Never Have I Ever… Seen me in a series

Never Have I Ever – Copyright. 3 Arts Entertainment

Netflix released the latest project from co-creators Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, Never Have I Ever, on April 27. The series is a coming-of-age story centered on Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a first-generation Indian American girl growing up in Sherman Oaks, CA. Devi's struggles may appear to be uniquely South Asian American, but as the series progresses, viewers watch Devi, her friends, and her frenemies wrestle with self-confidence, identity, grief, love, parents, and each other. 

Cast and Story

The cast of Never Have I Ever is incredibly diverse. Refreshingly, though, diversity is a matter of fact, not focus. Kaling and Fisher skillfully crafted character depth into Devi and her friends well beyond their visible differences. Though not everyone is first-generation or South Asian, practically everyone has disagreed with their parents no matter what their background. Their cringeworthy moments⁠—and there are many⁠—are reminders of just how awful high school can be. 

The first few minutes of Never Have I Ever start tragically with the sudden death of Devi's father (Sendhil Ramamurthy). There is, of course, more to Devi than just this moment. To write anything more would invite spoilers. Despite this heartbreaking start, the overall tone of the show is one of determination and optimism. The first season's storylines tease,—nay, demand⁠—a second season.

Personal Stake

Even though this story came from Kaling and Fisher, I was wary of the tropes and stereotypical portrayal of South Asians in Western media. The tapestry of South Asia is beautifully diverse on its own accord.  Yet US media, in particular, tended to paint us all the same. Would Mindy portray us accurately? 

My friends and I watched the show via Netflix Party and Google Hangouts, hoping for the best and worrying about the worst. Though we went to high school in what some consider the dark ages, we related to Devi's struggles instantly. We saw ourselves in her. Like her, I was a first-generation South Asian American orchestra dork who served on her high school's Model United Nations team, amongst other things. From the first episode to the last, we laughed, commiserated, and reminisced about ourselves through Devi and her friends. Representation in media matters, and I finally saw myself.