The strange notion that lead characters on a television show should NOT get together romantically, lest it ruin the romantic tension and the life of the show, has been largely disproven over the past few years. Numerous TV shows have recently taken this leap, and have shown that a relationship is in fact, NOT the end of all storytelling. This comes as a surprise to no one and yet some of these shows, including one of the most recent ones, Castle, have had to fight to prove their worth post-hook-up.
For some reason, the Moonlighting Curse is one of those topics that people constantly feel the need to write about (example A, this article), like if women aren’t funny, even though no one is really arguing that it’s true.
Now that numerous shows have broken this so-called curse, they have paved the way for new shows to explore romantic tension with more freedom. One such example of dealing with romantic tension after the dissolution of the Moonlight Curse can be seen in New Girl.
New Girl provides one of the best examples of a new kind of romantic tension on TV, one that subverts expectations of typical romantic moments.
1. Introduction of Feelings
Introducing feelings between two leads turns into a storyline too juicy to pass up, and often takes over as the main focus of the series. Other storylines go out the window as the “will they/won’t they” question takes over.
SUBVERSION: New Girl started a possible Nick/Jess romance as a one-off, showing possibilities for the future, but also assurance that this was not the center of the show.
The possibility of feelings between Nick and Jess in New Girl shows up in the episode “Cece Crashes.” Cece mentions that Nick stands with his feet pointed at Jess, meaning that he wants her. The stress of avoiding the path of Nick’s feet gets to Jess, and after a shopping trip she jumps out of Nick’s car and runs home. Later on while brushing their teeth, they both agree to forget whatever weirdness happened that day.
New Girl’s introduction to the faintest possibility romantic feelings between Jess and Nick was small, focusing on body language that may or may not be true. And in the end, both characters decided to forget it, at least for the time being, and just act normally. The show did the same. After acknowledging the possibility of further romantic developments, they just let the story sit for a while, clearly in it for the slow build.
2. The Passionate Argument
Where there is romantic tension on TV, there are bound to be loud, passionate arguments. Often these arguments will come to a head when both characters get right up in each other’s faces, pause for a moment while they look into each other’s eyes, and then launch into a full-on make-out session.
SUBVERSION: In the New Girl episode “Tomatoes”, Nick and Jess get into an argument because they’re disappointed in each other’s actions. Jess yells at Nick for not taking positive action in his life, and Nick yells at Jess for telling other people how to live. Right when it reaches the breaking point Nick shouts, “This is my only face! I don’t have a lot of faces! And if you don’t like looking at my face Jess…then look at my ass!”
From there both Jess and Nick proceed to wiggle their butts toward one another while shouting things like: “You bought the ticket now take the ride!” and “I have the fastest butt in the land!”
While the passionate argument is a clear indication of romantic feelings between the two characters, especially based on a scene earlier in the episode when Jess says she wants passion in a relationship, that doesn’t necessarily lead to a typical romantic moment. Nick and Jess are roommates who want what’s best for each other and get frustrated when they’re making regrettable decisions. But because they’re not at a romantic level in their relationship, when they get mad it leads to butt-shaking. Naturally.
3. The Talk
Every TV pair with romantic tension has “the talk” at some point; the moment where they finally lay their feelings out on the table. Sometimes this talk happens more than once, and it usually ends with feelings hurt/a kiss/a new relationship. Rarely ever does this conversation exist within the everyday world of the romantic pair.
SUBVERSION: In this season’s episode “Fluffer”, Nick and Jess have a conversation about their possible romantic feelings toward each other. They acknowledge they have both felt romantic/sexual things for one another at various points, but make the decision to continue on as close friends and roommates, yet at the same time not denying the fact that they feel more than friendship for each other. They’re roommates already, meaning that if they start a relationship they’re already significantly further along than most. On the other hand, completely ignoring their feelings just because of that would seem unnecessary.
Thanks to all of the shows over the past few decades, and especially over the past few years, newer shows like New Girl can ignore the looming doom of the Moonlighting Curse and are instead free to explore romantic tension in their own way. New Girl has struck a good balance between furthering the romance, and yet not letting it overtake the show, as it’s only one element in a show jam-packed all sorts of wild and crazy stories. It’s a good thing this curse is finally “broken”, as the Moonlighting Curse has been around longer than most of New Girl’s audience has been alive.