Marriage in New Girl- Seriously why is it such a big deal?- Sammi Rippetoe

Netflix recently added Season 5 of “New Girl,” and so of course, I binged. And this show does have a lot of great feminist messages, including a fabulous and dynamic female friendship between Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Cece (Hannah Simone), strong platonic relationships between men and women, and just literally using the work “feminist” casually throughout the seasons. Season 5, however, builds up to Cece and Schmidt’s wedding in the finale, so episodes include wedding dress shopping, bachelor/bachelorette party, venue shopping, everything you could think of that is wedding themed. Of course, this isn’t the first season that has focused on Cece getting married, in season 2 the plot of the season also revolves around her getting into an arranged marriage, which (spoiler alert) she decides not to go through with in the middle of the ceremony. And so it sort of comes down to why is it that marriage becomes the measure of a meaningful romantic relationship in these shows? What does that reveal about our own lived experiences navigating relationships and their meaning? After delving into the 50’s this week, it seems that the markers of a good and true relationship are still very similar decades later: marriage or it isn’t real. And though this could also be a feeling that a lot of us feel pressure to engage with (like when my grandmother calls and asks if an MA will get me a husband), I’m still waiting for a show to depict a relationship that is strong and good where the end point doesn’t have to be marriage. Where a show can instead revolve around the couple just living their lives, changing together, and not needing state recognition to ensure their total loyalty. That is a feminist message I want to see taken on, that’s a question I want explored in sitcom- what does a good relationship make without marriage? For Cece and Schmidt, we will never know.

Image result for screen capture cece wedding new girl

Still from New Girl, “Landing Gear,” (Season 5, Episode 22, 2016.) Image from [http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-new-girl-ends-a-funny-season-on-schmidt-and-ceces-wedding-day]

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15 Responses to Marriage in New Girl- Seriously why is it such a big deal?- Sammi Rippetoe

  1. mediaphiles says:

    Sammi, great points about the show, and also about our conceptualization of what constitutes a meaningful or legitimate relationship. Clearly that is shaped/perpetuated by the kinds of relationships that media provides for us as examples. I’d also like to point out the capitalist/consumerist nature that marriage takes on when all of the purchasing power gets focused on (i.e. dress shopping, venues, etc.) That kind of view of marriage makes it very much a part of how we are expected to make personal relationships a part of our contribution to society.

    With two female family members getting married, and the looming questions about when me and my S.O. will do so…. I feel your post and your pain haha

    -Leah H

  2. mediaphiles says:

    This is such an interesting way to approach the show considering its feminist messages! I agree that the overall message shouldn’t be “marriage or it isn’t real”. Why does marriage have to be the ultimate sign of love? I have two aunts now, my aunt and her partner, who are in love but choose not to marry. They don;t choose to not to marry because it is controversial, they choose not to because they believe a marriage license doesn’t define their love. I think we need to have a more open attitude towards other’s relationships and their own personal choices. People should choose how to love freely, married or not!

    -Meghan Murphy

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I really agree with what you’re saying. I’m just curious how much of the audience does. Maybe Elizabeth Meriwether didn’t want marriage to be the end goal (and not knowing how Nick and Jess end up, maybe what you’re saying will be true), but the network has found that marriage episodes bring in big ratings, so they push for that over something else. I also think, in a narrative sense, it gives the show something to build to. New Girl has become more serialized as it’s progressed and I think the general conception (wrong or not) is that a wedding is something that A) creates a lot of comedic tension (see how it was the arc of two seasons) and B) provides the show with a climax and resolution to an arc. I would have liked to see what the relationship would be like without having to involve marriage, but I realize that on a network show like this, the show has to please a larger swath of people and thus more traditional arcs are used. – Max Dosser

  4. Ayla Acosta says:

    I would love to see a show that presents a relationship which does not rely on marriage. Maybe Jess and Nick will turn into that couple since they both seem to be afraid of commitment to each other.

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I was thinking the same thing while watching the series actually. Everyone wants to get married! Beyond Cece and Schmidt, other characters on the show are similarly concerned about tying the knot, which is framed as the one true end point to a successful relationship. New Girl isn’t the only show to do it either. Everyone gets married in Parks and Recreation. Michael Scott’s departure from The Office was justified by his impending marriage, and the show’s finale centered around another couple’s wedding. It seems standard in sitcoms that a relationship either culminates with marriage or fails. But I’ll take it a step further and say that romantic relationships in general seem to be one of the main issues most main characters are concerned about on most sitcoms. I’d like to see more shows where not only is marriage not the main goal of a relationship, but where a relationship is not the main goal of central characters. I guess It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia does that, but that show is practically the anti-sitcom in that it frequently and intentionally does just the opposite of what most standard sitcoms do.

    –Kevin Pabst

  6. Serena says:

    Girl this is so real. I think coming from an Indian perspective, it is Cece’s duty to get married in order to ascend into the afterlife. Unmarried women cannot break the cycle of reincarnation (which is the point), and therefore will not reach enlightenment. There are several issues with this school of thought, but I thought I would throw that in there for the representing Indian chick — Serena Daya

  7. mediaphiles says:

    I think this is a very interesting point that I had not truly taken the time to consider when watching New Girl in the past. It does seem that every character’s end goal is eventually marriage. Especially with Jess, who SHOULD be the least worried about this as our main feminist representative, but she is always concerned with her romantic relationships. I agree that I would love to see some change in this perspective and have Jess focus on other things instead of romantic relationships, but as said above, I also think the desire to apply to a large portion of the audience plays a role in this.
    -Lacey Worsham

  8. mediaphiles says:

    I think that this is a very good point. But I also think that when it comes the time to write Sitcoms such as New Girl, which have so many episodes and season’s there is a point in which they have to come up with new ideas. I think marriage is not necessary for every Family Sitcom but it is also a good way to show love and prosperity and even make the show longer! – Jon Baquero

  9. mediaphiles says:

    I really enjoyed reading your response about Cece getting married. I, also, don’t understand why society still suggests that marriage is the only end point when it comes to relationships. I often find myself in your situation; when I am visiting with family friends, I am always asked whether or not I have a boyfriend. Why does that matter? Also, why does society still assume that everyone is heterosexual? I do recognize the reasoning behind the show incorporating relationships, but I do not necessarily think that those relationships have to end in marriage. Media has an incredible advantage when influencing others, and when shows continuously depict individuals and ideals in outdated ways, society will change at a much slower rate.
    -Allie Kleinman

  10. mediaphiles says:

    I very much enjoyed reading this piece, as it resonated very well with thoughts I have always had about the sitcom world, and world of Hollywood and media in general. It seems as though Hollywood has engrained in our minds that the only way a woman can be happy is if she ends up with the perfect man and perfect family. All to often, we see rom-coms depict single women who are depressed and lonely all of a sudden inspired and picked back up on their feet once they meet a man and get married. I think our society is obsessed with the idea that there must always be a happy ending in a romantic relationship, but the reality is that life isn’t perfect. I always find it refreshing to see a show that actually depicts a love story gone wrong (cue “Girls”), showing the truthfully, and sometimes dark sides of love and relationships. I find it surprising that “New Girl” plays into this societal norm, given the fact that they have challenged the status quo various times in the past. I find it unfortunate that they play up Cece’s wedding as much as they did, instead of taking on a different approach.
    – Eleanor Raether

  11. mediaphiles says:

    I completely agree with you that many shows create a “marriage or it isn’t real” storyline. Before posting this comment I tried to think of a show that allowed a serious relationship to stay a serious relationship without marriage and could not even think of one. At first, I thought of Sex and the City, but then realized the entire culmination of Carrie and Big’s relationship ends in eventual marriage in the movie. Shows such as The Bachelor place such a heavy emphasis on this notion; if you aren’t engaged by the end of the six week season you break up. This raises the question of why marriage is so important to validate a serious relationship. In many ways, this same pressure exists in society. With the development of science and technology, the same time pressure does not necessarily exist for women to have children by a certain age, which is a major reason for the “marriage or bust” case. Why, then, do we still feel the need to validate a relationship through marriage? I am not sure exactly what my answer is to this question, but I believe it is something to continue to explore, especially in the world of television.

    Arianna Gershon

  12. mediaphiles says:

    I completely agree with all of your points!
    Karly Morgan

  13. mediaphiles says:

    That is a really intriguing question I have not ever thought of myself but nevertheless it would be interesting to see that type of relationship in a show for once as it does seem like in every sitcom couples either get married or do not work out.

    -Max Lissette

  14. mediaphiles says:

    Sammi, this rocks! I think this is such an interesting thing to bring up because you’re right: marriage or it isn’t real is consistently being ingrained in our brains (and the brains of those younger than us) as far as relationships go. I mean I even think about the show I’m writing on, Orange is the New Black which (I would definitely argue is more of a gender and sexuality neutralizer) still brings up a lot of interesting points about what is “commitment” and how does that work in the world? I almost want to say that pretty much every representation through television that we have without marriage either ends poorly or has some catastrophic event that we are supposed to take as a “loss” or “failure” because it didn’t end in marriage – and wouldn’t have ever had the chance at “happily ever after” because the couple didn’t get married.
    I also agree with the comment above that mentions what the audience wants, which is absolutely 100% to see a wedding or elaborate engagement or some kind of “story” that they, too, can hope for in their own lives. This is cool, I’d love to elaborate on this more.

    -Corey

  15. marymdalton says:

    Good conversation — provocative post.

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