Never Have I Ever


The new series on Netflix about a young Indian American teen is pretty good. Despite attempts to write about it in a political frame, I don’t see that it’s a political show really. There is also an element of verisimilitude to the show because the non-Indian love interests are of East Asian, Jewish, or mixed East Asian backgrounds. Too often when talking about dating and love outside of one South Asian culture there’s a temptation to assume “American” means Sven and/or the St. Pauli Girl. Southern California, where the show is set, is way more diverse than that, and unlike 90s sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld Never Have I Ever actually seems like it was set in and around suburban SoCal.*

Oh, and I have to observe, that the protagonist is complected like a lot of the Indian Americans I grew up around.

* The protagonist did say “Hella,” which is very NorCal. I have no idea how that got past the writers’ room.

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4 Replies to “Never Have I Ever”

  1. “Too often when talking about dating and love outside of one South Asian culture there’s a temptation to assume “American” means Sven and/or the St. Pauli Girl”

    LOL, it’s ridiculous that sometimes non-Americans (including many South Asians in the homeland not particularly acquainted with US diversity, but not singling them out, many others do too) are the actual ones falling for the blonde, blue-eyed image of “all-American” (to the ridiculous extent that actual Europeans who speak with European accents get seen as labeled as “American” over non-white American visitors in countries like India, I’ve heard that happens in places like China too- hope that’s changing. Maybe people are more aware of African Americans but them and Asian Americans sometimes get pissed off about not being recognized as Americans abroad).

    It’s funny how non-Americans obsess over the blonde “all-American” image when actual Americans of all stripes in this day and age don’t even elevate the blonde beauty standard above others now (look at celebrities, beauty pageants like Miss America etc. where all shades of really diverse East Asian, South Asian, African and darker-complexioned Latin Americans get represented in the US as beautiful in ways their ancestral homelands would shun; yes there’s the ridiculous “where are you really from, you don’t look American” that’s now the holdover of an older quainter, more conformist time when people did swallow up, hook, line and sinker, the limited 50s and 60s media portrayal of telling others what “all-American” means)

    By the way, South Asians are doing not bad now in recent years (although obviously could be much better) for a group that is 1-2% of US population in media and having the bulk of their presence in the US within the last generation or two.

    Compare how long it took other minority groups to get representation in media stateside — it was often at least, or long after one or two generations when their people arrived in the US.
    Jewish Americans became a really big part of assimilated US culture around the 50s, a generation or two after the big turn-of-20th century immigration wave? Similar with the Italian-American generation to see themselves portrayed on TV/movies. African Americans were like 10-20% of the US population for nearly all of US history right, and only started getting non-stereotypical or servant roles in media and TV post 50s and became the face of the US post-60s and 70s (to the point where Gen X and later has long seen African Americans on TV their whole life)? Hispanic Americans kind of gradually also became portrayed in mainstream media stateside in the last two generations.

    East Asian Americans (represented somewhat in US media early on with Anna May Wong, Sessue Hayakawa, when they Asian Americans were <1% of the population early last century etc., not surpassing 1% of the population until the '70s) seemed to wait for their moment of major representation only in this decade, alongside South Asian Americans, even though the E. Asians long had this head-start as the face of what "Asians" are in America (e.g. Japanese-Americans spear-headed the 60s pan- Asian American movement but I feel like.S. Asians have taken the mantle this generation).

    Basically, I feel like South Asian Americans have a shorter "lag time" between when they arrived as relatively "new" members of US society to media represented compared to 20th century Jewish, Italian, East Asian and Hispanic groups on TV/media etc. Some of this is no doubt coming in to a more welcoming, less assimilationist society, no doubt, but still impressive.

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  2. Friends from San Diego told me that “hella” was well established in their hometown over a decade ago. Wouldn’t be surprised if its made inroads with young people in the LA area by now.

    What still marks out Bay Area natives today is using hella as a quantifier, e.g. “there were hella bottles on the ground”.

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  3. I just saw the pilot episode and I think that Devi is absolutely psychotic, but in an adorable way.

    The tropes about Indians (or South Asians) were really obvious though like the cousin getting the biology PhD and the arranged marriage.

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