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How American TV Show New Girl Has Broken Sitcom Stereotypes

How American TV Show New Girl Has Broken Sitcom Stereotypes

Fresh from the winter break with a brand new time slot (Tuesday, 8 pm, ET), New Girl continues to rack up the glowing reviews; this is a rare achievement for such a longstanding sitcom. The show is now in its sixth season and shows no signs of slowing down!

A key to the long-lasting popularity of New Girl has been the show’s unwillingness to bow to typical sitcom stereotypes. Whether binging on Netflix or catching rerun blocks on cable, the show’s legion of fans has always appreciated their beloved gang of characters’ refusal to fall prey to the mapped-out rules that seem to govern the characters of most other shows.

Breaking from accepted societal norms in this way has worked to the show’s advantage. Hopefully, other sitcoms will take notice and be more inclined to follow New Girl’s lead by going against the grain. 

Redefining Masculinity

In the hands of lesser writers, New Girl’s basic premise would be a nearly intolerable parade of masculine vs. feminine clichés. We have Jess, the kooky teacher with the lovably messed-up life, rooming with three males, Nick, Schmidt, and Wilson. And they’re in a massive Los Angeles apartment. I know – like what could go wrong, right?

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Those unfamiliar with the show might most likely envision Jess having to struggle with your run of the mill stereotypical guy behavior.

Pick your poison: uncleanliness, sports marathons on the television, and a steady stream of disgusting male antics. However, in a clever twist, the writer—Elizabeth Meriwether—and the entire cast turn these outdated ideas on their head, subverting stock pitfalls and embracing a more hip, modern outlook that connects with younger viewers.

So, what we have with New Girl is a trio of sensitive, hip urban males who are more inclined to give Jess dating advice than to try to climb into bed with her at the closest opportunity. Hence, instead of the typical “girl living with a bunch of guys” easy punchlines and slapstick gags, the comedy revolves around the day-to-day lives of the four main characters and their banter around the apartment.

In essence, New Girl is a modern character staging where men and women are on equal footing. As such, they can hang out on the same level without the clashing interests or sexual undertones that may have been incorporated into a “girl tossed in with a bunch of guys” show just ten years, or even five years, previous.

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Portraying Race on Prime Time

Although the show got off to a bit of a rocky start on the race angle, suffering much criticism for switching out Damon Wayans Jr. with Lamorne Morris’s Winston as the “token” black roommate early on. However, the show quickly rebounded and began portraying race in ways that knocked the doors off your standard sitcom narrative.

First, there was the notorious, and hilarious, episode where Schmidt takes Winston’s joke about smoking ‘crack’ seriously and ventures into the projects to score some. The misunderstanding sets up a series of hijinks which include mistaking a kind stranger offering directions for a robber, a wallet for a gun, and a turn-of-the-tables accusation on Schmidt himself.

Granted, it was risky territory to venture into, and Schmidt’s scolding of his wayward character was done with a tongue-in-cheek élan that stood in direct contrast to the politically correct dogma that could have easily been written for the situation in most other modern sitcoms. Nonetheless, they managed to pull it off.

As a matter of fact, Winston manages to buck racial stereotypes right from the introduction of his character. Here is a black man who isn’t that good at sports, who wins over a woman’s affection by hanging with her at a girl’s night, and who turns out to be a trustworthy and skilled babysitter. He never cheats on his girlfriends, and loves cats. Think back to the sitcoms you watched as a child, or even to any other sitcom currently running. Has there ever been a less stereotypical black character than Winston?

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The real kicker here is when Wayans came back to the cast. Unlike what shows would have done in the past, i.e. “replace one black guy with another one,” New Girl boldly broke the mold and took on two prominent black characters. This breach of the “only one member of an ethical group allowed per white sitcom” code further pushed New Girl into unchartered territory as far as racial identity is concerned.

A Brave New World

It isn’t often that a cable sitcom comes around and challenges age-old formulas and unwritten rules that most writers and directors would just assume their audiences want.

In fact, shows that cannot fit into any category are often left by the wayside, dying quick one-season deaths, or never even making it beyond the pilot phase. New Girl managed to dodge this fate through strong writing, a likable cast, and an immediate following that has remained loyal to the show for the duration of its run.

Hopefully, other sitcom writers, directors, and producers can take up this charge and step forward with smart, challenging, and non-stereotypical fare for the TV viewing public. As a rapidly changing society fueled by recent leaps in ethnic advances and LGBT awareness, the viewing public no longer needs to the stale, formulaic fare win.

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The message is simple: To win the hearts of today’s viewers, shows must be willing to push the envelope.

Featured photo credit: Caitlyn Wilson via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on June 23, 2019

20 Things People Regret the Most Before They Die

20 Things People Regret the Most Before They Die

Close your eyes and imagine that you’re at your own funeral—a bit morbid I know, but there’s a reason for it. Now think about what you’d like people to say about you. What kind of a life do you want to lead? People die with all kinds of regrets. Don’t be one of them.

1. I wish I’d cared less about what other people think.

It’s only when you realise how little other people are really thinking of you (in a negative sense) that you realise how much time you spent caring and wasting energy worrying about this.

2. I wish I had accomplished more.

You don’t have to have won an Oscar, built up a business or run a marathon, but having small personal accomplishments is important.

3. I wish I had told __ how I truly felt.

Even if the “one” doesn’t exist, telling someone how you truly feel will always save you from that gut wrenching”but what if…” feeling that could linger for life if you stay quiet.

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4. I wish I had stood up for myself more.

Sometimes, it’s too easy to think that if you go all out to please everyone you’ll be liked more or your partner won’t run off with anyone else. I think age probably teaches us to be nice but not at the expense of our own happiness.

5. I wish I had followed my passion in life.

It’s so easy to be seduced by a stable salary, a solid routine and a comfortable life, but at what expense?

6. I wish our last conversation hadn’t been an argument.

Life is short, and you never really know when the last time you speak to someone you love will be. It’s these moments that really stay clear in peoples’ minds.

7. I wish I had let my children grow up to be who they wanted to be.

The realisation that love, compassion and empathy are so much more important than clashes in values or belief systems can hit home hard.

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8. I wish I had lived more in the moment.

Watching children grow up makes you realise how short-lived and precious time really is, and as we age, many of us live less and less in the present.

9. I wish I had worked less.

There’s always a desire to have loosened up a bit more with this one and the realisation that financial success or career accomplishment doesn’t necessarily equal a fulfilled life.

10. I wish I had traveled more.

It can be done at any age, with kids or not but many talk themselves out of it for all kinds of reasons such as lack of money, mortgage, children, etc. When there’s a regret, you know it could have been possible at some stage.

11. I wish I had trusted my gut rather than listening to everyone else.

Making your own decisions and feeling confident in the decisions you make gives us fulfilment and joy from life. Going against your gut only breeds resentment and bitterness.

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12. I wish I’d taken better care of myself.

Premature health problems or ageing always makes you wonder if you’d eaten healthier, exercised more and been less stressed, would you be where you are today?

13. I wish I’d taken more risks.

Everyone has their own idea of what’s risky, but you know when you’re living too much in your comfort zone. In hindsight, some people feel they missed out on a lot of adventure life has to offer.

14. I wish I’d had more time.

Many people say time speeds up as we age. The six weeks of summer holidays we had as kids certainly seemed to last a lifetime. If time speeds up, then it’s even more important to make the most of every moment.

15. I wish I hadn’t worried so much.

If you’ve ever kept a diary and looked back, you’ll probably wonder why you ever got so worked up over X.

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16. I wish I’d appreciated ___ more.

The consequences of taking people for granted are always hard to deal with.

17. I wish I’d spent more time with my family.

Some people get caught up with work, move to other parts of the world, grow old with grudges against family members only to realise their priorities were in the wrong place.

18. I wish I hadn’t taken myself so seriously.

Life is just more fun when you can laugh at yourself.

19. I wish I’d done more for other people.

Doing things for others just makes life more meaningful.

20. I wish I could have felt happier.

The realisation that happiness is a state of mind that you can control sometimes doesn’t occur to people until it’s too late.

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