race to personality, television and media can move to a more informed level of diversity.