If you’re currently thinking, “But Holly, I don’t even know what a manic pixie dream girl is? How could that be ruining my dating experience?” don’t worry. Even if you haven’t heard of it by name, you’re probably familiar with the character type.
If you type “define manic pixie dream girl” into Google’s search bar, the definition it returns states, “noun; (especially in film) a type of female character depicted as vivacious and appealingly quirky, whose main purpose within the narrative is to inspire a greater appreciation for life in a male protagonist.”
According to Wikipedia, “Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term after Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown (2005), describes the MPDG as ‘that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that 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,” and continues, “MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness.”
Along with Kirsten Dunst’s character in “Elizabethtown,” Ramona in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and Daisy in “The Great Gatsby” are well-known examples of the MPDG from both film and literature. There are countless other examples, but a sure-fire sign that you’re consuming media featuring the MPDG is if the male protagonist ever says something like, “She’s so interesting. She’s not like other girls.” Sounding familiar yet? It’s such prevalent character today that in 2015 the phrase “manic pixie dream girl” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Are you starting to see what I’m going with this? Books and movies that use the MPDG trope set up unhealthy false assumptions. Guys learn to expect their “perfect” woman to be quirky and mysterious, but also beautiful, inspiring, and perfectly agreeable, which is a combination of traits that don’t exist in real life. This is where movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Paper Towns, and (500) Days of Summer reveal how problematic these expectations can be. It leads to men falling in love/lust with their constructed visions of women, instead of real people. Also, use of the MPDG encourages a lot of pretension. Men who buy into it (knowingly or not) suddenly don’t want to date girls who appreciate “basic” things, like Starbucks, yoga pants, and rom-coms, because those things have come to represent superficiality, despite being reasonably enjoyable comforts.
The bottom line here is that the MPDG has contributed to a culture of dating that allows guys to continue believing that it’s okay to post “don’t message me unless you’re interesting” in their Tinder bios. Newsflash: all women are interesting. They don’t have to work to impress the likes of you, buddy.