New Girl’s relationship with race has, for a while now, been one that the show’s viewers are quite skeptical of. A show that at face value seems harmless may actually be more complex than originally thought. In the very first episode, viewers are introduced to Coach, a young adult black male character with a habit of forgetting to use his inside voice and who works as a personal trainer at a local gym. Coach’s aggressive nature and highly physical mentality seem to promote racist stereotypes, which raises many questions. In the second episode, however, Coach is gone. Only returning to the show for one or two episodes per season, the writers explained Coach’s absence through having the other characters discuss his sudden move to Santa Monica. Later that same episode, Coach is replaced with another black male roommate named Winston Bishop. Winston had just returned to the United States from Latvia, where he had a professional career in basketball. Already, viewers began to feel sick at the immediate perpetuation of black stereotypes.
Then, however, things became more interesting. During the second season in an episode called “Cabin”, Schmidt, one of Winston’s roommates begins to fret over the idea that because Winston was the only person of color living in their apartment, Schmidt and his other roommates (Nick and Jess) were not allowing Winston to be his “blackest self.” Realizing the extent of Schmidt’s racist ignorance, Winston decides to teach him a lesson. He begins to lie to Schmidt, describing his days in the ‘hood smoking crack with his enormous, poor family.’ In a game that ends up going farther than either of them expect it to, Winston and Schmidt find themselves driving around in the projects looking to buy crack cocaine. After a scene of pure comical chaos, Winston finally breaks it down for Schmidt, explaining how ignorant it is to assume so many things about him and his past based solely on the color of his skin.
While some accuse this episode of getting away with blatant racism, others believe the opposite, seeing the benefits of an episode like this one, resisting black stereotypes and poking fun at white stereotypes at the same time. Winston, as a character, is always resisting racial and even gender stereotypes. From being revealed to actually not being good at sports, to being an excellent babysitter, to willingly spending time with groups of girls on a girls night just for fun, to remaining faithful to all of his partners, to even take a break from relationships for an entire season in order to spend more time taking care of his cat.
With Winston alone, New Girl is making great and progressive strides all the while remaining subtle and brilliantly funny.