Tuesday, September 20, 2011
I don't think Zooey Deschanel is damaging the progress of modern women. Do you?
Tonight I will be one among the (hopefully) millions of people oggling at Zooey Deschanel as she makes her network television debut in Fox's 20-somethings comedy NEW GIRL.
It will be the second time I watch this exact episode of television. The first was when the pilot was passed around the TV biz earlier this year (L.A. plus column item #43: advance screeners).
I liked 85% of it then, and I expect to like 75-79% of it tonight (my second impression opinion generally experiences a 8-10% dropoff from my first. Sorry UP ALL NIGHT). I this the premise (dumped girl moves in with three rando bros) is promising. I think the writing (Liz Meriwether of NO STRING ATTACHED fame) is strong. And I think Deschanel's portrayal of Jess (extra points for perfect naming!) is wonderfully, quirkily charming (stop trying to make "adorkable" happen, Fox).
But apparently it will be in that final category where I differ from some female bloggers out there. Apparently there is a contingent that finds Zooey Deschanel uniquely damning to the progress of modern women. No, it's true. New York mag wrote included it in an article. There's a chapter heading called "Deschanel's polarizing effect on women."
I fancy myself fairly in touch with today's woman, but this one caught me off guard. Is it a pro/con bangs debate? A group of angry brown-eye-girls lamenting territory lost? Women Against Actresses Who Insist Upon Being Indie Singers (go back to your day job Johansson!!)?
No. Apparently it's this:
"...they resent her for seemingly playing into the male fantasy that women are only attractive when they act like girls. Plenty of blog posts have used Deschanel as a launchpad for this very debate. Then there’s grumbling that while alt-heroines of the past (Winona Ryder, Parker Posey) had a kind of edge to them, Deschanel is all sweetness and light: not enough kohl on the lens."
Right now you're either going, "Yeah!! Bleep that sugar sweet minx!" or "I'm sorry, what??" But it's true. I did my Internet searching. People really do think she's harming the progress of "real" women. Case in point: kittengate.
"On June 4, Deschanel sent out the following tweet: “I wish everyone looked like a kitten.” It got retweeted “100+” times, and then was cited in a post that comedian Julie Klausner wrote, picked up by Jezebel.com, decrying the trend of grown women who play ukulele, like crafts, and tweet about kittens. Klausner’s gist was that women who act girlie are “in it for the peen” and shamelessly trying to “broadcast to men that we won’t bite their dicks off,” and that their behavior is making it harder for the rest of us to get taken seriously. “The larger issue is that it is a lot easier for men—or even guys or bros—to demean us if we’re girls,” she wrote. “It’s much harder to bring down a woman, or to call her a moron, when she’s not in pigtails.""
It was somewhere around, "women who act girlie are 'in it for the peen,'" that I decided to write this blog post.
I don't know if Zooey Deschanel is "in it for the peen" or subconsciously portraying a character who is...I can't type that phrase again. She seems happily married to a man who is quoted in this article saying, "I don't really think there's a whole lot of mystery about Zooey...Who she is in private is a very similar person to the one you see in public." Her public life and private life do seem extremely consistent leading me to believe that she actually is the kitten-loving, sugar sweet, sing-song extrovert she portrays in real and Internet life.
But I don't think the "People Against Zooey" are upset about her integrity; I think they're upset about her person. I think they think that in being who she is she's tearing up the pavers laid by liberated women who don't want to wear Mad Men dresses or bake cupcakes to get a man. I think they think her throw-back tendencies (knitting, folk singing, hew-hawing) are so aligned with a 1950s housewife that she'll permit men to behave like 1950's husbands.
In the words of one among the anti-ZD set: “It’s much harder to bring down a woman, or to call her a moron, when she’s not in pigtails.”
Listen. I get it. I don't (didn't...) want to have to play a part to hook a man. It bothers me to think that men are looking for an archetype of a woman and not a real woman.
But isn't the whole point of feminism that it's the person underneath the dress slash pants suit that matters? Aren't we supposed to be able to wear short skirts if we like our legs but still demand respect in the bed/boardroom? Can't Zooey Deschanel be bake cookies for her boyfriend every single day and still maintain equal footing in their relationship? Why does being sweet automatically equal being submissive? And isn't it the projection of that idea that's ultimately most damaging to women - the idea that looking like one things means you are automatically another?
I actually think Liz Meriwether - the real Jess from NEW GIRL - responds best:
“If you feel upset with how cute someone is, maybe you should go outside and run around a little. Get some air.” Deschanel agrees. “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. I can’t be girlie? I think the fact that people are associating being girlie with weakness, that needs to be examined. I don’t think that it undermines my power at all.”
What say you(s)? Do you hate ZD because her cuteness is undermining your feminism? Or do you just hate her because of her seemingly innate ability to match her dresses with her eyes?