I was watching a bunch of Ted Talks on YouTube when I stumbled across a recommended video called ‘The Misuse of the Term – Manic Pixie Dream Girl’. The topic grabbed me.
I took Film Studies in sixth form, but to be honest, I did sixth form for the lols and the education system sucked the interest in anything I was graded on out of me.
I know that’s a major first world thing to say but anyway, that’s not the point.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how movies are kinda fucked up and give the wrong impression of what the world is like. These movies really do have a lot to answer for when it comes to shaping people’s expectations and self-concept during our formative years.
Half of me loves that soppy crap and absolutely laps it up, the other more realistic side of me literally hates the outdated romantic narrative that skews people’s brains into mimicking movies.
In reality, if you’re looking for a fantasy relationship, it will result in deception and a hella toxic connection that will not end well.
I’m aware that this post is going to be so realistic that many are gonna accuse me of being a massive kill joy.
I don’t exactly want to be a kill joy, I just want this world to be happy.
Why can’t reality be just as joyful as fantasy? Why can’t we strive for that instead of striving for something that just isn’t gonna be sustainable?
Isn’t that a healthier and overall more satisfying way of looking at the world?
For those of you that don’t know about the term ‘manic pixie dream girl’, this is a type of character which has been around since the dawn of movies.
This archetype is defined by google as:
a type of female character depicted as vivacious and appealingly quirky, whose main purpose within the narrative is to inspire a greater appreciation for life in a male protagonist.
The term was coined by Nathan Rabin about a decade ago.
I’ll list some.
Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Elizabeth from Elizabethtown.
Giselle from Enchanted.
Sam from Garden state.
Belle from Beauty and The Beast.
Marla from Fight Club.
Diane from Trainspotting.
Manic pixie dream girls accentuate the loveable quirks in a character while ignoring any kind of standalone complexity and independence that character has. Ignoring any kind of goals/aspirations/strength the character has which exists separately to the character whose life is being changed by the dream girl.
This is not doing cool things to our brains.
It’s hugely influencing the idea we have of love, in a really negative way. Without us even really realising it.
I’m gonna say this one time real loud. These girls. THEY DO NOT EXIST IN REAL LIFE.
Girls. You are more than that. Boys. THEY DO NOT EXIST.
If you think you’ve found one, but things turn to shit and you’re confused by it- throwing around the ‘psycho’ label*- you’re living a fantasy and disrespecting the shit out of this individual. You’ve been conditioned, but like, you gotta get rid of that.
(*This very realistic scene was re-enacted by the Netflix series ‘Love’ in its first season, after Mickey and Gus sleep together. Excellent cinematography).
Manic pixie dream girls are a concept that have completely separated reality and morals from a healthy relationship.
Here’s your daily dosage of sanity in case you didn’t get it this morning.
1. ‘Women are not rehabilitation centres for men’.
2. You cannot save a person, you can only distract them.
3. Not a soul on this Earth is one dimensional, not a soul on this Earth is here to compliment another person all the time.
4. Being damaged is not cute. It’s not a quirk. It’s hurtful. It’s something you gotta work through so these people lowkey preying on your vulnerability can’t take advantage of you.
5. Nobody deserves the burden of completing you. You will not find true love that way. You will not find true love when you are intimidated by the idea of somebody being able to stand on their own two feet- because that is selfish.
Hard hitting and heavy truth pills, sue me. Get better not bitter.
Manic pixie dream boys do exist, although they are rarer. Jack from Titanic is an example. This is a less prominent character in the story telling industry, but it is just as damaging. It results in women having unattainable expectations of men which can lead to a lot of manipulation and shame being put on a man, when really the guy has done little wrong but not live up to a fantasy.
There is no such thing as a Prince Charming, boo boo.
In fact, the idea that a guy should fit a certain standard has a big impact on men.
It can lead to men seeking out a relationship to ‘fix their problems’, because magically they will turn into some macho hero saving their damsel in distress. Yeah, that’s the answer! That will redeem him!
This leads to the guy being deceitful (intentionally or not) and not showing their authentic selves to a woman because they feel unlovable, until one day, inevitably, true colours are shown and the whole thing turns to shit.
Also, a man is seldom encouraged to better himself or focus on his own mental health in the same way women are. When was the last time you saw a movie like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ marketed towards a male?
Men get movies like ‘Fight Club’, or ‘Trainspotting’.
Masterpieces of cinematography but fucking damaging when this is the only real type of film marketed towards men.
Men get movies that tell these guys to bottle all their shit up, explode, and then shag it out with a manic pixie dream girl.
The manic pixie dream girl only exists to make his life better, so it doesn’t matter what you do to her mental health, it doesn’t matter that your actions are actually pretty traumatising towards her. Ugh, she’s so annoying when she puts up boundaries and respects herself like that. What a nightmare.
The film cuts before the movie shows you that in fact, the characters have not changed. The movie doesn’t end when the relationship turns sour and there’s domestic violence, or when the couple get evicted from their home because they got no job, or when their kids are fucked in the head and resentful at their parents, or someone is in prison during their 15th year. That wouldn’t be ‘entertaining’.
There needs to be a new narrative. A narrative to look up to, so these unhealthy narratives aren’t misunderstood and romanticised.
Trainspotting could have done it… but they put Diane in the equation.
Trainspotting 2 could have done it when they started the movie with Mark as a successful, recovered heroin addict. There is a story in recovery. A story just as nail biting and adrenaline pumping. A story which ends in a man being proud of himself, without the need for validation. There is so much opportunity in the film industry to create a good movie surrounding men’s growth, but it’s not taken as much as it should. Unless it surrounds the topic of building physical strength or living with a disease, it’s not talked about.
What an absolute shit show.
Recently, there have been some really interesting, I guess you could say ‘groundbreaking’ movies which have illustrated the idea of a manic pixie dream girl being a corrupt concept.
Here are some examples of characters that are based off the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ type but are actually not.
Clementine from eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.
Summer from 500 days of Summer.
This does make you see a different side of it all. 500 days of summer showcases the entitlement that men are conditioned to have around a woman he is attracted to. It also does show this man’s maturity, and the grounds for a healthy relationship being laid as a result of this growth. I support dat.
Clementine makes her own decisions and is a character who is recognised as independent and trusted to make the story interesting without relying on a male protagonist.
A recent series that is really worth watching is the Netflix production ‘You’.
Beck from You is romanticised by Joe as a manic pixie dream girl, and Joe, willing to be a chameleon for the illusion of love, deceives the living shit out of her in a violent way, committing a series of crimes in pursuit of his ‘damsel in distress’.
Boy. Oh. Boy. I love what that series is doing. Cracking people’s minds open like a big old egg and scrambling the insides because things don’t look as they ‘should’. Some things are inexcusable even though you’ve always been told that they should be excused.
I don’t have all the answers here, but I know that like many, I have been fucked up by the conditioning I have received from movies. Since I was old enough to see shapes and colours, I’ve been watching this shit play out.
‘Love’ is arguing and pushing each other away only to reconcile and forgive any kind of wrong that was done to us, regardless as to whether or not a person has noticeably changed.
‘Love’ is deceiving yourself and others.
‘Love’ is excusing a person’s bad habit and mistreatment of you because your purpose is to ‘show them a different way’ until eventually the life is sucked out of you and you’re not quite so cute anymore. Then they move on to the next one to escape the reality that you have become.
Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
A healthy monogamous relationship is practical, I’m sure, but it’s only practical when you enter a relationship without this toxic narrative in your head.
Thank God my parents divorced. Thank God I was mistreated, Thank God I was strong enough to see sense. Thank God I was forced to question what love is.
Thank God for the people who accept me in all of my glory, showing me what love is.
I want people to see what love is. I want people to be happy.
Let’s have an Eat, Pray, Love for men up in here please. I don’t care that there ‘IsN’T a MaRkEt’, make a market. Jim fucking Carey exists, and so does Russell Brand.
Lord knows we need that movie.