How New Girl Turns Friendship Into Authentic Romantic Moments - VRGyani News and Media

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

How New Girl Turns Friendship Into Authentic Romantic Moments

What hits hardest, is most universal, besides romantic, lovey-dovey love? Could it be platonic, friendship love? Oprah and Gail’s friendship is one of the most popularly celebrated relationships in the public eye, a lasting friendship where each knows the other truthfully and shows it through loving engagement and knowing eye quips. Hallmark cards and flower deliveries even carve out sweet packs “just for friends,” because aren’t our friends our chosen families?

The seven-season Fox sitcom New Girl gets this, riding its main characters’ interweaving joys and pains with precision, comedy, and vulnerability. Thanks to excellent casting, direction, writing, and acting, it is easy and pleasurable, like eating ice cream, to hook into the interrelated minds, hearts, and neuroses of the New Girl ensemble of quirky, gold hearts: Jessica “Jess” Day (Zooey Deschanel), Cece Parekh (Hannah Simone), Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris), and Winston Saint-Marie “Schmidt” Schmidt (Max Greenfield). The five of them show us that friendship means valuing one another and understanding the seriousness of that bond — if a person is your ride or die, they are choosing you — and that intimate relationships and marriages develop their firmest footing and endurance through these kinds of found family friendships. I cried many times in the best way, unexpectedly and right before, or sometimes intersecting with, belly laughs, over the several months it took me to binge all of New Girl. By examining friendship so honestly, the series shows how life’s joys are made sweeter, and life’s pains more endurable, when you have real friends around you.

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Jess, Cece, Nick, Winston, and Schmidt are relatable as people, and the series is packed with discomfiting, true-to-life experiences of early 30s journeys through relationships, careers, and wounds of the past. Everybody is an individual, but the way New Girl lets individuals be themselves is its shining star. Jess lives in elaborate fantasies of animation and glamor and breaks into song, dance, and craft projects whenever, because she simply has to. We melt for Cece because we see how much she despises being a model and the emptiness of dating, contrasting with how secretly turned on she is by Schmidt’s initial cheesiness. Winston loves his cat so much and wants to help others, which leads him to become a police officer. Schmidt has many hangups, emotional and physical, and is so sure-footed in his OCD tendencies, you root for his pain to go away so he can discover himself. Nick is self-effacingly stuck in his brilliant writer mind, a cycle that makes every foot he puts into his mouth increasingly harder to watch.

Yet they smooth each other out like beach glass; not only do they understand where shame, hurt, and uncertainty live in each other, but they accept each other, in the end, for all they are. They become lovable to us because we see them capable of loving others and wanting to be good forces in the world. There are many flawless episodes, but the Season 2, Episode 5 episode “Models” packs a particularly emotional punch, spotlighting vulnerability by focusing on the friendship between Cece and Jess and the one between Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. It is Cece’s birthday, a time when Jess and Cece eat Jess’ homemade birthday cake, dress up in towels, and watch movies. This year, Cece wants to go out with her model friends and, of course, wants Jess to join. Jess has judgments brewing about Cece’s model life but agrees to go to make her happy. Then, Cece overhears Jess telling her friends, “years of modeling have made [Cece] dumber.” A breast-slapping fight and tense words follow; this is a scene played for some laughs, but the interaction stings. Cece asks Jess to leave the bar and is distraught, going straight for a bottle of liquor.

Over in the loft, Schmidt brings Nick a cookie because, he explains when Nick asks, he was thinking of him, to which Nick says he never thinks of Schmidt, devastating him. This interaction opens up what love, friendship love, and specifically, male friendship love means, bringing attention to Nick’s belief that men should basically never think of each other (“I don’t know who Jay Cut-e-ler is!”). Winston is significant here, taking Schmidt’s side, also telling Nick he experiences his incapability to reciprocate his friends' love. Finally, Nick brings Schmidt a cookie, which he calls “the best I can do, man,” and begins to cry. In response, Winston, with zero comedy, says, “And that’s okay… just let it rain, man.” When Nick admits that Schmidt is his turtle — a pet Nick wants to get, perhaps a stand-in for facing the human friendship he has in his home — the three hug tightly, Nick saying he loves them both. Schmidt is joyed, saying mostly to himself, “This needed to happen.”

“Models” ends in my favorite New Girl way: All five of them in the loft doing something lovely and adorable (here, eating Cece’s birthday cake and watching a movie). Jess has apologized to a hungover Cece, taking her place on a modeling job to avoid her getting in trouble, and afterward saying she now realizes how hard her job is. When Jess asks Cece if they would be friends if they met today, Cece’s honest answer, before snuggling Jess, of “I don’t know. But we’re friends now,” is refreshing. The final scene flashes back to Nick and Schmidt meeting at college, Nick throwing Pop-Tart pieces at Schmidt’s mouth, and when one finally lands, Schmidt calling out gleefully, “We did it!” It is all so exposed and fuzzy-feel good, and we see how it all could be — and is — true.

These five have a way of being so assuredly themselves while giving grace to the other, a grace that includes calling someone out when necessary, a grace of humor, space, flexibility, and forgiveness, a grace that communicates an understanding of the whole scenario, whatever it may be. On some days they like each other and other days they don’t, but they always come back to accepting and supporting each other. Flashbacks to their younger selves are consistent in the series, showing that Jess and Cece, and Nick, Winston, and Schmidt, have known and loved each other since early to late adolescence.

But when friends fall in love, is that the best of both worlds; a pairing with someone who already knows and accepts you?

By the series finale, Cece and Schmidt are married with two children creating their dream house; Winston and Aly Nelson (Nasim Pedrad) are work partners who immediately care about each other, haltingly admit their feelings, date, and end up together forever with a baby; and Jess and Nick are (finally!) a couple, announcing their love for each other to each other after fighting that truth for most of the series. Each of these romantic relationships are earned and we have watched that earning happen: Cece relinquishes the childcare binder to Schmidt; Aly kisses Winston, launching their couplehood; Jess tells Nick, “It’s always been you and me.”

The whole ensemble wins. They win because they have each other as a backbone for life, and because they develop romantic partnerships based on friendships that meet them in their personal growth. Watching people become unified and harmonious with themselves and others can be just as fulfilling as experiencing your own growth, and sometimes more so. The characters are vulnerable with each other, allowing us into their vulnerability, so their successes feel like our successes. We know who they are and how they have struggled. Sometimes, it is easier to momentarily set aside self-judgment — “How far have you come? Have you chosen the right mate?” — and pour yourself into a different story. The best of these storytelling experiences stay with you, affecting you long after you have seen them, and the best-best of these teach you something valuable to apply to your own life. If you work at growth and surround yourself with people who do the same, you all, eventually, find out where you are supposed to be, and that love is the last and first stop.

And, if you still doubt the sage advice that friendship is the key to lasting romance, just start at Episode 1.

New Girl is streaming now on Netflix.

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