"If you revisit the likes of American Pie, Lizzie McGuire, and My So-Called Life, you’ll remember the black best friend or the Asian neighbor or the Latino love interest who added some color—literally and figuratively—but mattered little to the plot," says Hannah Giorgis. "Often sycophants or bullies, these one-note characters usually existed to teach the protagonist some kind of lesson. A few recent productions, however, seem to imagine what it’d be like if these girls were at the center of the story. Mindy Kaling’s new TV series, Never Have I Ever, and the film The Half of It (both on Netflix), as well as the movie Selah and the Spades (on Amazon), give would-be sidekicks the star treatment. In each, a teenage girl of color navigates the drama of adolescence in a way that feels messy and real. Unlike their predecessors—think of Lane from Gilmore Girls or Angela from Boy Meets World—they don’t have to meet an impossible standard of acceptable behavior, nor are they treated as villains simply for participating in the rituals of high-school life. They don’t earn straight A’s, manage a suite of extracurriculars, or charm everyone around them. They do drugs, start fights, sneak around behind their parents’ backs, and fantasize about their crushes—all without being defined by those antics. That freedom to fumble their way through their teen years is what makes these girls such vibrant and necessary additions to the coming-of-age canon. Perhaps no recent character epitomizes the petulance and mundanity of teenage rebellion better than Never Have I Ever’s Devi Vishwakumar (played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). A first-generation Indian American girl whose story is inspired by Kaling’s own childhood, Devi spends most of the show being a real brat, in part to evade the grief from her father’s recent death. She’s selfish, rude, and obsessed with boys and popularity to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Devi’s best friends, the robotics nerd Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez) and the fledgling thespian Eleanor Wong (Ramona Young), consistently express frustration with her behavior—so, too, does Devi’s mother, Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan). The push and pull between their hopes for her and Devi’s more shallow exploits is a relatable struggle, one that can plague young people regardless of their background."