Saturday, November 15, 2008

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

You've probably heard of this movie archetype - the manic pixie dream girl. She's that young (generally) woman with a whimsical view of life, a tendency to overshare, a lot of energy and light, and eccentric hobbies. In a movie she is typically drawn to a sullen, depressed, repressed, or otherwise drudge-like man. She rescues this man by awakening his interest in life. As with the magical negro, it's not always clear what the MPDG is actually getting out of the relationship. Garden State was a particularly egregious MPDG movie I saw recently.

I've been thinking about this character because Ed and I are in the middle of watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is an unusual MPDG movie in that it shows the consequences of actually having a long-term relationship with one of these women. You might eventually get tired of dealing with someone who is continually impulsive and has no purpose in life.

I have a few trains of thought about this archetype. First, I wonder if the MPDG is primarily a male or female fantasy. Is it that men dream of having some light-filled girl-creature enter and brighten their dull existences? Or is it that women dream that they can immediately let a man in on all of their eccentricities and, instead of being weirded out or disturbed, he'll find them adorable and entrancing? It seems to me that it could go either way. I don't think you often see a Manic Pixie Dream Man, though the love interest in The Family Stone comes close for me (and the woman is definitely a classic Drudge).

The second set of thoughts I've been having is a bit more serious. It strikes me that the MPDG and the Drudge that she rescues both have something in common - neither is applying energy to anything meaningful. The Drudge has a meaningless job (which can be high-powered or not) and basically no meaning in life, and he's generally low-energy. The MPDG has plenty of energy flying in all directions, but she's applying it only to meaningless things like her inevitable eccentric hobbies (making figurines out of potatoes, collecting kitschy trinkets, or whatever).

One vision of the "good life" would be applying energy and creativity to something that matters. I guess in movies, most of these characters are Crazed Artists; the guy in Pi comes to mind. Of course, in real life, such people exist and many are not crazed. In movies, you're either crazed, or you're famous and the movie is a biography. (Or both, of course.)

Ed reports that his high school girlfriend was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I had Mosch as my Magical Negro stand-in (I used to call him my "magical Jewish friend"). I don't think I fit any of these archetypes particularly well. I have some eccentric qualities and overshare, but overall I am a plodding rather than a flitting creature; my life has drudgelike aspects, but I also pursue meaning. Ed is clearly a Crazed Artist type.

Do you bear resemblance to a movie archetype? Are you someone's magical friend, manic pixie dream, drudge suitable for rescuing, or a crazed artist? Are there people in your life who fit these categories? (Do you wish there were?)

2 comments:

Sally said...

I have already done a variant on the manic pixie dream girl rescues drudge theme; I think a magical friend would be the most useful at this point, and I'm not picky about their ethnicity or gender.

Debbie said...

Possible manic pixie dream guys: The guy on "Titanic." Peter Pan, except that he's not in a romance. How about the Johnny Depp character who uses an iron to make grilled cheese sandwiches in "Benny and Joon"?

Applying energy and creativity to something that matters, without coming off as crazed? Well, there's the Tommy Lee Jones character in "The Fugitive," but that's not a romance. Maybe Mike in "Burn Notice"? (Well, one gal likes him, anyway, but probably mostly because he understands her desire to blow things up.) Ooh! How about the female lead in "Remington Steele"? Oh, and Superman.

Frankly, I think these guys who throw all their energy at something important also can get old because the romantic interest might have to settle for being #2. For example: Angel in "Hot Fuzz."