You see shows centered around diverse cultures when you go on Netflix, but you rarely see Indian culture. Mindy Kaling set out to change that and changed the lives of so many. Never Have I Ever is the first-ever Netflix series to give an authentic representation of Indian culture. It is the first time a show centered itself around Indian culture only, which is empowering for Indian teens across the globe. Not only is it relatable, but it also portrays something long overdue to society which is the portrayal of an Indian American girl as the main character. This show is a big win for Indian teens, especially young women.
As someone Indian herself, I can speak to the impact that this show has had on me. First off, it is not just the juiciest love triangle I have ever experienced, but I have never related so profoundly to a show before. If you aren’t familiar with the show, let me give you a brief introduction. Never Have I Ever is a coming-of-age series. An Indian American teen, Devi, finds herself navigating high school while balancing her relationships, boys, Indian traditions, and grieving her father’s death. Kaling included everything from judgmental aunties to poojas in high school gyms. It was a different level of relatability, and as I watched the show, I felt understood. All the everyday Indian American teen struggles I have been through were suddenly normalized and concocted into an incredible show.
This brings me to my first point about how this show is impactful. Devi has this identity crisis between being “Indian” and “American” at the same time. Devi struggles to fit into both cultures that somehow apply to her, which all Indian teens experience, including me. I grew up trying to figure out which culture I fit in most with, and it creates this intense identity crisis which I am sure many other immigrant offspring have also experienced. It’s like your birth certificate says you were born in the US, but you are Indian too. So the problem becomes: How can I be both? It’s hard to fulfill both, and if you stray away from your culture, you’ll be deemed “too American.” This is the root cause of where terms like “whitewashed” sprout from. Finding that balance between both cultures is really hard and comes with time. The trauma that comes along with this dual identity crisis is relieving and refreshing to see. Few shows can capture this genuine part of the Indian teen experience.
This show also does an excellent job of normalizing taboo topics in Indian culture, encouraging more casual conversations about them. Specifically, I appreciated the inclusion of mental health in the show. As someone who struggles with mental health issues herself, I think that breaking the stigma is important. Mental health is a taboo topic in Indian culture. Devi, in the show, regularly sees her therapist despite her mother’s disbelief in the power of therapy. Many Indian teens have trouble convincing their parents that their mental health issue exists, let alone finally getting to the point of rehabilitation! But it is so openly spoken about in this show which helps comfort others who might be experiencing mental health issues. Towards the end of the first season, Devi’s mother finally participates in a therapy session of her own and has a moment of realization. I enjoyed this progression of Devi’s mother’s views on mental health throughout the show because it is an important topic that needs to be discussed more.
Aside from that aspect, the show portrays genuine issues that Indian teens face and breaks common stereotypes. People always think that Indian girls are nerdy, and their life only revolves around school. However, Never Have I Ever’s Devi is outgoing, intelligent, and rebellious. Whereas in shows like Phineas and Ferb, Baljeet is a nerdy, unconfident boy whose only skills are getting beaten up by a more confident, less intelligent bully. Baljeet’s personality is like that of Ravi from Jessie and it seems a lot of the comedy in these shows focus on their races.’ This makes me appreciate Devi’s character even more. Overall, this show did an incredible job of portraying relatable experiences and creating comedy everyone can enjoy. I cannot wait to see what season 3 brings!