Character Deep Dive: Zoe Hart

Zoe Hart in Hart of Dixie
©The CW

Portrayed by: Rachel Bilson
Show: The CW’s Hart of Dixie

Hart of Dixie is a comfort show for many reasons, but Zoe Hart isn’t one of them—at least not in the beginning. Still, that makes her character development worthwhile because she’s the type of leading star who manages to make viewers feel all various emotions throughout her arc. She starts as a pretentious city girl who doesn’t understand the nuances and value of lasting relationships and grows to channel empathy in gorgeous ways.

Zoe Hart is many things, but first and foremost, she’s a person who’s open and vulnerable. It’s unclear whether empathy can be taught, at least for some people, but Zoe is Harley Wilke’s daughter at the end of the day, and she understands the value of being kind even while she doesn’t realize it. She’s clouded by culture and upbringing as well as her own desires to feel loved, but when she’s forced to let it all go, Zoe becomes someone who sees people as she hopes they’ll eventually see her.

Zoe Hart and Heart

Rachel Bilson as Zoe Hart
©The CW

Zoe’s bedside manner might not be as evident in the Pilot episode, but as we learn, she’s capable of far more than she believes. When she first assists Mabel in delivery, it’s not about showing off her skills or proving something to anyone else; it’s about seeing someone who’s afraid and wanting to bring them light. It’s proof that she’s doing the right job because this is how doctors should be. At that moment, Zoe shows us that despite her attitude at times, she’s more than willing to understand people when there’s no one else to do so. In a lot of ways, even though her independent spirit works in New York, Zoe has relied on others to bring forth the humanity that was in her all along. 

We shortly learn to understand that Zoe pushes as hard as she does because she cares more than she realizes. She wants people to be better than they are, herself included, which is why she tries so hard to make the folks at Bluebell like her. She goes about certain things in the wrong way, sure, but in the end, she sees her faults as well, and it’s entirely because of how big her heart is.

Zoe Hart may be a Wilkes, but Hart is also a last name that’s meant for her. And alongside the heart is the grit necessary to push forward to ensure that she’s seen for all she is and everything she can be. When all odds are stacked against her, and when people keep trying to shove her out, it doesn’t matter that she’s supposed to be here for only a year because she’s going to put her best foot forward. 

Related Content: Relationship Deep Dive: The People of Bluebell

Further, Zoe’s heart starts to show in her friendship and loyalty to Lavon. She shows us who she is when she starts showing up for him in the very beginning, even when she doesn’t quite understand the purpose of Bluebell’s hijinks. Later, when their friendship is fortified and romantic relationships get more complicated, Zoe continues to authenticate that she will have his back through everything. Their friendship is undeniably one of the best platonic relationships to come out of the show and a piece of the Hart of Dixie puzzle that completes the narrative. 

We can say the same about Zoe’s dynamic with Rose and how immediately their bond occurs. It’s apparent from that very beginning that even though Zoe can be pretentious about certain things, she’s inherently kind and open. She’s not only willing to make friends, but it’s something she desperately wants and cares to maintain. She pushes and probes and listens because when she loves, she loves deeply. She loves people even when they aren’t deserving of it or when they don’t love her.


Zoe Hart in The CW's Hart of Dixie series finale
©The CW

The most riveting thing about Zoe Hart is her name. Yes, her father loves her, despite the truth of their circumstances, but the reality is, until she got to Bluebell, Zoe had no idea what she was missing. She needed to understand that there are things better than the best bagels. (Yes, New York bagels are superior, but that’s not the point here.) The fact is, she’s always been searching for something she didn’t quite understand—somewhere just to be her messy, frustrating, loud, and funny self. She didn’t understand until the end why Harvey’s decision to keep fighting for her was the best thing in her world.

Loneliness creeps up on a person. The essence of it is there all along, but the sting worsens through time. It’s bad and then worst and a state for which there are so few words. But with Zoe Hart, that loneliness is often combated with defenses up and an attitude that tells people it doesn’t bother her. She’s better. She gets it. She’s striving for a job, not friends. Only the actuality of that is all she wants is to belong. She wants to be a true Hart even when she’s pushed away from being a Wilkes too. Zoe Hart embraces what’s rightfully hers by the end of the show by choosing for herself, despite the fears of where it could lead her.

Related Content: Relationship Deep Dive: Zoe Hart and Wade Kinsella

She plants roots even when she’s scared. She gives love another chance even after it betrays her. And she accepts that Bluebell is her perfectly imperfect home when she realizes that it’s what she’s always been searching for. In every sense of the word, like most people, Zoe wanted a place to feel safe to be her genuine self, and it’s what she finds beyond her hesitations. A show’s protagonist is only sometimes its best character, and interestingly, Zoe doesn’t start off so.

But by the end of the series, there’s no denying that she’s the character whose growth is most relatable. In her relationship with Wade Kinsella, the two help one another in ways beyond a couple challenging each other for the better. They teach one another how to belong in a world that consistently expects only one way for them to go. Instead, Zoe Hart shows that the distance and the pristinely laid out plans aren’t always the right ones, but the detour can be precisely what’s necessary to bring the best to the surface.

She doesn’t choose to go to Bluebell, but she chooses to make it her home. She chooses the family she wants to spend the rest of her life with. She chooses to love and forgive and continue trying, becoming a better version of herself with every passing episode, one stunning outfit and hairdo at a time. And Rachel Bilson plays Zoe Hart to perfection—there’s a reason the show remains a comfort watch for all of us, and it’s because Zoe’s journey is a heartfelt, healing joy even when it brings us to tears.


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