The problem with all of Zooey Deschanel’s characters is the problem we often get with sexist ideas in general. It demeans all women outside of her because she’s exceptional and anyone who disagrees is upholding the traditional patriarchy. That’s weird, because it’s exactly what she’s doing. She’s saying that by being more like a dude she’s cool.
Not only this, but the things she does to be more like a dude are super mainstream things that traditionally have a lot of female participants. Lord of the Rings? Really? This isn’t even getting into the stupid ideas we have about gender roles and fandom or the demonization of traditionally female things that have a negative impact on society as a whole. Zooey Deschanel (and any other people in her archetypes, of the “exceptional females” and “Manic Pixie Dreamgirls”) never actually does anything to challenge notions of gender in society. Her characters, too busy being not so weird, never look for the female companionship they claim to both want and spurn at the same time. They’ve never heard of geek girl con. They never look to the male companions who ooh and ahh over her love of overalls and say ‘actually guys, this isn’t special, it’s just who I am.’ Zooey never seems to play a character with genuine interest in nerdy stuff, she just does it to not be like other women and get sympathy because all the men don’t want her. Zooey’s entire identity is wrapped up that special brand of quirk.
One final note. I’ve never seen a Zooey Deschanel character that couldn’t find an appropriate partner if she wanted one. The thing is, her character wouldn’t work if she stopped doing weird things to off put suitors. If suddenly the character is actually just like all other women (you know? people who are just like everyone else but have an entire lifetime of experiences that form quirks of personality and don’t actually fit into any pre defined social categories because all of them are too narrow to fit people who don’t try to fit into them) and stopped trying to put on the front of exceptionality then we have almost the exact same character that doesn’t feel like someone spitting into the eyes of other women every time they step on screen.