Dress-twirling, doe-eyed,…feminist??

In an interview with Glamour Zooey Deschanel said “I want to be a fucking feminist and wear a fucking Peter Pan collar so fucking what?” It is this standpoint on feminism that has people gunning for the doe-eyed pixie queen. Zooey Deschanel fits into the idea of postfeminism because she is a cutesy, playful, “adorkable,” person. The quirks and oddities of Zooey Deschanel and her character Jess are what draw people to her and they’ve become the focus of who she is. Deschanel’s standpoint is that she can be both an adorkable girly person and still be a feminist.

Zooey Deschanel’s attitude is not the right to shoes but rather the right to do whatever she wants, being a girly girl and doing odd cooky things doesn’t mean that’s all there is to her. In her article “Enough Quirkiness! Why I Can’t Stand Zooey Deschanel” Seyward Darby argues that Zooey Deschanel plays “hollow characters whose chief characteristics are their beauty and ability to attract men.” Most of the critique on the internet centers around this idea of Zooey Deschanel and her character in 500 Days of Summer.

Personally I really like Zooey Deschanel especially in 500 Days of Summer so I decided to take a stab at this one. Zooey Deschanel herself has said “When you get sent scripts and you see you’re always playing someone’s girlfriend when you want to be the central role, it’s so depressing,” In New Girl Zooey Deschanel is shown as the usual quirky girl she plays but she has more depth and actual hopes and dreams that we can see develop as the show progresses.

In the episode we watched for class Zooey Deschanel’s character Jess loses her job as a teacher and demands that her roommates not pity her. Jess insists that she’s fine and doesn’t need their help. Jess’ character shows backbone and even as she spirals downwards she refuses to be vulnerable. Jess becomes a shot girl at Schmidt’s party but completely fails at the job. Jess is excited to adopt a persona and speak with a smoky voice but as the party goes on the only way alcohol leaves her tray is when someone knocks a bottle off it and it breaks on the floor. Jess dances in front of everyone for a bit with some weird combination of disco, jazz hands, and tap dancing before she runs off realizing that teaching is her true passion.

Jess is seen as a quirky mess throughout the episode but she displays real strength and determination after losing her job. The determination is channeled into being a shot girl but it’s determination all the same. When Jess demands that her roommates not pity her and act normal she speaks to them in clear tones without the effect of her usual quirky idiosyncrasies. Jess is shown as both a girly girl similar to Zooey Deschanel’s star image but she is given substance as well.

Zooey Deschanel is so girly it hurts sometimes but that doesn’t mean she’s not a feminist. Feminism is a point of view it’s not your personality. Being cutesy and childish while eccentric is not exclusionary to more serious points of view. In her article “Enough Quirkiness! Why I Can’t Stand Zooey Deschanel” Seyward Darby discusses Zooey Deschanel’s image in movies she’s played but that’s not a valid critique. Zooey Deschanel’s star image coincides with a lot of her movie roles but her star image includes her stance on feminism. Jess in New Girl is seen as a strong postfeminist woman who is independent and can keep on keeping on despite her girlish appearance.




2 thoughts on “Dress-twirling, doe-eyed,…feminist??

  1. I like the distinction you make between feminism as a stance and not necessarily as a character-defining trait. At the same time, I feel as if Deschanel, for lack of a better phrase, “channels” feminism both in her actions and in her demeanor. To that end, I understand the stance that Deschanel is doing, perhaps, a disservice to other feminists in that she champions feminist causes at the same time as she plays arguably postfeminist roles and thus appears to contradict herself.

  2. I think you’re both on to something here — the contradiction between what Deschanel says (and advocates) and what her roles, operating within the paradigm of primetime network television, must enact…..

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