Sunday, December 11, 2011

Manic Pixie Dream Girl Must Die

Eff you, new girl.

You know the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. That quirky, pretty, benignly "creative" female character in movies and television programs about brooding male protagonists who fear they're losing, or have lost the best years of their lives to their careers or failed relationships or stifling families or whatever. She shows up, spouts something bubbly and idealistic, drags the lead character on some off-beat adventure that breaks him out of his tired, square routine, and in the end, teaches him how to live

MPDGs are plot devices disguised as hippy chicks and punk rock girls. They are by definition one-dimensional and static characters. The coiner of the term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl," Nathan Rabin says "[MPDGs] don't live lives, they don't have jobs or careers, they just frolic and have fun and imbue people with a sense of life's infinite possibilities."

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl has ruined my life. People confuse me with her all the time.

Quick picture of me on paper:

  • I'm a poet and songwriter. I make most of my living doing things related to poetry and songs. 
  • I perform a lot in all sort of creative projects, from music videos to short films to multimedia shows to haunted houses.
  • I started a non-profit to increase youth poetry opportunities in Massachusetts
  • I've worked as a fine art model. 
  • I teach yoga.
  • I read Tarot cards.
  • I've never had a full-time job.

When I'm first introduced to people, my ten-second resume screams Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Since they've seen this character so often in movies and television, they can very easily imagine who I must be, and what role I'm meant to play in their lives. This makes my romantic life absolutely infuriating.

I can tell when a dude who's interested in me thinks I'm his MPDG. He gets all dreamy when I describe my lifestyle, imagining Woodstock and Monterey Pop when I talk about touring, when I'm often performing in coffee shops and bars and crashing on futons. A forty minute midnight walk home from a club that I make because I'm too broke for a cab is, for him, a wildly romantic bohemian adventure. He says things like, "and it's all because of you."

Invariably, when the dude catches his first glimpse of my ambitious and driven side, my financially responsible side, or my not-happy-and-full-of-joie-de-vivre-all-the-time side, the budding romance drops off the branch and rots.

Granted, this means I was talking to some pretty lame, unimaginative blokes. I've since learned to walk briskly in the other direction when I encounter these types. 

But then there is that part of me who does identify with the MPDG. I mean, I live a pretty unconventional life. I value art and human connection above most other things. I try as much as I can to live in the present. There's even a teeny tiny latently adolescent part of me who actually wants to be the MPDG. That part of me wants to be so full of vitality and love for life that people follow me around like I shed stardust. That part of me wants to believe in the MPDG. Maybe deep down, that part of me wishes my life were as simple as that of a plot catalyst. Or maybe that part of me hopes there's a MPDG out there for me somewhere, waiting to show me all the ways I've been blinding myself to the wonders of everyday life.

There's that speech in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where rainbow-haired Clementine basically acknowledges that she understands how men tend to view her and tries to reject it. "Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive," she says. "But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's looking for my own peace of mind. Don't assign me yours." With the reflective clarity of hindsight, the narrator Joel then instantly admits that he still thought she would save him even after she said that. (This is extra interesting because for most of the movie, she literally is a version of the character that exists in Joel's head -- oh Charlie Kaufman, I see what you did there.) 

I know we're not supposed to expect people to "save" us, but people often look for qualities they lack in their romantic partners. People do come into our lives who open doors and redirect our paths and help us grow. However, for any sort of lasting relationship to manifest, you have to grow because of (and with) the person beyond the shimmery quirks (and of course, you really have to grow because of you, but that's another post). What really makes a MPDG a MPDG is that she's more Dream than Girl, more symbol than character. That's fine, even necessary, in a shitty Hollywood movie like Elizabethtown, but if your life's going to imitate art, don't you want it to be better art than that?


hyperbuzzic said...

YES! Amen.

Frank Jansen said...

Great post! Good to hear that you're not a uni-dimensional idee fixe :-)

Personally, I think that the concept of a woman as a human being with all the complexities and nuances that come with that tends to be a little scary for most men to wrap their brains around. That being said: don't change!! said...

Cosigned! All dream and no girl. That shit is toxic to anyone hoping to have a relationship that involves anything more than discussing how much you love the Smiths and following your vague, meaningless "heart."