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Who's The Protagonist On 'New Girl'? It's (Not) Jess

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Who's The Protagonist On 'New Girl'? It's (Not) Jess

For the first three seasons of New Girl, the catchy theme song asks a question that the rest of the series seems to set out to answer: “Who’s that girl?” Well, the girl herself, played by Zooey Deschanel, answers with aplomb, “It’s Jess,” and thus the conceit of the series is set up: There’s a girl named Jess and we’re going to join her on her journey of self-discovery. Or, at least that’s maybe how the series concept started out.

Very quickly in its run, New Girl became an ensemble comedy chronicling the ups and downs of young adult life for Jess and her roommates. But, by the end of the series’ seven years, you could make the argument that Jess wasn’t even the protagonist of her own show anymore, though she remained the main character.

The terms main character and protagonist are often used interchangeably, but there’s actually a key difference between them. While the main character is usually an audience surrogate, the protagonist usually goes through some sort of major change from the beginning to the end of the story. They come out changed by the end. A lot of the time the main character and the protagonist are the same, but other times — like in the case of New Girl — they’re not.

It’s interesting to compare New Girl with Friends because in many ways, Friends is the spiritual ancestor to New Girl. New Girl follows in Friends’ tradition of depicting friendship as just as important as (if not more important than) family and it also begins with one character starting her life over and acting as the audience surrogate as we enter the world of the show.

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