Dating manic pixie dream girl
The response to my review was pretty positive but relatively sleepy. The list, published in 2008, was titled “16 films featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls,” and featured, along with Dunst and Portman, Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” and Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I remember thinking, even back then, that a whole list of Manic Pixie Dream Girls might be stretching the conceit too far.
The archetype of the free-spirited life-lover who cheers up a male sad-sack had existed in the culture for ages.
It's an archetype, I realized, that taps into a particular male fantasy: of being saved from depression and ennui by a fantasy woman who sweeps in like a glittery breeze to save you from yourself, then disappears once her work is done.
When I hit “publish” on that piece, the first entry in a column I called "My Year of Flops," I was pretty proud of myself.
Dunst's psychotically bubbly stewardess seemed to belong in some magical, otherworldly realm -- hence the "pixie" -- offering up her phone number to strangers and drawing whimsical maps to help her man find his way.
And as Dunst cavorted across the screen, I thought also of Natalie Portman in "Garden State," a similarly carefree nymphet who is the accessory to Zach Braff's character development.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster.
The author did not choose the book’s title, I learned in my one exchange with him over Facebook; it was his publisher’s idea. Critics began coining spinoff tropes like the “manic pixie dream guy." Mindy Kaling name-dropped Manic Pixie Dream Girls in a New Yorker piece on female-centric films.
And last year I had the surreal experience of watching a musical called Manic Pixie Dreamland, about a fantasy realm that produces Manic Pixie Dream Girls.
I felt as if I had tapped into something that had been a part of our culture for a long time and given it a catchy, descriptive name -- a name with what Malcolm Gladwell might call “stickiness." But I should clarify a few things here.
The trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a fundamentally sexist one, since it makes women seem less like autonomous, independent entities than appealing props to help mopey, sad white men self-actualize.