Why I Refuse To Be A Manic Pixie Dream Girl – And You Should Too

I Refuse To Be A Manic Pixie Dream Girl
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What do men see when they look at you? Do they see you as just another human being or as a magical creature designed to solve all their life problems? If it’s the former, you have nothing to worry about. But if it’s the latter, girl you are pretty much screwed. For guys consider you a mystical being known as the manic pixie dream girl.

What makes a girl a ‘manic pixie dream girl’ ?

The MPDG was a term coined by film and music critic Nathan Rabin while writing an essay to describe the character of Kirsten Dunst in the movie Elizabethtown. He described the MPDG 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”.

Rabin coined the term back in 2007 and it’s a testimony to Hollywood and Bollywood’s ingrained sexism that the term can still be applied to the movies of today. Although Rabin sincerely apologized for coining the “unstoppable monster” of a phrase in a 2014 Salon article, the trope is alive and well in Bollywood and Hollywood films. Both film industries continue to churn out quirky and attractive female characters whose sole purpose is to make their heterosexual romantic interest have a momentous epiphany.

And then once they are done making the man aware of his immense potential and life’s many possibilities, they either disappear from the man’s life or continue to be his love interest. Either way, this girl is depicted as a one-dimensional being, a free spirit who has no troubles or life of her own. As an audience, we only view her as the muse of the male lead, we never get to know her backstory, or her dreams, desires, and issues.

“Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest. ”
Nathan Rabin

Now some of you may argue that it’s all just a trope seen in the movies, so surely I don’t need to get all riled up about it. But it’s common knowledge that when something occurs repeatedly in pop culture, particularly if it is shown in a good light, it sticks in the minds of the viewer. Why, 10 years ago, I thought the manic pixie dream girl was “cute and quirky” and I even aspired to be one. Wouldn’t it be neat to save someone from themselves like a genie of some sort? Sure, you could blame this on the naivete of a 19-year-old girl, but let’s face, it’s so much more than that. Filmmakers are simply perpetuating misogyny and male entitlement by using the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ trope in their works.

It may seem charming on the big screen, but it does a lot of harm to both male and female viewers in real life. Guys wait around for the eccentric, beautiful girl who will swoop right in and give them a whole new perspective on life. She will do all this emotional labor without expecting anything in return; in fact, her story won’t be discussed at all because her sole purpose is to fix the guy’s life without expecting anything in return.

And girls who have grown up watching/adoring MPDGs get brainwashed into believing that this is who they must aspire to be. When they live out the one-dimensional role of an MPDG, they not only help perpetuate sexism, they also devalue themselves by putting their own dreams and ambitions on hold until they are done playing savior.

Sure, the MPDG is put on a pedestal because of all that she can do to save or reinvent a guy, but what good does that pedestal do for her? If she is prioritizing fixing a guy’s life and helping him reach his full potential when (if at all) will she put herself first as any other human being should?

So ladies, no matter how quirky or free-spirited you are, make sure you are not being put in the chains of an MPDG. Instead, seek inspiration from Clementine Kruczynski in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The girl was as free-spirited and kooky as one could be, she made it clear she was not born to save someone when she declared,” Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours.”

As someone who has been put on the MPDG pedestal and devalued when I did not behave like an MPDG (because I never was one in the first place), trust me, I know what I am talking about when I say that it’s far better to be treated as a real person with flaws than being looked at as a Goddess who can do no wrong. Because a person is allowed to make mistakes and be flawed, but a Goddess is supposed to be perfect and do no wrong.

Have you ever been treated like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? How did you deal with it? Share your story in the comments below.

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