I know you’re probably thinking that New Girl is such a simple show that it doesn’t really require any thought let alone two posts! But there’s something about this show that continuously makes me question why I like it, and I think that’s a good thing because it suggests that it’s doing something different. I watch Community and Parks and Rec and it’s clear to me why I enjoy them – smart writing and sharp, well developed characters, amongst other things – but New Girl doesn’t really have those qualities, at least not consistently. So what gives? Why do so many people love New Girl?
In my previous post, I argue that it’s because they love Zooey Deschanel. I don’t think that’s wrong. Certainly, the show initially garnered more Zooey fans than not, but now that the show is eight episodes in, it’s likely only those that actually enjoy the show are still tuning in. It has to be more than just Deschanel devotees. Since my last post, I’ve been musing on the idea that Jess is a context-less character – we have no idea why she is who she is – and that this breaks all the rules of good character development. To get an audience to identify with a character said character must have identifiable hopes and dreams and a backstory. Jess has none of these, other than maybe a very short term goal of thawing a turkey or having sex. Yet, people still love her.
Then, I cam across this article: “Who’s That Girl?”. Good article, but I don’t agree with it. In response to this article, here are my newest thoughts on New Girl:
I think Jess’ lack of a background is interesting, and while her character cannot logically be unique since she is devoid of context, I think the success of the show in spite of/because of this is worth commenting on. I agree that New Girl’s popularity is largely predicated on Zooey D. being the star, but I know many people who had never seen her in anything before this (myself included) and love the show.
Now that the show is eight episodes in, I doubt that many have stuck around just for Deschanel, which suggests there is something inherent in her “adorkablness” that speaks to viewers. In fact, I like that her character has no background to explain why she is who she is. It violates the main rules of character development, yet people still love her. Weirdness for weirdness sake and character erosion to the point of caricature jives with today’s audiences who have grown used to shows whose content is narratively shallow – meta conversations about other pop culture topics or self-reflexive references – and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Jess’ lack of uniqueness is the most unique thing about the show, although I don’t think they really realize it. They should capitalize on it, besides the references in the theme song.
I too am hoping for a different Jess, but not necessarily one with more ambition or more desire, but rather one that plays confidently and intelligently with her role as a “logo girl”.