‘Never Have I Ever’ fun, flawed look at American teen life

Netflix hates fat people 

Promotional art from Netflix

Promotional art from Netflix

Cali Folau and Cali Folau

With most of the world still in quarantine, we all have absolutely no choice but to watch every show and movie possible on Netflix.  Lately, a show that is particularly getting a lot of attention is the new Netflix original “Never Have I Ever.” It is currently at the sixth slot for the U.S. Top 10 things to watch on Netflix. I’ve been seeing so many people talk about this show all over social media because it brings light to such a unique story.

It is not often that we get to hear about the life of a young Indian American girl or really the life of any first generation American set today. Often we hear this kind of story told by millennials, but this show features a high school sophomore in 2020. It’s made complete with pop culture references from the last ten years including shows like “Big Little Lies” and Mayor Pete from Indiana. 

This show is full of representation and true-to-life story lines. I love how it’s breaking down stereotypes around Indian culture. One of the key story lines for the character Kamala debunks a lot of misconceptions around arranged marriage in the modern world. 

Additionally, I love that “Never Have I Ever” features a high schooler grieving the loss of a parent. I myself lost one of my parents as a high school student, and it’s an extreme challenge. It is also refreshing to see that our main character, Devi,  regularly goes to a therapist. All of these normal parts of life are often not highlighted enough in traditional media. 

However, what nobody seems to be talking about is the blatant, and truly disheartening, fat shaming featured in this show. Only one overweight character appears in the show, and he just so happens to be the character with absolutely no backstory; he’s solely there for comedic relief. This could be overlooked if the character (Eric) wasn’t made fun of for eating. During one scene, we see Devi hiding behind Eric, as she doesn’t want to be seen by her crush, and Eric falls on the ground and drops his Raisinette candies and makes a comment about that being the only fruit he’s eating today. 

We also see Devi and her two best friends attend a bake sale with their moms on the PTA, and at the end of the bake sale, Eric comes in and asks if he can have the extra treats for free. When he does this, he is met with annoyance by the character Fabiola. We only get to see this character sick, generally unwell, or being made fun of for wanting food. This type of content does nothing but fuel the eating disorders of young kids and make bullying overweight people seem okay. 

Another thing to note is that all of the characters in this show, even side characters, have unique styles with individual color palettes and interesting outfits while Eric has nothing but sweatpants and big t-shirts. 

Initially, when I saw Eric go to the bake sale, I thought we were going to find out that he was actually in a tough spot at home and needed help getting food, but we get nothing of that nature. We barely even learn his name! 

As someone who is fat and unashamed, I was extremely offended by this and honestly confused  because of the content that Netflix makes. There are Netflix Originals like “Atypical” breaking down stereotypes around autism and movies like “Dumplin’” that feature a plus-size girl in a beauty pageant. This production company has tried to tell the stories that don’t normally get to be represented by traditional media, and this oversight of an overweight person being the butt of a joke just seems outdated. All of Eric’s scenes feel like the audience is meant to take part in laughing at him and become bullies from our couches. 

I wish the creators of the show, Lang Fisher and Mindy Kaling, would’ve had enough thought to reconsider putting in hurtful scenes like these and the effects they could have on viewers.