English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: James Fan

Friends: To Change Them or not to Change Them?

     Over all of my past blog posts, I’ve mentioned the way in which a given element of New Girl, whether it be cinematography, writing, or thematic explorations, change the way in which the main characters of the show are developed. For this last post, I’d like to dive deeper into how Jess, the focus of the show, is portrayed and how her relationship with the other characters is vital in bridging the gap between the absurd hi-jinks in which they find themselves and the grounded, relatable reality of their friendships.

     In the episode “Control” (S1E16), Jess compromises the very structure of the friends’ dynamics when she attempts to, and successfully convinces, Schmidt to stop his borderline germaphobe habits just so he stops nagging her over the cleanliness of the loft. However, by bringing Schmidt’s personality into question, Jess throw both the apartment itself and her friend group into disarray, and she has to spend the rest of the episode undoing her mistake.


Schmidt trades in his business casuals for a drug rug. What has Jess done…


     Beyond just creating an entertaining plot, this episode demonstrates the significance each characters’ personality has on the functionality of the show. By directly questioning a core trait of Schmidt’s personality, “Control” acts as a nod to the way in which writers craft a character to fill a particular niche in the show: though pretentious and arrogant, Schmidt’s cleanliness and housekeeping rules balance out the much looser habits and general dispositions of Winston and Nick while also grounding the optimism and spontaneity of Jess. The show works because each character fills a particular archetype, and the interaction between these archetypes contributes to the appeal of the show. Thus, when Jess tries to change the personality of her friend, she is also affecting the very fabric of her friend group and the fundamental appeal each character has to the show’s viewers.

     While there are many facets to New Girl that can be analyzed to explain how the show functions, it is ultimately the relationships between the unique and carefully planned characters which lends a special charm to the series.


Netflix. “New Girl S1:E16 ‘Control’.” Online Video Clip. Netflix. Netflix, 2018. Web.                

13 Nov. 2018.

The Silence of the Friends

     In season 1 episode 15 of New Girl titled “Injured” written by Nick Adams, Berkeley Johnson, and Josh Malmuth, Jess’ friend Nick goes through a crisis of identity when he finds a possible cancerous lump on his neck. While the lump is ultimately harmless at the very end of the episode, the framing of this particularly thematically heavy episode exemplifies the way in which the writing and dialogue of the show as a whole drives both the development of the small circle of friends as well as the juxtaposition of real-world problems with the series’ distinct brand of humor.

The gang shares a tender moment with Nick

     The general delivery of jokes and one-liners remains consistent with other episodes, where a character starts a seemingly ordinary thought and concludes their sentence with the punchline. However, it is oddly the few-second pauses in the characters’ speech that act as the most poignant moments out of the 20-minute episode. As the plot and humor are dialogue-driven, these pauses allow the audience to shift their attention away from the progression of events to the details of the characters’ behavior, thus providing an insight into how these friends deal with such a high stress situation: the respites from the friendly teasing and jokes quickly reveals the underlying sadness, worry, and anxiety all 5 of them have for the well-being of Nick. Even after the lump is proven to be benign, the episode continues with intermittent pauses in the dialogue, thus further solidifying how the gang is still in the process of internalizing Nick’s near-death experience.

     While the writing, pacing, and humor of “Injured” are all the trademark quality of the rest of the show, the moments of silence in this episode provide the central moments from which the characters are able to develop. When it comes to the writing and dialogue, Adams, Johnson, and Malmuth ultimately demonstrate the potency of writing nothing at all.

Netflix. “New Girl S1:E15 ‘Injured’.” Online Video Clip. Netflix. Netflix, 2018. Web.                6 Nov. 2018.

New Girl, Old Archetypes

     From the very first episode, New Girl has a clear and direct focus on the experiences of a modern, young, single female in a typical US city. As a result of the main character Jess living in an apartment with three males, the show quickly establishes the relationship between the two genders as a focal point of both the story and comedy of the show.

The main cast of New Girl

     While the main cast (pictured above) has only one more male than female, the focus of the show on Jess’ life shifts the spread of the show closer to the experiences of young women. As demonstrated in the pilot, the struggle of Jess moving in with Schmidt, Nick, and Winston is analogous to her struggle to regain her independence after ending a long and committed relationship. Thus, the writers’ attention to Jess’ life concentrates the spread of gender representation towards the female experience, regardless of the physical representation of gender with actors.

     While the show explores the relationship between males and females, and while there are a few jokes made about Cece and Winston’s races, there is very little intersectionality. Despite the various ethnicities of the cast members, their typical, middle-class, heterosexual lives leaves little room for the show to explore or show more complex struggles with identity. However, though the characters may be limited to only heterosexual gender relationships, the extensive exploration of this facet still gives the show depth in its writing and humor.

     The cast and writing of New Girl dives into the humor and conversations that commonly arises between straight males and females to which the majority of the TV-viewing demographic can relate. Though the limited diversity of the main cast may not reflect a deep exploration of intersectional minorities, the light tone of the show ultimately demonstrates a focus on comedy and story-telling over social commentary.

Netflix. “New Girl S1:E1 ‘Pilot’.” Online Video Clip. Netflix. Netflix, 2018. Web.                16 October 2018.

Treachery and Forgiveness: the ups and Downs of Friendship

     In the episode of New Girl titled “Secrets” (S1E19), the theme of the story is very clearly about the consequences of keeping secrets from close and dear friends. The main focus of the episode is on the fact that Cece and Nick, Jess’ best friend and roommate, have been romantically involved form months without telling her about their relationship. When Jess’ other roommate Winston discovers this relationship, news quickly spreads to the small group of friends and infuriates Jess over the betrayal of the supposedly open friendship she has with Cece. However, ultimately Jess comes to understand that Cece was trying to hide from her own emotions and subsequently forgives her.

Jess confronts Cece and Schmidt about the truth. #awks


     While Jess’ initially responds to the situation with anger, the reason for which she forgives her best friend demonstrates the complexity behind the seemingly ill-intentioned decision to keep a secret from friends. By saving the revelation of Cece’s obliviousness to her own emotions until the last few minutes of the show, the show emphasizes to the viewers that the primary source of Cece’s secret stems from insecurity rather than some disdain for Jess. Therefore, the way in which the general arc of the plot for this episode accentuates this theme demonstrates the care taken in the narrative to substantiate and support the exploration of secret-keeping among the friends in the show.

     Within the greater context of the entire show, this episode is yet another facet of the intricate interactions that friends often have with one another. In an attempt to create believable characters in a believable reality, such an exploration of this common problem among friends further develops Jess, Winston, Nick, Schmidt, and Cece into real people and not just characters in a sitcom. While not a grandiose commentary on the problems in society, the characters and their struggles in New Girl still relate to the daily lives, problems, and relationships of real people one secret at a time.



Netflix. “New Girl S1:E19 ‘Secrets’.” Online Video Clip. Netflix. Netflix, 2018. Web.                25 September 2018.

Citations on the Representation of Women in American Televised News

Abbady, Tal. “The Modern Newsroom is Stuck Behind the Gender and Color Line.”  NPR, May 1, 2017.                      https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/05/01/492982066/the-modern-newsroom-is-stuck-behind-the-gender-and-color-line

  • This editorial published by NPR provides statistics on both race and gender in the staffing of combined paper, online, and broadcast news organizations; according to the article, in total, only 37.7% of content published by major news organizations is credited to female employees. The editorial also includes first-hand interviews with male and female workers in the news industry. While it states that the percentage of females and minorities have increased over the past few years, the demographics in the field still do not meet the ethnic and gender demography of the rest of the US, thus demonstrating a persisting disparity in representation in news. While this article is not strictly about females and not strictly about TV news, this article is valuable in the research process as it provides both primary accounts from contemporary journalists and also shows the complexity of female representation as both a standalone issue and an issue intersecting other demographic problems in media.


Emeksiz, Gulcin I. “THE REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN ON TV NEWS.” International Journal of Arts & Sciences, vol. 6, no. 2, 2013, pp. 715-730. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1496695623?accountid=11107.

  • This peer-reviewed essay discusses the limited roles which females are given on TV especially in the news. While women in entertainment are given traditional familial roles and act subservient to her husbands, the women in the newsroom are often barred from discussing and covering politic-heavy news stories. This article is valuable in the evidence it provides to demonstrate the limited representation of women on TV news; it is also valuable for providing a brief overview of women on TV since the 1980s, thus better situating the modern newsroom within the historical context of TV. However, despite these benefits, this article is limited in perspective as its intention of arguing to a specific point inherently bars an unbiased interpretation of all information of the current trends in TV news. Furthermore, though the article was published fairly recently in 2013, there has since been a considerable number of events which have occurred over the course of these five years that could not be accounted for in the article.


Engstrom, E., & Ferri, A. J. (1998). From barriers to challenges: Career perceptions of women TV news anchors. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 789-802. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/216926995?accountid=11107

  • This peer-reviewed essay provides data and first hand accounts from 128 local anchor women in the US with information ranging from age to salary to perceived barriers in their careers. The piece provides an insight into the common struggles of anchor women to balance their professional and family lives, their roles as both wives and newscasters, and their physical appearance when on air. This essay is valuable in my research process, as it not only provides data for analysis, but also provides a more personal and intimate understanding of the challenges faced by female news anchors and can help add a more in-depth understanding to the problem. However, the limited scope of the number of women studied in this paper is also a hindrance, as it would be difficult to extend any  conclusion made on the situations of 128 local anchors to the newsrooms and outlets in the rest of the country.


Joyce, Amy. “Is Journalism Really a Male-dominated Field? The Numbers say yes.” The Washington Post, May 20, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2014/05/20/is-journalism-really-a-male-dominated-field-the-numbers-say-yes/?utm_term=.cc1d6c5d6a2b

  • This data and chart-driven article from the Washington Post provides the numbers of men and women in various roles in journalism, such as supervisors, producers, and writers between 1999 and 2013. Though short, the article concludes that the ratio of men and women have remained the same over the years of data collection, with approximately two thirds of the industry occupied by male workers. One value to these statistics is that they are easy to read, comprehend, and interpret, thus facilitating the understanding of the current issues with gender representation in the news. While the statistics only cover newspapers, TV news outlets also utilize a similar structure of employment; thus, it is easy to conclude that TV newsrooms will mirror their paper counterparts. However, one limitation to this article is that there is no mention as to the methodology of the data collection, thus restricting the statistics to only apply to four job titles.


Price, Cindy J., and Shaun S. Wulff. “Does Sex make a Difference? Job Satisfaction of Television Network News Correspondents.” Women’s Studies in Communication, vol. 28, no. 2, 2005, pp. 207-234. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/198297768?accountid=11107.

  • This peer-reviewed paper discusses the disparities not only between the raw numbers of males versus females in national TV news stations, but also between information on experience, salaries, and job satisfaction. The essay concludes that the majority of women working in national television news were significantly younger, less experienced, and less paid than the males in the same field, thus contributing to lower overall job satisfaction. This paper is valuable because it assesses the balance of gender in news and extends this topic into other issues such as salaries, work experience, and network recognition. In addition, the article also draws a connection with the origins of women in the newsroom to women in the workforce since World War II. Furthermore, the paper provides an extended discussion of the methodology of data collection how conclusions were drawn from said data. However, the paper is limited to studying ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and PBS only.


Yarrow, Allison. “What I Wish People Understood about Sexims and TV News.” Vox, December 18, 2017. https://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/12/18/16781140/tv-news-sexism

  • This editorial on Vox goes in depth into how one female journalist struggled in her field. The writer describes in detail numerous situations in which she was sexually harassed by male colleagues and superiors; in addition, she discusses the objectification of female news anchors, with their physical beauty more important than the content of the news reports. Most importantly, the writer presents the issue of male-dominated supervisors with few women actually making decisions in upper-level administration positions. This article is extremely valuable in how it provides an eye-opening insight into the sexism systemic in national television. Although the personal experiences do provide an insight into the issues of the industry, these same experiences also limit how the article may be applied to other individuals’ situations in the news. Thus, while it is important to recognize the very real issue of sexism in news and its ramifications on gender equality, it is also important to understand the distinction between the issues of harassment and gender representation.


New Girl: Lights, Camera, and Dialogue!

     The visual composition of a shot in a TV show or film acts as both the frame for the elements within the literal camera shot as well as the ideas, themes, and concepts of the piece’s director; cinematography hence becomes vital in facilitating the audience’s understanding and interaction with the meaning of the show or film. In Elizabeth Meriwether’s show New Girl, the general cinematography of each scene — namely the duration of each shot, the lighting of the scene, and visual consistency between episodes — emphasizes the dialogue and interactions between the characters and grounds these characters in a believable and relatable setting.

     While cuts often mark a change or transition temporally or spatially, the quick cuts in the bulk of New Girl instead mark shifts in focus between the dialogue, emotions, and actions of certain characters to the reactions of the others in the scene. For instance, in “Wedding” (S1E3), 7 cuts between Jess, Nick, and Schmidt are made in the first 17 seconds, averaging out to be one cut every 2.4 seconds. These quick cuts, combined with the consistent setting of Nick’s room, exemplifies the purpose of the quick cuts to highlight the exchange between the three roommates, thus demonstrating the priority placed on supporting the characters’ dialogue over progressing the plot through visual storytelling.

     Similarly, the bright, even lighting of the set throughout each episode also serves to focus audience attention on the characters themselves rather than the relationship between the characters and their environments.

Nick and Jess talking, S1E4

Nick and Jess talking, S1E4

screenshots are from a scene taking place at night in Nick’s room from “Naked” (S1E4) where Jess attempts to resolve the awkwardness between she and Nick after seeing him naked, the bright. The saturated lighting in these shots establishes the focus of the scene onto Jess and Nick’s interactions. Beside just creating a clear shot for the camera, the uniformity of the lighting on the two characters also creates a sense that Jess and Nick are physically close in proximity, thus helping to resolve the crisis between the friends.

     In order to increase the relatability of the characters to a viewership as vast and diverse as the watchers of cable TV and Netflix, the cinematography and visual composition from episode to episode stays consistent in order to create a sense that the show’s characters live in the audience’s reality regardless of how crazy their actions and motives may be. For instance, the similar angles, lighting, and setting between the shots from episode 3 above and the shots from “Cece crashes” (S1E5) establishes a basis of normality and consistency in the characters’ lives, thus eliminating the need to suspend one’s disbelief when assessing their motivations and emotions.

Jess and Cece argue, S1E5

Jess and Cece argue, S1E5

     The quick cuts, bright lighting regardless of time of day or space, and consistency of shots between episodes contribute to the focus of the show on how its characters interact with one another in a humorous way while also drawing attention towards the same feelings of joy and pain of living an ordinary life.


Netflix. “New Girl S1:E4 ‘Naked’.” Online Video Clip. Netflix. Netflix, 2018. Web. 10          September 2018.

Netflix. “New Girl S1:E5 ‘Cece Crashes’.” Online Video Clip. Netflix. Netflix, 2018.            Web. 10 September 2018.

simpathy22. “Best of Jess | Season 1 | New Girl.” Online Video Clip. Youtube.                    Youtube, 2 March 2016. Web. 10 September 2018.

New Year, New Class, New…Girl?

Hello, English 1102! My name is James Fan, an electrical engineer from the graduating year of 2022 (if everything goes to plan)! While I am going to one of the best tech schools in the country, I’m still looking forward to the opportunity to strengthen my analytical skills by diving into the projects, group work, and discussions this semester in Dr. Wilson’s class!

Image result for new girl gifs

Getting pumped to watch TV for class



Though this is my first English class at Tech, I’ve still strove to push my writing and language skills to my limits ever since joining the IB program at my high school. Looking back at my experiences in all of my English classes, I can safely say that written communication is still my weakest skill that I hope to continue to improve. However, as challenging as it is for me, it’s still by far the most enjoyable part of communicating because of how concise, fluid, and editable it is.

As a part of my 12th grade IB English class, I examined numerous instances of feminist, racial, and gender themes throughout a cross section of both classic and contemporary literature: novels, poems, essays, news articles, and beyond. Because of this, I definitely have come into contact with a lot of the themes this course plans to cover, but I am still grateful for the chance to tackle these themes with more nuance and attention and to explore the implications of these ideas in television and mass media.

That being said, I’m a little anxious about this class; it’s been years since I’ve watched a TV show, and I’m certainly out of the loop….. But there’s no time like the present to jump back in and analyze them to death!!

The TV show I’ve chosen to review this semester is New Girl, a 20-minute sitcom about a young female elementary school teacher moving into an apartment room with 3 young men. I chose this series because I want a few good laughs (god knows I’ll need it at Tech), and I also chose the show because I believe the more serious themes, i.e. feminism, are often overlooked as a result of the overt humor and jokes.

All in all, I can’t wait to immerse myself into feminist theories and find their applications in modern television!


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