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Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Girl - Jess and Julia

Well, this was a great episode. Possibly the best so far. If you are looking to get into this show, watching the episode “Wedding” and then this episode will help you realize if this is your humor and if you find Jess to be “adorkable” as Leeard does. Ern has decided that it’s cool to have a girly heroine, for once. All the “cool” heroines in entertainment have to act like guys, punch people in the face, where jeans (or leather catsuits), and talk in low, sarcastic voices or go to Ivy League schools. New Girl adds variety and shows that we, as women, can root for the girly-girls, even if they are going to steal all our Nicks with their innocent schtick. New Girl is bucking an entertainment stereotype.

The strength of this episode is that they got Lizzy Caplan’s Julia to stand for girls who hate Jess and think it’s creepy that “stupid little girl in a woman’s body” is cute and sexy. It gave Jess an opportunity to reply to the naysayers and make a fair point. Also great was that Julia wasn’t demonized or treated as some shrew who was just jealous of Jess or something (even though that was a small factor in her dislike of Jess, that she will take Nick away). Because smart girls who are offended by the manic pixie dream girl thing aren’t envious bitches; they are just sick of having to act naïve in order to be seen as attractive. We were five years old once. There’s no going back. That’s the point of the Zooey hate. Even if it’s mixed with the less-valid, terrifying prospect of being alone because we don’t want to dumb ourselves down or fit a girly stereotype, it’s a valid point. It was also good and fair to have Julia played by Lizzy Caplan who is pretty and likeable.

One thing we like about Zooey Deschanel is that she says femininity can be powerful. We too think it’s stupid that femininity is associated with incompetence, stupidity, and weakness. But then, Zooey’s character, Jess, is unable to function on a non-retard level, at times. Until this episode. In defending herself against Julia and then befriending her, Jess showed actual strength. She’s not the supergirl feminist icon some want her to be. She’s cute, and she has her ditzy moments, but overall, she’s not a weak girl. This was the episode that convinced us of that and it was long overdue. You also have to keep in mind that Jess is a kindergarten teacher. She spends all day with children, making dioramas with glitter and talking about baby animals (or whatever else kids are interested in). That’s bound to rub off on her attitude. That’s something for people who don’t find Jess believable to remember.

The episode starts off with Julia and Nick in bed, happy, but also too scared to tell each other that they want to be monogamous. Julia goes to the bathroom and watches Nick’s roommates talking in funny voices and arguing about damp towels, and she obviously thinks it’s all too weird early in the morning. Julia still tries to be nice to Nick’s friends by agreeing to help Jess get out of a parking ticket, because Julia is a lawyer. She wears suits and everything.

Jess and Julia sit down on the couch to discuss the ticket situation. Jess wraps Julia in a blanket and offers her a dessert. Julia explains that she’s not a dessert person and just wants to get on with the ticket thing, because it is clear that she and Jess have very little in common. Jess tells Julia that she was caught on camera running a red light because she was trying to avoid a hurt bird in the middle of the intersection, and she missed her first court date because her ex didn’t send Jess her mail. He doesn’t believe in mail. Julia is horrified by all the stupidity and childlike bird saving.

Julia tells Jess that “a judge might buy into this whole thing.” What whole thing? “Your thing. Your whole thing with the cupcakes and the breaking for birds and the bluebirds come and help me dress in the morning. It’s a great thing. The big beautiful eyes, like a scared baby. I’m sure that gets you out of all kinds of stuff.” Caplan’s delivery was perfect, and Ern barked out a laugh just as Leeard started hating Julia a little bit for being mean to Jess. That WAS rude and condescending. Jess wasn’t socially retarded enough to miss that these were major disses to the whole thing. Then Julia makes the mistake of asking Jess if Nick has been having other women over for sleepovers. Jess doesn’t answer, because she’s not a crappy roommate.

Jess calls CeCe and her gynecologist lesbian friend, who we have seen briefly in previous episodes, and they come over. We like the new lesbian friend. She’s funny and seems adult. There needs to be an adult on this show besides Nick, because you know Caplan can’t last long. Jess and Nick are endgame!!! Jess and her friends agree that Julia is weird for not being a dessert person, but a total bitch for implying that Jess is weird for acting like a child in a Disney cartoon. Nick walks in on this whole discussion. The girls explain to Nick how women can subtly, condescendingly diss each other while veiling it as a compliment or just an observation. This is something that neither Leeard nor Ern do, and we have no patience for it. We insult each other outright. Mmhmm. But Ern saw it done in her sorority, so she knows it happens, and we both went to high school. We think the show did a really good job of trying to explain the nuanced, specific way girls can be mean to other girls; it's very difficult to explain to guys, but it's there.

Nick says Julia thinks like a guy and has always been direct with him, so she can’t possibly have been dissing Jess. Jess comes back with something like, “Oh yeah, if she’s so direct, then why did she ask ME if you’ve been sleeping with other women.” Good point. At the bar, Nick asks Julia about that, throwing Jess under the bus. Jess deserves it for throwing Julia under the bus. Julia pretends that she is seeing other people so that she doesn’t come across as the pathetic girl trying to get some guy to settle down. Nick pretends that he is also seeing other people. Dumb. Julia runs into the bathroom to cry and Jess comes in.

Jess tries to apologize, but Julia confesses to Jess that she doesn’t like her (see! That was direct!) and asks Jess to leave so that she can cry. Jess wants to cry too, so she runs into the men’s bathroom…where Nick is crying. So adorable. This sounds awful, but there’s really nothing cuter than a sad guy, who isn’t usually sad, who is usually manly, and who was already cute. The next day, Julia comes to court to help Jess get out of her ticket, because she said she would. Jess pleads guilty to the ticket by accident. We all roll our eyes with Julia.

Walking out of the courtroom, Julia says something like, “I guess we’ll never know how the bird defense would have worked out.” Jess replies, in a strong, impassioned voice, “I break for birds. I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children, and I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person. That’s just weird and it freaks me out. And I'm sorry I don’t talk like Murphy Brown, and I hate your pantsuit and I wish it had ribbons on it to make it slightly cute. And that doesn’t mean I'm not smart and tough and strong.” We had to find that exact quote, because it was such a good defense of Jess, and it is true, because Jess was strong enough to stand up for herself. Girliness wins the day. For now. We need to see that side of Jess more often and she needs to never be confused about when to wear overalls ever again.

Julia comes to Nick’s apartment to apologize to Jess, but it’s unnecessary. Jess invites Julia in to crochet with her and her friends. We are reminded of Julia’s little anger issue (seen in the last episode) when she has a mini meltdown over her inability to crochet. We LOVED how Jess diffused Julia's anger. While we're both more like Julia than Jess in real life, it's nice to have someone like Jess who can help you get into a happy mood. Jess advises Nick to tell Julia that he only wants to see her. Nick takes that advice and the two have a cute little exchange, complete with kisses, that makes us wish we could have Julia around forever, as a foil to Jess and as a funny chick in her own right. But her episode arc is only three long. Next week, she will be gone.

So, remember ladies, you can wear pretty clothes, curl your hair, and break for animals. That doesn’t negate the qualities you have that other women WON’T hate you for. It doesn't make you an enemy of women to look cute. It just means you like looking cute. As for men? They love femininity. That’s why Ern wears mostly little dresses, even to law school. The boys love ‘em. Don’t let all the commentary on female politics and gender mores make you think that this episode wasn’t funny. It was a huge laugher. There were lots of clever lines. We didn’t have time to include all the Schmidt exchanges, Winston’s quest to get a girl to go out with him even though he has no game, and the reference to gumbo that one of us doesn’t completely get. So watch it yourself. This one was funny and good for the show.

Episode grade: A+


  1. I'm totally with you guys: best episode of the series yet. I even felt the need to download it and watch it again. All that stuff about the tension between different types of women is hilarious, but also shockingly real. Yesss. This one is going on my end of season list.