In search of the male Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Ever since Nathan Rabin first used the phrase in a 2007 article, claiming “[t]he 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 idea of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (or MPDG) has oozed its way into almost every conversation of film and television. But the MPDG by definition, is always a girl. What about the dudes? Is there such thing as a Manic Pixie Dream Man?
Let’s begin with Jim Halpert from The Office, partially because he was the first character who popped into my head when thinking of a MPDG equivalent (and partially because John Krasinski is my ultimate crush). Jim strives to keep the balance at Dunder Mifflin through his constant torment of Dwight Schrute while also trying to prevent Michael Scott from getting fired. The well-known faces he makes when the camera pans to him are the perfect mix of adorable and honest. His quest to win the heart of Pam Beesley was not immediately successful but the result of a buildup over the course of several years. Jim Halpert won the hearts of millions of girls by being funny, adorable, quirky and genuine. Is he a MPDM? Maybe. He certainly has the rescue-you-through-whimsy approach down. But he’s more deadpan than manic.
Next we have Paulie Bleaker from Juno and Chip from Jennifer’s Body. Paulie Bleaker is the shy and slightly awkward boy next door. Chip is the quirky dedicated boyfriend with an endless collection of band t-shirts and love of music. Chip isn’t “traditionally” handsome, but the audience still can’t help but have a thing for him. Their speech is usually riddles with nuggets pop culture. But again, does Chip have that MPDM quality? Is he there to change Juno’s otherwise straight-laced life?
Maybe we have to look back as far. Lastly we have our 90s indie contenders, Pete, herein referred to as Big Pete to avoid confusion, from The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Trent Lane from Daria. The series The Adventures of Pete and Pete is already a perfect independent backdrop for a growing male MPDG, so it is only fitting the narrator is a teenage MPDG candidate. Big Pete tries to sort his way through adolescence by a soundtrack entirely made up of the band Polaris and along with the help of several folk and indie rock musicians playing his elders, including Iggy Pop. The universe of the show is unique and lovable, and Big Pete is no different. The same goes Trent Lane’s setting in Daria where he plays the dark unsuccessful musician still living in his parents’ house that you can’t help but have a crush on. Even Daria Morgendorffer herself initially isn’t immune to Trent’s lazy and monotone charm.
After comparing some of the potential MPDG archetypes, it’s clear there are several common traits. First, the male MPDG isn’t vain. The male MPDG relies on a sense of humor, vast pop culture knowledge, and often love of music. The MPDG is the boy next door you’ve known your entire life or the friend’s older brother you worshipped while growing up. Most importantly, I’ve come to the conclusion that much like his counter part, the male MPDG is simply an idea. Unfortunately, unlike his counterpart, he cannot be given a list of definitive attributes. Sure, he’s a character. He’s the guy you hope you end up with. He’s the guy you never had the nerve to speak to in high school. He’s the guy who made your coffee at your college coffee shop you fantasized about. The main problem, however, is there are clearly variations of the male MPDG, giving him a more three dimensional aspect. The female MPDG is more predictable, and the viewer can immediately identify her while the characteristics of the male MPDG cause more debate and are given more variety. The fact still remains that both represent the idea of imperfect love by counteracting preconceived notions, usually with a great indie soundtrack. This means anyone can become a male MPDG. You just have to be willing to see him.
(Image via NBC)