Indie Princess Charming: Zooey Deschanel’s Niche in Showbiz and Our Hearts

Known for being a cutesy actress, a style icon and an indie-pop songstress, Zooey Deschanel has been quite the breakout star of the New Millennium. But this is only the beginning for the “New Girl,” who already has a bevy of A+ projects under her belt. Deschanel’s presence will surely radiate throughout the pop culture buzz for years to come.

Deschanel was born in Los Angeles to a showbiz family. Her mother was an actress and her father an Oscar-nominated cinematographer. It came as no surprise that she of all people would end up in the entertainment industry.

Some of her first roles were in films such as Almost Famous, The Good Girl and Elf, and although these were commercially successful, they didn’t allow Zooey to showcase her amazing lead-role capabilities and magnetism.

At last acknowledged for her acting talent, Deschanel was nominated for Best Female Lead at the 2003 Independent Spirit Awards for her depiction of a beautiful southern belle from a small town in Mark Cameron’s All the Real Girls. But at the time, some were still asking the question, “Who and what is a Zooey?”

Then along came films like Yes Man and 500 Days of Summer and all of a sudden this very fair, very pretty Katy Perry look-alike was starting to become relevant.

Curiously, a primary topic of criticism that emerged with regards to Deschanel’s acting is that she is apparently too likeable. In a news brief posted on Entertainment Weekly’s Inside TV blog, a Beverly Hills reporter asked Deschanel the hard-hitting question on everyone’s mind: “When did you first realize you were adorable?”

The reporter’s question regarding Zooey’s charm is not completely unfounded. Her trademark is always playing some form of cute, innocent “other girl,” with whom you can’t help but fall in love.

Partly because our perception of Deschanel is mediated by the over-simplified archetypes of Hollywood, and partly because her roles reflect her agent’s professional attempts to construct a lucrative Deschanel brand, it certainly isn’t fair to blame Zooey for being too cute, or too adorable. She is what she is, and she seems to be successfully carving out her own niche with her smart-yet-oddball-yet-sexy look.

And it seems Zooey’s appeal can be transposed into other art forms, as well. Musician Matt Ward paired his guitar with Deschanel’s hipster chic, quirky vocal ability to create the musical duo cleverly named She & Him.

Not many actors delve into the musical realm with much success, but She & Him does fairly well, with a decently sized fan base and two charting studio albums. Although it is possible the hype surrounding She & Him is only amplified because of Deschanel’s acting career, Zooey fits the part of indie darling so aptly she blurs the distinction between independent film and independent music. Her delightful demeanor is a perfect embodiment of both worlds’ aesthetic; hip, endearing, heartfelt and offbeat, Zooey is a most welcome poster girl for the indiesphere.

Apart from a recent television commercial for cotton inexplicably featuring Deschanel and her voice, the music seems to be on the back burner for now. Deschanel now stars in an original series on FOX called New Girl, playing “a beautiful, quirky young woman” – what a surprise – living with three single men after a bad break up.

There always seems to be more to Zooey Deschanel than what meets the eye. Maybe that’s part of the trick. Though she won’t go down in history as one of most compelling and gripping actresses of our time, she certainly exudes a palpable charisma that helps define the contemporary indie icon. She is one of the most talented “it girls” to ever bless multiple forms of popular entertainment, and her voice brings mainstream and marginal audiences together with sophistication – in a way that other mystique-driven muses like Nico and Yoko Ono never could. As showcased in her most recent role as one of Paul Rudd’s sisters in Our Idiot Brother, the lighthearted hilarity and humble beauty she exhibits while being no one but herself makes Zooey Deschanel a favorite among our generation.

Do you have any strong feelings regarding Zooey Deschanel? Is she here to stay or is Zooey another charismatic flash in the pan?

Raffy Ermac I am a voracious writer, and a rabid pop culture enthusiast. College life is the only life for me. I love nothing more than to enjoy quality entertainment, whether it be a reading page-turning novel, watching a summer blockbuster, or indulging in the music dominating the pop charts. Twitter: @raffyregardless

View all posts by Raffy Ermac

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