You all know her. She is in your favorite movie, your favorite book. She is exciting, childish, hyperfeminine. She is the Most Interesting Girl in the World, and her sole purpose and interest is to help the brooding and depressed Male Character. The original Manic Pixie Dream Girl is up for debate. Although the term was coined in 2007 after Kirsten Dunst’s character Claire in Elizabethtown, plenty of Manic Pixies proceed her, from Audrey Hepburn’s Holly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Keira Knightley’s Penelope Lockhart in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Even Belle, our favorite bookworm Disney Princess is considered a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, according to some critics. The Manic Pixie trope is everywhere, pervading movies and books throughout history
Sure, she sounds great right? Especially to the Brooding and Depressed Males reading this blog right now. A Manic Pixie seems like the perfect person to come into your life, liven it up and make it better. How can you get a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl in your own life?
The answer? You can’t.
Manic Pixie Dream Girls do not exist in real life. Real women are not meant to take on your brooding sadness and cynicism. Their job is not to teach you how to love the world again.
Since the term was coined in 2007, there has been a huge backlash, because the trope is sexist. Calling all quirky female characters in media Manic Pixie Dream Girls shaves them down to nothing but plot devices, instead of characters. Nathan Rabin, who coined the term, has since tried to retract it. Not only does this trope put women in movies into boxes, it puts women in real life into boxes. Media is inescapable in our lives, and a women who is quirky and idiosyncratic immediately gets pegged as a Manic Pixie. Following that, she is either ridiculed or idolized, put on a pedestal. When she can’t live up to the Manic Pixie ideal, since she is a person with feelings, she becomes subjected to abuse.
The reality is, the term started as a criticism of writers, a call to action to create more diverse, fulfilled female characters. The idea was so bastardized and the term so overused that the original thought was lost entirely. Characters themselves are throwing off the label. Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind says “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a [bleep]-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”
Even spinoff tropes have started, namely, the Manic Pixie Dream Boy. Think Augustus Waters from John Greene’s The Fault in Our Stars. He is the perfect wonderboy, existing to show the leading lady how to love the world despite the tragic circumstances she is in.
This trope is just as damaging as the previous. No person can be the wish fulfillment fantasy of any other person.
It’s time for authors and screenwriters to let go of their unattainable standards for women, and let us girls with crazy hair and free spirits live.