Too often, the television and film industries offer meager portrayals of many groups of people and systematically leave others out.
‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 2 (Netflix)
Season 2 continues on that stereotype-shattering path.
The show still follows the teenage Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), her mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) and cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani). But the second season gives these characters even more dimension — makes them messier, more human.
Some of Devi’s plot points, for instance, include letting secrets slip, getting jealous and making up rumors. Put another way, as Devi navigates the pressures of her Indian American identity, she’s sometimes a brat.
Giving its characters many layers is precisely what “Never Have I Ever” is about.
‘Rutherford Falls’ (Peacock)
The premise of “Rutherford Falls” — created by Ed Helms, Michael Schur and Sierra Teller Ornelas — is simple. Nathan Rutherford (Helms) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding) are lifelong best friends. But one day they find themselves at odds with each other when their made-up town wants to remove a statue that commemorates Nathan’s ancestor.
The show is about loyalty — not only between friends but also to one’s heritage.
Reagan is Native American, a member of the (fictional) Minishonka Nation, and Nathan’s mission to preserve the statue eventually puts him in conflict with one of the leaders of Reagan’s tribe.
Through this tension — mixed with comedic moments — “Rutherford Falls” explores a range of issues that rarely get any screen time.
In the same article, Schmieding expanded on what “Rutherford Falls” means for greater Native American representation on television.
“This is a really exciting time for us and there’s room, there’s room for it and there’s an audience for it,” the Lakota Sioux actor said. ” ‘Rutherford Falls’ is like a nice little stepping stone into some even more nuanced, more engaging, exciting diverse Native and Indigenous content.”
‘Love, Victor’ Season 2 (Hulu)
For one thing, “Love, Simon” focuses on an affluent White teenager’s struggle to come out to himself and his family. Meanwhile, “Love, Victor” explores these stresses through the experiences of the series’ title character, who’s Latino.
But the show stands out for another reason, too — for how it complicates the coming-out narrative.
When characters come out in film or on television, they tend to be met by one of two responses: effusive support or complete rejection. In the second season of “Love, Victor,” though, viewers are treated to something different, to something in the middle.
Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) isn’t disowned by his mother Isabel (Ana Ortiz) when he tells her that he’s gay, but things between them change; Isabel doesn’t know how to react to her son’s homosexuality. Over the course of Season 2, the two work to return warmth and openness to a relationship that’s grown awkward and distant.
It’s a dynamic that a number of queer viewers can probably identify with.
‘Pose’ Season 3 (FX)
Created by Ryan Murphy, Steven Canals and Brad Falchuk, “Pose” was nothing short of a revelation when it debuted in 2018. With a beloved, critically acclaimed cast that includes Billy Porter as Pray Tell and Mj Rodriguez as Blanca Evangelista, the series charts New York City’s underground ball scene in the 1980s and ’90s.
Part of what makes Season 3 of “Pose” notable is how movingly it pulls into focus the power of queer fellowship in the face of familial rejection.
In Episode 4, Pray Tell, who’s been diagnosed with AIDS-related lymphoma, visits his Bible-thumping family in Pittsburgh. More than anything, the journey is a reckoning — a way for Pray Tell to confront the world that’s long tormented him.
“Sometimes I think I wouldn’t even have this disease if it wasn’t for the church and how y’all treated me,” he says to his mother and aunts when they meet the news of his diagnosis with judgment.
‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ (Warner Bros.)
Shaka King’s Oscar-nominated “Judas and the Black Messiah” offers a moving biographical portrait of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party who in 1969 established the first Rainbow Coalition.
Later that year, Chicago police killed Hampton in a predawn raid.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the movie is the complexity it grants to its characters — and by extension to Black history.
(“Judas” was released by Warner Bros., which is a unit of CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia.)
When the Panthers appear in pop culture at all, they’re usually depicted as championing violence. But “Judas” scotches that narrative. The movie shows the Panthers doing things like holding school lessons for kids and providing breakfast to poor Black families.
In giving its characters nuance and rigor, “Judas” reframes a vital piece of US history for a 21st-century audience.