I’m a Teacher: A New Dimension for 'New Girl'

A popular sitcom highlights a calling.

Posted Oct 16, 2012

Unlike most sitcoms, New Girl has been able to showcase the multidimensionality of its characters from an early start—even developing the male characters’ distinct story lines by the middle of the first season. As the show kicks off its sophomore season, Elizabeth Meriwether and her writing staff are delving into the full canvas of main character Jess—romance, friendship, family, sex, anxiety, heartache, joy, and career.

From the first episode of this series we have known Jess is a teacher and that she loves her job. Yet it is in the first episode of the second season where we see what her career really means to her. Due to budget cuts, she gets fired, is allowed to take one item from the lost and found as a parting gift (a small prop hat), and decides that she will shift her energies to being a “shot girl” during Schmidt’s party to commemorate his penis no longer being broken (yes, that was actually a subplot). She dresses in a 1920s costume—lost and found tiny hat in tow—and tries to meet the job requirements of dancing, joking, and, most importantly, pouring alcohol down people’s throats.

Of course Jess fails in a hilarity ensconced fashion. In the episode’s climactic scene, Jess and Nick have a heart-to-heart, where she tells him that she is not a shot girl, she is a teacher. Jess knows in her soul that teaching is what she is meant to do, and will only be happy in work and life when she is doing it.

Indeed, researchers who study the role of a calling in a person’s life often discuss how having a calling but not living it (e.g., called to teach but distributing shots instead) may actually make some people less happy with their lives. While they work in jobs less suited for them they become resentful for not doing their ideal job.

Even though we know that New Girl is primarily built on the personality of Jess and the almost guaranteed future romance with Nick, it is nice to see more network comedies highlighting the important place of work in their characters’ lives. In shows like this, a story about a broken penis will certainly beat one about a calling any day of the week, but we suspect the calling story will be (slightly) more inspirational.