Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Clearly, I’m not very up with the times. Last week, Nymag (Stoeffel, 2013) announced the death of the manic pixie dream girl (MPDG) just as I’d discovered her existence.

For those who (like me) lived in MPDG ignorance, film critic Nathan Rabin (2007) coined the term after seeing Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown (2005). The MPDG is a ‘bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writers to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures’. MPDGs primary function is to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and never grow up. They are criticised as being static characters with eccentric, quirky personality traits, are unapologetically girly and above all, beautiful.

500 days of Summer

Webb M, 500 Days of Summer (2009), Still from film starring Gordon-

Levitt and Deschanel.

Penny Lane_Almost Famous

Crowe C, Almost Famous (2000), Still from film starring Kate Hudson

Examples of this archetype include any film starring Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson’s character in Almost Famous and eponymous film Ruby Sparks,

I’d never heard of this term until researching feminine archetypes in female- orientated films. When I read the description, it completely clicked with Gillian Flynn’s ‘Cool Girl’ variation (see previous post on Cool Girls). According to Ms Flynn, if the boy in question is a hipster or an angst artist, then the cool girl is a beautiful, free loving hippie (see exhibit Zooey).

Frankly, I think critics have been a bit harsh on the MPDG trope. It’s great to deconstruct this character type from a writer’s perspective but the characters described as MPDGs work for me. Watching these movies, not once have I felt they were weak, two-dimensional characters invented to support a man. In fact, both Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Ruby Sparks specifically deal with relationship breakdown because these female characters’ hopes, fears, disappointments and agency clashes with their male counterparts.

Now that I’m aware of this MPDG trope, I can’t help but wonder every time I pass an art student with pink or blue hair, is she a MPDG or just a poor student who can’t afford good hair dye?

References

Stoeffel, K, 2013. ‘The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Has Died’, online magazine http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/07/manic-pixie-dream-girl-has-died.html, viewed Aug 1, 2013.

Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl. London: Phoenix, 2012.

Rabin, N. 2007 “My Year Of Flops, Case File 1: Elizabethtown: The Bataan Death March of Whimsy”. A.V. Club, The Onion,  viewed July 20, 2013

Welker, H, 2013. ‘Forever Your Girl’. Online magazine http://bitchmagazine.org/article/forever-your-girl, viewed July 20, 2013.

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