Kamala’s lab mates on ’Never Have I Ever’ don’t do justice to nerd culture

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I’ve notes on the illustration in By no means Have I Ever.

Not the South Asian illustration, which I like, and which I’ll largely save for nuanced non-public discussions and never the web. However Season 2’s fixed negging of nerd tradition grew actual outdated, actual fast.

Making enjoyable of nerds just isn’t new, on TV or off. Social stratification predates Netflix, predates John Hughes motion pictures, predates Hollywood itself (most likely). For so long as there was tradition, there have been these designated as cool for the way they appear and act, and people who, properly, aren’t.

And as a lot as Hollywood sings the tune of the underdogs, placing nerds on the middle of tales like Stranger Issues, Booksmart, and Mythic Quest, there are reveals like By no means Have I Ever that handle to contradict themselves. black-ish is a latest and egregious instance that tackles numerous points by way of its characters, however by no means skips a possibility to roast Junior (Marcus Scribner) for liking Sport of Thrones (you recognize, that present tens of millions of individuals watched for eight years). How is it that after a long time of tv we nonetheless have reductive nerd illustration at each flip?

Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), a nerdy queen!

Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), a nerdy queen!
Credit score: ISABELLA B. VOSMIKOVA/NETFLIX

And By no means Have I Ever is a present about nerds. Its primary character Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) needs to go to Princeton and spars academically together with her on-and-off flame Ben (Jaren Lewison). Her greatest mates are robotics whiz Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and theatre geek Eleanor (Ramona Younger). In Season 2, Fabiola particularly falls in with a brand new crowd — the cool queer women at her faculty who assist her sexuality but comfortably choose her cultural blind spots and love of robotics. The arc will get roughly resolved with out addressing the hypocrisy straight.

However one other woeful illustration of nerd tradition actually obtained to me this season: Kamala’s life on the lab. In Season 2, Kamala (Richa Moorjani) begins a lab rotation that finally ends up being a crash course in office sexism. Sadly, this storyline resorts to some archaic and admittedly cringey stereotypes about gender and nerd tradition. Kamala’s lab mates love comics, gaming, and LARPing (Dwell Motion Position Play). Kamala likes none of this stuff as a result of she is conventionally enticing and has a boyfriend — by no means thoughts that she’s a biomedical PhD candidate.

Evan: “You most likely have like a very scorching boyfriend proper? Sorry you need to work with a bunch of gross nerds like us.”
Kamala: “You’re not gross.”
(Setseg burps)

Lab analysis is only one of many male-dominated workplaces, and the crew’s pursuits level largely to male-dominated cultural areas with a historical past of sexism and gatekeeping. But this parallel by no means comes throughout. When Kamala lastly pretends to share their pursuits, her lab mates are delighted to incorporate her socially. She may not share their cultural references for numerous causes — together with rising up in India — however she instinctively scorns the whole lot the fellows do for enjoyable, whether or not or not she’s acquainted. Even laser tag.

I might have cherished to see Kamala really share any of those pursuits as a substitute of simply mendacity about it, maybe by enjoying video video games with Devi or listening to BLACKPINK and discovering that she is like Rosé. She might have loved socializing and nerding out together with her colleagues, which might heighten the stakes of her boss’s relentless informal misogyny.

I am not sure this can be called Loki for legal reasons but I KNOW A LOKI WHEN I SEE ONE

I’m not positive this may be referred to as Loki for authorized causes however I KNOW A LOKI WHEN I SEE ONE
Credit score: display screen shot / netflix

Even the cosplay scene and its potential commentary on oversexualized feminine characters falls flat; Kamala wears what she says is least suggestive outfit she might discover (“attractive Martian flight attendant”), however Evan reveals up for this similar thriller occasion dressed as Loki. Sure, that Loki, the one tens of millions watched on Disney+ this summer time. So Kamala might simply as simply have dressed as Black Widow or Gamora or Loki’s mom Frigga, a literal queen. Or any non-female Marvel character! Destroy gender boundaries in all places you discover them, Kamala!

Because of this, Kamala’s lab mates find yourself unfairly judged for his or her nerdy pursuits. There is a subtext of “How is this man calling the photographs?” not solely as a result of Evan sends Kamala on menial espresso runs however as a result of he loves Dungeons and Dragons. Nerds may be bigots as a lot as anybody, but it surely ties in to energy constructions, cultural toxicity, and the person himself — not the precise nerdy pursuits.

Pay attention, I like By no means Have I Ever dearly. I like its troublesome protagonist, its advanced mother-daughter relationship, and its illustration of a nerdy Indian girl scorching sufficient to be a mannequin however nonetheless obsessive about science. I do know many ladies like this, and I like them too! But when Kamala’s going to work with nerds, she has to acknowledge that in some ways, she’s certainly one of them. And perhaps watch a Marvel film.

By no means Have I Ever is now streaming on Netflix.

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