Reviews

Do You Love or Hate Zooey Deschanel? 'New Girl: The Complete First Season'

Being focused on Jess, the whole show takes on a seemingly passive-aggressive defiant position by saying: This is who I am, take me or leave me.


New Girl: The Complete First Season

Distributor: Fox
Cast: Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris
Release date: 2012-10-02
Amazon

Zooey Deschanel is an acquired taste. From her status as the reigning Queen of Twee due to her stints in the indie band She and Him, to her scene-stealing parts in horrendous movies (Failure to Launch anyone?), people either love her or truly despise her. Those who love her envy the character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer, and wish Zooey would kick their proverbial asses in love. Those against her think she’s responsible for the deifying of the Etsy/DIY culture and blame her for making hipsters become mainstream. Yet even those who dislike her, can’t help but fall, at least once, for those big blue eyes, the batting of the eyelashes and the bows and bright colors that make Zooey who she is.

In fact, there’s an episode of New Girl dedicated precisely to these mixed feelings. In episode 11, “Jess and Julia”, a cynical lawyer played by Lizzie Caplan tries to get Jess (Deschanel) out of paying for a traffic ticket but ends up wanting to punch her for going through life by knitting and playing cute, because this is not how grown ups live... However by the end of the episode she’s been slightly won over by Jess’ behavior because, well, there’s only one of them in the equation who’s bitter. This episode pretty much sums up the feeling of watching New Girl for the first time.

The pilot establishes Jessica Day is exactly who we imagine Zooey Deschanel to be: a lovely woman, with more quirks than there are stars in the sky, the kind who comes up with theme songs to describe her current emotional state. We first meet Jess after she breaks up with her boyfriend and arrives at the apartment of three single men who reluctantly take her in as their new roommate. The guys, of course, have distinctive personalities that will clash/compliment with Jess’ own behavior. Nick (Jake Johnson) is a law school dropout who works as a bartender and spends the day obsessing about his ex-girlfriend, Schmidt is an office clerk in love with himself and Winston (Lamorne Morris) is a former basketball player returning to the States after a stint in Eastern Europe.

The show quickly establishes itself as a regular post-Friends sitcom in which a group of 30-somethingsgrow up together, give each other advice and conjure weird sexual tension (the main apartment in the show has one bathroom where all characters interact together at some point). What makes New Girl different -- and something that arguably takes a lot of episodes to realize -- is that it lacks any kind of cynicism. Being focused on Jess, the whole show takes on a seemingly passive-aggressive defiant position by saying: this is who I am, take me or leave me.

However, there's nothing truly defiant, or passive-aggressive about the show. Any ill feelings are direct projections of the audience that has trouble believing a character like Jessica Day is real. Strangely enough, there haven’t been many accusations of the show as being misogynistic, when it can be argued that Jess is an idealized woman; a Madon-nerd/whore figure, if you will, who embodies innocence with almost animalistic sexuality (episode 8, for example, explores Jess’ odd sexuality while highlighting Deschanel’s unconventional sex appeal).

What remains true about the show is that in Jess’ somewhat delusional behavior there is a primitive wisdom our society has ignored in favor of over-thinking everything. There's something particularly clever about the way in which Jess embraces the good -- and especially the bad.

Her character’s maturity goes beyond that of her roommates without ever becoming overpowering. We understand that Jessica’s choice to remain “delusional” in a chaotic world might be the biggest revolution to a female TV character’s sexual empowerment since Carrie Bradshaw published her first column in Sex and the City. Jess grows as a human in each episode, and Deschanel portrays her with enough bubbliness and pathos to make us root for her search for happiness.

The show’s title might not make sense at first, because there’s only so far you can go around carrying the adjective “new”; however, it never meant to be just about her being the new roommate. The word “new” suggests that she is a woman reborn every time she wants to be; a creature who constantly adapts and evolves in order to survive.

The three-disc DVD set of the complete first season includes all 24 episodes with three of them featuring commentary from the cast and crew. The set is rounded up by a series of regular featurettes including one about the costumes, the writing and one featuring Lamorne’s audition tapes. Other extras include a gag reel, deleted scenes and extended scenes with never before seen jokes. Overall the set is worthy for any fan of the show.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.