‘Never Have I Ever’ Season Two and the Beauty of Tearing Up the “Immigrant Mom” Trope

When I have never premieres on Netflix Last spring, I wasn’t alone as an Asian-American woman who found a thrillingly relevant premise: A 15-year-old girl pursues the mixed abs god of the swim team in when she identifies herself as the daughter of immigrants, and healthy chaos ensues. Created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, shows that fit Netflix’s diverse rom-com segment (think To all the boys I loved before and Sex education). Kaling I’ve got making an open appeal to Desi girls all over the world for the show, with newcomers Maitreyi Ramakrishnan beat out 15,000 respondents to win the naive but intrepid Devi Vishwakumar lead role.

And despite a strange thing likely plot point and Suspicious age difference, the show is considered a triumph for South Asian representation and is a fun teen comedy with a first-generation twist. According to the tradition of Sixteen Candles’ Sam Baker and dad-favorite Troy Bolton, Devi’s relationship with her parents served as a cross-cutting element for her high school student drama throughout the first season. Between Devi’s dreams and intrigues and her attempts to lose her virginity in the garage of Paxton Hall-Yoshida (god abs), she finds solace in the memories of her late father , Mohan, and happily close to his overbearing mother, Nalini.

And at first sight, Nalini’s archetype, represented by the ingenuity of Poorna Jagannathan, check out all the archetypal immigrant mom-to-be boxes: She forbids Devi from dating; she forces Devi to dress in the traditional style of Ganesh Puja; and she constantly compares Devi to her perfect biologist cousin, Kamala. We get a few scenes that offer insight into Nalini’s grief, but for the most part, as Devi finds herself in increasingly ridiculous situations, Nalini acts as her designated killer. Anyone who’s ever argued about wearing body-hugging dresses with an Asian mom will find the dynamic approachable if not entirely new. (Also, you may know Jagannathan as the mother from Night of and the married elderly woman in Ramy, so it’s already a familiar feeling for her to play a South Asian woman on another show.)

Consider the Asian immigrant mothers we’ve been featured on screen in recent memory: Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu’s single mother exists to warn her about the house rules and send her home when it all falls apart. In Alan Yang‘S Tigertail, Zhenzhen serves as a misfortune card to Pin-Jui’s resilient sense of self-sacrifice, which is central. In Master of No, Aziz AnsariThe literal parents are presented as a single unit. And while Minari gives us a great all around Monica, she still mostly exists as a villain to her husband’s American dream.

These contemporary immigrant narratives are necessary and important in their own right, but it is no coincidence that they are filtered through the lens of the first generation, often millennials. which the authors and their respective presenters have personally experienced. Do they make people like me feel seen? Oh, yes. Do they also have inherent limitations? Also yes, especially when the standardized first-generation perspective sees the mother character as simply part of our origin story at best and our main antagonist at worst.

It wasn’t until the final episodes of season one that Devi’s deepening fascination with romantic passions was put aside to focus on her strained relationship with her mother. Nalini has decided to move the whole family back to India. “I’m really struggling to raise my kids,” she admits, provoking Devi to reminisce about the fierce battle they went through right before Mohan had a heart attack. In one of the most harrowing moments on television I’ve ever seen, Devi whispered and said, “I wish you were the one who died that night.” That’s when the show pulls us out of Devi’s id and into Nalini’s masterpiece. All of those teen hijinks experienced the double weight of pain and guilt that Nalini had to endure. By the time the season ends, we get a recent look at Devi, who, after reconciling with her mother and scattering her father’s ashes in the ocean, immediately finds herself locking lips with Ben Gross. (I affirm, on record, that he is a terrible love the attention from start to finish, but I really love an Asian sister with options.) Nalini once again fades into the background.

Season two, which was released on Netflix last Thursday, opens with this kiss scene, as Nalini witnesses and is interrupted as she angrily bangs on the car window. It seems that, despite the trailer’s promise of a very good, age-appropriate appearance General stare at Nalini, like we’re going to have more than nagging immigrant moms-to-be. Instead, the new installment more wisely divides time between Devi and Nalini’s individual storylines: While Devi plans her first shepherd, we also accompany Nalini on her travels. solo schedule she made in preparation for her return to India. While there, we see her desire to be surrounded by family as she continues to grieve for her husband – it’s only been about a year since Mohan’s death – but we also find that desire complicated. how. It turned out that Nalini’s family was incapable of emotional support, and it was not until visiting her mother-in-law that she was allowed to express her hurt.

“It was a tough year, wasn’t it?” Mohan’s mother said to her as she patted Nalini’s head with both Jagannathan and Ranjita Chakravarty perfectly embodied. This is where the water work started for me, to see Nalini in girl mode, rather than the ever-shrill scream to ruin Devi’s life. This miniaturization is a moment of recognition that we all must experience growing up, but for children of immigrants, it is even more burdensome because it is a part of filial piety that often goes unnoticed. be told: that yes, we should care about our parents because we owe them everything, but also because they are the ones who spend their lives figuring out how to love and be loved.

From there, we’re treated to other nuances of Nalini’s life outside of her identity as the immigrant mother: She’s a successful dermatologist who can also wear a suit. gorgeous jacquard silk; she is a flirty but cautious single woman who sneaks out to date a hot coworker; and most heartbreakingly, she is a widow who is still in grief.

“I miss your dad so much, it hurts physically. I guess I just wanted to get rid of that pain,” she told Devi after Devi caught her on a date and scolded her for forgetting her dad. “Are you the only one around here who can make these rash decisions?” It’s a simple yet perfect scene that not only links Nalini and Devi with a familial predisposition to impulsivity, but also fulfills Nalini’s needs and wants a space that truly exists in their own right. . Life doesn’t just begin when you’re a kid make sure your history teacher doesn’t confuse you with other Asian girl, it also doesn’t stop after you move to the new country and gather your family and overcome the picky barrier.

By following Nalini’s story beyond basic assimilation and exploring her personality through universal themes of parenting, loss, and intergenerational family relationships, we will get a full three-dimensional character who is easily the best part of the show. The Nalini that we see in season two is not just a story of a mother-immigrant origin story keeping Devi back, but a woman still in the middle of her life who is searching and wanting and healing. disease in its own way. When Devi delivers the essential “you’re the best mom ever,” we watch Nalini look away incredulously and we know what this means for her. Not because being a good mother is her only goal, but because it’s the unforgivable act of love she’s been looking for all this time.

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https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/07/never-have-i-ever-season-two-immigrant-mom-trope | ‘Never Have I Ever’ Season Two and the Beauty of Tearing Up the “Immigrant Mom” Trope

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