Netflix's teen comedy Never Have I Ever dropped its second season on July 15. It brought us back into the world of high schooler Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and the struggles she faces not only as a typical teen trying to navigate boys, friendships, and school, but one doing so as a first-generation Indian American caught between cultures.
This season brought back one of my favorite ongoing jokes from season one—mocking the social-justice warrior ideologue who teaches "rethinking history" class. Mr. Shapiro (Adam Shapiro) is an oblivious white man who tries to make history class all about his progressive ideology, much to the eye-rolling chagrin of his students. When we first see him this year, he's standing in front of a chalkboard that reads "Who can say what words? A dangerous journey through appropriation" and that's just the start.
In this season alone, Mr. Shapiro:
- Tries to invite himself to the Hindu ceremony at which Devi spread a family member's ashes
- Wears a pussy hat along with a t-shirt reading "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention" to a class community service project
- Uses a Peruvian siku panpipe to start a race because, as a pacifist, a starting gun is out of the question
- Wears a "[n]evertheless, she persisted" sweatshirt in class
- Writes "[y]ou have to fight for the right not to have white...privilege" on the board (one would hope a teacher has better grammar than that)
- Is upset to discover that he is not allowed to test students on their feelings about history but, instead must test them on historical knowledge
- "Cancels" himself when he calls another Indian-American student "Devi"
- Offers a Muslim student a prayer mat (he keeps it in his car) should the student want to pray during class
- Gets into an argument with the school board when they insist he gives students a final exam rather than a "final interpretive dance"
Perhaps the best thing about this is that, while the adults in the show take him seriously, the students are completely aware he's ridiculous. When Devi's crush Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) panics and blows a test, they use Mr. Shapiro's social justice ideology against him:
DEVI: Mr. Shapiro! Paxton would like to retake his test.
MR. SHAPIRO: I'm sorry, guys, that wouldn't be fair to the other students.
DEVI: Mr. Shapiro, because you bowed to the establishment Paxton was besieged by a crisis of self-worth. If you don't give him a second chance, you are teaching him that it is not ok for young men to be vulnerable, and are therefore advancing the agenda of toxic masculinity.
MR. SHAPIRO: Oh my God, am I? Thank you for calling me in, Devi. Paxton, stop by at lunch. You can take that test again.
PAXTON: Really? Thanks, Mr. S. I'll be there. Whoa, what was that?
DEVI: First rule of being an honors student, you have to learn to manipulate your teachers.
He isn't the only adult they manipulate with this nonsense. When Devi gets caught sneaking out to pierce her nose, her friend comes up with the explanation that Devi simply wanted to "decolonize her nose" and her mother accepts this without question. The high schoolers are completely aware they hold all of the power because the adults are afraid to question anything or hurt their feelings.
The show isn't perfect, but it's pretty refreshing to see a show take the side of common sense when it comes to one of today's most heated cultural battles.