'Never Have I Ever' Complicates Its Asian American Characters. That's The Whole Point

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NPR 17 July, 2021 - 11:04am 75 views

Is Never have I ever season 2 out?

The sophomore season of Netflix's smash hit coming-of-age drama series, Never Have I Ever, is scheduled to premiere on the platform on 15 July, Thursday. FirstpostBefore Never Have I Ever season 2 premieres on Netfl.. a recap of notable developments from first instalment

How many episodes are there in Never have I ever Season 2?

This season, Devi gets to evoke a more confident maturity and Ramakrishnan doesn't hit big milestones but really illustrates the sense of growth over 10 episodes. IndieWire‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 2 Review: Netflix Series Doesn’t Lose an Ounce of Humor

If it's tough being a teen, try being 15-year-old Devi Vishwakumar from the San Fernando Valley. She's still processing the death of her father while trying to climb up the social ladder and get into her dream school (Princeton). But now she has a new frenemy to contend with; not one, but two boyfriends and her mom's trying to move her to India.

But as Devi would say, she's "chill as a slurpee, bro."

The second season of the Netflix series, Never Have I Ever brings back the cringe and chaos as Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), her mom Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) and cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) navigate their own conflicts at work, at school and in their love lives. But this time, the Mindy Kaling-created show assigns more depth to the Indian-American female characters by complicating their storylines — which is exactly the point.

Featuring Asian American women protagonists as ones with layered and multi-dimensional stories is essential to breaking down decades-old stereotypes of Asian women in Hollywood, says Harleen Singh, director of the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University.

"When we talk about racism and stereotypes, it's not just the ability or the freedom to vote and to become doctors and have degrees and do successful things," Singh told NPR, "It's also to just be human beings who have errors, who have wants, who are contradictory. Pardon my French, but to f--- up as much as anybody else."

And it's not just the Vishwakumar family that breaks the mold.

Devi's friend Eleanor Wong (Ramona Young), queen of the drama club, who is Chinese-American, is dealing with the shock of her mom walking out on her to pursue an acting career. She starts dating a fellow actor student who is emotionally manipulative, sparking concern from Eleanor's friends. The school's hottest jock Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), who identifies as half-Japanese, spends most of the season trying to raise his grades, and is struggling with people's perception of his intelligence.

And that, says Melissa Borja at the University of Michigan, is noteworthy.

Asian Americans are the racial group in the United States with the most religious diversity, most languages spoken and widest economic and education gaps.

Borja says this season was "really trying to offer a more complex portrait of Asian America," a step up from the first season.

"I would say that, overall, this whole season felt like a series of after school specials about various issues teens might experience, combined with an intro to an Asian American studies course," she said.

In the last few years alone, we've seen the hit trilogy To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Ali Wong's Always Be My Maybe, Crazy Rich Asians and even Kaling's show The Mindy Project. Shows like NBC's Superstore also feature multidimensional Asian Americans, even as side characters in the series.

Jagannathan, who plays Nalini, points out the important difference between simply being on screen and being seen.

"As minorities, our screen time is increasing," Jagannathan told the Los Angeles Times, "We are featured more and fill more and more roles. [It's] a huge win. But our 'seen time' remains low. ... Character arcs for minorities still feel underdeveloped and stereotypical. As a result, the audience doesn't fully see us. They don't get the three-dimensional version of us, and it's that version that moves the needle. That's the version that can create empathy, understanding and change."

The significance of Never Have I Ever, though, is that it doesn't just bring Asian Americans to the forefront. The show quietly smashes perceived stereotypes by simply allowing its characters to be fully human. And it gives Devi and others the space to be what Asian Americans are often denied on screen: the chance to be in charge of their own narrative, as complicated as they want.

Read full article at NPR

Never Have I Ever Star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan Wonders Whether Devi Is a 'Redeemable Character'

PEOPLE 17 July, 2021 - 12:00am

Ahead of the Netflix show's season 2 premiere on Thursday, Ramakrishnan spoke to PEOPLE about the new episodes, and whether she agrees with Devi's approach to decision-making. This season, Devi finds herself entangled in a love triangle after struggling to choose between popular jock Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) and her former nemesis, Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison).

"There are definitely times where I truly worry if Devi is a redeemable character," said Ramakrishnan, 19. "Somehow, she's still liked by people. And I'm like, okay, she definitely has made her mistakes. I don't think she should have dated two guys at once. That was a bad idea, as much as it is nice to see the brown girl play two white boys for once. In retrospect, not the best, but that's my silver lining."

The Canadian actress continued, "For me, when I play [Devi] and do the scenes where I have to do these crazy things that I don't think are the right thing to do but I have to make it convincing, I focus on why Devi's doing them, where is she coming from, where's her head at? Like, what is she thinking about and why does she think this is the right [decision]?"

And while Devi "still messes things up," and is a bit of "a hot mess," Ramakrishnan believes the high school teen is slowly growing up. "I will say, despite her constantly 'Devi-ing things up,' she's maturing a little bit," she said.

Never Have I Ever, created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, premiered on Netflix in April 2020. Inspired by Kaling's real-life childhood, the series follows Indian American teenager Devi as she navigates the ups and downs of high school life.

Ramakrishnan "definitely" felt pressure heading into season 2 after the success of the first season (it was watched by 40 million households within its first 28 days on the streaming service). "I don't want to let anyone down. I don't want anyone to be like, 'Oh, that was lame. I guess the show was a bust.' I don't want that season 2 slump," she recalled. "I talked to Mindy and Lang about it and, you know, they calmed me down. They also reminded me that they would tell me if I sucked, but they also constantly push me to get the best possible product every single time."

"I trust them as much as I trust the rest of the crew, all of the departments, and as much as trust the rest of my cast," she continued. "So, as soon as I actually was real with myself and laid it out, laid out the facts, I was honestly having a fun time and there was no pressure."

According to the actress, in the new season, "all of the characters are actually just diving in deeper, rather than hopping into something new." As for Devi, Ramakrishnan said, her grief following her father's death in season 1 "isn't just like, 'Okay, done with. Gone.' It's, 'Okay, you started this. Let's dive deeper.'"

Season 2 of Never Have I Ever is streaming on Netflix.

Never Have I Ever Season 2 Review – But Why Tho? A Geek Community

But Why Tho? A Geek Community 16 July, 2021 - 02:32pm

Mindy Kaling’s dramedy Never Have I Ever has returned for its second season. Our ever-so-messy protagonist Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) now finds herself in a pickle of a love triangle, between Benn (Jaren Lewison) and Paxton (Darren Barnett), while dealing with school and navigating family dynamics at home with her mother, Dr. Nalini Vishwakumar (Poorna Jagannathan), her cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani), and her grandmother Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty). Meanwhile, at school, she has to help her friends Faviola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Young) deal with their own relationship issues while helping new students and fellow Indian-American Aneesa (Megan Suri) adjust to Sherman Oaks.

Never Have I Ever Season 2 does well when it’s focused on Devi’s personal and mental health struggles, and balances out her messiness and heart. Particularly in the second half. Unfortunately, the first half of the season is often unfocused, attempting to introduce and resolve various plot points, and you’re not sure exactly what the main underlying point is. But the show still shines, including in the first half, when it keeps the focus on Devi’s reflection and growth. Ramakrishnan continues to shine in the role as Devi and all the ranges of her personality. She’s an imperfect character who continues to struggle with the lack of her beloved father Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy), who passed away before the series started, and balancing out her relationships. The show tries to tackle a lot, and it succeeds when it hones in on the quieter, more nuanced moments for our main protagonist and her supporting cast.

On that note, Aneesa is a delightful and welcome addition. She is another Indian-American student, and also a Muslim one, giving some great and oft-unseen representation for American Muslim teenagers. And behold! Her story is not solely connected to her religion! The first season had a plot point referring to Islamophobia in some South Asian circles, and unfortunately did not handle it well, and ended up being Islamophobic in execution. But Aneesa seems to be a course correction for the show on this front, making her a fully realized and not one-note character, whose experiences shown can be a great representation of Desi Muslims. Her experiences are subtly informed by her identity, but not defined by it, making her a great addition. Suri has fantastic chemistry with the whole cast, and I very much hope she comes back for Season 3 to expand upon Aneesa’s story.

Faviola also has a great story this season. Having come out as queer last season, she now struggles to fit in within the prominent queer group at school and their particular interests, especially as contrasted against her nerdier ones. It’s a great and nuanced portrayal of queer representation that is starting to break more into the mainstream. Eleanor also has her own struggle to deal with in the latter half of the season, which Young plays with her trademark quirky charm, with her friends there to continually support her.

Jagannathan also has great material to work with this season as Nalini, including in her visit to India, and makes the final decision on whether or not to move back, especially after speaking with her mother-in-law Nirmala. But that decision is made early in the season and without the input of Devi, and the show suffers for it. To not have her viewpoint fully considered, even when things still work out for her, in such a monumental decision felt cheap, and a letdown from the mother-daughter breakthrough at the end of the first season. But Nalini still has good and meaningful moments with Devi this season, even when their relationship isn’t necessarily the lynchpin as it was in the first. She also has a potential romance with a  certain doctor in her practice (Common) that makes for some potential and hilarious awkwardness at home.

Even though the storylines in Never Have I Ever Season 2 have a baseline “good”, with some meaningful discussions and showcasing of difficult topics, it’s undercut by periods of subpar writing. Particularly, the writers have to rely less on pop culture references. Often times it feels like they’ve taken the trending tweets of the day and input them into the show’s dialogue, which becomes clunky, awkward, and inauthentic for these Generation Z characters. Of course, I’m only a millennial (not geriatric though), but even I know the kids aren’t injecting every random celebrity (particularly those from older generations) into these kids’ vernacular. It would likely benefit the writers room to have younger writers, or at least to do more thorough research of how younger generations interact.

And the writing needs to stop being so cyclical. While the characters do make progress in some areas, it feels frustrating to have them deal with the same issues, especially Devi, over and over again. We do understand that some of this is in her personality, but the narrative needs to genuinely push her forward to new things, and that’s where the show works strongest. I believe it does in some aspects, but one aspect that keeps repeating is the love triangle. Even while it makes for some great romantic moments in the season, the repetition of the same issues with these characters is often tiring to watch, especially when watching Ben and Paxton be jerks to her in their own unique ways. But, without giving too much away, Devi does come to value herself before them and before she makes a decision. And that is gratifying to watch.

Overall, Never Have I Ever Season 2 is strongest when it focuses on moving its characters forward, and weakest when it repeats points already made. Devi continues to be a very compelling and messy protagonist that we all want to root for, even when she makes us mad with her trademark bad decisions and mistakes. The supporting cast is great as well, offering many hilarious moments in this high school and family dramedy.  There’s still so much more for this great cast of characters to go, even while I hope their journeys are written with more focus in the future.

Never Have I Ever Season 2 is strongest when it focuses on moving its characters forward, and weakest when it repeats points already made. Devi continues to be a very compelling and messy protagonist that we all want to root for, even when she makes us mad with her trademark bad decisions and mistakes. The supporting cast is great as well, offering many hilarious moments in this high school and family dramedy.  There’s still so much more for this great cast of characters to go, even while I hope their journeys are written with more focus in the future.

Swara is a data analyst and a co-host of Into the Spider-Cast and The Middle Geeks. He’s a big fan of Star Wars, Marvel, and DC. He frequently discusses politics, policy, and environmentalism as well.

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‘Never Have I Ever’ Review: Season 2 Is a Delightful Continuation – Nerds and Beyond

Nerds and Beyond 16 July, 2021 - 11:45am

Similar to season 1, this season focuses on Devi’s quest to find a boyfriend. While she sorts out her feelings for both Ben and Paxton, they don’t consume her quite as much this time around. Viewers see more of a balance between Devi’s romantic pursuits and her friendships. Neither type of relationship is painted as picture-perfect. In fact, they’re rather messy. Devi demonstrates that matters of the heart — romantic or platonic — aren’t always easy. They take work. But beyond that, Devi also begins to learn her worth lies beyond what any boy can give her. This season is just as much about Team Devi as it is Team Ben or Paxton.

Along the same vein, character development across the board shines. Viewers continue to see Devi’s grief manifest. However, it has a more noticeable impact that Dr. Ryan (her therapist) helps her realize. Meanwhile, the softer side of Nalini peeks out. She also dips her toes into the dating scene. While she remains tough on Devi, she also works to understand her a little more. Kamala displays growth primarily through her work, where she is the only woman. Early on she presents herself as someone willing to do the most tedious tasks to gain acceptance. But that only sustains her for so long. Eventually, she, too, realizes her worth and stands up for herself. (And it’s one of the best moments of the season.)

Two characters who really stood out for me, though, are Fabiola and Aneesa. First up is Fabiola. Last season, she explored her sexual identity and eventually came out. (Read our Pride spotlight on her here.) This season, she’s out and dating Eve. Everything goes well for the most part, but she still has a journey ahead of her — and a relatable one at that. Part of what this show does so well is demonstrating that being out isn’t as simple as, well … just being out. Fabiola owns her pride. She also faces doubts about whether she’s lesbian enough for Eve and her friends. Both sides are presented clearly and thoughtfully.

Next is Aneesa, the new girl. Viewers immediately get a sense of Aneesa’s personality. She and Devi form an important bond with one another as Indian girls; they get each other in a way their other friends don’t. Aneesa’s history also reveals how a person can display a specific persona to others to protect themselves.

This season continues to offer the endearing qualities established in season 1. It remains goofy and humorous and entertaining. Alternately, it brings a slightly heavier tone. It’s not afraid to bring just as much emotion (and tears) as it does laughs. New characters such as Nirmala and Dr. Jackson are great additions. Returning characters continue to flourish. (I found myself feeling rather proud of Paxton this season.) The show continues to mature without sacrificing its uniqueness. We can’t wait to see what its future holds.

Never Have I Ever is streaming now on Netflix.

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