Thursday, February 16, 2012

What is the harm in being quirky?

Although I do not personally love Zooey Deschanel's character Jess on Fox's New Girl, she seems to be getting a lot of criticism for being nothing worse than an infantile-ish quirky female.  The fact that she is gorgeous (by Hollywood and contemporary cultural standards) has only increased the disdain for the "manic pixie dream girl" image she encapsulates.  While acting cutesy and naive can be, and is, interpreted by some critics as highly unnecessary for a woman it shouldn't be condemned for being anti-feminist.  On the contrary, criticism of female roles in media acts as another layer of restriction for the gender ceiling.  If Zooey Deschanel is being genuine what should stop her from being quirky?  It isn't a ploy to build a big fan group (though it is probably a perk) and she has demonstrated that she is quite adept at filling alternative roles.

The article in Jezebel quotes Deschanel herself regarding one of her more "hipster" roles in (500) Days of Summer.  When her character decidedly leaves the male protagonist she demonstrated an amount of independence and what some may call "back-stabbing" that some audience members found very unattractive Zooey retorts, "if that makes me a bitch, or that makes women bitches, then maybe we are all bitches".  And she is defending the very ability to have opinions (even against the status quo) that critiques want to belittle her for.  Of course in their opinion it isn't about her personal beliefs or desires, but about how her image and representation is being consumed by the public.  They argue that "cute" aspirations and portrayals encourage a form of femininity that is not feminist, and rather acts as if feminism never happened (in reference to "twee").

I had never considered the character of Jess to be a regression of feminist wave progressions.  As an audience member I thought of her as a bizarre and quirky person who was occasionally chastised by her roommates into acting more mature, but ultimately an innocent character who felt free expressing her desires and favorite things.  What is wrong with liking vintage and polka dots?  Nothing.

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