Edward versus Jacob, Stefan versus Damon, Gale versus Peta and even Peter versus John. Since the beginning of teen drama history, love triangles have been the foundation of a successful story arc. Despite how cringey some of these shows and movies are, or how unrealistic they are to an average person’s high school experience, they still make for some good stories, like Netflix’s most recent teen comedy-drama, “Never Have I Ever.”
“Never Have I Ever” was released in late April and created by the phenomenal writer and producer, Mindy Kaling. Although it uses the typical skeleton of a cliché drama, the show incorporates the modern problems of this millennium to make it more relatable. Not to mention the traditional cultural values that will educate you if you’re not Indian, and give you something to relate to on a deeper level if you are.
While dealing with the PTSD of losing her father (so severe that it paralyzed her for three months), trying to maintain her A+ average, trying to get into college and dealing with a tiger mom who constantly picks at her, Devi decides to add more pressure to her life by reinventing herself for the new year.
No matter when you attended high school, there was always this unwritten need to fit in; it’s human nature to want to be accepted and loved. It’s obvious that Devi uses this newfound obsession to avoid dealing with the death of her father.
However, that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about the two love interests that have become overnight teen sensations — Ben and Paxton.
The nerd versus the jock, brain versus brawn, athleticism versus intelligence. Ben Gross, played by Jaren Lewison, and Paxton Hall-Yoshida, played by Darren Barnett, end Season 1 realizing they both desire Devi’s heart; however, interestingly enough, unlike many other shows, neither one of them wanted her in the first place.
Ben is the overachieving, rich Jewish kid who always talks about his accomplishments, has a beautiful, social media-entrenched girlfriend and is Devi’s nemesis. Paxton is the gorgeous, athletic jock who is a year older than Devi (which is always attractive), but he’s not as bright and he’s fully self-absorbed.
By the end of the season, as the characters grow in front of the audience’s eyes, you start to see the depth between both boys. In the sixth episode, labeled “…been the loneliest boy in the world,” viewers learn that Ben is just a lonely guy whose parents neglect him, whose girlfriend only uses him for social media likes and has no friends whatsoever.
On the other hand, there’s Paxton. Although he doesn’t have an episode dedicated to his life, “Never Have I Ever” viewers will enjoy following Paxton’s growth from Episode 1 to the finale. He recognizes his underlying affections for Devi; he honestly was just acting like a typical teenager, technically still a child.
He cares deeply for and is protective of his driven and capable sister with Down syndrome. He has insecurities because everyone around him, including his peers and Devi’s mom, thinks that he’s not smart enough for her.
Team Ben Pros
Although they start with an unbearably rocky beginning as nemeses, they come together by the end. Their relationship develops throughout the season, and their dislikes turn into similarities. He has met Devi’s mother and cousin, and they really like him.
He can rival Devi mentally and always challenge her for greatness — mainly because they come from two cultures that heavily associate academic achievement with success.
Ben proves he truly cares about Devi when he rallies her friends in the last episode — not only to re-unify them, but also to help Devi realize that she needed to be at the beach spreading her father’s ashes with her mom and cousin, so that she can finally start her healing process.
He acknowledged that she was grieving and stepped up as a friend when her best friends needed a break from Devi’s verbal abuse, even when she accused him of telling her secret. Finally, there’s the absolutely magical kiss in his car during the season finale.
Maggie Fremont from Vulture points out that the beauty of Ben and Devi’s relationship is their ability to be vulnerable with each other — although they’re both uptight, they’re both hurting on the inside.
Team Ben Cons
A very big but forgotten con is that Ben technically still has a girlfriend, Shira; despite how shallow she is, it doesn’t negate the fact that he’s in a relationship. If he can cheat once, who’s to say he won’t do it to Devi? After all, their very awkward first kiss was during his birthday party when Shira was in the house.
At the beginning of the season, Ben called Devi and her friends the “UN,” which at first was thought to mean that the group was diverse, but was later revealed to mean “Unf–kable Nerds.”
He boasts to hide his insecurities. Devi just acknowledged the fact that she needed to grieve and is at the beginning of her process. Although Ben is supportive, he may turn out to be the right person at the wrong time.
Team Paxton Pros
He’s got an incredibly hot and sculpted bod with a beautiful face to match, and he’s available. Paxton is very straightforward and doesn’t lie. He’s fiercely overprotective of his sister. Opposites attract, so even though Ben and Devi have many similarities, Paxton and Devi’s differences may strengthen them.
Paxton can show her how to relax and not overthink everything. Devi has been attracted to him since she started high school. And technically, he’s the reason why she got out of her wheelchair after being paralyzed from grief for three months — imagine being that hot!
He doesn’t run from or taunt Devi when she propositions him for sex, even when she couldn’t even go through with it. When he finds out that Devi was using him for popularity in school, he calls her out on it, yet he doesn’t out her secret, so she wouldn’t be ridiculed by her peers. Barnett told Seventeen that what many viewers might not realize is that Devi hurt Paxton when he found out, which broke his trust in her.
Lastly, when Devi fell in the pool at Ben’s birthday party, Paxton not only helped her dry off, but drove her home — which is where they also had a magical kiss. Not to mention, although Devi’s mom completely insulted his intelligence, he still realized that he wanted to be with her at the end of the season.
Team Paxton Cons
Because Paxton’s so laid back, he may not be able to mentally challenge Devi the way she needs to be. Paxton let her do all the work on their group project; meanwhile, he and his friend did almost nothing.
In a typical “judging a book by its cover” situation, Devi’s mom doesn’t like him at all. After he kissed Devi passionately, he ignored her for an unfair amount of time. Granted, Devi’s mom chewed him out in front of Devi and others, which must’ve been embarrassing for him; however, he knows that Devi likes him, and he was very inconsiderate of her feelings by acting like she didn’t exist. Unfortunately, it takes Devi ignoring him to realize that he wants her in his life.
What’s the Consensus?
At first, I was firmly team Ben, mainly because society usually tries to push this subconscious idea that the female protagonist should fall for the “reformed” bad boy. It’s shoved down our throats that people can change, which I believe, but in many of these stories, the woman has to endure a bunch of hurdles to finally get the guy she deserves. However, with love triangles where the man is at the center, he usually chooses the good, girl next door type, the one that’s been holding it down and having his back the entire story.
Let’s be honest; realistically, bad boys rarely ever change. And even though these shows are purely for entertainment, we can’t deny the power and influence media has over society, especially on young minds.
But when I was debating with my best friend, I argued that Paxton was self-absorbed and a little obnoxious to Devi. On the other hand, Ben was always there for her, especially at the end when it was time for Devi to finally let her father go. My friend responded that Paxton is real. Meaning, he always said what was on his mind, was never fake and never pretended to care.
In a time like this, where you’re either censored to not make people uncomfortable or you’re posing for the admiration of people you don’t even know, it’s kind of refreshing to have a person who is unapologetically real.
Either way, we won’t fully know until next season. Regardless of who Devi chooses, I can faithfully say I (along with thousands of others) will have my popcorn and bottled water ready to binge-watch in a day as soon as Season 2 of “Never Have I Ever” drops.