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Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a stock character in films noted for being shallow, quirky, feminine and providing inspiration for brooding protagonist male characters.
The term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” was coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in a review of the 2005 comedy-drama film Elizabethtown published on The Onion’s A.V. Club on January 25th, 2007. In the article, Rubin uses the term to describe the character Claire (played by Kirsten Dunst):
“Dunst embodies a character type I like to call The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (see Natalie Portman in Garden State for another prime example). 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.”
On August 4th, 2008, A.V. Club published a list of 16 films featuring MPDG stock characters, including Claire (Kirsten Dunst) in Elizabethtown, Sam (Natalie Portman) in Garden State and Penny (Kate Hudson) in Almost Famous. On October 21st, 2009, the We Love Media Criticism group blog published a post on the MPDG character, comparing it to the “Magical Negro” stock character which similarly serves the sole purpose of aiding white protagonists in film. On August 4th, 2010, an MPDG entry was created on the trope database TV Tropes, connecting the character with the “Loners and Freaks,” “Blithe Spirit” and “Silly Rabbit, Cynicism is For Losers” tropes. On December 5th, 2011, YouTuber KyletheDingbat uploaded a video in which he meets a MPDG while sketching at the park (shown below, left). On March 1st, 2012, YouTuber NaturalDisastronauts uploaded a sketch taking place in a mental health facility for MPDGs (shown below, right).
On July 24th, Flavorwire published a montage of MPDG characters in films from the past 75 years (shown below, left). On December 4th, YouTuber Adam Sacks uploaded a sketch in which a man hires a prostitute to pretend to be a MPDG (shown below, right). On the following day, Slate reblogged the video in an article questioning whether or not the MPDG trope was vanishing.
The stock character has often been called offensive to women for being one-dimensional and having no interests or desires of her own, similar to the criticisms surrounding Mary Sue, a female stock character that is romantically idealized to be a projection of the author in fanfiction stories. On August 6th, 2008, the women’s interest blog Jezebel published an article arguing that MPDG characters were the “scourge of modern cinema,” singling out the character Sam (played by Natalie Portman) in the 2004 film Garden State as “the most pernicious of these cinematic sweethearts.” The article went on to refer to the male romantic interests of the MPDGs as “Whimpsters,” a type of manipulative, selfish and insecure man who appears to be sensitive and vulnerable on the outside. On March 22nd, 2011, YouTuber Anita Sarkeesian uploaded a video criticizing the trope, arguing that it perpetuated offensive stereotypes that women are only useful as creative inspiration for men (shown below).
Nathan Rabin Apologizes
On July 15th, 2014, Salon published an essay titled “I’m sorry for coining the phrase ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’" written by Nathan Rabin, the film reviewer credited with coining the term. In the article, Rabin explains his surprise and sometimes disbelief at the spread and pervasiveness of the term saying:
“And last year I had the surreal experience of watching a musical called Manic Pixie Dreamland, about a fantasy realm that produces Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Sitting in the dark theater, I thought: “What have I done?!”
He then went on to apologize for creating the term that had now become an inescapable trope, saying:
“So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.”
That same day, Rabin’s apology was covered by many websites, including The Wire and Jezebel. Also on July 15th, Bustle posted a counter argument to Rabin’s apology in an article titled “Manic Pixie Dream Girl Inventor Apologizes for Coining the Term 7 Years Ago But He Doesn’t Need To":
“While I appreciate wholeheartedly Rabin’s apology, I would like to offer my own gratitude, for the original permutations of the term, and for addressing it again now, seven years later. Let’s keep the MPDG discourse going, because while writing fully formed, individual women into fictitious works is the ultimate goal, the MPDG -- whether we call her (or him) by that name or something else -- will likely exist for years to come.”
Bustle – ""MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL" INVENTOR APOLOGIZES FOR COINING THE TERM 7 YEARS AGO BUT HE DOESN’T NEED TO":http://www.bustle.com/articles/31789-manic-pixie-dream-girl-inventor-apologizes-for-coining-the-term-7-years-ago-but-he-doesnt
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