If you’re on the Internet (you are), then you probably know who Zooey Deschanel is. The 31-year-old actress is currently starring in the Fox sitcom New Girl and recently starred in the indie dramedy (500) Days of Summer. She’s also one half of the musical duo She & Him.
However, if you spend a significant amount of time on the Internet (which you probably do because why else would you be reading my site), you’re probably also aware that people love to hate Deschanel.
And I don’t get it.
Now, this is not some sad Internet love letter to a celebrity crush. She’s not even at the top of that list; that spot goes to Alison Brie. This is an examination of a phenomenon that has no discernible cause.
People who know me know that I’m no stranger to snark and generally hating things. I just checked Billboard’s Hot 100, and I hate nine of the top 10 artists (Adele being the exception to my ire). There are also a number of TV shows and movies that you could not pay me to watch.
Hating on Deschanel should be right up my alley, but I don’t like those other things for a reason–because they’re all terrible. I just can’t see how Deschanel is worse than any other actress working today.
Let me give you two examples to illustrate what I’m talking about.
Last month, Deschanel and her husband, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, separated. I posted a link to the story and simply said “Here’s your chance nerds” (because I like to be informative and insulting). Two people commented to let me know: Deschanel is not that attractive, I could do better than Deschanel and she’s become a parody of herself. They went out of their way to point out those things even though I didn’t even comment on her appearance or my feelings about her.
Secondly, Deschanel sang the national anthem before game four of the World Series. I swear I was the only one in the country that didn’t hate her performance. Twitter exploded with Zooey D bashing.
Part of the issue is certainly her recent ubiquity, and the new words such as “adorkable” that came with it. Admittedly, that’s just an awful, awful word. The way she’s been marketed might have something to with it, too. At some point, the country just decided she would be the physical embodiment of the manic pixie dream girl character archetype.
Everyone, and by everyone I mean men, would like to believe she’s like the girl next door, which is to say approachable and simultaneously attainable, except that she’s objectively attractive, you know, like a movie star. I think that dynamic rubs some people the wrong way (I guess except for the people who let me know that Deschanel is like a 6).
The one argument that I think is possibly valid is that she’s one-dimensional, playing the same character in everything.
But I would contend that most actors working today are one-dimensional. Michael Cera unfairly takes the brunt of that sentiment, but Vince Vaughn has played Vince Vaughn in almost every movie he’s been in since Swingers. And no one seems to care that Denzel Washington usually plays the same serious, headstrong character in his movies.
That being said, let me try to express why I like her.
With New Girl, Deschanel is doing something that frankly Hollywood needs more of–she’s daring to be funny and a woman.
Honestly, I didn’t expect to like the show but it’s actually pretty good. Is it Community or 30 Rock? No, but it’s an offbeat show with some legitimately funny scenes and likeable, relatable characters. I’ll admit that sometimes it passes quirkiness off as comedy, but it’s a hell of a lot better than a hackneyed sitcom like Two and a Half Men.
Previously, Hollywood tried to trick us into believing Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz and Sarah Jessica Parker are comedic actresses, but they aren’t really. Their “comedic” roles were mostly in derivative romantic comedies that were somehow insulting to both sexes and hokey sitcoms. It’s clear that Deschanel intends move past those roles and not be just another pretty face. It’s the same reason I also like Brie and Lizzy Caplan.
Additionally, Deschanel, along with Sophia Rossi and Molly McAleer, started Hello Giggles, a female-centric entertainment website to circumvent the “standard boys club content” many entertainment sites offer. It’s something you would think feminists would find admirable, but in my experiences even feminists love to hate her.
On top of that, she’s also a musician. She & Him have put out three albums thus far and toured the U.S., and I still believe her performance at the World Series was good. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a more understated version of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
In fact, I wish more singers would take that route instead of the performing the equivalent of vocal gymnastics to prove how much range they have. I mean, Christina Aguilera took less flak, and she forgot the goddamn words.
I also think Deschanel seems intelligent based on the few interviews I’ve seen.
I’ll sum it up like this: she has substance. I think it’s a rare attribute in an industry that puts such an emphasis on style. It’s something I wish I saw more of, too.
So is it so wrong that men (I’m only using men because this piece is from my perspective, and I’ve never been a woman ) would be attracted to a multi-talented, articulate woman who has more hobbies than looking pretty and shopping? I don’t think so. If you prefer, we can all channel the ’90s and go back to drooling over superficial, surgically-enhanced fake blondes like Pam Anderson and Jenny McCarthy.
You know, or we could continue to focus our collective infatuation on smart, funny women like Deschanel, Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza.