Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nerd-Girl of the Year, 2013

Drum roll, nerd-girl of the year is...Zooey Deschanel!

Now, before you get all up in arms about whether Zooey is truly a nerd-girl, let's first go over the criteria.

A nerd-girl:
-is abnormally obsessed with at least one of the following, and possibly more than one: science fiction, fantasy, classic literature, English grammar, Renaissance fairs, comics, classical music (or some obscure musical genre), or math and science in general.
- is involved (or was once) in some school activity that others find weird, i.e. drama, chorus, band, chess club, debate club, save the whales, etc.
-does not follow obvious fashion trends - in other words, she's either hopelessly out of fashion, or she makes her own trends along the lines of vintage, goth, librarian chic, etc.
-is not "the popular girl," in whatever world she finds herself: jr. high, high school, college, or the work place beyond. And though she may dream of being the prom queen, or whatever, she knows she's better off with her bizarre friends and strange little world.

Getting back to Zooey, she may very well have been the popular girl in school - she's certainly pretty enough - and that popularity itself ought to disqualify her. She's also more privileged than most nerd-girls tend to be. Her father and mother are both movers and shakers in the film and television industry. As a matter of fact, her sister Emily plays a hard-core nerd as Dr. Temperance Brennan on the hit TV series Bones - a character so nerdy she's probably a little on the Asperger's spectrum (I'm sorry, but sometimes those things go together). But it's Zooey character of Jessica Day on the TV show The New Girl, glasses-clad, quirkily dressed (see 3rd criteria above), kindergarten teacher, who truly charms us into believing she can identify with our nerd-girl reality. Jessica is always a little out of step (even though she's also quite sexy with her big blues eyes and ample cleavage). Her best friend may be a super-model, and she may date some hot guys, but she's always doing something clumsy or odd that make people think she's slightly off-beat. A perfect example is the episode in which she gets a job at a new school and can't quite get in with the teacher's clique. We are treated to a flash back from the days when she was an awkward teenaged school girl, singing in the acapella Renaissance choir - a moment that would make any nerd-girl proud.

It's not just her character on The New Girl that qualifies her though. As a successful film actress (her role in 500 Days of Summer caused both my husband and son to fall hopelessly in love with her, something I've learned to live with), she's obviously into "drama" - perhaps not theatre per se, but drama yes - and so meets the criteria in the second category above. Additionally, she's a musician with the band She and Him, in which she sings lead. Though I can't say their music belongs to an obscure musical genre, the band is not widely known among the average population, and their music is sort of unusual. I think this places her firmly in the first category as well.

Yet it's really the image she lends to being a nerd-girl on her show that makes me so appreciative of her and her work. She must have the nerd-girl spirit if she's able to pull her role off so successfully. So, Zooey, whether you're a died-in-the-wool nerd-girl or not, thanks for giving us a good name. We all hope we can grow up to be you.