My friends and I have the most interesting, random conversations. In about an hour, topics covered can range from the lack of infrastructure to support tourism in the country, why Mystique became the heroine of XMen Apocalypse, how to deal with toxic people, Donald Trump, and just the other night, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG). It was the very first time I heard the term, and when they explained it to me, so many things suddenly made sense.
The title ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ was coined by a film critic named Nathan Rabin after watching Kirsten Dunst in the movie Elizabethtown. He noticed a pattern among the characters that the brooding male protagonist usually falls head over heels in love with, and they all fit this mold. Interestingly, if you compare it with real life, the same pattern can be observed as well. It’s the same sort of girl everyone seems to have a crush on. If there are any boys reading this, match this list with your ultimate crush and see if it’s true.
Meet the Manic Pixie Dream Girl:
- Comes into your life unexpectedly. It’s looking like a normal, humdrum day and then bam! She appears in a coffee shop, looking distraught in a wedding dress (cue Jennifer Aniston from Friends), or you reach for the same pair of gloves (cue Kate Beckinsale from Serendipity), or you happened to ask a hooker for directions (cue Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman). However it is you meet this dream girl, it’s definitely a story worth telling.
- Quirky and fascinating. Maybe she can touch the tip of her nose with her tongue. Maybe she makes a house out of waffles (cue Drew Barrymore from 50 First Dates). Maybe she laughs like a hyena or says weird things that challenge your way of thinking (cue Zooey Deschanel in every role she is cast in). She is different, unconventional, not the usual kind of girl you hang with, and you just can’t seem to figure her out or stop thinking about her.
- Has major baggage. While your usual MPDG is light and bubbly, she hides some kind of deep issue that you need to sort thru to get to her heart. For instance, she could be terminally ill (cue Charlize Theron from Sweet November), or is lost and confused (cue Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Maybe she has mommy problems (cue Ellen Pompeo in Grey’s Anatomy or Blake Lively in Gossip Girl). She could be angry, jaded, depressed, heartbroken- a damsel in distress, and the guy wants to be the hero that saves her.
- Unpredictable. The thing about her that keeps you up at night is that you are never quite sure of anything (cue Robin in How I Met Your Mother). You can’t read her mind and it drives you nuts. You have a hard time tracking her down, she never bores you with humdrum domestic details, and you never really get the whole story, just bits and pieces… what’s worse is, she could just disappear (leave, move away, stop replying to your messages) anytime.
- Cute and childlike. This girl is beautiful and doesn’t know it (or if she knows it, she acts completely natural and unaffected about it), finds happiness in simple things, has this innocent, dreamy look in her eyes despite all her struggles, and you can’t help but want to protect her from the world.
- Cool. Catnip for every man is the cool chick who knows how to play pool, actually drinks beer, watches basketball and cheers loudly, cracks green jokes, plays videogames. She’s the kind of girl who can hang with the boys but still look, act and sound absolutely sexy and feminine. She never nags or nitpicks, she’s just…cool with whatever. Gillian Flynn wrote a whole epic tirade about this on Gone Girl. If you didn’t catch it, Google it. Worth reading whether you’re a man or a woman.
- Fun and spontaneous. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is the type who will convince you to loosen up, coax you into midnight drives to nowhere, convince you to dance in the rain, make you chase her all around town, send cryptic text messages in the middle of the night, or go off on prank adventures (cue Cara Delevinge in Paper Towns, Emma Watson in Perks of Being a Wallflower). This is usually the part of the movie where there’s lots of laughter and teasing, and comes with happy upbeat background music.
- On the verge of having a dream come true. So this girl has potential to be great, but for one reason or another she’s stuck (cue Winona Ryder in Reality Bites). This agonizes the brooding male lead because he can see it but she can’t, and he wants to help her get there but she won’t let him (at least not right away). It’s that addictive need to ‘fix’ somebody.
It was like an epiphany discovering this, because for ages I always wondered why guys gravitate toward the same kind of girl like moths to a flame. For example: my perfectly capable and self-sufficient friend (who is pretty, smart, and all that) was dumped by a boyfriend for some girl who threatened to jump out of her balcony, because ‘she needs him more’ and ‘you just can’t choose who you fall in love with’. As another friend put it: ‘How come the more you have your act together, the less guys like you? ‘ As though it’s your fault for having a stable career, no deep dark issues, and being able to afford to get whatever you want.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl per se. It is a phase some (or maybe all) of us were in at one point or another. There is nothing wrong with being in love with one, either. But what’s important is that you both grow out of it because this is a romantic, glossed-up notion of a dysfunctional relationship. Girls, whether or not you have a hero to save you, you need to learn to stand on your own two feet, clean up your own mess, and live your life the way you want, not the way people expect you to. And guys, you need to open your eyes and see that your choice of woman defines who you are, what you think of yourself, and what you feel you deserve. Your MPDG won’t be so dreamy anymore when it’s 5 years down the road and she’s still the same, because some people cannot be fixed. Sometimes the most sensible, ‘boring’, predictable, responsible and ‘safe’ girls that you overlooked—I mean wow, just typing those words made me cringe, it’s the antithesis of sexy—make for the best life partners. Look for the woman who inspires you to be a better man because she is, herself, already strong and accomplished. She won’t need you to save her, she’ll only need you to love her. Ain’t that a sweeter deal?