“Never Have I Ever” challenges Indian stereotypes in mainstream media

Season one of comedian Mindy Kaling’s newest creation, “Never Have I Ever” has arrived on Netflix, and is already receiving praise for its story and diversity.

Each of the 10 episodes depicts the various struggles of the protagonist, first-generation Indian-American sophomore Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), as she maneuvers through her high school experiences with her two best friends. 

Though the plot itself is not revolutionary in any sense – Netflix releases teen dramas much like this one essentially every month – “Never Have I Ever” stands out from the rest. A lot of the main cast comprises people of color, and it was refreshing to see the halls of the fictional Sherman Oaks High School filled with students of numerous different ethnicities. 

Far too often, Indian characters in mainstream TV shows and movies are either not present or are the butt of the jokes. I have seen a plethora of shows where the traits of the Indian characters are formulaic: they are almost always doctors or computer geniuses with heavy accents, high IQs and no social life. Shows or movies where an Indian character is not just there for comic relief are few and far between.

“Never Have I Ever” finds a way to reference all these common stereotypes without mocking Indian people. As a first-generation Indian-American, I found myself genuinely enjoying the references to important elements of Hindu culture, from the religious practices to the cultural attire, in a respectful manner. 

Additionally, the show has components illustrating an array of other under-represented groups of people. It also touches on some heavily underrepresented subject matters for teenagers, such as coping with the death of a parent and attending therapy. 

My only complaint would be that, at times, the themes within the episodes seemed excessive. While it did add to the plot, the over-exaggeration makes some scenes hard to watch and awkward.  

Overall, the show has something for everyone. While some of the events that occur are slightly over the top, there is still enough relatability to understand what the characters are going through. The diversity present within not only the cast but also conflicts in the plot makes “Never Have I Ever” an intriguing watch for all types of people.