The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

February 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

In October, National Public Radio released an article and four-minute movie alongside it entitled Manic Pixie Dream Girls: A Cinematic Scourge? In case you’re not familiar with the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl, in the article it’s defined by film critic Nathan Rabin:

The Manic Pixie is, in his words, “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.”

And while I agree with the NPR article and video posted for the most part, I do have a a bit of an issue with it: the character of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I don’t find her to be the typical MPDG as defined by Rabin. I think she’s more complicated than that. She IS the type of girl that will, “go off into a quiet corner and cry,” and does so in the movie. And while I think her main device in the movie is to uplift the male protagonist, she isn’t actually a secondary character in the slightest. In fact, I think many people who watch the movie care more about her than him. I also think that a lot of the “adventures” (for lack of a better word) that they go on together aren’t solely for him, but for her as well. She wants to have a good time and do crazy things. She likes him, so he’s included in her antics. Another thing that separates her from being a typical MPDG is that she doesn’t come into his life and cause him to undergo a change, as is the normal formula, but she is the one that undergoes a change because of him. I think there’s a fine line between being one of those free, live-life-to-the-fullest characters and being a character who only does such things to help their love interest (no matter how unrealistic both characters may be). It’s the latter that I take issue with far more that the first.

Another problem I had wasn’t so much about the article, but it was with myself. While reading through the list of MPDG’s, I came across Natalie Portman’s character from Garden State, Katherine Hepburn’s character from Bringing Up Baby, Penny Lane in Almost Famous, and Annie Hall. These are all movies and characters that I love and have loved for a long time. Does that mean that I’ve bought into sexist bullshit that everyone’s supposed to buy into? As a feminist am I obligated to dislike all of these characters because they portray unrealistically bubbly, happy, free and completely shallow versions of real women? And even if they are sexist, as long as I recognize that, can I continue to like them? Also, in our modern day cinema, among the slutty female characters, the bitchy female characters, and the neurotic female characters, MPDG’s don’t offend me the most.

Okay, well I’ve sort of gone off a bit and I apologize if this is unclear, as I’m still trying to sort out my opinions and feelings regarding this topic. Thoughts, anyone?

For more on the MPDG phenomenon:

16 films featuring MPGD’s (A. V. Club)

MPGD’s are the Scourge of Modern Cinema (Jezebel)


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