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'New Girl' And The Optics Of Breast Whispering

Schmidt (Max Greenfield) tries to imagine a small-breasted future as Coach (Damon Wayans Jr., left) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) look at him in bafflement.
Adam Taylor
Schmidt (Max Greenfield) tries to imagine a small-breasted future as Coach (Damon Wayans Jr., left) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) look at him in bafflement.

Like a lot of comedies — and almost all good ones — Fox's New Girl has tweaked its dynamics quite a lot since it debuted in the fall of 2011. Originally built around the idea that Jess (Zooey Deschanel) was childlike and unable to get a date, it has made her more individual, dropped the idea that she's sexually incompetent, and generally made her more odd and less stupid. Her roommates have come into their own as well, including Schmidt (played by the wonderful Max Greenfield), whose original womanizing fool swagger gave way to a much sweeter and much stranger guy who had a real relationship with Jess' friend Cece (Hannah Simone). They eventually broke up, but Schmidt has pined for her to varying degrees ever since.

On Tuesday's episode, Schmidt learned that Cece was considering breast reduction surgery. Because he has loved Cece's breasts so much over the years, he decided to utterly freak out. It goes without saying that in real life, an ex-boyfriend feeling entitled to complain, let alone obsessing and whining, about this would be deeply creepy and very wrong and would throw up every red flag in the book. But that's ... sort of how Schmidt rolls, and his making strange pronouncements about Cece's beauty and his longing for her has been baked into their storyline, as has her tendency to roll her eyes tolerantly at it.

But as he moved through what he called the five stages of grieving (her breasts, that is), Schmidt may have been ... a little too much, even for Schmidt. At one point, while she was having a consultation with a doctor, he busted into the room and demanded to "say goodbye," so Cece eventually opened her gown so he could address her chest. He made her put on headphones so that he could only talk to the body and not engage the actual human being at all. (As I type this, I realize how amazing it is that they get away with this stuff without this guy long ago having become a monster, but that's what good comedy writing and acting will do for you.)

It reminded me a little of what happened with Steve Carell's Michael Scott in some of the late-middle seasons of The Office, when he started doing weirder and weirder things (I remember my friend Tara Ariano of Previously.TV singled out driving his car into a lake while following the GPS) to the point where he seemed less like an oddball and more like someone with a brain parasite. There comes that moment: Is this a bridge too far?

I am not sure having Schmidt play peekaboo with Cece's breasts, naming them, and talking about their different personalities, was not a bridge too far. Not because it was offensive, but because it made him seem deranged. Or ... more deranged. Or too deranged.

I'm a little worried about how a guy comes back from having a conversation with breasts, is what I guess I'm saying.

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Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.

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