Recently, it has come to my attention that if a guy were to force me into one specific label, out of all those labels floating around in dark space, I’d be classified as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Before I proceed, here is the definition of the MPDG by Nathan Rabin, the critic who coined the term:
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.
So, that doesn’t sound too bad…right…?
How about we decode that label further with another definition:
She’s stunningly attractive, high on life, full of wacky quirks and idiosyncrasies, (generally including childlike playfulness and a tendency towards petty crime)…She’s inexplicably obsessed with our stuffed-shirt hero, on whom she will focus her kuh-razy antics until he learns to live freely and love madly.
Still doesn’t sound too awful, I think?
I know I could be called something a lot worse — and have been in the past, but how about you just don’t label me at all? All it does is create and reinforce this strange, singular idea of a person. In the case of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, I’d even go as far as to argue that this is misogynistic; I’m 24-years-old with a degree and my own income. I’m not a girl and have surpassed that word (the one that makes me feel like I need to punch someone to assert myself).
But going back to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
We are all labelled in life. It is an unfortunate, inescapable truth. What frustrates me most about this system is how hard it is to shake off. So, let me break it down for you using personal examples from my life and please, consider the two definitions up above (they aren’t just there to bulk out the white space!) and read my lips: I’ll never be your Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
First of all, my interests and hobbies existed before you came along.
I like some really ridiculous stuff. Like, I collect maps and have a map wall. I often wish I had a bigger wall so I could put more maps up. I also freaking LOVE stars and astronomy (oh, aren’t I whimsical?). On my ceiling, I’ve got glow-in-the-dark stars arranged in constellations from the Northern Hemisphere in winter (really, the season does make a difference). Did I mention I also love gaming, fantasy and sci-fi? I’m a woman who is interested in lots of things that perhaps are “quirky,” so I have some features that perhaps makes me distinguishable — like everyone else. But I liked these things before you were in my life. Just because you also like games and stars doesn’t mean we’re destined to be together. I like strange stuff. Really, I’m aware of this; just don’t put me on a pedestal for it.
The reason I occasionally jump headfirst into things and become consumed with a project or go travelling solo in Asia isn’t because of some intrinsic desire to make myself more desirable to men. I do these things because I get bored, I get depressed, I need to go see stuff to take my mind off other things. Don’t put this admittedly annoying habit down as something cute, because it really isn’t. If you want to embrace life then go for it. Just don’t use me and my experiences as an excuse for you to start living your own life.
I will not complete you.
I might enjoy the time we have together, but also I find you clingy and annoying. Like I said before, we might have some things in common, but so what? This doesn’t mean I’m able to wave a magic wand and make your life better. I’m too busy being young and trying to figure it all out to try to find the few missing pieces of your life. I can’t help you get your shit together as well.
I feel at this point, before I proceed, I should insert a very fitting quote from one of the most prominent Anti-MPDGs in cinema:
“Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive…. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.” (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
Oh Clementine. I love you for being you, for being a relatable woman in a sea of women who promise to give everything to their man!
Because we have all this stuff in common and I look a certain way, you think I’m this dream come true and, following a short but passionate dating period, we’ll go skipping off into the sunset, hand-in-hand.
Well, you’re wrong.
I’m not happy about this fact but I am probably the crusher of dreams. At first, I’m happy to play along in a relationship and try to make things work out, but I get bored of people and places and, more importantly, I get bored of being ‘your girlfriend’ (there we go- another label on my back!) I can’t live out your fantasies or play the role you had envisioned before meeting me. I can’t promise that I won’t decide tomorrow that I’m not happy and this isn’t working out so I’m sorry but we’re breaking up. Please don’t turn me into this goddess in your mind because all I can promise is that I’ll never live up to your expectations.
And this is where the problem lies with labels, especially the MPDG label. As much as I seemingly appear to conform to this label, I’m capable of doing something to completely trash the illusion you have of me. I could wake up one day and decide to have a complete transformation, thereby shedding myself of everything you placed on me. Where does that leave us? Well, I’ll be okay because I haven’t projected all my hopes and dreams onto you, but you’ve done that to me.
Another quote I love about this is regarding (500) Days of Summer, a film that ruins the illusion of the MPDG:
“He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He thinks she’ll give his life meaning…A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them. That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person.” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
I find great comfort in this quote. After the release of (500) Days of Summer, I felt like I had to defend the character of Summer Finn for breaking Tom Hansen’s heart. She never promised him that she’d be there forever or she’d complete him, yet I actually saw comments calling her a bitch for defying the MPDG stereotype. Is it really so awful to defy another person’s unrealistic expectations?
Men — this idea you have of your perfect woman is just that — an idea. You might meet some cool woman who has a few things in common with you, but please don’t project all these juvenile fantasies onto her. She won’t complete you; that’s something you have to do all by yourself. I might only wear blue dresses and read science-fiction, but really — I’m not your Manic Pixie Dream Girl. No woman is.
What do you think of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl label? Can you think of any MPDGs in pop culture? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Written by Becky Yare