‘Never Have I Ever’: Why Devi’s Relatability Drives the Show
The Nextflix comedy Never Have I Ever is irresistibly charming. It follows the life of Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), an Indian-American Tamil teen who is navigating friendships, romantic relationships, and school. And it’s hilarious largely because Devi is so relatable.
Devi is a good person, but not perfect
Devi doesn’t always do the right thing. In fact, she frequently makes choices that prioritize her own wishes above those of others. Like when she decides to date both Paxton (Darren Barnet) and Ben (Jaren Lewison) without telling either of them the truth. Or when she responds to Paxton’s text and decides to visit him rather than help her good friend Eleanor (Ramona Young) process the fact that her mother has skipped town unexpectedly.
Devi also gets angry at Aneesa (Megan Suri) for spending time with Ben, even though she never tells Aneesa that Ben is her ex. She then inadvertently spreads a rumor that Aneesa has an eating disorder, which turns out to be true.
If Devi never learned from these missteps, she would be a highly unlikeable character. But she feels terrible every time she hurts someone, and truly begins to grow over the course of the series. And that’s what makes her so relatable. She’s flawed, she messes up, but she does her best to learn from her mistakes.
‘Never Have I Ever’ doesn’t star the popular kids
Devi isn’t necessarily one of the popular kids. She has friends who care about her deeply, but she’s not considered one of the social elite at her school.
Again, this is highly relatable. Devi’s awkwardness and her challenges when it comes to navigating social situations feel true to the experience of high school for many of us. Even those of us who were seen as popular in school likely experienced similar feelings of anxiety at times.
High school is often a stressful time. It’s a point in life when you’re trying to figure out how to be an independent young adult, how to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. And that’s not always a smooth transition. Devi’s geekiness and self-consciousness reflect that reality perfectly.
The series handles grief well
When we first meet Devi, she’s still reeling from the sudden loss of her father a year earlier. She has spent most of that year unable to walk, having lost the use of her legs due to the stress of the grief she’s feeling. It is perhaps medically dubious, but the sentiment it expresses, that grief can permeate our lives in real and unexpected ways, is spot on.
Devi also struggles to talk about her father’s death, even with her therapist. For her, it seems easier not to think about it than to allow herself to really feel it. But when she does feel it, when it hits her unexpectedly, it’s overwhelming.
In the show’s second season, Devi, her mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), and cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) finally spread her father’s ashes in a beautiful moment of catharsis and acceptance. Overall, the show deals with grief in a realistic way that makes Devi’s story feel all the more relatable.
The first two seasons of Never Have I Ever are currently streaming on Netflix. The third season is expected to arrive in 2022.