• Thu, Feb 9 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship With Zooey Deschanel

zooey deschanel

Look, I feel like a lot of people want to say that they don’t like Zooey Deschanel because they want to prove that they are smart, and love smart-people things.

Zooey Deschanel seems to be all about squealing with delight over simple pleasures like giggles and kittens. I think a lot of people are afraid of admitting that they like incredibly ordinary pleasures, like, oh, say, cupcake frosting and cuddling and tearing wrapping paper, because to do so would be to admit that they were unsophisticated chumps.

I’m completely okay with being an unsophisticated chump about, more or less, half the things I enjoy. I still watch Gossip Girl. Not ironically. Because I care about the emotional problems of the characters. I have the entire soundtrack to Evita on my phone. I really can’t stress the extent to which I’m a chump, though if I were trying to, I feel lik those examples would prove my point pretty well.

And frankly, I always think Zooey Deschanel is someone who, if I met her, I would love. I mean, we could make some baked goods and sing some show tunes and just have a giddy time. Oh. I think she’s a raw foodist. Well, maybe we could make baked goods for other people. I’d love doing those things. I also feel like we are somehow spiritual siblings, because, in 500 Days of Summer, she wore an outfit that I also wear, styled the same way I style it. It’s this incredibly generic outfit that was no doubt selected by a stylist:

zooey deschanel 500 days of summer

SPIRITUAL TWINS BECAUSE OF PETER PAN COLLARS AND ARGYLE

And sometimes, I feel like Zooey Deschanel has a great handle on her persona, and knows that loving simplistic things does not mean that you are only a chump. Take this speech that her character gives on New Girl when she’s told by her roommate’s lawyer girlfriend that she’s doing some sort of big eyed, baby talking affected “thing”:

“I brake for birds. I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person. It freaks me out. I’m sorry that I don’t talk like Murphy Brown. And I hate your pants suit. I wish it had ribbons on it, or something just to make it slightly cuter, but that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and tough and strong.”

I think this is a great argument. I think you can be a strong, empowered, smart woman and still like simple, charming, delightful things. This is the basis for my enduring fondness for Legally Blonde – which featured a character who seemed able to pull her act together without ever slipping into Murphy Brown vernacular.

But then I take a step back and remember that Zooey Deschanel’s character is 27 and doesn’t know how to dress to go out to a restaurant.  This interchange takes place because she is hitting a girl up for free legal advice, because she couldn’t pay a traffic ticket on time.

And this is the thing that kills me, because, while I firmly believe that you can like fashion and dessert and ribbons and not be foolish, Zooey Deschanel keeps seeming to give in to the notion that the two go hand in hand. I could love the characters she played so much, if only there were more demonstrations of the instances in which they were tough and competent and strong, instead of being perennial temps trying to find themselves and…exist. Exist in the real world. [tagbox tag="Zooey Deschanel"]

And Zooey Deschanel, the actual person, probably couldn’t be as successful as she is, and have a website, and a TV show, and several movie roles, if she didn’t know how to pull things together and get shit done. I can’t buy that in her soul she just wears an elf costume and sings loudly to herself in malls, because, if that were the case, she’d be wearing an elf costume and singing loudly to herself in malls.

Which is to say, the thing that makes me think that I could really love Zooey Deschanel – the underlying competence that she must have in order to succeed over a prolonged period – never seems to be on display. And I wish it were! The fact that it’s not is the only thing that prevents me from having full on, Elle-Woods style love for her! But then, maybe it is too much to ask for people to be all things. Maybe that would just make her characters insufferable (to everyone except me). Maybe they need to stay a little bit incompetent, and I need to be a little bit sad.

Though that makes me a bit sad.

I still think she looks really great in argyle, though, so there’s that.

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  • Roxana Rusowsky

    I feel the same way about her! It’s the manix pixie thing, it just ruins everything. I especially hated her in Weeds, but I loved/hate the whole show.

  • Amanda Chatel

    I agree on all fronts!

  • Lynna

    I agree with everything you say – though I am going to be nitpicky and point out that her character on the show couldn’t pay the ticket on time because of a technicality, being that it was sent to the wrong house and her ex didn’t give it to her and that doesn’t necessarily render her incompetent.

    I feel like it’s just trendy for a lot of people to hate on Zooey right now and call her insufferable without actually having seen her in anything but pictures where she’s wearing sundresses. The character of Jess on The New Girl is a poorly developed characature more based on Liz Meriwether; but Summer in 500 Days was a pretty competent character seen through the lens of someone who only saw what he wanted and not her as a whole person (his Manic Pixie Dream Girl).

  • Liz

    FANTASTIC piece. I agree on all counts. I don’t think there’s a problem with grown women admitting they like cupcakes and kittens… but Zooey Deschanel’s giddy, giggliness makes her border on woman-child.

    There are a lot of times when Zooey reminds me of the Sex and the City episode where Carrie realizes that she only has $900 in her savings account and has no means whatsoever when her building goes co-op.

  • the emily

    I love her. I flat out adore her. Part of that is because my husband watched New Girl first and said that if we hadn’t gotten married and I was 27 and single I would be her. Best compliment he’s ever given me.

  • amy

    i am in love with zooey! and don’t worry, she’s definitely not a raw foodist. i know she’s gluten intolerant and used to be a vegan, but she eats a bit of meat now. she just answered questions for glamour’s facebook and said her favorite foods are chicken and cookies. :)

    • MR

      Raw foodist? So you’re saying you have to be vegan?

  • Ray

    I don’t understand how this article has anything to do with you (either) loving or hating Zooey Deschanel the person. What I’m reading is the love/hate relationship you have with the characters she portrays, not the actual person behind the screen personas…

  • MR

    Eehveeee..tah!…Eehveeee..tah! Jennifer, you crack me up. Yeah, that was a great musical. Patti LuPone :)

  • asdedwed

    I hate that attention whore