So, what is Never have I ever about?
Grief, love, friendship, parenting and more.
What I like most about this recent phase of teen-drama and rom-coms that want to be taken seriously, is the fact that they’re not looking down on the viewer.
In this post Dear Evan Hansen world we have: I’m not Okay with this, The end of the F***ing world, To all the boys (but just the first one), and now Never have I ever. All teen comedy-dramas that aren’t afraid to talk about serious topics to its teenage audience.
Never have I ever… death with grief
The most important, and the most serious topic of the series is grief.
Devi, our protagonist, has seen her father die right in front of her of a heart attack. The series takes place a few months after her loss and puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that she is still in denial and unable to process it.
Right off the bat, Devi doesn’t waste time and immediately finds a million ways to waste time in ridiculous plans to get a boyfriend rather than live her life. She drags her best friends into every scheme she comes up with, regardless of what they think about it.
Eleonor: “You know, you sound like a sociopath?”
Devi: “Sociopaths get shit done”
Her single-mindedness is both admirable and pitiful at the same time because the series doesn’t make it a mystery of the fact that she is simply trying to run away from pain.
Devi’s dad, despite being dead from episode 1, makes various appearances throughout the series in flashbacks and/or hallucinations. Whenever something or someone brings back a memory of her dad, Devi relieves it and then tries as hard as she can to forget about it.
And so the cycle begins: Devi is miserable, Devi remembers her dad, Devi comes up with an absurd plan, Devi’s plan goes wrong, Devi is miserable again, repeat.
This aspect of Never have I ever reminds me a lot of another awesome comedy-drama that has a sassy black therapist doing her best to help the protagonist: Crazy ex-girlfriend.
In both series, the “point” is that the protagonists have to learn to confront their demons rather than lust after a guy to get away from them.
Never have I ever… been a bad person
Let’s face it, we’ve all done shitty things in our lives. Making mistakes, hurting others, doing bad things, are a part of human nature. You can’t escape those things… unless you’re the protagonist of a funny and quirky teen-comedy, amiright?
It’s almost frustrating to see so many series and movies aimed at teenagers with protagonists who are either perfect angels who are just victims of misfortune/misunderstanding and get away with the little “bad” they have done (*cough* To all the boys 2 *cough*); or hypocrites who do and say horrible things that in real life wouldn’t be forgiven but in movie world they are ok and maybe even admirable (looking at you Sierra Burgess is a loser).
Never have I ever, fortunately, doesn’t fall into this category. It actually goes the extra mile by giving its protagonist flaws that actually have a serious impact on her life.
Devi doesn’t simply say that she has a temper, she shows it and most importantly, she pays for it.
Her bad behavior is not celebrated but rather framed as harmful to herself and the people she loves.
“Whatever is going on, trust me, my shit is bigger. I HAVE THE BIGGER SHIT!”
When she is being a bad friend to Eleonor and Fabiola, she has to struggle to earn back their friendship.
When she says hurtful things to her mother, we see both of them suffering.
When she betrays Ben’s trust, we get a whole episode that invites us to empathize with the boy rather than blame him for her problems.
In the end, all those mistakes, bad choices, and problems are understandable but not justified.
This makes Devi more human and her journey more real. When she finally finds peace with her traumas at the end, she has actually earned it.
Never have I ever… been woke
The show is filled with a diverse cast, but unlike other “woke” shows, it doesn’t pat itself on the back every 5 minutes for its inclusivity.
It simply shows the reality of a school in 2020, where the majority of the student body is made of white middle-class kids and the occasional token black friend.
Quite the opposite, it makes fun of those who are “woke” just because it’s cool. For example, the history teacher is basically a walking joke. He is constantly trying to be the cool teacher and to bring up delicate subjects but coming across as the “Hello fellow kids” meme.
Other moments of comedic gold come from the clueless adult characters like Ben’s neglectful parents.
“[Talking about a spiritual retreat] That’s not fun, Ben. It’s work ON ME, so that I can be a better mom TO YOU”– Ben’s mother
Never have I ever is constantly satirizing on both bigotry and wokeness, even poking fun at fellow teen-drama Riverdale in a hilarious episode.
“What’s so interesting about this show is that everyone has a different background but they are all hot”– Kamala about Riverdale
Never have I ever… confused lust for love
While there is plenty of material out there that provides fanservice to teenage girls by showing them buff men in their 30s pretending to be teenagers (like Kamala’s favorite murder mystery, Riverdale), this series goes out of its way to show how complicated sexuality can be for teenage girls.
Everyone in high school was having sex and if one of the characters wasn’t, losing their virginity had to be the #1 priority, the greatest obstacle to overcome.
Now, series like Never have I ever and Sex education are sending a different message to their audiences. Sex isn’t taboo but maybe think about it before taking your clothes off.
Devi starts out the pilot episode on a “lust quest” to have sex with the hottest guy in school, but when she has the chance, she chickens out. This gives her (and us viewers) a way into Paxton’s life, making her realize that he is more than the hot jock he appears to be.
Devi’s obsession with finding a hot boyfriend comes from the unspoken peer pressure that makes teenagers act like idiots for the sake of popularity. And trust me she does act like an idiot at times. I mean… in the very first episode, she tries to get a gay guy to go out with her knowing very well about his sexuality.
Like any other teenage girl, she dreams to be swept off her feet by the handsome boy of her dreams who will make her forget all about her troubles. But that’s not how it works, the boy is there, but the troubles aren’t going away.
Basically her already complex relationship with sex is complicated even more by her problems with grief, and the show tells us that it’s better to put feelings and desires before popularity and image.
Is Never have I ever worth watching?
In one word: yes.
While the series has its weaknesses and cringey moments, it’s promising and doesn’t hold back on the humor and heartfelt messages.