Snuggled up on the couch on a brisk October Sunday, my boyfriend looked deep into my eyes and whispered sweetly that I was his, “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” This gave me a few instinctual reactive thoughts:
1) This is probably bad news. All that I’ve read and seen about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is that while she is adorable, upbeat, and entertaining, she is also 2-dimensional and a sexist portrayal of women.
2) This is flattering. As someone who is all-too aware of her clumsy body, split-ends, and chipped nail polish, it’s good to be seen as something described as dainty, ethereal, quirky, et al.
3) This is understandable. He just found out about the MPDG trope–from me–and his intentions are entirely good. He thought it was a new way to compliment his girlfriend based on the attractive and alluring MPDGs of movies, and the best way to broaden a vocabulary is to use words/phrases in everyday life.
There are a million and a half articles on the internet right now throwing the MPDG under the bus. “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is DEAD!” exclaimed one article–while another was from a woman who claims to have forsaken that lifestyle and is now preaching the gospel of being a self-actualized woman–or something. Both articles were well-received with everyone seemingly jumping up and down, fist-pumping in agreement that the MPDG needed to be destroyed.
Personally though, I kind of think she’s great, but ONLY because she isn’t the problem. The problem isn’t Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The problem isn’t Natalie Portman’s character, Sam, being quirky and upbeat in Garden State. The problem isn’t Zooey Deschanel having bangs and playing ukulele. The true problem is that people don’t write stories about Manic Pixie Dream Girls being the protagonist of the story, but rather, make her a secondary, supporting character.
If you ask me, some of the best stories about MPDG’s feature them as the hero of their own story:
- Zenon in Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century – Quirky to a fault (she literally dives in dumpsters to get supplies for diy bracelets), she shows up on Earth where a guy falls in love with her, and she doesn’t give up her life, but rather, continues being quirky and awesome and he helps her get a ride back to the Spay Stay to see Protozoa in concert.
- Pippi Longstockings – You will never convince me that she isn’t a MPDG, and you definitely won’t convince me that she is a sexist character. Sure she has bangs, wears dresses, and scrapes up her knees, but she also saves all those kids from the burning building or whatever.
- Ellie in Up – okay, so she dies in the first 10 minutes–but her 10 minutes are arguably the most important 10 minutes in the film. She shows up unannounced all spritely and cute and gets Carl to come out of his shell. He’s not idealizing her so much as he’s appreciating that she is a full, amazingly interesting and adventurous creature.
So if brooding, male, Hollywood writers want to write the MPDG into a story, perhaps they should make her the leading character instead of an afterthought because when she is further examined, her ferocity is 3-dimensional. Her personality is genuinely enchanting, and yes, her hair is cute, damn it!
We should really be shaming the men who put the MPDG on a pedestal to avoid having to really love her for who she is. I mean, no one complains about Orlando Bloom in his cry-baby role in Elizabethtown. His character is literally going to commit suicide by tying a knife to an exercise machine and having it stab him to death when he serendipitously meets his MPDG and makes her responsible for his happiness. In 500 Days of Summer, JGL‘s Tom is so disenchanted with everyday life that he makes his entire life about a girl he doesn’t know (Summer). When it becomes clear that she isn’t going for his happily-ever-after, he finds a girl named “Autumn” and passes her the lamentable responsibility of “making his life better.” These guys need a name with a negative connotation. Maybe “Sad-Sack Pathetic Boys” or SSPB. Let’s get rid of them! Let’s write a million blog posts about their negative existence.