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February 2, 2017

New Girl and Feminism
by Simi - 0

When hearing about a TV sitcom titled New Girl, one would anticipate a display of humorous female-centric roles. After all, the word “Girl” is in the title, and therefore it would be expected that the strongest story arcs and humor would come from the “Girl” herself. The main character Jess (Zooey Deschanel) is best described as “adorkable” because she is dorky and weird, but cute at the same time. This comes from the idea that women are expected to be funny, yet beautiful while doing it. But, being constantly picture perfect is the exact opposite of what comedy is all about. The purpose of humor is to unveil the mask that we put on for society. This concept is easily seen when you look at Jess’s male counterparts who are able to be hilarious while not letting “cuteness” get in the way of their comedy. They are able to put themselves in visually weird positions and get ugly. For the show’s male characters humor is derived from making themselves as vulnerable on screen as possible. It’s time for women to break gender norms and allow themselves to look ridiculous.

We’ve seen it successfully done by plenty of female comedians before from Ilana Glazer on Broad City, to Amy Poehler on Parks and Recreation, or Kristen Wiig on SNL. Humor is about letting go and this can’t be done if the women on New Girl are constantly stuck in the mindset that they need to look perfect at all times. Zooey Deschanel has always had the image of being the “quirky girl” who falls down staircases and trips because she’s “So clumsy that it’s adorable!” If this is supposed to be her only “negative” trait, then it becomes impossible for viewers to relate to her, thus making her less funny by default. We tend as audience members to laugh at what we can find relatable and there is nothing relatable about a seemingly perfect person because seemingly perfect people simply don’t exist. Winston (Lamorne Morris) on the other hand, is always getting laughs because even though on the outside he seems like a tough, put together masculine man who is an ex-basketball champion, he is always shown obsessing over his cat, drinking girly martinis with a swirly straw at the bar, or blasting Defying Gravity in his car when he thinks no one is listening. With the character Schmidt (Max Greenfield), although on the outside he presents himself as a total womanizer who rarely wears a shirt and has a different woman in his bed every night, he is also considered by his roommates to be the “mom” of the friends group due to his stereotypically feminine lifestyle choices. He is always doing the laundry for his roommates or motivating them to dress nicely and clean up after themselves. He is also one to throw out Yiddish slang whenever he feels a particular emotion, a language that one would not usually associate with the “f*** boy” character. These juxtapositions in character are precisely what make them so funny.     

Jess, on the other hand, seems to be more of a blank canvas when it comes to character development. Yes, she is always spotted wearing false eyelashes, what seems like five pounds of extensions, dorky glasses, and vintage dresses. Yes, she takes her anger out by knitting a bunch of pink scarves for her friends. Yes, she loves puppies and rainbows and glitter. But what about these traits make her unique or relatable? Where is her juxtaposition in character? Why don’t we get to see a side of her that is the complete opposite of what we’re supposed to expect from her outward appearance, like the rest of the characters? If she secretly went hunting in the woods or took up Knife Throwing classes once a week, we would get a good laugh out of it because it would be so unexpected. Unfortunately, for now, we are stuck with a character who seems to be so one dimensional that we as viewers quickly lose interest.

It is worthwhile to note that the writer for New Girl, Elizabeth Meriwether is in fact, female. If she is able to write all of this hilarious material for the male characters, then why can't she hand over some of the most laugh-out-loud lines to the women on the show? By Meriwether making the female characters more slapstick and less perfect, she would not be taking anything away from the already humorous male characters, she would only be adding to the comedy gold for the New Girl ensemble as a whole.


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