To Be or Not to Be

Unlike the character Mindy in the TV series The Mindy Project, Jess in the Fox series New Girl is a little harder to view as a successful and independent woman of the 21st century. As an earlier post indicated, Mindy’s apparent issue is finding the right guy. Other than that, Mindy’s a white collar, self-sufficient  young woman who is professional and chic.

In season 2 episode 1 of New Girl Jess is a middle class white female who just lost her job as an elementary school teacher. In some ways she represents a woman of the postfeminist era, but in other ways her character regresses from today’s image of a self-governing, prosperous woman. Jess initially started off with a job, and apart from sharing the rent of the apartment with her three other roommates, who are all male, she seems to have some authority over them. (“Mother of the household” kind of situation). For instance, when Schmidt asks her to scratch an itch he has on his undercarriage first she says no, and later reminds him of a talk they had about how he wasn’t supposed to wear his shower diaper in the kitchen. It gets to the point where Schmidt has to beg her and she finally gives in, but clearly isn’t amused. Her urge to get out and get to her job is a sign that she’s busy, and has a preoccupation that’s important.


Her quirky, colorful style isn’t very revealing, but playful and girly even though she has a job as a teacher. As Tasker and Negra put it, she manages to “maintain a youthful appearance and attitude” in life. She’s a picture perfect young woman of the postfeminist era who enjoys her job and won’t be intimidated by her male roommates.


However, I got the impression that despite her job title (for now), Jess is a little disorganized. For one thing, she’s late to her meeting because she overslept, and scrambles to get together her belongings before she leaves. Interestingly, even though she’s late, she makes time to scratch her roommate’s undercarriage before leaving. Why not just leave right then and there? Then she does lose the job, and expresses her disappointment by putting on a silly hat and self-pitying herself. Nevertheless, when she gets back to the apartment, she maintains herself, and does not want pity from her roommates, which shows at first, she is not an “emotionally unstable” person Schmidt assumes she is after denying her the job at his bar. (But then he gives in). Jess shows her fierce side when she is set on proving to her roommates that she’s “going to be “the best shot girl in the world” but as we know, things don’t go exactly the way she hoped. Instead of being the “hot” and “sexy” bar girl despite her tight outfit, Jess shows off some cute dance moves that are amusing, but nothing “dangerous”. Jess is hurt, pities herself, and does cry after she realizes teaching is her real passion. By realizing her true passion, she shows some more bold, independent characteristics of a postfeminist gal who wants to get back to doing what she really loves: teaching.


Interestingly, the article I attached is about how Deschanel considers herself a feminist. The character Jess reflects Deschanel because of her determination to meet challenges, but does so in an “adorkable” fashion. She is, as the article states, “like a fluffy kitten” but inside there’s a “lioness”. Deschanel explains that she’s being herself and doesn’t mind mixing a tiara with a Peter-Pan collar—who cares what other people think? The article seemed to convey the message that you can be a feminist and be cute at the same time, but can’t you also be a feminist and not have to dress so cutsie? I wasn’t sure after reading the article if that was accepted.


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