“She’s a cross between Mary Tyler Moore and your 10-year-old-sister”


Zooey Dechanel openly has come out and explained that she identifies herself as a feminist – someone who likes to be girly but is allowed to be strong and independent. Jada Yuan in  “The Pinup of Williamsburg” describes Zooey Deschanel in the ad above as “arms raised joyously ­skyward, head cocked, leg lifted, a cross between Mary Tyler Moore and your 10-year-old sister”. The way she’s standing with her arms up in the air portrays a slippery slope to the idea of what she thinks feminism is. Nothing about the way she is acting in this ad says Jess is tough and that is where the main argument lies. Deschanel expresses that she can be a feminist and still be a fan of girly things. Yuan notes Deschanel’s character Jess is constantly being portrayed as girly from, “watching Dirty Dancing six times a day, sobbing uncontrollably, creating her own theme song—“Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!” I see Deschanel’s character more towards having post-feministic characteristics because she has very “girly” aspects to her but is tough and independent.

In the episode that we watched of New Girl, Jess loses her job and gets extremely sad. Her initial announcement to her three male house mates is that she is “fine” and just needs to sit in her room alone to think things out. Additionally, when she screws up for the umpteenth time by dropping a glass at the bar, she demands from her housemate to stop being nice, but rather be mean to her. Throughout these scenes Jess is vulnerable but strong. Jess’ speech in the youtube video below defends those who have attacked Zooey Deschanel and her character Jess by explaining that she can “rock a lot of polka dots…but that doesn’t mean I’m not smart!”  Deschanel complains, “that people equate being girlie with being nonthreatening … I mean, I can’t think of a more blatant example of playing into exactly the thing that we’re trying to fight against”.

Yuan explains:

“Among women, Deschanel tends to be more polarizing. They either covet her bangs or they resent her for seemingly playing into the male fantasy that women are only attractive when they act like girls”. This description is the crux to which many people have argued about Deschanel. People want to look like her but also dislike her for trying to be too girly to get attention. Additionally in the episode, Jess keeps taking lost-and-found items from her to boss to cope with her sudden loss of job. The next shot is cut to her holding a box full of items as she is sobbing on the ground – presenting an image of vulnerability and weakness.

I understand those who argue how Jess can portray the idea of feminism with impossible expectations. She’s extremely girly and passive in the scene where she is fired. The reason why I side with her having post-feministic qualities is because she stands up for herself by reassuring her roommates that she doesn’t need help and that she chooses to stop being a “shot-girl” and goes back to being what she is – a teacher.



2 thoughts on ““She’s a cross between Mary Tyler Moore and your 10-year-old-sister”

  1. So I’m a little confused — by choosing to not be a shot girl (e.g. self-objectify) and deciding that she’d like to be more defined by her job, she’s making a postfeminist move???

  2. I would say that Jess’ attachment to material goods, and the way that the principle offers “shopping” out of the lost and found box as a source of comfort, are post feminist. The character of Jess is posed as being feminist in the scene with Julia because she is standing up for her femininity which she defines as breaking for birds, rocking polka dots, and touching glitter. This framing of feminism as being girly, even girlish, is dangerous when it is in opposition to serious, business woman Julia.
    This scene in particular strikes me as post feminist because Jess’ cutesy superficiality is portrayed as empowering even as it undermines Julia’s power and success, something that is truly feminist, by making it appear harsh, “shrill,” and no fun. Jess’ position is framed as her overcoming the dry, unnecessary feminism of the past in order to defend her femininity.

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