Why Commitment? Hannah Horvath vs. Jess Day (Part 2 of 3)


300.newgirl.lc.080511Meanwhile, over on Fox, Jess Day shares her uniquely millennial experience: living with roommates. Following a failed relationship, she transplants her Portlandia replication into an LA apartment with three guys: Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. The New Girl Jess rather hopelessly stumbles in and out of relationships with fancy people and slightly patronizing doctors during the first couple of seasons. Jess seems to regress to a younger, more naive self throughout these relationships, epitomized by Sam (the slightly patronizing doctor) offering her a lollipop before their breakup.

Jess has an endearingly awkward relationship with Nick. She pretends to be his date to a wedding that Nick fears an ex-girlfriend will show up, a night capped by a stunning rendition of the chicken dance (done to a Phil Collins song, no less). He protects Jess from a creepy landlord (and her own painful inability to say no.) He yells his way through his miserable existence until realizing Jess can liven him up a bit. She accepts his comfort following her breakup with Sam, only to punch him in the nose as payback for being (inadvertently) smacked while in a haunted house.

And then they kiss, begin to label subtle things (ironing clothes, for example) as sexually attractive, and toward the end of season two, have sex. The episode following their first night of sex actually provides excellent commentary on the beginning of relationships, between Jess telling off her dad, who does everything short of attacking Nick, and announcing to her middle-school students, “Life’s messy. It…kicks you in the ass. Yeah, I said ass. But it does, it kicks you in the ass. And messy parts are the best parts.”

The beginning of season three actually threatens to delve into the sexual awakening trap, that having sex completely transforms and improves faulty characteristics. For example, Jess quickly morphs out of her generally carefree self and rips into Nick for blowing his father’s money and “having” to pay bills. As one critic writes, “As it is, they act like they’re having sex almost hourly, but we have a difficult time believing that’s happening since the Nick we used to love has totally been neutered by Jess.”

The last few episodes have returned to the series that introduced us to the douchebag jar, indescribable camping adventures, and “Schmidt happens” with the reemergence of Coach, the reminder that Nick and Jess are still strongly insecure, and the bizarrely hilarious Thanksgiving episode. New Girl speaks to the millennial generation because of its humanness and candidness about relationships. Sex is an important part of relationships, but doesn’t encompass them nor define their process of change. The characters in New Girl grow by identifying and owning their insecurities (rather than repressing them), accepting curmudgeonly, arrogant individuals for who they are, and returning to each other in spite of the ridiculous situations they enter.


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