815 Words on New Girl

Zooey-Deschanel-Jake-M.-Johnson-and-Max-Greenfield-in-NEW-GIRL-Episode-1.03-Wedding

I am the worst kind. I am the person who didn’t even watch the pilot of this show because I had a preordained idea of what Zooey Deschanel had come to represent, in terms of star image, and assumed that the show would be an extension of that image — with a few well-chosen male friends to extend and extrapolate upon it.  I am especially the worst kind, given the ease with which I ascribed to arguments concerning Deschanel’s overarching suckiness, for lack of a more academic term.  She was too wide-eyed, she was singing in those insufferable Cotton commercials, she was twee.  She was a more modest Katy Perry.  She was what was wrong with feminism.  I hated her.

But I totally didn’t.  I’ve loved Deschanel since she played her records for her kid brother in Almost Famous.  I especially loved her in All the Real Girls, which offers a totally different side of the Deschanel image, Danny McBride before he was Danny McBride, Paul Schneider being so weirdly attractive, and enough stunning vistas to make you move to North Carolina this very minute.  It’s a quiet film, but it gets its hooks on you — the kind of film you still think about years later. 

But then there was Elf and 500 Days of Summer and the duets with M.Ward — I mean, I can’t lie, they appeal to me the way that Anthropologie appeals to me, the way that every dress she ever wears appeals to me.  But I also try and disavow the things that too obviously appeal to me.  I often fail.  I own many Anthropologie dresses, even if I do buy them on sale.  So when Zooey Deschanel told Glamour that…

“I’m just being myself. There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f–king feminist and wear a f–king Peter Pan collar. So f–king what?”

…I posted it to the blog’s Facebook page. I admitted that I had judged Deschanel. I admitted I was wrong.  And then everyone kept talking about how great New Girl was, etc. etc. so funny go watch it etc.

So fine. I did. I started with S02, as suggested.  And it is legitimately, consistently, hilarious.  I love it.  I love all of it.  Don’t get me wrong: I get why people dislike her.  And what made me love the show wasn’t necessarily a recuperation of the much-loathed Deschanel image.  She’s still wearing cute dresses.  Her eyes are still wide.  But the show is about her in the same way that Seinfeld is about Jerry: it’s mostly about friendship, situational humor, and the specifics of being a certain age in a certain time….as a certain demographic, which is to say middle-class, educated, urban people.

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So here’s what I’ll stand by about New Girl: it’s not all about Zooey.  The guy who played Officer Leo D’Amato in Veronica Mars is really, really funny.  I kinda want to date the law school drop out turned bartender.  The way it deals with race and gender is compelling and generative; I want to show every episode to my class and have them start a conversation about it, and not in a “ack look at how gross this is” sorta way.  I laugh — really hard, like embarrass myself at the gym hard — all the time.  It surprises me.  You should probably start in S02, although I’ve heard great things about some of the episodes in S01.  And if you’re in your late-20s/early-30s, educated, lived in an urban setting — either with a group of friends or hung out with a close-knit group of friends — it will probably make you nostalgic, or speak to your experience, or both.   For me, it reminds me of the years when I lived with my girlfriends and had a close group of guy friends and we spent all of our time together — this was before engagements or babies — and were all way too wrapped up in each other’s business, and made fun of each other all the time, did weird projects, went silly places, accidentally got drunk on Tuesday nights, and were just generally, totally cheesily supportive of  one another.

I realize that we could all do that because we were gainfully employed and able to pay our rent and had health insurance and were not crushed by student loan payments.  I also realize that privileged people born between the years of 1975 and 1985 are not at a loss for programming that speaks to their desires and needs.  But this is one of the most consistently amusing, compelling, and surprising I’ve found.  If you feel like it will speak to you, give it a try.  Or don’t, and tell me what programs do speak to you, and I’ll try them too.  As clearly evidenced above, I love to be proven wrong.

9 Responses to “815 Words on New Girl

  1. Megano! says:

    YESSSSS! It is seriously the greatest show. And sometimes I feel really bad for Deschanel for having this image thrust on her that is not at all who she is.
    Also in defense of people with big eyes — sometimes peoples eyes are just legitimately huge! I am also a girl with like, anime-ish eyes, IT’S NOT OUR FAULT.

  2. Sam says:

    I love Zooey and her brand of ultra-femme feminism and I’ve come around to “The New Girl.” (If you want to go back to Season 1, start with the Dermott Mulroney episodes). That and “Happy Endings” make Tuesday nights my favorite. I actually like “Happy Endings” better because it addresses a lot of the same issues AND has Max Blum, one of my favorite characters ever.

  3. @sarahspy says:

    im in the same exact boat — stalled forever on watching New Girl for the same reasons as you, and now i, too, am a total convert.

  4. Sarah says:

    “Paul Schneider being so weirdly attractive”?

    Maybe it’s because All the Real Girls is one first things I saw him in, but I find Paul Schneider attractive *all the time*. Like, I was so sad when he left Parks and Rec, and even though he is a total jerk in Bright Star (and Ben Whishaw is the most adorable), I still was into him.

    Otherwise, I agree wholeheartedly!

  5. laura k says:

    Yes, I too, love this show. It makes me laugh so hard I cry.

  6. mistakeshavebeenmade says:

    I think this show succeeds by bucking the manic pixie dream girl trope. We all end up hating the MPDG, and Deschenel has been cast as one so often that The Guardian called her a “serial MPDG offender“. I’m pretty sure the show creator (Elizabeth Meriweather) and writers were aware of this handicap and are deliberately subverting it. So instead of inspiring everyone to find their inner happiness, Jess kind of flops and fails a lot of the time. Secondly, the other characters are so strongly written and do not need inspiring, and they have their own quirks. Plus Jess’s hyper-femininity is used to deconstruct their bachelor-pad masculinity to really cool results (like finding out that Winston really wants a bathtub). So if anyone gives you the side-eye when you say you watch it, tell them she’s not a manic pixie dream girl in this one.

    Now that you love season 2, go find season 1 somehow! Those were good too. I mean, few things on tv are as great as the absynthe episode (“Cabin”), but they are good. ;-)

  7. Kelsie says:

    I have to say, even though I am an avid watcher of New Girl, that I disagree about Deschanel representing ultra-femme feminism. I think she wants to, but the show continuously makes her look highly incapable. For example, in last week’s episode, she went to the cabin with her new boyfriend, Nick, and Nick’s stripper girlfriend and she proceeded to swing a gun around, pointing it at everyone, and then clumsily manage to shoot a power line. Come on. And that is just one tiny example of how her character is made to look like a silly little girl again and again. The ultra-femme feminist in me doesn’t identify with Deschanel on any level of progressivism. I’ve watched this show for two seasons, hoping it will get better, but every episode, in one way or another, makes me cringe with the way they set Deschanel up to look like an idiot.

    I just wrote about the super-popular New Girl and semi-popular The Mindy Project in comparison to the soon-to-be-canceled Ben and Kate: http://kelsiebaher.tumblr.com/post/41432506777/ben-and-kate-vs-new-girl-the-mindy-project

    Just a different perspective. I love Deschanel in the way that I love Anthropologie dresses too. I also agree with the post above me that Jess’s character does counter the hyper-masculine situation of three guys living together, but I just don’t think the “Look at me! I’m a huge mess!” character is doing much for women. I’ll keep watching New Girl because I genuinely think it can be really good, it just needs some character adjustments.

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