It seems much of the internet just came to the collective realization that Zooey Deschanel — yes, quirky cool girl of 2010s fame —is dating one of the Property Brothers … and no one knows what to make of it.

Maybe I’m projecting, but I always imagined Zooey Deschanel with some smart-but-sad artist type. Or some misunderstood nihilist whose jaded view of the world kept him from reaching his full potential, but his charm buoyed him safely through life despite.

If these sound like characters from a romantic comedy or a weeknight sitcom, it’s because it’s almost impossible for me to separate Zooey Deschanel from the characters she plays. While some actresses are famous for their personas outside their roles, Deschanel is undoubtedly the kind of actress who lives in the public imagination almost synonymously with her most recognizable roles.

In part, this is because her roles in films like (500) Days of Summer and shows like New Girl were the blueprint for a type of wide-eyed brunette protagonist that feels so familiar to us now. A critic writing on the movie Elizabethtown coined this trope the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” a quirky girl who exists to give purpose to sad white men and doesn’t seem to have much character beyond that.

Think Natalie Portman in Garden State. Kate Hudson in Almost Famous. And Zooey Deschanel in everything: Yes Man, New Girl, (500) Days of Summer, and even Elf. When you google the term, Zooey Deschanel’s picture is one of the first you’ll see.

Despite the number of think pieces and feminist musings on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope and the patronizing, patriarchal ideal woman that Deschanel seems to embody — some strange quirky cool girl with an effortless whimsical charm — we still cling to that idea as her character.

This week, however, the curtain dropped to reveal that Zooey Deschanel in real life is engaged to someone who does not fit into the vision we have of her — Jonathan Scott of Property Brothers.

The two met late last year in a way fit for a bad Netflix romantic comedy: through James Corden. Guest stars on Carpool Karaoke, the two initially became friends while Deschanel was still married to now-ex, Jacob Pechenik.

Soon after the news of her split from her husband broke, Deschanel was spotted with Scott. Not long after, the couple became social media official, but somehow it’s taken this long for the internet to catch up — but then again it really was a rough year.

This month, Zooey guest-starred on the Property Brothers spin off show, Celebrity IOU, in which celebrities surprise loved ones with home renovations. The promo for this episode made its rounds on the internet, which was the catalyst to our collective awakening. How could we have missed it? Why does it feel so strange?

Zooey Deschanel Guest Starring in Celebrity IOU
Zooey Deschanel Guest Starring in Celebrity IOU

Fans on social media were quick to express their confusion and also their disappointment.

It seems I was not the only one who imagined Deschanel with some real life version of a character from her projects, but our collective disillusionment overlooks one thing: She seems happy.

At the end of the day, we have to remember that actors are not their personas — no matter how many times they play almost identical iterations of the same trope for our viewing pleasure.

Though most mainstream media is getting past those protagonists, the women who embody them are trapped in our imagination as some vestige of a girl most of us admittedly wanted to be. And while maybe Zoey Deschanel’s famed characters wouldn’t end up with a Property Brother — maybe they’d push their horn rimmed glasses further up their nose at the thought — that doesn’t mean the real life version of her isn’t into it.

Posted in: Pop