Of all the terrible shows that will premiere this fall, it was “New Girl” that made me audibly groan. The FOX sitcom stars Zooey Deschanel (“(500) Days of Summer”) as a quirky, eccentric 20-something getting over a rough breakup with the help of her new bro pals. It’s not that the show sounds bad. In fact, I read the script and think it will likely be one of the more successful new series this fall. I just can’t stand Zooey Deschanel.
I’m aware that’s an unpopular opinion. But the thing is, Zooey represents everything I feel is wrong with Hollywood, and seeing her porcelain face on the cover of this week’s New York Magazine has sent me over the edge.
Deschanel soared to indie darling heights in weak female roles: bitchy roommates, crazy ex-girlfriends and doe-eyed sweethearts for the lead man to win over. Then she became a household name as Summer Finn in “(500) Days of Summer.” Summer and Zooey are largely indistinguishable. They both wear cute, feminine dresses and love bands you’ve probably never heard of. But Summer, as a character, only exists to make Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) grow and accept life.
This isn’t inherently problematic. After all, Tom is the protagonist; every character only exists to make him grow.
The problem comes in when every sensitive guy in glasses wants to be with a girl just like Zooey/Summer and every girl who was ever described as “quirky,” even once, wants to be her. It’s then that the brooding boys in skinny jeans expect the cute woman reading Oscar Wilde in the local coffee shop to “fix” them, and the wannabe dream girls who wear vintage feel they have to keep their quirkiness at a constant high, while also being spontaneous and unpredictable.
What’s more, many feminists have argued that Zooey’s love of sugar and spice and everything nice fetishizes girlishness and leads to infantilization of women in media, making it harder for real women to be taken seriously. For men, Zooey’s female ideal is perfection. But I am not perfect. My mere existence isn’t going to give any man an epiphany, and I actually hate cupcakes, thank you very much. Many of my bad first dates could’ve been rectified had my dates known this.
Beyond glorifying and romanticizing a weak female mentality, Zooey epitomizes the star system, the method of filmmaking where the star’s name becomes the most important facet of a production. I’m sure she’s not stomping around sets ordering drastic creative changes just because she can, but she does have a noticeable effect on people — particularly critics.
During the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, a two-week conference during which all the major TV and cable networks present their shows and host Q & A sessions with the critics, Zooey owned her audience. Critics are notoriously not very nice, and they don’t clap much. But they were filled with nothing but adoration during the “New Girl” panel. All professionalism died as many of the meanest critics in Hollywood raved about how sweet Zooey is.
One critic even dared to ask the hard-hitting question, “When did you realize how adorable you were?” It was talked about for days. I wanted to vomit.
“New Girl” is a great script, but I fear no one will notice the writing hidden behind those large fringe bangs and big blue eyes. No one sees story — they just see Zooey.
She’s not exactly untouchable. Take one look at her IMDb page and you’ll see she’s not God’s gift to acting, as the world treats her. I’ll give her “(500) Days of Summer” and “Our Idiot Brother,” but then we’re left with “Yes Man,” “Surf’s Up,” “The Happening” and “Your Highness” — hardly Sundance fodder.
She’s not without petty squabbles. She got in a heated fight with Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison after he reported on Zooey’s worries about how the royal couple would view downtown Los Angeles. She’s also suing Steve Madden for $2 million over an endorsement deal. But these qualms go largely unnoticed, because she’s Zooey Deschanel and she can do no wrong.
While everyone goes gaga for “New Girl,” I’ll be watching alone, waiting for society to get over their giant collective crush on Zooey Deschanel and accept reality: Girls like that don’t exist. And that’s OK.