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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Never Have I Ever is, in its primal nature, a messy show. Is that even a problem, though? The setting of the show is a high school, one of the messiest places in existence. High school is one of those places that are stained with nasty relationships, embarrassing stories, and enough anxiety that would make the calmest person need to go to intense therapy.
As a professional high schooler, I was the ideal person to review this show. I’m going to be honest, I have a little bit of a bias. I feel attached to Devi, as she was the first South Indian main character I had ever seen. When Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) spoke Tamil, I was reminded of my mom, not to mention I was the exact demographic the show is going for. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have gripes or things I wish were better.
Never Have I Ever Season 3 centers around Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a junior at Sherman Oaks High School in Southern California, and her new relationship with perpetual dreamboat Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnett). However, she realizes that her shiny new boyfriend does not fix all of the problems in her complicated life. Meanwhile, Devi’s cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) is fresh off of running away from her boyfriend who she thinks was ready to propose and is now interested in a relationship with Mr. Kulkarni, Devi’s teacher, much to the chagrin of her pati (Ranjita Chakravarty).
Highschool Is Drama
After the second season of Never Have I Ever, many felt that everything was pretty calm. Devi and Paxton are together and happy. Ben (Jaren Lewison) is with Aneesa (Megan Suri). Everything seems pretty calm. As Devi and Paxton do the mandatory walk-down-the-school-hallway scene, all seems well. But my god, did Mindy Kaling find a way to make the DRAMA. Because as soon as Devi goes to the bathroom, she hears some girls outside the stall saying that the only reason she is dating Paxton is because she is a slut.
“Medha!” you might be saying, “This is completely unrealistic! Teenagers don’t talk about sex this much!”
Kids Can Confuse Sex For Love
Ok, slow down. I’m not going to generalize all teens and say that everyone is obsessed with sex. Frankly, most of us are too busy getting closer with homework than other kids our age. But there is a desire in all kids our age to feel loved and to feel cared for. Let’s put this in the context of the show.
Devi is about two years fresh from losing her dad to a surprise heart attack and spends an entire year in a wheelchair from the sheer shock of the incident. And yet the only thing she seems to care about is whether she has a boyfriend or not. But we forget that Devi was 14 when she lost her dad. She lost an astronomical source of love in a very short time. At the age when dopamine and serotonin are going off like fireworks in her head, no wonder she feels the need to have someone fill it so fast. And this doesn’t apply just to Devi. There are plenty of kids like her who have their own problems to deal with and use romance as a solution. So why are there people slut shaming her? And why not Paxton, who is equally responsible for their relationship?
Stereotypes Can Be Problematic
Let’s talk about Hallmark movies for a second. There are exactly two plots a Hallmark movie follows: the work crazy female lead learns to become more domestic, and then ends up with the male lead, or the timid female lead falls in love with a famous/rich male lead and comes out of her shell before finally getting together with him.
Both of these storylines revolve around a woman fixing herself and becoming ready for love before getting “the man.” Society has made women work for the inconceivable notion of being perfect before she can ever find love. So the fact that a woman can be flawed and still be in a relationship is astounding to these teens who consume this rhetoric day in and day out. And, unfortunately for Devi, teens really like to hate people. And so the pressure cooker continues to grow before it explodes.
A Step In The Right Direction
I watched this at my high school on release day. And as I looked up and down between my screen and my surroundings, I thought that it was pretty accurate. To be fair, Never Have I Ever is like high school times ten. But I think that was intentional. Many issues that I know high schoolers struggle with are buried down because they think they are not important enough. With the power Netflix and other streaming platforms have with the attention they are getting from teenagers, I applaud those who use this platform to reach out to teenagers and let them know that they are not alone.
I’m not going to spoil Never Have I Ever for the people who haven’t watched it. But I highly recommend doing so because this season continues the tradition that its predecessors have never failed at: it makes high school as messy as it should be.