By Brandon Wetherbee
Brandon Wetherbee hosts the talk show/podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody the first two Friday’s of the month at the Wonderland Ballroom and in Brooklyn and Chicago once a month. Subscribe to it online at youmethemeverybody.com. He’ll be at the Wonderland Ballroom on October 7 with guests Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton from All Songs Considered, comic Katherine Jessup, music from Aaron Thompson and at Artisphere on October 8 with guests Grey DC, comic Martin Plant, music from Silo Halo, author Arthur Delaney, journalist Lydia DePillis, comic Brandon Wardell and music from Get A Tan.
The last ten years of American culture has brought two things that make little to no sense: Zooey Deschanel and the Department of Homeland Security color code threat level. Their rise and fall have an odd parallel that, up until now, has been ignored by the mainstream media. Without further ado, let’s examine just what I’m going on about.
Zooey Deschanel was/is easy to not like. She was the epitome of the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” for many years, the years when Tumblr was a lot more popular. She starred in indie films and was in photo shoots like the one below. She was a permanent Orange.
Isn’t that cute? She’s got a big crayon! Her shirt has her name on it! Black rimmed glasses on her head! A bird! It’s a “Portlandia” sketch in a photograph. It’s why women with self respect and self awareness did not like her and why hipster boys and girls that were not yet fully formed individuals fetishized her. She was the ideal girlfriend/wife/person you want to fuck but not ever talk to/lady that likes to go thrift shopping. She was an idea and popular with the ‘underground’ but not a person. She was always of the verge of bringing down America but the idea that that could do any harm was dumb. Orange. This covers the “Elf” to “Hitchhikers Guide” era.
Following a whole lot of buzz , Zooey went on to star alongside Jim Carrey in a big budget comedy that did not do well. This was the equivalent of the failed Times Square bombing. The threat level was risen to Red. If either of these things did go off, the world would have changed for the worse.
The threat level stayed high. In fact, it peaked in 2009 with the first She & Him record (which isn’t bad) and “(500) Days of Summer,” a film that set back dating, men, women, white people and all things not shitty back at least 100 years. What is that? You like that movie? Well, why? Really. Give me one reason. The characters are insane or not at all fleshed out. The soundtrack is awful, the pacing is weird, it tries and fails to do artsy things multiple times and worst of all, puts a woman in an unobtainable box. A box that only people that don’t ever have jobs or responsibilities or hopes or dreams or pain or fear or bowel movements or a sense of humor and an endless supply of shitty records from the late 70s/early 80s could fit in. Threat level Red and for the first time, it was appropriate.
Then it slowly started to fade. The backlash, which I admit somewhat enjoyng, had begun. Not just hipsters had begun objectifying her. So she went on tour and recorded another She & Him album (which is really good) and the threat level went down to Yellow. Soon, it no longer made sense to care about either.
The color coded threat level was ended earlier this year. Someone in charge of fear and the idea of colors decided that the idea of colors doesn’t actually do anything. Zooey Deschanel decided to say fuck it when it comes to pleasing anyone. 2011 included roles in “Your Highness,” “Our Idiot Brother” and the lead in the television show “The New Girl.” Do you know who’s thrilled about this? Zooey. She’s pleasing no one but herself and because of it, I am now somewhat of a fan.
The hipsters that originally fetishized her have fled and she’s still not mainstream. She’s decided, or someone has, that it’s completely pointless to try to please anyone let along a niche group who tends to dismiss anyone that even tries to be sincere/happy in the mainstream. Add in five songs she recorded for the newest “Winnie the Pooh” film, which bombed and I want to see and I’m being sincere, and an ad campaign for cotton and Mrs. Ben Gibbard has shed the Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing. She’s at the odd crossroads between the youthful embrace and the retro praise. It’s why I like Weezer’s recent Radiohead and Coldplay covers. Just like Zooey, they’re too young for the retro circuit but much too weathered to ever be new again. They’ve hit an age where the only thing that matters is doing whatever will make you happy.
Zooey is smart. She either reads and ignores the awful things awful people write about her (pot calling the ketltle black) or she ignores it completely. Either way, she’s happier than the people thinking about what she might think about. How can you not be happy if you’re doing this?