Zooey Deschanel makes my teeth hurt

The "New Girl" star has taken cuteness way too far, and it now overwhelms a once-promising talent

Topics: Zooey Deschanel, New Girl,

Zooey Deschanel makes my teeth hurtZooey Deschanel(Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters)

I’m worried about Zooey Deschanel. Lately I just can’t shake the fear that Dr. Drew is lurking outside her house, waiting for the right moment to pounce with a cuteness intervention. If somebody doesn’t do something soon, that lady is going to wind up the Amy Winehouse of adorableness, too whacked out on her own treacle to stop herself.

In her hit sitcom “New Girl,” Deschanel plays an exaggerated version of Zooey Deschanel — i.e., your worst nightmare. Her Jess is a recently brokenhearted (awwwww) schoolteacher (shut UP, you guys) who winds up rooming with three males of varying degrees of stinky awfulness/lovableness. Deschanel’s character wears glasses and pajamas with little hearts on them and references stuff like “An American Tail.” She refers to the male genitalia as “his pee pee and his bubbles.” It’s like one of the kids from “Toddlers and Tiaras” wound up in a sitcom. Deschanel also sings the theme song. If you crossed “That Girl” with “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” a baby duck and a bag of marshmallows, you’d start to approach what “New Girl” is like. It is a show that describes itself as “simply adorkable,” a phrase that is positively revoltasweet.

But Deschanel’s television success is just the latest in her onslaught of appeal. I mean, even her name is the funnest thing ever. Her musical enterprise She & Him just released an album of holiday music — which you may purchase on red vinyl, with special She & Him wrapping paper. She is also of the co-founders of Hello Giggles, “the ultimate entertainment destination for smart, independent and creative females.” On the site, she enthuses about “sweet tiny portable paint sets” for “your bestie” and iPod speakers shaped like cats, as well as referring to people in terms like “a ray of sunshine.” And when Deschanel sang the songs for the last Winnie the Pooh movie, it was the most twee thing that happened since God created sleepy Pomeranians. Somewhere, those two otters holding hands are killing themselves in defeat.



It’s not that Deschanel isn’t both authentic and adept at her supercute endeavors. She really does play the ukulele. She professes a genuine love of board games and baking. She can’t help having eyes the size and color of Wedgwood ashtrays. She killed doing a restrained, lovely national anthem at the World Series. Nor is she some vapid Hollywood honeybunch. A portion of the sales of her latest album will go to 826 National, the reading center founded by McSweeney’s. And she has real struggles and pains, like regular mortals; Deschanel recently separated from husband Ben Gibbard, of Death Cab for Cutie.

But that’s precisely why it’s increasingly unnerving to watch a woman in her 30s turn herself into a caricature of her most manic pixie dreamgirl self. After all, the lady who looks so convincingly like she was dreamed up in a Manga factory has not always been so precious. Remember when Deschanel was the impossibly cool older sister Anita in “Almost Famous”? Remember when she was the foulmouthed, deeply disenchanted checkout girl Cheryl in “The Good Girl”? Or the vulnerable and unkooky Noel in “All the Real Girls”?  Or the slow-to-warm-up holiday worker Jovie in “Elf”? Even in the desperately overpraised “500 Days of Summer” Deschanel was at least kind of a bitch. Where’d that girl go? The one with the deadpan delivery and the attitude? Because lately, it seems like her edge has been rubbed down into a pile of soft, downy fluff.

The world is not kind to cutie-pies forever. Just ask Meg Ryan. And much like Charlie Sheen devolved into Charlie Sheen without all the 911 calls on “Two and a Half Men,” Deschanel seems likewise in danger of lapsing into shtick — a toothless, “I’m just a girl” shtick. With her formidable combination of talent and beauty, it would be unfortunate if Deschanel melted into a syrup-sodden parody of herself. Her wry sass helped propel her to stardom every bit as much as her girlie quirkiness — and as she grows as an artist, it’s what will sustain her as she matures beyond being the wackadoo in polka dots. Besides, if she can temper her kookiness with the ample grit she’s displayed in the past, puppies everywhere will be grateful for a little less competition.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>