Enter our inner circle. Support The Artifice on Patreon

New Girl Tackles Materialism and Promotes Censorship

Schmidt displays much more than a pretty face.
Schmidt displays much more than a pretty face.

While materialism is an idea that has been part of our society since we adopted capitalism as our system of economics, in terms of popular culture, it has slowly been spoon-fed to our society over the last few years, so much so that we don’t even realize that it is happening.

This became evident to me after watching Fox’s television series New Girl. I found the amount of materialism displayed in the show to be enlightening because it pointed to specific materialistic behaviors. This materialism is especially seen through a character like Schmidt, who is quite literally ruled by his material possessions and material thoughts, to the point that he can’t function without them.

The way materialism is portrayed in the series seems to hint that there should be a certain level of negativity attached to it, a negativity that everyone appears to overlook. The series seems to be doing this by showing the ways in which other characters view the idea of materialism and how they choose to either try to rid the world of it or how they instead, try to censor it. What is even more appealing is how certain friendships appear to perpetuate or discourage the idea of materialism. It is obvious that  New Girl promotes the ideology of both materialism and censorship through the actions and ideas of Schmidt and his friendships as particularly evidenced in the episode “The Story of the 50.”

The premise of “The Story of the 50” revolves around Schmidt’s 29th birthday. After the disappointment of losing his ideal party bus, Schmidt abandons all hope of having a successful and memorable birthday bash. In attempts to raise his spirits, Jess tries to convince Nick and Winston that they should throw Schmidt a birthday party. Both Nick and Winston try to warn Jess that throwing Schmidt a party would be a bad idea, especially because of his high standards and his ill-mannered friends, who they would ultimately have to deal with. However, Jess ignores their warnings and throws Schmidt a surprise party, complete with a tricked-out school bus, half a pot cookie, and a sketchy male stripper. Many awkward and uncomfortable situations arise during the mobile party, making the night extremely hilarious and the episode rather interesting.

To try and give Schmidt the party of a lifetime, Jess creates her own version of a party bus using simple items.
To try and give Schmidt the party of a lifetime, Jess creates her own version of a party bus using simple items.

Materialism

To begin with, this episode presents an ideology of materialism through the use of materialistic language and objects. The whole point of this episode is to throw Schmidt a birthday party. Although the overarching concept of having a party doesn’t strictly apply to materialistic people, Schmidt’s whole point of having a party for his birthday really to impress other people with unnecessary, flashy things, such as a party bus with a “state of the art sound system, a stripper pole, a love grotto, and a steering wheel in the shape of a boob” (Meriwether & Kasdan, 2012). None of these things are truly essential for a birthday party, where the purpose generally is to just have fun in the company of others.

In Schmidt’s case, he feels that in order to have what he considers a “good time,” he must have all of these showy material objects. This idea introduces the ideology of materialism right off the bat, for the scene in which this ideal party bus is discussed takes place within the first three minutes of the episode.

After Schmidt can’t get his ideal party bus, his behavior and the things that he says represent a materialistic frame of mind. When Jess asks him if he is alright, he responds by saying that he is not okay because “[he] had to cancel [his] birthday party” and that “it’s social suicide”; he also mentions that because he can’t get his party bus, he can “feel [his] ‘it’ factor going away” (Meriwether & Kasdan, 2012). This behavior is seemingly irrational, especially for someone who is turning twenty-nine years old.

The fact that he uses a heavy term like ‘social suicide’ shows how materialistic he is. He feels that because he can’t have a grandiose birthday bash, he might as well kiss his elite social status goodbye. He depends heavily on non-essential material objects and truly believes that without the presence of these objects, no one will like him and his life will have no meaning.

Later in this episode, Schmidt talks about his friend Benjamin, who is perhaps the most materialistic character in the show, even though he rarely makes an appearance. Benjamin’s character is another way in which this episode presents the ideology of materialism. Being a part of the social elite, Benjamin is only impressed with flashy items, more so than Schmidt, and is unhappy with anything that isn’t high end or expensive. To him, money is no object and is merely there to fuel his affluent lifestyle.

Toward the beginning of the episode Schmidt talks about his friendship with Benjamin during their college years. In that scene, Benjamin does not fail to display materialistic behavior. He states that one day, he is going to be very rich and as proof of this, he writes Schmidt a huge check for him to cash in the future. This behavior shows that, again, money is no object to Benjamin and that in the future his social status and wealth will be so high that the check he is writing will have no significant impact on him.

This idea of money and its relationship to materialism doesn’t solely relate to Benjamin, but to Schmidt as well. Schmidt has no problem spending copious amounts of money to maintain his social standing and to impress those around him. Schmidt obviously has no problem spending large amounts of money on things like a party bus if it will benefit his social status and make people like him. He uses his money to buy fancy clothes and accessories, which is yet another way that the ideology of materialism is made evident in this episode. In each episode, Schmidt is always impeccably dressed, even if he is just hanging out around his apartment. However, in this episode, Schmidt talks about specific clothes and objects that he has, which truly paints him in a materialistic light.

In the concluding scene, viewers see Schmidt either frantically searching for his fancy clothes and accessories or just bringing them up to his roommates out of nowhere. He brings up that his personalized condoms came in the mail; the fact that he spent money on something as unnecessary as personalized condoms is one display of his materialism. He also asks his roommates if they have seen his “good Pea-coat”, his “sharkskin laptop sleeve”, his “driving moccasins”, his “croquet cleats”, and his “other timepiece” (Meriwether & Kasdan, 2012). All of these things are non-essential, material objects. Viewers can detect his dependency on these items all by the hint of either franticness or frustration in his voice. This attachment shows his materialism because he believes that these objects are essential for everyday living when they certainly are not.

Censorship

At the same time, this idea of censorship directed towards materialism is seen through the relationship and actions of Schmidt’s friendships with his roommates. His three roommates, Nick, Jess, and Winston, provide a sort of censorship to Schmidt’s material behavior and actions. Throughout the series, and especially in this episode, his friends are highly critical of his behavior. When Schmidt gets upset about not being able to get his ideal party bus, Winston suggests that he just get another one as opposed to sympathizing with him on any level. Nick suggests that Schmidt just have his party at a bar instead, which doesn’t make Schmidt very happy. In suggesting other alternatives that are not necessarily showy or flamboyant, Nick and Winston are essentially promoting the idea that having a party with flashy objects isn’t important and that having a good time should be the focus.

When Jess sympathizes with Schmidt and suggests to Nick and Winston that they should throw a party for him, the guys dislike the idea and start to criticize the behavior of Schmidt and his friends, whom they refer to as “d-bags.” They both criticize, for example, the costly and outlandish parties that Schmidt and his friends attend. Nick and Winston are basically voicing the fact that they dislike those who “live in a different world”—i.e. the world of the materialistic; they don’t understand the importance of throwing needless, expensive, and ridiculous themed parties called “Bros before Hoes on the Moon” or parties that require dress codes like “yacht flair” (Meriwether & Kasdan, 2012).

Jess, in a way, also presents a form of censorship when she creates a party bus of her own using a borrowed school bus. Jess’ party bus isn’t equipped with materialistic objects like a state of the art sound system, but rather it is put together in a homemade and craft-like sort of way. Whereas Schmidt’s party bus would have included features like a mini bar, strobe lights, a legitimate stripper pole, fancy seats, expensive liquor, and an extravagant sound system, Jess’ party bus is equipped with string lights, craft store lanterns, school bus seats with cloth draped over them, ‘bro juice’ in a portable Gatorade cooler, standard bus speakers, and a makeshift stripper pole. Jess’ party bus is really suggesting that a party bus with flashy additions isn’t essential to having a great time and that people can replace materialistic objects with simple ones and like them just as much.

Schmidt makes one of many frequent payments to the Douchebag Jar
Schmidt makes one of many frequent payments to the Douchebag Jar

The most evident form of censorship in this episode is the ‘douchebag jar’. Whenever one of the roommates is behaving badly, they must put money into the ‘douchebag jar’. While the jar is not limited to one person, Schmidt is the roommate who seems to add the most money to it.

Whenever Schmidt talks about his material possessions or displays materialistic behavior, his roommates immediately tell him to put money in the ‘douchebag jar’. In doing so, they are almost punishing him for acting in materialistic ways. The presence of the jar in this episode specifically hints at the negativity of materialism and a need for censorship of materialistic behavior.

Wrapping it all Up

Both of the ideas presented in this episode are important and have something to teach readers. The ideology of materialism shows readers that although materialism has become such a common idea in our society, it is not an idea that should continue to be perpetuated. The ideology of censorship is important because it essentially shows that there is a need to limit displays of materialism that people see every single day.

Materialism is more prominent now than it has ever been before; unfortunately the idea of materialism has become more normal and widely accepted in our society today, but there are those who are trying to discreetly discourage materialism.

I feel that New Girl is effective in indirectly making a statement about materialism. Because the show attracts a younger audience as opposed to a more adult audience, I feel that the idea that materialism is negative and that there is a need to censor it will leave an impression on younger generations and hopefully spark them to make materialism less of a norm in our society today.

*quotes in the show cited from: Meriwether, E (Writer) & Kasdan, J. (Director). (January 17, 2012). The Story of the 50 [New Girl]. In E. Meriwether (Producer). Los Angeles, California: Fox.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Posted on by
elaina \ ee-lay-nah \ noun : a 21-year-old, semi self-sufficient sweet-tea-drinking art student from the midwest.

Want to write about TV or other art forms?

Create writer account

36 Comments

  1. Irene Becker
    0

    Interesting analyses, thank you. New girl has always driven its comedy and drama from subtle, realistic and relatable scenarios (air duct badger and Mexico aside) -This enhances the comedy and makes the relationships more believable. Looking forward to more from this show.

  2. It kind of sucks nowdays. It used to be SO FUNNY! I mean I was in my house ready for New Girl every Tuesday night. I had to catch it as soon as it aired. Now, I don’t care if I miss it and catch it days later on demand.

    I keep watching because I hold out hope that it will get better?

    The problem is that they hooked everyone up way too soon. CeCe and Schmidt got together too soon in the series and so did Nick and Jess. I would have liked for Schmidt to continue on his hilarious dating antics instead of spending so much time being Not Schmidt weeping over CeCe. I loved any episode to do with his work environment because it’s hilarious that he is the only guy in his office. It would have been an awesome storyline if they had him hook up with his nemesis of a co worker (I think her name was Beth?). Or if he kept dating Eliabeth! And don’t even get me started on Nick and Jess. They spent the entire second half of season 2 basically teasing the audience if they would hook up. Oh, and we never found out what they both wrote on their papers at the restaurant when they ran into Russell? Or what terrible thing “future Nick” predicted Nick would do to Jess. Anyways, I digress.

    I won’t even get into the damn stories they give Winston.

    I as rewatching Season 1 on Netflix, and the best episodes were ones that all the characters were involved in. Like the Wedding episode when Caroline is there, and Landlord, and I think this is season 2 but the Parking Spot episode.. We all knew that the chemistry between Nick and Jess was there and that they would hook up but it was too soon, they fight or have some sort of problem in EVERY episode, and now that the writers have rushed into hooking them up, they’ve written themselves into a corner. They don’t know what else to do with them, so they bring a break up out of nowhere.

    It just bugs me that they had such a good thing then ruined it so quickly. Oh well, I’ll finish out the rest of Season 3, then I think I’ll be done.

    • This show sucks since they added Wayan. He’s got no comic chops, just connections. He should get out before he’s tagged a show killer. Maybe he should move to just serious acting. But then again he’s so annoying, even just to look at. And this season started off just kickin ass!!!

    • Elaina Chastain

      I completely understand you here. The first season was so great because of the fact that each character had their own thing going on. Nick was still getting over Caroline, Schmidt was being, well, Schmidt, and Jess was seeing some different kinds of people! That dynamic served the show well. I admit too, I am extremely behind on season three, and with the direction its going, I’m not entirely sure about the future of the show. Thanks so much for the read and the much appreciated conversation 🙂

    • Rico Duggan
      0

      If anything, it’s probably the Jess and Nick’s “Relationship Problem Of The Week” they’ve been doing all season. I lost interest a few episodes back. I’m feeling pretty bored tonight so I’ll probably catch up, but I’m pretty tired of these kind of episodes. I like that they’re a couple, and I enjoy seeing them together but they spend entire episodes on REALLY stupid issues. Soon they’ll spend an episode bickering about stripes versus polka dots and what underlying character traits they have serious problems with in each other because of it.

      • Elaina Chastain

        Yes, totally. These last few episodes have been redundant! Hopefully there will be a turn around so we can return to some top notch New Girl material.

    • Chalk up these writers to all the rest who don’t have a clue how to write relationships. Let’s see….we tease for awhile…..bring them together……so we can break them up. Then we will do a bunch of episodes where they stare longingly at each other when the other goes out with someone else. Re-do the teasing all over again….why? because we have no idea how to write for characters once we put them in a relationship. And it comes just a couple of episodes where they declared their love for each other.

  3. Joaquina
    0

    Great post! One of my favorite things about Zooey is how she can cry real tears in a comedic way. She’s so good at it.

  4. Cyr Cyr
    0

    I think the pilot was still there funniest episode to date.

  5. Samantha Swantek

    This was so interesting! I really loved the party bus episode and you’ve shed a whole new light on it.

  6. Christina Cady

    These are pretty interesting themes of the show. Your analysis of the party bus episode really encapsulates these ideas well. One instance that comes to mind along these same lines is the part in Schmidt’s season 3 arc in which, despite the luxuries of his new apartment, Schmidt really just wants to be with his friends. There is certainly a lot of materialistic displays in the show but the values of friendship always take the moral high-ground.
    Another interesting aspect that you touched on is that we see different degrees of materialism we see in the characters. Schmidt’s materialism, while comically excessive, is made almost relatable compared to Benjamin’s excessive display. While I’m sure most can confirm that Benjamin truly was a “d-bag,” I think that the theme is still more powerful in Schmidt. Do you think that it is also Schmidt’s relatability also adds to the show’s message against materialism?

    • Elaina Chastain

      Thank you!!! I certainly think that Schmidt’s relatability adds to the message against materialism. Its a little unnerving when he displays materialistic behavior and I immediately go, “OH, I do that sometimes!” That relatability really highlights the pervasiveness of materialism nowadays and shows you the effects it can have on your life! Great question 🙂

  7. I’m positive they’re going to break Nick and Jess up at the season finale. It’s such a common writer’s tool in relationship sitcoms. That’s probably why they’re having these little obstacles each week – they’re going to lead to something bigger.

  8. I loved this! I watch the show semi-regularly, and usually as light-hearted entertainment after a long day, so reading this in-depth analysis made me reconsider the show’s intent.

    You make some valid points, I mean, who doesn’t secretly hate how into himself Schmidt is? Isn’t that why the narcissistic Ceci is so attracted to him in the first place? And I remember this episode fondly. Schmidt is always trying to be showier than he needs to be, always needs to one-up some Average Joe, always needs to be the best, dress the best, drink the best.

    That is why his dynamic with the rest of the roommates is cause for comic relief–they are NORMAL. Jess is such a free spirit, crafty and naive. Winston likes to hangout in the shadows of his roommate’s dramas and his one true love is his cat. Nick is virtually anti-materialism, because only Nick could make worn out t-shirts and Pabst Blue Ribbon sexy.

    I’ve never thought about what the New Girl says about American culture. It does paint Schmidt in a negative light, and rightfully so for someone so arrogant and self-absorbed. And you are absolutely right in pointing out that he has by far the most donations to the Douchebag Jar.

    Interesting idea–I’m never going to watch the show the same way again!

    • Elaina Chastain

      Thank you. I love that you brought up Schmidt’s dynamic in relation to the rest of his roommates, such a great observation!

      And YES, only Nick Miller can make bummin’ it look fab <3

  9. Nilson Thomas Carroll

    Haha really intricate analysis here : ) great article…!

    I always see this show because it’s on before the news (lol), but I never really liked it much. It never really caught my attention, and I think, uh, The Mindy Project might be funnier…I always say to my friends that the writers on New Girl should slowly turn the show into a science fiction drama over the course of one season, that’d really spice it up…

    • Elaina Chastain

      I’ve heard good things about The Mindy Project! And at this point, they might as well change it to anything else. ANYTHING.

  10. I think its an interesting point you bring up about Schmidt. His actions and this type of behavior is some of the funniest I’ve ever seen on television, but there does seem to be more levels to it like you said. I also agree on your point that hopefully their subtle arguments will reach the audience that they have acquired because materialism has become a big problem. Great article 🙂

  11. Maria the Writer

    Great article, yet interesting outlook. I never really noticed an overload of materialism nor materialistic concepts being driven in the storyline. Most everything nowadays incorporate product placement, I think, way more than New Girl. The real topic is when are they gonna stop centering every single episode around Jess and Nick’s relationship?! And do you agree that it seems the writers are trying to phase out Winston out of the show with Damon Wayans Jr. as his replacement? I hope that doesn’t happen. Their original dynamics on the show were perfect, although I understand the introduction of new characters to refresh the shows storyline.

    • Elaina Chastain

      Very good point about everything incorporating product placement, that’s definitely true. There’s waaaaay too much emphasis on Nick and Jess. The whole reason the first season was great is because there was emphasis on every character. And if they replace Winston I will be so SO upset! I’m not very crazy about Coach in the slightest.

  12. You have some really interesting points. It’s rare to find a show where a materialistic character is not portrayed as either ridiculously greedy or better because of their possessions. His materialism is a large part of who he is, but he is neither revered nor written off by the other characters. He is simply a materialistic person, and that side of him is something they’ll put up with-but only to a limit!

  13. AmyImogene

    I liked this article. When I first began reading, I was very curious to see how you tied censorship into the idea of materialism as it is displayed on the TV show- and you represented that in a really unique way. Schmidt is a direct example to materialistic America at its worst. In fact, there are probably archetypal arguments behind each of the main characters.

  14. Marta

    I love New Girl and never would have thought to use the show as an example in an educational/morally just essay like your own. You 100% got me to see something that I didn’t notice before. Stellar job, miss.

  15. I like that you have noted the theme of materialism that runs in New Girl, which I had noticed before, but never paid particular attention to. These days, the episodes seem more about getting across a moral about relationships than offering a theme, such as materialism, for viewers to think about. Personally, I feel that’s one of the many positives of a show like Game of Thrones; as a viewer, I never feel like the writers are trying to shove a lesson down my throat!

    I think an interesting addition to this would be an examination of Schmidt as a stereotype/parody, especially in light of Max Greenfield’s improv on set.

    Nice work!

  16. Great article! I am a big fan of the show and I know they make a big deal out of Schmidt’s materialism, but I never really thought of the douche jar, or the roommates criticism of his attitude, as a for of censorship until you said it. You are right though and you make a very well informed point about it being censorship. Really interesting article!

  17. Really interesting article! I love how Nick more than anyone really contrasts with Schmidt’s materialism. Also, love this episode!

Leave a Reply