Forbidden Love


Band: Death Cab for Cutie
Album: The Forbidden Love EP
Best song: “Photobooth” is far too twee. But, really good. I’m of two minds.
Worst song: See above.

I can’t fucking stand Zooey Deschanel.

This isn’t a new thing, nor am I the only one. She has got an attractiveness about her that is hard to deny. She has those big Bambi eyes and her hair frames her face well and whatever. She’s pretty. Hooray.

Lots of people are pretty. No one is as annoying as Zooey Deschanel is in that iPhone commercial:


It’s worth noting that I, in my increasing age, cannot deal with nonlinear thinkers. I realize this is a Ross problem more than anything; I’m not open-minded enough to figure out how to tie all the fucking loose ends and create a constructive conversation with nonlinear thinkers.

I am not a super driven, organized person. Indeed, I’m quite the opposite. I’m messy and lazy. But, I take conversation and language very seriously — yeah yeah yeah, you wouldn’t know if from this blog. I know. — and I can’t handle the randomness of some conversations.

In the abstract, I know that nonlinear thinkers produce the best art. I’m sure no one has had a clear conversation with Bob Dylan since he was a baby; it’s hard for me to imagine anyone talking to Mitch Hedberg — while he was alive, of course — and getting straight answers. Terence Malick probably talks in sunsets.

That doesn’t mean I want to hang with these people.

I want to consume their art and let it wash over me and make me think about my place in the universe. I love Wes Anderson, but I couldn’t imagine hanging out with him. 2001 is a wonderful meditation on mankind’s drive to power, technology, evolution and the place of man in the universe. It is a work of art that is nearly impossible to fathom. That doesn’t mean I could’ve held a conversation with Stanley Kubrick without wanting to strangle him (though, it’s rumored that he loved the Simpsons).

Let me be clear: I don’t think she’s flaky and annoying because she’s trying to be something she isn’t. She really likes stupid twee nonsense (I do, too, in certain situations, as evident by my love of all things Wes Anderson). She probably wishes she was born in the 1930s (in an era where there was no Internet, no mobile phones and certainly no Siri). She does play the ukuklele.

It’s that she represents something more. She’s not cynical or even knowledgeable about anything. She’s a certain archetype of an artist without even the tinges of having a greater bit of wisdom that flakey arty types often have (again, see Anderson, Dylan and Kubrick). There’s no there there. She’s just a mediocre actress in my least favorite movie of all-time.

Years before that shitstorm of a movie, the imcomparable Nathan Rabin named the phenomenon:

Dunst embodies a character type I like to call The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (see Natalie Portman in Garden State for another prime example). The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an all-or-nothing-proposition. Audiences either want to marry her instantly (despite The Manic Pixie Dream Girl being, you know, a fictional character) or they want to commit grievous bodily harm against them and their immediate family. As for me, well, let’s just say I’m not going to propose to Dunst’s psychotically chipper waitress in the sky any time soon.

Put me in the latter camp (“want to commit grievous bodily harm”) on Deschanel. She’s the MPDG without having a real purpose.

Jezebel described the type while describing Natalie Portman in the garbage movie Garden State:

I hated that character from the second she flounced on the screen. I remember distinctly Portman telling Zach Braff’s character that she was “weird” and then doing a silly little dance to illustrate her “weirdness.” Honestly? Anyone who telegraphs their so-called weirdness so outlandishly is not actually weird, they’re merely quirky enough to be vaguely interesting without having their own thing going on. They’re completely mainstream but have one really big tattoo, or occasionally sing really loud in the shower! “Oh, Natalie,” the A.V. Club writes, “your unconventional ways are so inspiring, and your beauty is surprisingly non-threatening!”

I think that’s what bugs me about Zooey Deschanel. She’s delightfully mainstream with a couple of quirks here and there. She’s not weird, she’s annoying. She’s not pushing anything, she’s just goofy. She’s the mainstreaming of indie, whitewashing that which could be interesting.

(Yes. I realize this is the new reality; “mainstream” and “indie” aren’t things anymore. It’s all mushed up together and I still can’t process this fact properly.)

Secondarily, the lack of import on the MPDG’s actual brain is the secondhand reason why I despise them (and Deschanel herself). AV Club put it well: “Like the Magical Negro, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype is largely defined by secondary status and lack of an inner life. She’s on hand to lift a gloomy male protagonist out of the doldrums, not to pursue her own happiness.”

We don’t get the lifting of men from the depths much from Deschanel (save for (500) Days of Summer). She doesn’t even get that bit of personality. She’s simply an actor seemingly always projecting an almost steampunk lifestyle devoid of any greater meaning.

“Maybe she’s just private,” you say.

There are lots of celebrities who have no use for jumping into the limelight and for good reason. I tend to think of Sacha Baron Cohen, who is infamously private or the earlier-mentioned Terence Malick. However, in the case of both Baron Cohen and Malick, their work speaks for themselves; Deschanel’s doesn’t. She’s an actress barely playing the same very boring part.

All of this is to say I just wasted way too much energy on an ad and actress I find annoying (for what it’s worth, I can’t fucking stand the Sam Jackson Siri ad either. He comes off like a complete preening jackass.). I’m an idiot and a mean one, at that.

Ben Gibbard, a man about whom I’ve written far too much, is the leader of Death Cab for Cutie, the band that produced The Forbidden Love EP. It’s a quick shot that leads off with the male fantasy song for the MPDG, “Photobooth.” Actual photobooths are delightful, though far too twee and listening to the song is a reminder that he used to be married to Deschanel.

Nevertheless, the song is a bit of a guilty pleasure — as all of their stuff is — as it’s a nostalgia-laden track about being young and experiencing the first thrills of independence. “Song for Kelly Huckaby” is a driving song that beats out the vast majority of similar-era DCFC songs.

Indeed, Forbidden Love occupies the space between awesome Death Cab and descreasing-in-quality (for the most part) Death Cab. The Photo Album, Forbidden Love‘s immediate successor, is the band’s low point. We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes is the band’s best record and was the predecessor to Forbidden Love. “Song for Kelly Huckaby” was to be on We Have the Facts, but was cut, if I’m not mistaken.

It’s an odd place in time. We Have the Facts did get the band to a higher place than Something about Airplanes did and the band’s touring schedule certainly brought them more popularity. But, most bands take an album or two to go in the shitter and don’t recover. Somehow, Death Cab put out a bad record and rebounded some (Narrow Stairs has highlights, as does Transatlanticism). And, certainly, Ben Gibbard has put out loads of records that have been of high quality, including the Postal Service record, the Keruoac one with Jay Farrar and his own solo split with Andrew Kenny.

It’s confounding. Maybe Zooey Deschanel has an answer. Or maybe she can ask Siri.

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