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The Netflix series, "Never Have I Ever", seems to be a blend of a lot of different genres.

For example:

  • Devi's story feels like coming of age is the closest but it's not told through flashbacks and it's only dealing with the present day.
  • Nalini's story feels closest to a drama but it's not action-packed, more a well-played mental and emotional struggle.

Similar examples for the rest of the characters surrounding Devi.

Is there a single genre that describes a show like this?

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    Why does everything have to have a 'genre'? The smaller the pigeon-hole the fewer pigeons fit in it, making it harder to search. What's wrong with it being an "American coming-of-age comedy-drama television series", broad as it gets.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 11:45
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    Why does drama have to be "action-packed"?
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 15:02
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    I think it is useful and often entertaining to understand a work through the lens of genre. Folks who don't care about genre or think it's nonsensical ought to stop showering grief on people who do: if you aren't into genre, move on.
    – Tom
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 17:57
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    @Tetsujin Genre is useful when you are looking for flavors/tones and/or presentations of certain tropes. Is it the only reason I would check something out? Of course not, but I am also a viewer who has come to have a wide range of tastes, but that doesn't mean that certain kinds of things won't stick out or appeal to me more...Classification in all aspects of life can be helpful in sorting. It's only a restriction of you let it, otherwise it's just a guide. Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 19:33
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    However, The Q is not about if genre matters, the Q is about what genre(s) a certain TV series is and we must decide if that is on topic or can be reasonably answered?? Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 19:35

1 Answer 1

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Frame challenge: a work does not have to belong to a single genre

I haven't seen Never Have I Ever, and don't intend to, which means I'm not going to be able to give you a direct answer. But your question seems to imply some misconceptions that I can say something about, which you might find helpful.

You seem worried that NHIE appears to have commonalities with multiple genres. This implies that you believe that each movie must belong to exactly one genre. This is not true.


First and most importantly, art is an ever-evolving thing. As we enter the 21st century, it has become increasingly common to see works that borrow from many genres.

I think this is a natural development, as the community of creators has absolutely exploded over the past few decades. We see more experimentation and variety because improving technology has democratized movie making. (Reinforcing Sturgeon's Law.)

And why not? There are no Genre Police to arrest authors who dare to put chocolate in their peanut butter. Indeed, if anybody ever did decree that no movie ever dip into multiple genres, authors would immediately respond by doing precisely that. The history of art is filled with instances of critics or censors trying to articulate or impose limits on it, only to see those limits directly and profoundly rejected in the form of new artworks that flagrantly violate those limits. This is one of the factors that has confounded philosophical attempts to define the category "art." It has been said that all art is a reaction to pre-existing art; plenty of art is also a reaction to imposed limits.


Second, another way artists can reject limits is to explicitly defy genre.

This means more than merely refusing to tell people what genre your work belongs to -- after all, you cannot stop the community from attempting to categorize your work, and we don't have to accept the artist's pronouncement anyway (which reminds me of Jörg's comment about music genres). In fact, I think it's often best to ignore the artist's declaration about genre, and to let the work speak for itself. (This is especially true when genre is declared in a marketplace, because of Goodhart's Law.)

What is genre, anyway, in order to defy it? To gloss it crudely, a genre is just a collection of storytelling patterns, themes, and tropes that often appear together in works. So, how many of a genre's elements does a work need to have in order to "belong" to that genre? Could you have a Western where nobody has guns? Could you have sci-fi that's set in the ancient past? Could you have a police procedural without any police officers?

Usually, the answer is "yes," because most genres consist of multiple elements, and so a work can still overwhelmingly feel like a member of that genre even if it happens to omit any one element (even if the one it omits is the most prominent one).

So, I assume that defying genre consists mostly of avoiding the hallmarks of the genres that your work is naturally closest to. (Subverting a hallmark can have the reverse effect of making you fit better. You have to stay off the spectrum rather than picking the opposite extreme.)


So it's really not a problem if Never Have I Ever seems to fit several genres, or even no genre.

That said, I will note that a coming-of-age story is a natural fit for drama. (And to echo OrangeDog, "drama" is sort of the opposite of "action." Dramas are usually heavy on dialogue and very light on physical combat. So part of the inconsistency that troubles you seems to be just a simple misunderstanding.)

But even then, there's no problem. Authors are always looking for ways to make an old story seem fresh, and one way to do that is to send it into strange territory. Authors are incentivized to try novel combinations, because audiences like novelty almost as much as they like more of the exact same thing.

Indeed, since most every movie is a commercial product as well as an artwork, the authors' explicit goal is often to give the audience their favorite thing but with a veneer of novelty. More of the same, different, but not too different. This is what drives the use of the term "risk" when people discuss the decisions made about big movies: the "risk" is that your desire to add novelty has led you so far away from what the audience already knows it likes that they will no longer recognize it as more of their favorite thing, and will react negatively because their expectations were not fulfilled.


I can't tell you what genre(s) Never Have I Ever fits, but I can tell you that any movie may belong to zero, one, or several genres.

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  • …and there we have the very basis of semantic search ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 7:55

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