The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is doe-eyed, ethereal, physically and emotionally transparent, or if we’re going to get particular with that one: translucent (in terms of her skin). You’ve probably heard of her, or if not you’ve seen her. Nathan Rabin coined the term in 2008, thanks to Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown and Kirsten Dunst’s supporting character in that film.
“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.”
By proxy, the MPDG is the heroine of any story in which she’s featured just by existing and never leaving the side of the loser-creative-type male protagonist she serves. Oh, and she has the super-human ability to not ever need to express any emotions that don’t directly correlate with her protag’s own revelations and self-growth. Super cool!
“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.”
Jezebel and many others have already written essays decrying the MPDG and even the “Amazing Girl” (ie, the muse – I find the fact that someone used this phrase as a negative absolutely annoying, MANY thumbs down) so there’s no need to go into that again, but I think the scourge of MPDGs is gone now–at least, kind of.
On Tuesday, I watched an advance screening (thank you, Fillmore!) of 50/50, a new film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays a cancer-ridden good guy who has been given a 50/50 chance of survival. Blah blah, it might make you cry, blah (ps, I liked it and it’s very sweet). Anna Kendrick costars as his 24-year-old therapist and, as stated by Fillmore, plays the same character she’s been playing for, oh, basically her entire career. It’s true. I’ve never really noticed, probably because I really like her, and definitely because there’s nothing wrong with the characters she plays.
She always plays sometimes nice, sometimes mean, always smart and successful girls who have the ability to (and I’m going to get soooooo cheesy here in a second) change the lives of the people around her by living her life first.
Remember when appeasing phrases like “love means never having to say you’re sorry” were uttered in films by women on their death beds? Or, when women opted to be single mothers in New York instead of blissfully unaware Stepfords in LA after dating men who tried to shirk their responsibilities by saying they “can’t get negative enough” and “can’t get positive enough”?
I think with more women like Anna Kendrick and more stories written with that type of girl in mind, the MPDG will no longer be able to sustain herself and we can get back to films full of characters we can recognize as human beings. Wild concept, I know, but I like to dream big. Anjelica Huston, who also co-stars in 50/50, is the antithesis of the MPDG. Her roles on screen, as well as in real life attest to that, which is a fact made even more impressive when you consider that she’s been working consistently since the 70s.
While more stories need to be written with the AKs and AJs of the world in mind, there has to be a change in the way men are written, too–another easy and redundant idea. But, really, if writers keep sharing stories about man-boy stoner-heroes or overly sensitive men who try to find the solution to all their problems in the form of a girl or woman, they need to get the fuck out. Like, now. They can come back when they’ve watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind enough times to learn how to write a story that presents a man and a woman as equal participants in whatever type of relationship they want to portray.
If they still don’t get it after that, Dealbreaker composed an easy to read explanation on what the MPDG would actually be like in real life (hint: a walking advertisement for rehab and possibly therapy).
ps, real commentary from a self-professed MPDG, or “Amazing Girl” as The Petite Sophisticate annoyingly refers to it:
OMG. I never realized it… I finally get it. I am an AG! Here’s something to make you feel better – men have a habit of falling madly in love with me and then freaking. AGs intoxicate lovers, but we can’t seem to keep them. They seem to disbelieve our reality and clam up, preventively.
I have had FIVE MEN fall madly in love with me, head over heels giddy, in the last eight months… only to freak out and back away when they realized that they couldn’t maintain the connection. It takes a lot of energy (and balls) to dance on hilltops with AGs. You envy the burn rate, how fast we move from sexy, soulful artist to sexy, soulful artist, blah blah blah… I guess it’s because anyone who’s not an AG (are there AMs?) can’t keep the “gates of experience” open indefinitely and bear what comes in. We are constantly disappointed. We are always hoping. And we refuse to become jaded. So, sure, the jaded envy that – but they by definition aren’t ready to deal with the pain of each successive disappointment. Wah wah wah. Yeah. Anyway, it’s a philosophical choice, we all make them.
Thanks for painting the picture so clearly. Sorry we bum you out. We bum ourselves out, too, sometimes.