Here’s a good post on the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I’m not as bothered by the term as the writer is, but her point of view is interesting.
To me the female lead in 500 Days of Summer was like something out of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. But this post made me think.
Originally posted on Reel Feminist:
There are few cinematic terms I despise as much as the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” (MPDG for short). My problems with this term are legion, so first off let’s have a little history. Nathan Rabin coined the term when describing Kirsten Dunst’s character ‘Claire’ in the Cameron Crowe film Elizabethtown. According to Rabin, Dunst epitomizes the MPDG, a female character who “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.” These women are describes as bubbly, childlike muses who exist solely to inspire a male protagonist, encouraging him to embrace and enjoy life.
The MPDG is one of those cinematic terms that was assimilated as soon as it was uttered; a lot of people accepted its existence as fact immediately, as if Rabin’s term was absolute and not to be questioned. No one seems to care if it’s a particularly useful or accurate term. The AV Club (which originally featured Rabin’s Elizabethtown review) later published a list of “16 Films Featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls.”
The problem is that I don’t think the MPDG even exists. The AV Club and other websites have spent a lot of energy chasing rainbows, trying to chronicle a supposed Grand History of MPDGs in Cinema, supposedly proving this trope exists by shoehorning some of film history’s most notable female characters—from Diane Keaton’s eponymous Annie Hall and Kate Winslet’s Clementine (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) to Katharine Hepburn’s Susan (Bringing Up Baby)–into this category. I can’t possibly think what Claire in Elizabethtown has in common with Annie Hall, except perhaps that they’ve both fallen for neurotic men. Indeed, if these women represent the MPDG, perhaps we could just as easily dub Orlando Bloom’s'Drew Baylor’ and Woody Allen’s ‘Alvy Singer’ the archetypal Neurotic Suicidal Boyfriends. Or would that be reductive?