English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: silence

New Girl: Seriously Awkward Silence

New Girl is a show that thrives on awkwardness (as anyone who has read my previous posts knows I love). The show will often build up to dramatic moments of silence where the air becomes stiff and viewers are left thinking how they would respond in such a situation. The genius of New Girl is how this awkward silence is broken by the ridiculousness of the characters’ actions. This is used perfectly in the finale of New Girl, Elaine’s Big Day, during [Spoiler] Cece’s failed marriage, while Jess and Nick’s dysfunctional relationship is falling apart.

Silence can be used in a comedy as a way of changing the mood of the scene to be serious and awkward. This focuses the audience on the careful words or actions of the characters, allowing for the crafting of serious moments in an otherwise light-hearted show. In Se2Ep25, Jess and Nick are in conflict due to their relationship. In a mere 20 minutes, the two begin by having an adorable relationship, which quickly falls right apart and is built immediately back up in 5 minutes without any unbelievable leaps of logic: all thanks to the writer’s use of silence in a particular scene.

Specifically, Jess and Nick are discussing how their relationship is clearly not functioning, and Nick decides to break it off, informing Jess that it was never going to be anything serious anyway and that they should just end it. This strong emotional shock to an otherwise fun show is left in several seconds of silence, where the audience is recoiling from the shock that Jess must be going through. The silence is used to display the thoughts going through Jess’ head as she is being broken up with, being told that her relationship was never meant to be serious in the first place.

Se2Ep25 Some awkward silence

This episode uses silence perfectly at this moment to display a serious moment, where Jess’ emotional struggles are in plain view as there is no comedy to cover it. It then does nothing to break the tension of this silence. Rather than saying something, Jess just awkwardly nods and walks away, leaving Nick in silence as he and the audience must think about the consequences of the episode.

New Girl usually uses silence to indicate a more serious moment, but ultimately breaks it with some awkward comedic moment, such as later in the episode when Schmidt is presented with two girls who love him and ask him to choose, he just stands in silence and after a moment starts running off, breaking silence with comedy. However, in the case of Jess and Nick, the silence is never broken. It is left perpetually as Jess just walks away from Nick. In a comedic show, the silence was written in to create a serious moment that leaves the audience in a real feeling of tension and regret for Nick.

Silence and Emotional Maturity in The Bold Type’s Writing

The season one finale of The Bold Type provided yet another topic of interest that isn’t much discussed in modern television — the lasting effects of sexual violence. In contrast to our class’s viewing of Sweet/Vicious a little while ago, “Carry the Weight” provides viewpoints that aim towards recognition of sexual assault survivors instead of their revenge.

At the very beginning of the episode, the show’s three protagonists, Kat, Sutton, and Jane, are seen running through Central Park. The upbeat music quietens as Jane sees a woman standing under a gazebo-something-or-another (it was weird, okay?), and the focus switches from the three protagonists to the serene woman.

The woman, Mia, holds two weights in her hands, which the audience later learns to be representative of the emotional trauma that she still endures from her assault. Later in the episode, Jane asks Jacqueline, Scarlet’s editor-in-chief, if she can write a story about Mia and her mission. Jane later notes that this story was indeed her first pitch as a writer at Scarlet.

Image result for the bold type carry the weight

Jane and Kat speaking with Mia (middle, right, and left, respectively)

Here with Jane’s writing topics and the implied rekindling of Sutton and Richard’s romance in the elevator, Sarah Watson, the writer of this episode, completes a full circle within the realm of The Bold Type. Watson also wrote scripts for the show’s first and second episodes, “Pilot” and “O Hell No” respectively. However, a key difference in Watson’s earlier scripts and that of the finale is the repeated use of silence.

In this episode specifically, silence is used to portray the importance of certain scenes. Here it is implied that the three women — usually acting upon happy, go-lucky whims, mind you — fully understand the emotional maturity and development that stem from their encounters with Mia, their past lovers, and even with Jacqueline, who decides to finally come forward as a rape survivor, twenty years after her assault.

On a similar note, the theme of extended silence is further mirrored in the episode’s soundtrack. For example, when Jacqueline symbolically takes the weights from Mia, MILCK’s song “Quiet” blasts the lyrics “I can’t keep quiet!”, a nod towards Jacqueline bringing light to her past. The episode later ends with Brooke Candy and Sia’s “Living out Loud”, another play on the breaking of silence.

Overall, writer Sarah Watson effectively wraps up the show’s first season by tying the earlier episodes to the last one. A few more plots are opened, like Kat deciding to go travel with Adena. (Mixed thoughts about Kat to come in the next blog post, perhaps.) But until then, the audience can count on The Bold Type refusing to play clean with what “should be” discussed on television. Watson’s recognition of effective measures that can be used to bring light to and empower sexual assault survivors serves as hope for society’s future conversations on- and off-screen.

 

Works Cited

Shoemaker, Allison. “We Need The Bold Type, and This Finale Proves It.” AV Club, 6 September 2017, https://www.avclub.com/we-need-the-bold-type-and-this-finale-proves-it-1800019688. Accessed 6 November 2018.

“The Bold Type Official Music Guide Season 1.” Freeform, 2018, https://freeform.go.com/shows/the-bold-type/news/the-bold-type-official-music-guide-season-1. Accessed 6 November 2018.

Jessica Jones’ Suspenseful Writing

Dana Baratta wrote most of Jessica Jones season 1, but today I am going to analyze just episode 5. Baratta is known for writing several other shows such as The Secret Circle and Red Widow, but Jessica Jones is definitely what she is most famous for. She is responsible for most of the dialogue in Jessica Jones which is one of the most important aspects of the show.

The dialogue in Jessica Jones helps define the show and make it the great show that it is. Whether it be dramatic pauses or heated arguments, the dialogue helps add to the characters and plot to make the show amazing. Everything each character says fits in perfectly with their persona which helps make every conversation impacting and meaningful.

Most of the dialogue this episode is between different characters, but there are several points in the episode where there is no dialogue at all for a few minutes over a scene. Silence is used in this episode to make certain scenes more intense or scary for the viewers. These scenes are usually when Jessica is spying on someone or if there is a fight or chase. There is usually music or background noise during these scenes. This leaves the viewers to react in their own way to this scene and add to its suspense.

Jessica Jones Scene

During this scene, Jessica follows her neighbor Malcolm while he meets with her enemy Kilgrave. This is all done without dialogue, which makes certain parts awkward and others intense.

There are several flashbacks in this episode which gives certain characters more character development and lets the viewers know why some things are happening. Flashbacks this episode are primarily used to give viewers more context on Jessica’s past and add to her character.

Overall, the dialogue in this episode of Jessica Jones is mainly just people talking to each other with several flashbacks to give context. There are no voiceovers this episode, and there is rarely ever one in other episodes. Jessica Jones relies a lot on silence and the show wouldn’t be what it is today without it. This show relies solely on conversation dialogue and silence to keep it going and its viewers engaged.

New Girl’s Nitty Gritty Witty Writing

What would television be without masterful writing? Each television show has a different style of writing that makes it unique, and it is ultimately up to the writers (along with the director) to create a show that resonates with viewers. New Girl does just that, through its witty writing and attention to nitty gritty details that ultimately add a relatable humor to the show.

In the writers’ room for New Girl

In season 6’s “Last Thanksgiving” episode, the gang gets together for a holiday (because they are ~family~). However, chaos ensues as Jess tries to tell Robby, her handicapped friend, that he needs to stay in the friend zone. Schmidt’s father’s cheating scandals make matters worse, and Nick’s girlfriend bales at the last minute. In “James Wonder”, Winston takes on the alias ‘James Wonder’ for no apparent reason other than that he was bored. So while lying about his personal and professional life to Jess’ coworkers, Winston finds himself in a bit of a pickle, but he manages to get himself out of it and help Jess gain the trust and respect of the parents at the elementary school she works at. Are these plot lines ridiculous? Definitely. But, they are written in such a raw, witty way that the viewer can’t help but look past the absurdity and empathize with the characters.

“Last Thanksgiving” was written by Elizabeth Meriwether and Joni Lefkowitz. Meriwether is most well known for her writing for New Girl, No Strings Attached, and The Squid and the Whale. Lefkowitz is best known for Saw, Chasing Life, and Life Partners. Writer Ethan Sandler wrote season 6 episode 8, “James Wonder”. Sandler is known for his writing in Meet the Robinsons, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Princess Diaries. The dialogue is fast paced; jokes are quick, so the viewer either gets it or doesn’t. There is no voice-over, the viewer is intended to be a part of the gang. The writing reflects how the plot is heavily based upon the relationships between the main five characters.

Liz Meriwether, creator, writer and executive producer of new comedy series ‘The New Girl’, takes questions during a panel session at the FOX Summer TCA Press Tour.

Silence is used in many meaningful ways in these two episodes. In “James Wonder”, silence is used to show anticipation and the unknown after Jess made her ‘running for principal’ speech. She clearly thought the audience would not like her speech, and the silence included served to emphasize that point. However, what is most prominent about the writing is its wittiness. The writing in these episodes had a quick and inventive humor that is distinct to the show and its aesthetic. In “Last Thanksgiving”, Schmidt acted very similarly to Buddy the Elf, wanting to spend a ridiculous amount of time with his father participating in holiday festivities. The spats of dialogue and spars between father and son exemplify this wittiness in the writing.

Friendship is what ties this show together! They love each other!

New Girl is its writing. The viewer quickly realizes that friendship is what ties this show together. The viewer wants to be a member of the gang with Cece, Schmidt, Winston, Nick, and, of course, Jess. But it is the writers that make that occur.

AKA 99 Friends and How They’re Written

This is based off the fourth episode of Jessica Jones titled “AKA 99 Friends.” The credited writer of this series is Hilly Hicks, Jr. who has also written The Big C, Chicago Fire, and Pasadena. However the show is based off of Marvel comics so the writer is writing based off of someone else’s ideas, characters, and themes. Jessica Jones the comic was written/created by Brian Michael Bendis. The show gives credit to the comics and Stan Lee for the whole program. The dialogue is based around a slight New York City dialect and the inner voice of Jessica Jones. The only voice over is the thoughts of Jessica Jones during times of quiet, transitions, and pauses. This allows the viewer into the troubled mind of Jones and doesn’t create a weird silence while she stalks people. Also, it helps keep you keep up with what is going on and what issues Jessica Jones is going through with her PTSD.

I just thought this was a good and humorous addition to this otherwise dreary topic.

In this episode there are times of character silence that is used to allow the viewer to hear Jessica’s thoughts. Times of complete silence are almost always filled with tension or sadness, generally negative emotions. In this episode, it allows you to see a tear roll down Jessica’s face after the betrayal of a friend. Silence is also used for times of sleep which often leads to nightmares relating to Jessica’s experiences with Kilgrave. This is a marvel show, therefore there is a big ol’ load of references and allusions to ‘the big green guy’ or events that have taken place in marvel movies or other comics. Another character in the show is Luke Cage, he has his own show and therefore is kind of an allusion in and of itself.

The show Luke Cage that stems from Jessica Jones

The writing of the show is very powerful in its underlying messages about modern issues that are made apparent by using an issue in the show as a reference to a real world issue such as racism. Plus, I just like the way Jessica Jones is written as a bad ass character who pretends to not care and usually doesn’t.

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