Schmidt, the breakout character on New Girl, is the lone male in an otherwise all-female company, the office’s go-to Sexy Santa who compensates for his objectification at work (“Nice tie!” A coworker publicly taunts. “Can I borrow a tampon?”) by aspiring to be a hyper-masculine bro, an ambition that costs him countless dollars in douchebag-jar payments.
But Schmidt is more than just the boardroom laughingstock: as a recent Salon article notes, he represents a new paradigm of 20-something masculinity, characterized not by slacking off or by apathy but by caring too much. As his coworkers taunt him, Schmidt, visibly frustrated, cries, “I’m just trying to do my job!” And they should let him do his job because Schmidt may actually be the ideal male coworker.
A former fat kid whose mother forced him into figuring skating lessons until he was 13, Schmidt (played by Max Greenfield) is still figuring out his own masculinity. He vacillates between trying to motorboat girls at charity events and announcing that he wears an Irish walking cape and has experimented with Bolivian diet pills. “Schmidt is a sort of self-created alpha male and a collection of beta male qualities,” the Salon article observes. “[He’s] uptight, controlling, the cooking, cleaning apartment den mother…so metrosexual he wears “hair chut-e-ney” and owns a pair of “driving mocs.”
But Schmidt’s ability to balance his traditionally male and female characteristics, and his ability to navigate the reverse discrimination he faces at work, are a large part of what makes him successful in an all-female company. Though Schmidt submissively assumes the role of the half-naked Sexy Santa, he secretly enjoys being objectified by hordes of women, and even uses it to his advantage by getting dirt on his coworkers. And Schmidt standing up to his boss Kim and asserting that he will no longer take part in any more sexy office roleplaying is a brilliant reversal of traditional gender empowerment messages.
Though, as Nick explains to Jess, Schmidt often exists on a different plane of reality than everyone else, he is surprisingly savvy when it comes to working with women. “The chit-chat is the interview,” he explains to Winston, who bombs a job interview with a potential female employer. And Schmidt convinces Winston to come to his office Christmas party to network with his female coworkers.
Schmidt, consequently, represents the changing male archetypes in the work world.
“Schmidt is feminized not only by his competent female coworkers but by his own coiffed, designer-labeled, GQ virility – his product-lust that, up until recently, was reserved for women,” a recent GOOD.is article called “What New Girl Says About the New Recession-Era Man” asserts. “ Though he strives for a hetero-normative, masculine ideal, his inherent metrosexulity makes him more relatable to his female coworkers, which allows him to thrive in his workplace (as long as he can ignore the incessant teasing). A self-professed sexual snowflake who abhors pine and attends “Bros Before Hos on the Moon” events is far more conducive to workplace equality than, say a Don Draper type whose overt masculinity could prove harmful in an all-female workplace.
As the Salon piece asserts, Schmidt is on the brink of a mature adulthood – we could easily see him as a successful future father and husband. But it will be interesting to see him continue to navigate the workplace until then, coming to terms with his own brand of masculinity and advancing his career in an all-female workplace.
Photo: Fox’s New Girl