Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Misconceptions of the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" Trope

Lately, the entire idea and trope of "the manic pixie dream girl" has been my favorite topic/argument within not just film making, but modern media. So what is this manic pixie dream girl? Well, the name stemmed from a review of Elizabethtown done by Nathan Rabin. Rabin describes Kristen Dunst's character as
"that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that 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."
hence, the popular term in American film making towards movies such as 500 Days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Almost Famous, Juno, and a ton of others. Discussing the sexism in the MPDG is beating a dead horse- it's been talked about for months and months but what is an honest to god, ukulele playing, Smiths fan, record enthusiast, manic pixie dream girl and a woman who has been deemed perfect by a man when in actual life, has flaws (and is usually quite problematic)? These two separate plot lines usually end up getting lost in translation and it's because sometimes, it's hard to tell wether or not the male protagonist has made this woman out to be a MPDG or that is her actual character. 
   500 Days of Summer is most definitely the best example of an "ironic manic pixie dream girl" and it's pretty fucking obvious. I mean it hits you right in the opening sequence when some of the characters recall what love means to them and our protagonist, Tom, is silent. Also, Tom's backstory is a huge red flag- he grew up on romance movies and has basically been depressed all his life because he hasn't found "the one"- he has been looking for a MPDG all his life. When Summer comes around, she not only has a backstory (something most MPDGs don't get) full of flaws but also really has no interest in Tom. She has her own opinions and openly tells Tom she doesn't want a relationship yet Tom is still convinced she's his soulmate because they like the same Smiths song (their biggest hit by the way) and had a fun time at Ikea. If the entire plot within Summer and Tom doesn't put out a giant waving banner saying "END THE MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL" than Tom's friend, Paul (Matthew Gray Gubler!!) is the instant message- Paul describes his hot dream girl who loves sports but then says he loves his girlfriend more because she's real. The entire meaning of the film is that though we can dream up our quirky, magical, partners, they aren't real and true love isn't based off of your expectations but how you actually feel for someone. 
   But wait!! What about all the other movies listed? The three other films said previously just so happen to be other misconceptions of this trope (wow Ann how did you do that?)! Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is not only one of my favorite movies but also book series. Ramona Flowers definitely can come off as an MPDG though with her rollerblades and multi-colored hair but is actually quite the opposite. Scott is almost parallel to Tom- he's been depressed lately and has been broken up with his dream girl so when he sees this woman in his dream, he convinced she's the one. Ramona is getting over her own problems though and really isn't looking for a relationship when Scott approaches her. She breaks things off multiple times and in all, is extremely cold towards Scott yet he keeps fighting for her even when their relationship is on thin ice. But there's a reason for this- just like Tom, Scott has this idea of what romance is due to his rough breakup with Envy Adams and him believing he was in love with her when she was horrible towards Scott. He thinks of Ramona as Envy in the way she's tough and upset with her life and latches on. Ramona isn't the manic pixie dream girl, Scott is just living in a delusion that she is. Onto my favorite movie of all time, Almost Famous, I can see how Penny Lane can seem like a MPDG in her carefree attitude but just like Ramona and Summer, is afraid of commitment and isn't very interested in the male protagonist. She explodes at Will multiple times and claims she's leaving him for his own good because he's just so infatuated with her when she isn't as innocent, quirky, or fun as he thinks. Juno is just like this but a little bit more twisted when Mark, a man much older than her and the adoptive father of her child, claims he's in love with her. Mark is obviously unhappy with his marriage and when Juno, a cute, angsty, quirky even, teenager comes into his life, he's at a last resort with love and claims he wants to be with her, ultimately scaring Juno away. 
   In all, this manic pixie dream girl character doesn't just extend to film, it's expressed in many different songs (ex: "Five Colors in Her Hair" by McFly) and it's pretty fucking hard to mix an actual MPDG up with a man obsessed with a girl who he believes to be. 


  1. I didn't actually know that. but it makes sense :) thanks for clearing this up as I love movies as well

  2. Never heard of this before, but really interesting to read about.
    Your blog is really cool xx !

    // Ania, nurinek.blogspot.com

  3. Whats wrong with rollerblades and multicoloured hair?