Dakota Johnson is no Thoroughly Modern Millie, but she has become an icon for young single women everywhere. In no small part, it’s due to her biggest screen role yet in “Fifty Shades Of Grey” and her latest film “How to be Single.” It’s a dilemma every career girl faces.
Johnson’s roles, however, are symbolically different than the strident feminism portrayed in shows like HBO’s “Girls.”
She’s more vulnerable emotionally and more traditional about finding love and marriage. But like so many 20-something women, she’s conflicted about what she wants and how to get it.
In that sense, she may be more like Millie than it seems.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” is a 1956 musical and film about a small-town girl who leaves home in Kansas for New York City. She’s intent on finding a rich husband.
It’s set in 1922, when women are just entering the workforce and beginning to assert their independence.
Like Johnson’s character, Anastasia Steele in “50 Shades,” Millie is vulnerable, just a little naive. Yet, both seem to want the same thing–true love and a meaningful life.
“I’m proud of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ I don’t need to distance myself from that,” she told Vogue UK.
In “How To Be Single,” Johnson plays another young, 20-something woman who is unsure about her life. She breaks up with her boyfriend to “live a little” before settling down. (See Our Review Here)
But she finds out negotiating the singles scene is not as easy as it seems.
In real life, Johnson says in a series of recent interviews she faces the same problems, if from a different perspective.
“I’m not the type of person that goes to a lot of parties,” she said in an Australian interview.
“I cherish my solitude and I think it’s important for young women, especially now, to know that it’s OK to explore the world and yourself without the pressures of other people’s opinions of you. I don’t need a partner to feel complete. In today’s society there’s less of a stigma on being single. I think society is relinquishing some of the pressures of needing to find a spouse.”
Like her “How to be Single” character, she’s been in an on-again off-again relationship with British model/ musician Matthew Hitt. before that, she dated musician Noah Gersh and actor Jordan Masterson.
She’s even been rumored to be dating actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who is 10 years her senior.
She explains her love life this way:
“I’m attracted to people who respect me, who are kind, who are intelligent and who can keep up with me. But for the most part, men don’t approach me. I think they’re afraid. But right now I’m just focused on my work so it isn’t an issue for me.”
The message in her new movie is that women “should love themselves and take care of their hearts and their brains.”
But she says they should also not feel bad about going out and having a good time “There shouldn’t be a stigma on women sleeping with men,” she says.