Manic Pixie Dream Girls Aren't The Problem. The Guys Are.

TV Trope's entry for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl begins, "Let's say you're a soulful, brooding male hero, living a sheltered, emotionless existence. If only someone could come along and open your heart to the great, wondrous adventure of life... Have no fear, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is here to give new meaning to the male hero's life!"

In all the criticism lobbed her way, the MPDG is forever framed by the guy. She's seen as a projection, a waif with even thinner character development created to make a male protagonist's life more interesting. But the thing that seems to be overlooked is that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl doesn't need a man, he needs her. She was doing just fine on her own.

Perhaps the most maligned of the MPDGs is Garden State's Sam, played by Natalie Portman. Sam is cartoonishly wacky. She has an expansive pet cemetery in her backyard. She does strange bits of interpretive dance. She watches her old figure-skating home videos with her family. But more than anything else, she's happy. She doesn't have an idyllic life. She has a chronic, scary illness that cost her something she was passionate about. But she's making the best of it, with a genuinely positive attitude and a natural curiosity that only comes off as crazy next to the mopey Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff), who uses his PAIN to sit sadly and say deep, sad things. If Sam never met Largeman, she would be totally fine. He would remain a mess.
The term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" is credited to critic Nathan Rabin, who used it to describe Kirsten Dunst's character (Claire) in Elizabethtown. He wrote of the MPDG, "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl 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."

But Claire is her own character. She's nice. She puts herself out there. But in the world of film, women who make grand gestures are insane, while guys who do it are super sweet. It's a weird position the MPDG has been wedged into. She's the annoying character used to bolster the whiny guy. But she is just minding her own business, trying to be kind and having fun, when the whiny guy kind of falls into her lap.
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A career MPDG, Zooey Deschanel's Jess on New Girl was painted by critics as fifty shades of cray. She says nonsense words! She wears bright, happy clothes! She's "adorkable" (trademarked, New Girl). But her male roommates have plenty of strange quirks. Schmidt takes just as many liberties with the English language. Winston sings show tunes with as much energy as Jess expends in any of her musical interludes. But these male characters are allowed to be guys with quirks, instead of just another example of a grating stock character.
The problem with Manic Pixie Dream Girls isn't the women themselves, it's the guys. Get rid of the dudes they have to save, and you'd have a film about a bunch of positive, interesting women doing their own thing and creating more fun buzzwords than a Joss Whedon show combined with a Diablo Cody movie. I'd fund that Kickstarter.

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