At first glance, Zooey Deschanel, in New Girl and in real life, seems to fit right in with postfeminist culture. What with her consistently quirky and adorable ultra-feminine clothing, including, as Jessica pointed out in her post, dresses that frequently harkens to the 50s housewife, the image of Zooey Deschanel is general cutesy, young, and playful—the “Fun Girl.” The intro to New Girl adds to this image, showing Zooey strolling carefree through a set as the boys around her arrange it, and ending with Zooey putting herself in a picture frame.
But this vacuously adorable image is not actually all that there is, to Zooey or to the show. Zooey, it turns out, is a declared feminist. (Kat Stoeffel writes about it here http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/01/zooey-deschanel-is-a-feminist.html). This disagreement with backlash feminism is rare enough among female icons these days (Katy Perry’s “I’m not a feminist, but…” statement), but Zooey also “pushes back on interviewer Logan Hill’s gendered line of questioning in an awesome way.”
Glamour: Do you want to have kids?
ZD: That is so personal, and it’s my pet peeve when people press you on it. And it’s always women who get asked! Is anybody saying that to George Clooney?
Zooey Deschanel also appears indignant about the fact that people have criticized her for her cutesy style. She argues that
“I’m just being myself. There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f–king feminist and wear a f–king Peter Pan collar. So f–king what?”
While Zooey Deschanel definitely fits the vital, youthful, playful aspect of postfeminism, she argues that this is her personality and shouldn’t be in conflict with feminism. While she doesn’t exactly burst any gender bubbles, this acceptance of Feminism is rare enough among young celebrities that I am behind her one hundred percent.
This my-cute-clothing-doesn’t-define-me attitude can be found in New Girl as well.
Stoeffel quotes a scene in which the character of Jess argues that yes, she teaches small children and loves cute animals, yes, she wears ruffles and ribbons and polk-a-dots, but “that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and tough and strong.”
This is played out more subtly in the episode we watched. Her unique clothing style, and her flatmates’ ridicule of it, seems to be a large factor in expressing to the audience that Jess is a weird and quirky misfit, rather than just another attractive love interest. While this could be read as self-definition through consuming, we don’t see Jess discussing her clothing, showing pride and claiming it means something, or actually engaging in acts of consumerism. Furthermore, consumerism and appearance are not represented as hugely important parts of her life. Jess does not engage in consumerism as an emotional act, and unlike Kim in Keeping up With the Kardashians, she doesn’t measure her state of well-being by whether she has taken the time to put make-up on.
While Jess does wear unique clothes, her job is what is truly important to her, and it is how she defines herself at the end of the show.