Zooey Deschanel and her challenging feminism

Zooey Deschanel is a complex person. Although I am not her biggest fan mostly because  I do not appreciate her humor, daintiness, looks, and so on, I will say that I do think she is popular and mostly very well liked because she brings a unique dynamic to her characters and overall image.  I have many friends that have told me how Deschanel’s “Adorkable” starlet persona, is the perfect representation of a post-feministic woman, or a modern woman. That is to say, that she delicately balances a playful, happy -go -lucky girl image, while simultaneously upholding an independent, almost fiercely individualistic façade.

      New Girl is a great example of how Zooey Deschanel is able to balance, and sometimes challenge her dynamic, post-feministic persona. In the episode we watched, she adheres to some of the qualities that are generally regarded as post-feministic, but there is also a few times where she clearly disputes that image as well. For instance, after her character Jess gets laid off from her job as a teacher, she goes back to her apartment where she reveals to her three guy friends that she got laid off, but did not want their sympathy or pity. In fact, she specifically asked for Nick to be mean to her. In this way, Jess is able to stay, at least by appearance, resilient to the need for reassurance and comfort from her male counterparts and thus exudes womanly independence. Yet, later in the scene she is offended when Nick tells her that she is “not the right kind of hot” girl to be a shot girl. She is so insulted that she takes it upon herself to show up at the party that night and prove to the guys that she can be a hot, slutty, stupid “shot girl”.  It is promising to see Jess confront her male friends and tell them that she doesn’t need their pity and that she is fully capable of moving past her job layoff as an independent person and woman. Yet, it does not take long before the viewers see Jess’s need to be praised and approved of physically by her male counterparts, thus making her dependant on them to a degree.

   In the party scene, Jess dances with another shot girl on the table before realizing that she does not want to use her body as a means of approval but instead wants to go back to being a teacher again. This too, complicates her character. In one sense, Jess shows post-feministic qualities by realizing that she has the choice and ability to have the career that she wants. On the other hand, despite realizing that she can do and be what she wants to be, she still feels that being a teacher is right for her because in her words, “it’s who I am”, implying that she is drawn to being a teacher whether or not she wants to be a teacher. Another interesting factor is that teaching, at least in the elementary levels is traditionally a women dominated field. Despite being laid off in it, possibly because she was a woman, Jess still yearns to go back to it which is another aspect of Jess challenging post-feminism.

    The additional article I read about Zooey Deschanel, was by a woman who praised Zooey’s role in New Girl, saying that although she “understands why people find her unappealing” because of her “Manic pixie dream girl-esque career choices and persona” Zooey D has a big post-feministic fan base because she is still “outspoken about feminism and unapologetic about her love for girly things”. Without having seen enough of New Girl to make an informed comment, I will say that even in the one episode that we watched, I saw glimpses of her character that although wasn’t entirely post-feministic, was striving to move in that direction. 

http://funnyfeminist.com/2013/03/10/formative-performances-zooey-deschanel-in-new-girl/

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3 thoughts on “Zooey Deschanel and her challenging feminism

  1. I agree, and argued the same, with you that Jess shows resilience and womanly independence by demanding Nick to be mean to her (as he usually does). But I’m battling with myself if that is actually what it shows.

    Does she need him to be mean to make things go back to normal so that she feels comfortable – implying that she is dependent on his actions to feel comfortable again, or is she simply showing toughness and doesn’t want any pity?

  2. “In one sense, Jess shows post-feministic qualities by realizing that she has the choice and ability to have the career that she wants” — wait, this is very confusing. It’s postfeminist to choose your own career?

  3. Hm, I was trying to articulate that Jess has femenistic qualities because there is a career that she wants and is not afraid to go for it, regardless of her friend’s or peer’s reactions. Upon further thought though, I suppose this is more just a feminine quality than post-feministic.

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