English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: writing Page 1 of 3

A sense of empathy

Sense 8 is written by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. They are both trans women, formally known as the Wachowski brothers. They were the writers of The Matrix (1999) an iconic movie. After discovering this the show Sense8 now makes a lot of sense. They are both elaborate, reality questioning works of science fictions.

 

Particularly, Sense8’s writing is very unique- unlike anything I have seen before. This is a serious science fiction drama. Unlike many TV shows, including those of science fiction, there is no comedic relief. Everything every character says is deliberate and includes a specific meaning or message. This deliberate style is used intentionally to captivate the viewer. This is not the show to put on in the background while you are eating dinner or doing homework. You have to pay attention. You want to pay attention.

 

Not only is the deliberacy of the timing- when dialogue is used- captivating, but the diction picked out is used so beautifully to convey the deeper elements of human emotion that people often have trouble describing for themselves.

 

We all struggle to understand our emotions. The premise of this show is to make ourselves question our understanding of ourselves and the relationships within our lives. By having the eight main character be connected by something so much stronger than normal human connection. Something so strong that they can feel what each other is feeling emotionally allows for the greater exploration of human empathy.

 

The writing as seen through the dialogue of this show can demonstrate how this message is portrayed. After Lito has gotten his world rocked by the end of his relationship with Hernando, now his ex-boyfriend, he sits in the Diego Rivera Museum contemplating love and his fear of coming out. Lito describes his first kiss with Hernando to Nomi as a ‘religious experience’, but he is still afraid that he will ‘lose everything’ he has worked for in his career by coming out. Even though it is clear that he has already lost so much from losing Hernando. Nomi helps him evaluate his life by describing that at some point she learned that there is ‘a huge difference between what we work for and what we live for’.

 

This dialogue between Lito and Nomi helps everyone contemplate their priorities in life and where the love in their life stems from. For every viewer the reaction to this scene is different, but I felt grateful for the people in my life and reminded that school is not the end all be all.

“The Wachowskis.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Nov. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wachowskis

Super Authors

I know that the superpower everyone wanted when they were growing up was to have amazing writing skills, right? No? Well even if that wasn’t the case for you, you still have to appreciate the skills of the ones who did manage to get that superpower, and in order to do this, we will take a more in depth look at episode fourteen from season one of Supergirl.

One thing that is really cool about this episode is that it was both written and directed by women, and out of the entire first season, only two episodes had a female director. One of the writers is Yahlin Chang, and she is a very prolific television writer who worked on several shows including ER and Shades of Blue. She is currently a co-executive producer on The Handmaid’s Tale which has become one of the best dramas currently on television. Another one of the writers is Michael Grassi, and he has worked on quite a few shows that you might have heard of including Degrassi: The Next Generation, Lost Girl, and Riverdale. It is amazing to see how a show that most people would write off as being superficial or frivolous entertainment actually has some incredible depth and talent to it when people choose to look past the surface.

One thing that stands out to me about the writing of the show is how current it is. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that throughout all the episodes the audience is constantly being thrown pop culture, history, and celebrity references that we can relate to on a personal level. From talking about binge watching Netflix to gossiping about celebs such as Jennifer Lawrence, the authors use references such as these to help the audience become more engaged with the story and to relate to the characters by seeing how much they act and talk like we do. For example, Kara tells her sister Alex that she’s always wanted to catch a corrupt cop ever since they binge watched the television show The Wire together. Now I think most people can agree that at some point or another, we all want to escape into the stories we see and get to experience them right along with the rest of the characters. It’s references like these that are thrown throughout the dialogue that help to shape how the audience views the plot and how we experience the action along with the characters on screen.

The actors may be the ones saying the words, but its Supergirl’s writers who are the true heart of the show. They painstakingly craft together scenes and dialogue in such a way as to make the words feel like a conversation that we as the audience get to be a part of. They are the real superheroes.

Writers: The Real Superheroes

Crazy Ex Girlfriend and the Jewish Problem

When I started watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend, I was extremely excited to see Rebecca Bunch’s character, not only because of the way the show was lauded for portraying her mental illness, and her hilarious musical numbers, but also because of the simple fact that she was Jewish. I was excited to see a single Jewish woman at the helm of a show, and I assumed her Judaism would be a real part of her character, not just played for laughs. I was expecting another Mrs. Maisel, who fabulously combined the humor of Jewish life with actual insights as to what it means to be a Jew. I thought that with Rachel Bloom writing and portraying the character, who once wrote a whole Chanukah album entitled “Suck it, Christmas!!” that Judaism would be an integral part of Rebecca. But unfortunately, I was wrong.

Rebecca’s Judaism is exactly the kind of Judaism I see in sitcom characters everywhere: Full of family stereotypes, only relevant as a joke, and, don’t you worry, she still celebrates Christmas. Her Judaism really only comes out when she’s dealing with her obsessive and controlling mother (read: Jewish Mother stereotype to a T), waging a legal battle against her New York nemesis (read: Jewish American Princess stereotypes), or talking about all the bagels she eats (which, to be fair, bagels are pretty great). Other than that, Judaism has absolutely no meaning in Rebecca’s life. She observes no holidays, takes part in a “California Christmas” with seasonal cheer, and has no connection to a Jewish community beyond her mother. In a word, it’s disappointing. 

Rebecca isn’t even an accurate depiction of most Jewish millennials. While many don’t attend synagogue on the regular, or ever, there is still a strong sense of community that drives young Jewish adults together and causes them to seek each other’s company. I know many Jews who were brought up with no religion, and yet strongly identify as Jewish and regularly attend non religious Jewish events. What makes Rebecca’s character truly sad to me is that she’s not accurate- she’s palatable.

When I say palatable, I mean specifically to Gentile audiences that have no idea of Judaism beyond Chanukah, the Holocaust, and a few odd jokes and stereotypes. Rebecca makes no jokes about being Jewish that run any danger of being incomprehensible to Gentiles. Her ethno-religious background is simply a font of jokes, as significant as any other small quirk.

I don’t know why, but it seems that Jewish writers, the ones that rightfully should be creating a diversity of Jewish characters, can only seem to write us in generalities calculated to appeal to anyone but us. 

“Do you mean to tell me you’re trading 8 nights of presents for just one? What the hell is wrong with you??”

Part Of The Resistance: How Broad City Tackles The Current Political Climate

Broad City is a show known for its absurd sense of humor that plays well with its demographic of millennial viewers. But with this off-brand sense of humor, the show tends to not cover critical current events that happen around us. That changed when the fifth episode of Season 3, titled “2016,” aired in early 2016.

While Broad City is not usually known as a deep show that tackles current issues on a large scale, the creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer decided to chime in by creating an episode based on the 2016 election. This episode is pivotal for the show, not only for its cameo appearance of Hillary Clinton herself, but also because it signifies a tremendous shift of the tone and mood from what the show initially conveyed.

Hillary Clinton’s cameo appearance on Broad City

In “2016,” Ilana stumbles upon the HRC headquarters in New York when she picks up a job being a bike messenger. Ilana adores powerful feminist icons, and she holds Hillary Clinton to an almost deity-like stature, so she decides to quit and volunteer for the campaign. At the end of the episode, Hillary Clinton walks into the room to meet the girls, and Abbi and Ilana, for the lack of better words, lose their shit.

After this episode aired, there were speculations as to why Hillary chose this show to cameo on, but it does bring up a point that relates to Broad City’s unique demographic of young, female viewers. Maybe her cameo was to boost her exposure and likability among young voters, but maybe this appearance was a way for the creators to show their support for her campaign in the upcoming election. Besides the speculation, “2016” was a pivotal episode for the show, but it was not entirely intentional.

Many did not see Hillary losing the election, especially Abbi and Ilana, so when the show came back for a fourth season, Abbi’s and Ilana’s characters surprisingly matured from their pasts of being absurd yet optimistic about the future. This maturity and part-of-the-resistance tone is evident throughout the fourth season, especially in the second and eighth episodes. The second episode of Season 4 opens with Abbi and Ilana wearing the pink Women’s March hats as they guide women through protests to the Planned Parenthood clinic. The eighth episode has Ilana seeing a sex therapist because she cannot have sex ever since Trump became president.

Abbi and Ilana escorting women to Planned Parenthood

Ilana going to sex therapy

These examples highlight the hysteria around the 2016 election, and the results have created a polarized atmosphere where the young people are increasingly resisting and opposing the current administration. Therefore, it is key to note that Broad City has taken a step back from their comedic absurdity in order to shed light on the atmosphere of the country after the election, especially for their demographic of millennial viewers. The show as a result has become a beacon for the millennial psyche of resistance, which makes Abbi’s and Ilana’s characters much more relatable, real, and funnier than before.

Into the Darkness

I’ve talked about both writing and cinematography in Search Party before, but I want to take a moment to explore how those two concepts portray character development in the show, particularly Dory’s character. Our first interaction with Dory is silly and bright. She’s standing on a street corner in New York, contemplating the missing person poster tacked to the nearby telephone pole: Chantal Witherbottom. Obviously there’s something about her that Dory is interested in, since she gets distracted enough to step in dog poop as she is contemplating the poster. That scene is funny, too; an upset pedestrian calls Dory out for it, complaining that she’ll make the “whole MTA smell like shit” if she wears them on the train. This moment is jarring yet humorous, and it anchors the viewer back into reality.

The poor girl has no idea what she’s in for.

Here’s the thing about that scene, though: it’s sinister. We don’t know who Chantal is, except for the short clip of people yelling out her name in the woods at the very beginning of the series. We don’t understand that Chantal, beautiful-crazy-stupid-Chantal, is going to ruin Dory’s life. We don’t know yet that Dory is going to meet Keith, kill Keith, and ultimately have to pay the price for his death. We’re safe, unassuming, just like the way the opening scene plays out. The disheveled way Dory is dressed, the safety in broad daylight, the humorous remark of the pedestrian all lead us to believe that everything is going to be okay.

Spoiler alert: everything is Not Okay And Very Bad. The final scene of the show is in complete juxtaposition to the opener. Dory’s all dolled up: red cocktail dress, sleek and professional hair, powerful red lip. She’s grown up, matured, seen some real messed up stuff. The thing is, though, she’s still unassuming. She doesn’t expect what is about to hit her. There’s irony in the scene. It’s supposed to be triumphant, she’s supposed to be up on stage with a winning political candidate, part of a new team that actually got it right for once. What goes around comes around though, and upon her arrest, Dory is instantly transformed. She’s vulnerable, defeated, restrained. The lighting of the scene is ominous.  Even the music is scary.  It sets up Dory for the next season: what will happen? She’s lost all her friends, so how is she going to get out of it this time? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Look at how dark the last time we see Dory is compared to the first

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.

Casual Misogyny in A Feminist Masterpiece

Murphy Brown is an iconic feminist piece which introduced a strong female character only allowed unedited on to TV because of a writers strike. The creator (Diane English) was female and the writers room shared some of this diversity. The show’s credit lists no writers, however the top four credited are half female and half male with female writers Diane English and Korby Siamis and male writers Steven Peterman and Gary Dontzig.  

The writing itself is even paced and witty, revolving around a recurring cast of characters who continuously build jokes off each other based off their history and the episode’s events. Because of these connections, the writers are able to fit in multiple running jokes which help develop the individuals. The humorous writing is often creative however, it adds many cliches into the mix. Much of the jokes rely on situational humor, with the majority of their landings depending on how the actors physically display the joke rather than just on the writing, a technique that Murphy Brown’s Candice Bergen kills.

Despite its feminist history, Murphy Brown is not without it flaws. The show has a surprising amount of misogynistic and inappropriate humor. At one point in season 1 episode 18, the young producer Miles makes a comment about how his life is hard because he had to turn down a date with “do-anything-for-a-promotion Lisa”, a joke that would not fly in the modern-day era of the Me-Too movement. The same episode sees other uncomfortable workplace jokes such as a coworker suggestively telling Murphy that he “hoped to see [her] in [her] cowgirl outfit” as well as a comment by the same producer asking if Murphy was upset about being slandered because it was “the 18th already” (a hint towards her time of the month which the men of the office creepily knew). This instance is quick and laughable for the 1980’s audience it was geared towards, however when paralleled by Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) the show makes a point to show how inappropriate this is and focuses an entire episode around it.

While the writing of Murphy Brown is lighthearted, easy to follow, and orchestrated by many women it continues to have misogynistic issues which may reflect the norms of the time.

2018 Murphy Brown remake

Plot Twists and New Cousins: Between the Lines of New Girl

Sarah Tapscott is credited with writing the episode “The Hike” in season 6 of New Girl. She has written 41 episodes of New Girl, including the entire 6th season.

The show begins with Jess and Robby being very cute and couple-y and doing things such as saying the same words at the same time, telling inside jokes, and finishing each other’s sentences while getting ready for their hike. Because they are so similar, it sets a very suspicious mood and foreshadows their discovery at the end of the hike. The dialogue was planned this way to show how close and similar they are.

Schmidt and Cece are planning a house party, and they are quite stressed about it. Schmidt makes external references to Groudhog day, calling himself Andie MacDowell because he feels like he has been through this before. They then have flashbacks and begin reflecting on what the “cool” parties were like when they were a kid. These memories were a great use of writing to further characterize Schmidt and Cece and how they handle problems.

When the party begins, dialogue is very important to Winston. Each word he says and story he tells is pretty strange, and this dialogue was chosen to show his nervousness for meeting Ally’s parents. When Ally arrives, there is a large silence that builds apprehension for the surprise. However, there is situational irony because Ally is actually not excited to see her family at all. Ally gets into a fight with her sister because she tells Ally that Winston is “good for her,” which is offensive because it makes it seem as though she needs a man.

Related image

A fun cousin hike

Now back to Jess and Robby. They are hiking and realizing just how similar they are. Then, they come to the conclusion that they are actually 3rd cousins. This is a huge plot twist and dramatic turn, as they are dating. I believe it was the writer’s way of breaking them up so that Jess and Nick can be together. Shortly after in the episode Jess comes to the party with a bag of raisins because she doesn’t like them in the Trail Mix. And it just so happens that Nick loves raisins and wants to eat them. This clever writing trick of bringing them together shows that sometimes opposites attract and foreshadows their future.

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.

I Watched Grey’s Anatomy, So Now I’m a Doctor

Shonda Rhimes, the author of Grey’s Anatomy, writes her medical drama in a way that everyone can understand. There is medical lingo and jargon, but it’s not enough to confuse viewers, and confusing terms like necrotizing fasciitis and a hyperbaric chamber don’t distract from the overall plot and story. They’re either used in a way that isn’t integral to the plot, or they’re explained to further the plot. This is consistent throughout the entire show and the episode I chose to analyze.

Image result for shonda rhimes

The mastermind behind it all.

Like much of the other aspects of the show, the writing is fast paced and straightforward. In a hospital setting, especially in the emergency department, doctors and nurses communicate quickly and with urgency, including much of the previously mentioned medical lingo. Although some aspects of the show are inaccurate most likely to create the drama and story rather than make it perfectly accurate, much of it seems realistic. This includes the writing. Also, interestingly, when anything is explained, it’s quick and to the point. The audience requires context, as most of them aren’t doctors, but explanations can’t be so drawn out that it becomes unrealistic. Therefore, explanations of medical terms and procedures are done by “testing” the interns’ knowledge or by quickly explaining it in a few words.

Silence isn’t often used. When characters don’t talk, music or commotion is used to fill those spaces. This typically happens in emotional scenes, like when Meredith had to kill a patient due to the patient being DNR ( some more medical lingo for you! ).

There are voiceovers at the beginning and ends of episodes, usually Meredith speaking her thoughts and teasing the episode in the beginning, and reiterating these thoughts while capping off the episode in the end. However, instead of plentiful voiceovers, Meredith’s thoughts are sometimes spoken aloud to compliment what everyone says out loud.

Writes and Wrongs on New Girl

I’ve been looking forward to writing this one.  Today let’s discuss the writing style of New Girl following the 9th episode of season one: “The 23rd”.  Episode 9 having a plot line centered around Christmas proves to be the most emotionally provocative episode yet.  While at an office Christmas party, the gang finds themselves confronting their internal/external conflicts.  This results in an emotional rollercoaster that is powered by subtle but powerful dialogue which we will dive into now!  (Prepare for all the feels)

Throughout episode 9 there are 4 main struggles going on.

  1. Jess isn’t in love with Paul and he is (news that is revealed to Paul by a clumsy Nick)
  2. Schmidt is sick of being used around the office for his body
  3. Winston does not feel a sense of belonging in the world of conventional jobs
  4. Cece is dating a jerk

Each of these struggles are relatable but still difficult making them more impactful on the audience.  In order to capitalize on these pressing issues the writers of the show use certain tactics to amplify the emotional connection between audience and character.  For example, almost all dialogue in this show is shared in an intimate setting between two characters. (3 in the case of Jess, Paul, and Nick)

The writers leave lots of silences between dialogue to let the words resonate with the viewer.  There is also no narrator, which is expected with New Girl, but this leaves the watcher without a specific point from which to view these conflicts.  A lack of narrator decreases biased viewpoints on the issues and increases the reality of the situation.

The episode concludes with the gang coming together to make, a now single, Jess feel better.  They all run around a fancy street early in the morning yelling to get them to turn their Christmas lights on.  One by one the lights come on and Jess, along with the gang, are filled with joy.  A honestly heart warming scene that brought me pre holiday joy.

One of the writers of this episode, Nick Adams, is also the writer of “How to make friends with Black People” a book on bridging racial gaps in society.  Through this process I’m sure he wrote about many interpersonal connections and struggles, similar to the ones portrayed on this episode of New Girl.

In conclusion, the writers of New Girl, like their writing, are subtly good, aspects such as silence, lack of narrator and setting contribute to sympathy of the viewer, and I am now in the Christmas spirit!

Does hip hop make him supreme – or is it all a scheme?

One of my favorite parts about Fresh off the Boat are the voice overs. Eddie Huang, a middle schooler, narrates the first and final scene of every episode, but as an older post-pubescent man. As the main character, he is telling the story from his perspective and how he views the plot. Therefore, this implies that this is how Eddie sees himself. This is just a hilarious ploy by the writers to me.

The voice of this character is unique to say the least. He reflects Eddie’s love of hip hop by using popular slang terms, because those terms are ~cool~. The speech used by this narrator is based off the speech of the popular hip hop artists who act as Eddie’s role models. The voice drastically contrasts with the voice of the real Eddie Huang which is high pitched, and the slang terms don’t sound quite as natural, because he’s a little kid. When Eddie uses the same slang it looks like a kid who is pretending to be cool when in reality he’s not, but the narration voice really is. Again, what this says about Eddie is that he genuinely believes he’s really cool.

This says a lot about Eddie’s character. Eddie’s character struggles to make friends. He is often rejected by the kids at school. In season 1 episode 5, the episode starts out by Eddie narrating how he doesn’t get invited to any sleepovers. This statement alone is a bit odd, considering the narrator is an adult and adults don’t exactly have sleepovers (in the traditional sense of the term…).  The narrator continues by saying he was “mad siked” about getting invited to the sleepover which is something a ~cool~ person would say. And then the shot pans to Eddie, a small pudgy middle schooler who lacks in eyebrows (no offense Eddy, still love you). Despite this you might start thinking Eddie was actually a cool kid, because he finally got invited to a sleepover and was making friends. But again, the show reminds us that he is not. The next shot is of Eddie’s mom telling Eddie that there is “no way” he’s going to that sleepover. Again we’re reminded that he’s just a little awkward kid (again no offense).

I mean look at him… his cheeks are so chubby.. he has baby fat!

This really just serves as a constant reminder that people view themselves as a little bit cooler than we actually are. Not just kids, adults too. If the joke didn’t apply to adults, it wouldn’t be funny. Obviously low self esteem is a real thing, but the way we view ourselves is never exactly how the outside world views us.

The New Girl Feel

While New Girl highlights significant matters regarding gender and relationships, the series rarely dwells on a particular topic for too long or with too much depth.  Like Jess, New Girl has been lighthearted and optimistic throughout each episode so far.  While the episodes have touched on issues such as body image and gender roles, there are merely threads of these issues, rather than ropes, maintained through the episodes.  Part of New Girl’s charm is that there is no real overarching plot or end goal that the characters are trying to reach.  As a result, each episode has little continuation from the one before except the same main characters and their daily lives.

Elizabeth Meriwether is the creator and executive producer of the show, while Luvh Rakhe is credited as the writer for the most recent episode I watched.  Meriwether’s most notable works include New Girl and No Strings Attached, a rom-com starring Natalie Portman and Aston Kutcher.  Luvh Rakhe is known for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, New Girl, and A.P. Bio, a new comedy TV series released this year about a philosophy professor teaching AP Biology.

Dialogue in New Girl episodes generally flow pretty well with little pauses or silences except when to prove a point or to generate some awkwardness.  The writers often include flashbacks to fill in the backstories of characters or explore the lives of the guys before Jess came to live with them.  In episode four, there was a flashback to a chubby, young Schmidt in a bunny suit trying to get his mother’s attention, which highlights his desire for attention and warmth, as well as his body image issues that have continued into adulthood.  Episode seven’s flashbacks regarding Nick’s handyman role hints at a socioeconomic difference between Schmidt and Nick through their views on when to spend money and when to put in the work yourself.

Nick fancy-fixing the toilet

With the series set in modern times and meant to feel relatable to its audience, it makes sense that the writers include snippets of witty quips and pop culture references to appeal to its young adult audience.  With the main characters in about their thirties, though, some of those references admittedly go completely over my head.  Regardless, part of what makes New Girl entertaining and relatable across generations are the situations that the main characters find themselves in and how they interact to solve those problems.  For example, Schmidt and Nick provide models for problems of class and financial discord in relationships, while Schmidt’s characterization magnifies issues of self-confidence and gender roles.

Unlike shows with more drama, such as Jane the Virgin, New Girl draws in its audience with quirky Jess and its more or less realistic experiences and struggles of four(ish) young adults trying to figure their lives out.

Perfect Timing in Fresh Off the Boat’s Writing

In the conclusion of season 1, the Huang family struggle with their cultural heritage. They feel that they have become so assimilated into American culture that they have forgotten their roots. In the end, however, they realize that, in fact, they have not lost their heritage, but instead choose to put on an American persona when necessary. In this blog I will discuss the writing of this episode.

The episode, just like the rest of the show, was written by Nahnatchka Khan. She has written episodes for American Dad and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. Her parents immigrated to the US from Iran, so she can relate to the crisis that the Huang family face in the episode.

One of the most significant scenes in the episode is the revelation that Jessica has that the family is losing their culture. This scene occurs towards the beginning of the episode so as to clearly illustrate that this is the central topic. Jessica’s worry starts when their neighbor, Honey, tells her that “[the Huang family] are just like regular old Americans to [her].” During the scene, Jessica recounts all the American things they have started to do that completely contradict Chinese traditions. It seems as if one more contradiction keeps appearing. It starts with Louis allowing shoes to be worn in the house, then Evan comes in asking how to ask Grandma to speak English in Mandarin. As if on cue, Eddie walks in wearing a Rastafarian outfit for his world cultures project. Then, the scene culminates as Jessica realizes that she made mac and cheese for dinner. Obviously, Khan made each thing happen on perfect timing to add a comedic tone and dramatic effect. On top of the perfect timing of each element, the scene ends with a slow-mo huge crash as Jessica drops the pan of mac and cheese that fades out into silence. Khan does a great job in this scene of introducing the audience to how significant Jessica’s culture is to her by using such dramatic sound and perfectly timed dialogue.

The ending of the scene where Jessica drops the mac and cheese

In other parts of the episode the writing style is relatively similar to the rest of the season. There are a lot of events that happen quickly and right after each other with quick cuts between scenes with a small sound snippet used as a transition so as to keep the audience engaged and maintain an overall positive mood. This style is common among all shows in the sitcom genre and is comfortable and normal for an American audience. Khan decides to use this style because she strives to demonstrate the commonalities between an Asian-American family and a typical American family. Had she decided to choose a more unique and different style, it may counteract this goal.

The Musical Writing of The Mindy Project

Masterfully weaving together elements of comedy and romance without being overtly cliché is a difficult feat. Thankfully, The Mindy Project is stocked with witty, creative writers who are unafraid of leaning into classically complicated tropes to make them fresh and original. One clear example is the season one finale episode “Take Me with You” written by Mindy Kaling and Jeremy Bronson. Both writer’s careers are littered with household names – Mindy from The Office, an off-Broadway play Matt & Ben, and a host of stand-up comedy tours, and Jeremy from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Grandfathered, and Speechless. Outside of television, both wrote for their respective college newspapers (The Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern and the Harvard Lampoon) and Mindy has written two bestselling memoirs.

The fast pace nature of the show is what allows it to follow rom-com tropes without feeling overdone or boring. Specifically, Mindy is shown trying to seem “outdoorsy” on a camping trip to prove she is ready to move to Haiti with her boyfriend. The writing here uses the tent to demonstrate Mindy feeling trapped in her current relationship. The dialogue is quick to respond to the events bothering Mindy – before she is finished politely explaining why the lack of space is suffocating, the next irritation is already executed.

With most of the show’s dialogue being conversational, the lack of dialogue in scenes are notable. However, while there are periods of time when no one is speaking, there is never pure silence. Pivotal moments are emphasized with no dialogue, only music. This was used three times in the season finale. The first moment was Mindy alone, eating cake, overlaid with soft classical music. This returns to the main theme of the show – life will never work flawlessly, even when it externally looks perfect. She seems to have everything – the handsome boyfriend and a strong career, but she still retreats to be alone. This establishes Mindy as the heroine we know and love, as she wants her life to be like a romance novel but is never satisfied with the happily ever after.

The second musical interlude was upbeat pop and a montage of the doctors going into surgery. This reestablishes Mindy as a formidable doctor: while her personal life is reflective of the middle chapter struggle of a romance novel, she is excellent at her job.

Finally, there was the classic running through the streets to profess love trope, this time with music of increasing intensity. Here Mindy reveals she cut her hair off and is ready to change her life and move to Haiti. This scene had the potential to be cliché, but due to the comedy weaved throughout – her unsuccessful first attempts to reach her love and the clothes hangers chucked out the window at Mindy – it felt new. That is what is special about the writing here, the bones of the premise, theme, and scenes are all overdone, but the writing is so original and surprising that it allows everything to flow together perfectly.

Mindy unveiling her new short haircut to Danny.

Works Cited

“Mindy Kaling.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindy_Kaling.

“Jeremy Bronson.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Bronson.

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