2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Red Carpet

I can’t open my computer without coming across Shailene Woodley these days, who first showed up in 2011’s The Descendants and is now starring in two upcoming young adult movies. Following the Jennifer Lawrence formula of being part of a massive YA franchise (the upcoming Divergent is set to take over the world) while presenting as a bit of an oddball, Woodley seems poised to be the next big young starlet with that sought after “likable” quality that spawns hundreds of thousands of devoted, maniacal fans.

Woodley is profiled in The Hollywood Reporter, which trips over her zany statements and commitment to green living. She’s painted as a manic pixie dream girl meets granola-making yoga teacher, waxing about nature (personified, female) and saying she won’t conform to typical starlet behavior. That’s all great and fine, except that after a bit of reading, it stops sounding “grounded” or “authentic”–both buzzwords frequently attached to Woodley–and instead begins to sound like someone playing the role of the oddball in the corner. Or, you know, a 22-year-old who just sounds painfully young. It’s especially apparent in a brief discussion of sexuality, when Woodley said:

“I fall in love with human beings based on who they are, not based on what they do or what sex they are.”

As someone who said that a lot during high school, (the sex part, not the “what they do” bit, because I seriously don’t understand the correlation) I sometimes wonder if statements like that are more about wanting to be perceived a certain way than actual attraction. Nobody has to identify as any sexuality, but Woodley’s characterization seems to purposefully not accept any actual implications.

Given Woodley’s whole Navajo pendant-wearing, food foraging, mason jar toting schtick, it’s hard not to see this open sexuality as an extension of her Portlandia-character persona. Sexuality is a convenient way to make a person seem evolved, and fits perfectly into what has to be a somewhat cultivated image. I don’t really know what I’m talking about here; I don’t know Woodley personally and for all I know, that statement is a completely accurate statement of her identity. But it reads as inauthentic, and like an accessory. Here is Shailene Woodley’s mason jar. Here is her open, enlightened sexuality.

In reality, Woodley’s statement is a pretty good summation of sexuality for some people, who may identify as predominantly gay or straight but are not closed to the idea of anyone. It gives credence to the idea of sexuality as a spectrum, which, while certainly isn’t the case for everyone I know, is definitely the case for many. And I am certainly not qualified to make any calls about Woodley’s sexuality in any capacity. But something about the whole “I fall in love with people, not genders” thing seems less like an expression of the sexuality spectrum and more like a convenient way to sound interesting. Woodley certainly isn’t unique–this statement is everywhere, and so Woodley could be entirely authentic and just a victim of a phrase that’s been co-opted. But generally speaking, that sentiment always seems like wearing sexuality as an accessory, instead of living with it in reality.

Photos: Kevin Winter/Getty Images