WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Never Have I Ever, now available on Netflix.
1995’s Clueless remains one of the most talked-about coming of age stories ever. In addition to being a romcom, it had a lot of drama and relatable material for high-school students, perfectly modernizing Jane Austen’s Emma with an LA backdrop.
It dove into everything from straight relationships to gay ones to the themes of friendship and family. Most of all, it touched on classism and the social pyramid among Beverly Hills students, all as three young girls — led by Alicia Silverstone’s Cher — attempted to make their way to the top of the ladder. However, courtesy of Netflix, this generation’s has a new Clueless: Never Have I Ever.
The series follows a Tamil-American teen, Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), as she tries to become queen of the hill at her California high school. And just like Cher, she wants her two besties to rise with her, but in this case, it’s a more diverse picture, as she’s joined by Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez). Both sets of girls want to leave lasting legacies and be considered darlings, but in the case of Cher’s squad, they’re a bit more pompous and superficial.
Devi has shades of Cher in how she approaches her relationships. Early in the series, Devi pursues Jonah, who came out. This resembles Cher’s approach to Christian, who was also gay. Devi also pursues Paxton in a way reminiscent of Cher and Christian. The Netflix series also dives deeper than Clueless into LGBT issues with teens, because Fabiola is also gay. That said, Devi and Cher have similar superficial ambitions and don’t care who they drag with them to achieve their goals. In fact, they ignore what their friends want and need, trying to control everyone’s lives.
While neither girl is like Clueless‘ Dionne (Stacey Dash), they’re both more like Tai (Brittany Murphy), who gets caught up in their leader’s storm as she craves to be the most popular around. These new girls are unhip like Tai, which drives Devi insane, as she selfishly keeps plotting for them to rise up the ladder. What’s interesting is we see even more common threads between both properties, such as neglectful parents leaving Cali kids to their own devices, friendships being tested because not everyone’s on the same page and, ultimately, Devi’s journey, which has a lot in common with Cher. Both realize being selfless and helping people is more rewarding.
Devi’s crew, in time, accept that they’re already queens and don’t need anyone’s approval, which is what Clueless is about. Being awkward and well, clueless, is all part of high school and Devi’s crew embraces it at the end too. To top it off, Devi actually falls for an unlikely partner in Ben, who comes off as a pseudo-brother the same way Josh was to Cher. She learns to forget about the glitz and glam, and look for someone who truly cares, someone of substance.
So with so many similar arcs, characters and themes, it’s hard to not spot the comparison from creators Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher. They’ve got a team with amazing chemistry and as they needle deeper in an era where fans look for more representation, Never Have I Ever actually has more personality. It comes off more grounded and relatable, and way less vanilla, as it updates what Clueless and its subsequent TV series accomplished years ago for angsty, lost teens.
Created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, Never Have I Ever stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Darren Barnet, Ramona Young, Lee Rodriguez, Richa Moorjani, Poorna Jagannathan, Jaren Lewison and John McEnroe. Season 1 is available on Netflix.
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As Season 1 of Netflix's Never Have I Ever runs through so many similar character arcs and stories, it's hard to deny it's this generation's Clueless.