Zooey Deschanel Hits Back at a Criticism She's Heard Way Too Many Times

Zooey Deschanel rejected the dated "manic pixie dream girl" label in a new interview, but she noted that there is still a tendency in major Hollywood movies to see female characters as one-dimensional. Deschanel played one of the most frequently cited examples of the manic pixie dream girl trope in (500) Days of Summer.

The "manic pixie dream girl" phrase was coined in Nathan Rabin's 2005 AV Club review of Elizabethtown, in which he described Kirsten Dunst's role as a female character who solely exists to teach a male protagonist something about life. The trope grew to include quirky characters like Deschanel's Summer in (500) Days of Summer, who seemed to only exist to make sure Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Tom character learned something. Natalie Portman's part in Garden State is seen as another example.

Deschanel rejected the term to describe herself. "I don't feel it's accurate. I'm not a girl. I'm a woman," Deschanel said in a fan Q&A for The Guardian when asked about the label. "It doesn't hurt my feelings, but it's a way of making a woman one-dimensional and I'm not one-dimensional."

The New Girl star went on to say Hollywood still makes women characters one-dimensional when asked if she was getting fewer roles because she was typecast as a manic pixie dream girl. "I think the tendency is still to make women one-dimensional, so you have to add dimension if you can," she said. "The more screen time a female character gets, the more space there is to show complexities, but there has been a shift, so I'm optimistic."

Another fan asked Deschanel about those who think Summer is a villain in (500) Days because she ultimately rejects Tom. Deschanel said she's heard that interpretation since the movie was released in 2009, but she disagrees.

"It's a very emotional response. People want the characters to be together, but that not happening makes the movie interesting," Deschanel told The Guardian. "She is upfront that she doesn't want a relationship, but he ignores her. The most telling scene is when she tells him: 'I've never told anybody that before,' and he makes it about himself. He is fixated on external details – such as her liking the Smiths – that has nothing to do with who she is as a person. To anyone who thinks Summer is the villain, I say: think a little deeper."

The "manic pixie dream girl" criticism hit (500) Days of Summer from the moment it hit theaters. Director Marc Webb admitted there were some elements of that in Deschanel's character but noted that Tom's inability to see her as a real person is his undoing. "Yes, Summer has elements of the manic pixie dream girl – she is an immature view of a woman," Webb told The Guardian in 2009. "She's Tom's view of a woman. He doesn't see her complexity and the consequence for him is heartbreak."

Deschanel is promoting the new She & Him album, Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson, a collection of songs originally recorded by The Beach Boys. Her next movie is Carlos Saldanha's Harold and the Purple Crayon, which co-stars Zachary Levi, Ravi Patel, and Lil Rel Howery. She also stars in Bill Pohlad's Dreamin' Wild, a biopic about Donnie and Joe Emerson starring Casey Affleck and Walton Goggins.