Who’s That Girl? Who’s That Girl? It’s Me!
March 14, 2012
By: Emily Pressnell
New Girl burst onto our screens over a month ago, in a frenzy of fluttering eyelashes, raven locks, and pastel-coloured dresses. We warmed easily to the lovable Jess, who injected copious amounts of (sometimes overbearing) sunshine into our lives, and found ourselves in stitches at the sheer ridiculousness of Schmidt’s antics. Days after watching an episode, we were still humming that unavoidably catch theme tune, waiting for next Friday to come around.
We don’t really know where Zooey Deschanel ends and Jess begins. To be honest, Zooey Deschanel doesn’t either – having read some of her recent interviews, she seems to imply that Jess is just a slightly clumsier version of herself. Nonetheless, female viewers seem drawn to Jess’ character, most likely due to her accessibility, amiability, and sheer kookiness. It’s genuinely uncanny how many girls see themselves in Jess, to the extent where they begin substituting her name for their own when mindlessly singing the theme tune.
I suppose this makes a nice change from the smooth, elegant, and poised female leads that Hollywood usually churns out. Sitcoms from this side of the pond seem to channel that awkward British humour that we’re so fond of, probably as we’re able to relate to the characters. Perhaps this is why New Girl has been such a hit. Its scenes are littered with clumsy and cringey situations that may even be worse than ones we’ve been able to get ourselves into. Jess represents a sort of female everyman, a figure traditionally used in theatre or literature to embody the ordinary individual, one which the audience or reader are supposed to identify with. Hordes of girls will have sat on their sofa and exclaimed “she’s so like me!”
In popular media and culture, have you noticed how despite any personality flaws the female characters may have, they still conform to aesthetic expectations? So, whilst Jess may be extremely awkward and sometimes a little weird, she’s still incredibly pretty. And despite the fact that she doesn’t walk around half-naked all the time, don’t be fooled by those demure little dresses she wears – we still get to see just how tiny her waist is in that starfish-lingerie scene (you’ll know what I’m on about if you’ve seen it!). Frankly, Jess’ friend Cece pretty much overcompensates for anything that Jess hides on the body front. It might not be too much of a stretch to suggest that, sadly, Jess is just another product of Hollywood rather than a refreshingly quirky female lead. Just something to think about…