Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Planet Deschanel, Emotion Is Forbidden

Has it ever occurred to anyone else that the Deschanel sisters — singer and (500) Days of Summer star Zooey and Bones star Emily — have made names for themselves by portraying emotionless robot women? That’s an overstatement, I guess. Perhaps “flat affect, pale-skinned beauties whose faces rarely betray any emotion” would be more appropriate.

emily deschanel zooey deschnael model shoot
emily and zooey exchanging long protein strings
In the case of Emily, she is chiefly known for playing the protagonist on Bones as a Sherlock Holmes-style genius whose inability to socialize, interpret emotions or understand anything besides literal speech renders verges on the level of autistic. She grows more comfortable around other humans as the series progresses, but this awkwardness is one of the character’s most defining traits. With Zooey, she has played multiple roles in which her physical beauty is contrasted against an emotional coldness, distantness or absence. In some cases, her characters open up over the course of a film — Elf, for one — while in others she remains inscrutable and deadpan until the end — The Happening or Summer, among others.

I guess it’s not so unusual that two sisters raised by the same parents in the same environment could have such similar public personas, if not similar actually personalities as well. But I feel like it’s a rare enough sort of character that it seemed notable that two sisters would have done it almost exclusively throughout their careers. The only explanation I can possibly give is that Zooey and Emily’s mother is Mary Jo Deschanel, who played Donna Hayward’s mother on Twin Peaks. And David Lynch having had access to any member of your family, at any point in time, is enough to explain away most instances of weirdness. My guess: In preparing for her role on Twin Peaks, Mary Jo took her daughters to a screening of Eraserhead, mistakenly thinking it was suitable for children. The girls were never the same. That, or Hollywood should prepare for invasion of Snow White-looking automatons that seek to eliminate facial expressions from motion pictures.

I kid, and I feel comfortable doing so because I actually like both sisters, but I also can’t imagine what it would be like to join the Deschanel family table for a holiday meal, what with all the big-eyed pretty people sitting around, not laughing at jokes and speaking in staccato computer voices. “Turkey. Is. Good. More. Food. Units. Please.”

Zooey, previously:

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