If you believe what the year in review articles have to say, 2011 was a year in which nerd girls thrived. Chicks who do not fit the traditional mold of leading ladies burst on the spotlight, including the awesome Melissa McCarthy and, of course, Zooey Deschanel.
I’m sure Ms. Deschanel is lovely. I found her singing in “Elf” to be quite charming. Still, I hate her. I understood that in “(500) Days of Summer” she was supposed to be an idyllic, hyper-realized version of a nerd adjacent guy’s raison d’etre, but with “The New Girl”, I draw the line. Before the show came out this fall, the buzzword was “adorkable.” The sentiment had me hopeful, but wary. The thought of a dorky girl being an object of desire is, quite obviously, a conceit I see a lot of promise in for self-serving reasons. However, having seen Deschanel in ‘Summer’, I know that conceit is often more troublesome than inspiring, because most of the time the result is a dumb smart girl.
Deschanel is the poster girl for the brood, playing a string of characters whose intelligence level ranges from “unremarkably average” to “disconcertingly dumb”. Her Jess on “The New Girl” falls into the latter category. Despite being depicted as an adept teacher who seems to thrive in her job, this is a girl who has:
1. Attempted to defrost a turkey in a clothes dryer
2. Proven incapable of performing the children’s birthday party classic, The Chicken Dance
3. Tried to seduce her date by appearing in bondage gear and using an “old timey newscaster” voice
4. Jumped out of a moving vehicle without a plan
5. Made it apparent she is literally physically unable to say the word “penis”
Yes. This chick is exactly the kind of chick I can relate to.
Yet, the pop culture community is lauding Deschanel as a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t surprise me that the show’s creator, Liz Meriwether, authored the awful “No Strings Attached” with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. Portman is supposedly a doctor, who graduated from MIT and is doing her residency at a stand in for the UCLA Medical Center. This is the kind of position reserved for students who spent their youths locked in their room memorizing SAT words, yet this girl manages to sail by with little to no practical intelligence and not a shred of professionalism. She has sex with Kutcher on the job at least half a dozen times in the span of a two minute montage, loudly screams about sex in the hospital hallways, and drunkenly hits on a superior.
Moreso than the blatant workplace sexual harassment, what really irked the bejesus out of me is that this version of the aughts working professional woman was rendered bed-ridden…by her period. I am not exagerrating. She was on the couch, she could not move, and the only things that helped her get through the kind of drama typically reserved for a death in the family were cupcakes and a CD a boy made her.
I am amazed these women haven’t inadvertently wandered into traffic, let alone secured jobs educating the youth of America or serving a stint in one of the premier hospitals in America. They are, plain and simple, dumb. We are told they are intelligent, but their rational decision making skills are on par with a second grader and I won’t even go into either character’s complete inability to have a remotely healthy social relationship. That is another post for another time, not to mention something that would open a whole “pot, kettle” can of worms.
What kind of cultural world are we coming to where the least offensive of these dumb smart girls is Dr. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson). The whole town of Bluebell, Alabama, the setting of the CW show “Hart of Dixie” is relatively cartoonish, that I don’t seem to mind that Hart, who is allegedly one of the top heart surgeons IN THE WORLD, feels it okay to prance about her practice in shorts with a two inch inseam and heels that are five inches high. A photo for your perusal:
Is she wearing pants? We can’t be sure. We can be sure that Bilson plays Hart about as dumb as possible, batting eyelashes when she needs something done and generally proving to be hapless at everyday things like Crock Pots, rudimentary paper maiche, throwing a party. Yet, she can repair aorta no problem.
I know there are smart smart girls out there somewhere. I think I will find one in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. But Lisbeth Salander is a smart girl that can’t be girly. She can’t even be particularly feminine at all. Because if you want to be a smart smart girl, you know that “adorkable” isn’t going to be an option for you.