A friend and I recently happened upon John Green’s novel-made-film, “The Fault In Our Stars,” while looking for something to watch on TV. I tried to sit quietly through the movie’s cheesy dialogue, but after a few minutes I finally exploded into a hysterical tirade about how I hate plot lines similar to many of Green’s other novels.They often center on an unconventionally pretty, rebellious female character whose sole purpose is to inspire an introverted adolescent male to come out of his shell.
“Oh, you mean the Manic Pixie Dream Girl?,” my friend coolly interjected as I continued to rant.
I paused for a moment to conduct a quick Google search. Coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in his 2007 review of “Elizabethtown,” he describes the Manic Pixie Dream Girl 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.”
I continued my online exploration to discover that I don’t hate the MPDG, I hate what she represents. The waifish indie packaging of the MPDG is only the contemporary form of an age-old patriarchal trope that portrays its female character as a one-dimensional helper, or muse that assists the male “hero” of the story in achieving his destiny.
Similarly, the modern-day MPDG has no career, familial ties or aspirations of her own. Her role is reduced to an unattached nymphet open to fulfilling the quixotic fantasies of her sad-sack love interest.
While it may be nice to watch onscreen, there are detrimental consequences to transposing the MPDG fantasy to real-life relationships. People are not props to be used for self-actualization. In real life, foisting one’s hopes and dreams onto another person is the surest way to be disappointed.
In real life, no woman as appealing as the MPDG would dedicate all her energy to convincing some dude with the personality of a dry sponge that he’s worthy of love.
The male equivalent of the MPDG renders that exact fallacy. The Manic Pixie Dream Boy lives to fortify the object of his affection with desperate, consuming devotion.
“The Fault In Our Stars'” MPDB is played by Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters. From his affinity for “V For Vendetta” to the way he dangles unlit cigarettes from his lips “as a metaphor,” Elgort’s character is an angsty teen dream. It almost makes his cringeworthy one-liners, like “All efforts to save me from you will fail,” seem rather cute.
Maybe another reason I resented the MPDG is because I recognize parts of her story in my own life. Sometimes I date guys I think I can fix, while other times I’m the romantic sucker who wants to be saved.
But unlike the MPDG, my cheery disposition has never truly compensated for my hot but broody exes’ apathy. Alternatively, I’ve never been satisfied by living vicariously through someone I thought was perfect. No matter how impressed I was by my “dream boys'” creativity or seemingly nuanced worldview, neither of those factors really contributed to my own happiness.
Although it’s tempting to project the alluring ideals of the MPDG/B onto people in real life, it never works out as well as it does in movies. Manic Pixies are just a far-fetched Hollywood myth.