Do you know any female character that’s a little bit crazy, pretty optimistic, with super unusual likes who ends being the soulmate (even if it’s not forever) of some guy who doesn’t see more brightness in life?
If you thought in not only one, but many other characters that fits in this description, you already faced up with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG).
The origin of this expression appeared in a Nathan Rabin’s text, in which he talked about the movie Elizabethtown. He affirmed that the stereotype of these characters reinforces the idea of an ideal woman, something movie directors love to create. They just suit to bring happiness, but we barely know who they are.
In Elizabethtown, Drew Baylor, the protagonist, is going through a difficult moment in his life when he meets Claire Colburn, a super happy flight attendant, that will help him to see the life with other eyes. In this movie, we know a lot about Drew, but what do we know about Claire? Just a little few things.
Another film that also presents a MPDG character is 500 days of Summer, in which Tom Hansen falls in love with Summer Finn, a cute and cool girl with lots of unusual tastes, some very similar to his likes, and other even more different.
Tom thought life as an endless monotony – mainly because he didn’t have a girlfriend – but after Summer’s arrival, he starts to believe that anything is possible. But again, we know Tom very well and little about Summer. Some general aspects about her life are presented, like her parents divorce and that she went to college. But wait! What did she study? Oh, we don’t know!
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an example that has a MPDG too: Ramona Flowers. She is totally unusual, funny in her own way and stylish. Scott – who doesn’t see fun in life, is unemployed and so it goes – meets her and prompt she becomes the love of his life. He even fights with her ex-boyfriends to be able to live with his soulmate.
The thing is, we don’t know much about Ramona, except for what Scott and her ex-boyfriends says, but anyway, those are aspects presented by the perspective of many men, and not by Ramona herself, or even by a storyteller.
The stereotype problem
The biggest problem in keep doing movies with MPDG’s is that it’s unfair for women to be used only as men’s crutch, or lucky charm, just because they don’t feel happy. This is very wrong because the characters certainly had a life before the “princes to be saved” came into their lives.
In real relationships, there are perspectives from both participants, something that we don’t know in these movies. Women must be the protagonists of their own stories, adventures, discoveries and there it goes.
In these stories, people are used to think that is lovely when someone become other’s source of happiness, or that love – apparently – makes things more beautiful and life’s obstacles are easier to overcome. But the truth is we can’t put all of our expectancies above someone else. It is not fair that other person deals with the responsibility of our idea of happiness.
In first place because this other person has all the rights to change it’s own opinion about the relationship and decides to end it, and second – and more important – because while we don’t have self love, it’s impossible to love someone else. If this person goes away, we will have nothing left. That’s exactly what most of the guys of these movies do. They don’t love themselves or don’t believe they can deal with their own problems alone.
Recognizing the problem
Most of these movies can be our favorite ones… Amélie Poulain, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, among others, and that is ok. Maybe we didn’t have the necessary knowledge to identify their problems, just like we didn’t see problems in how Mia’s – from The Princess Diaries – life only “got right” when she became “beautiful”, with straight hair and no glasses, when we were 13 years old.
What matters now is to recognize that the movies fails, even though it may present some good things, like Amelie’s personal growth. We have to observe the stories that we watch or read now that we know how is important to be surrounded by narratives that bring real women and healthy relationships.
Even though cinema is an way of art, we know that lots of stories become reality and vice versa.
In real life, you can identify when someone is treating you as a MPDG. When someone says to you “you are different from the women I knew” this is not a compliment! This is totally unfair with other women and sounds like all of them are problematic, besides putting you on a pedestal of idealization hard to maintain, because who compliments you will see you like a perfect person! In your first hesitancy – in the eyes of this person – you will go from perfect to monster in just a moment.
A simple “you are amazing” is a healthy and conscient alternative compliment that doesn’t diminishes anyone.