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I’m Tired of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

I take great issue with the “manic pixie dream girl” trope. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s essentially a woman who is conventionally attractive, shallow, quirky, and willing to fix the problems of her respective male protagonist by puking sunshine all over them. As a woman who is generally described to be a little weird and bubbly quite like this trope depicts, I find “manic pixie dream girl” to be a constant misrepresentation of women as a whole, but especially independent women.

How do directors and writers trick an audience into thinking a character is more than one-dimensional? With the manic pixie, she seems to be her whole person at the surface. After all, she must appear stable enough to carry the weight of fragile masculinity exhibited by the male she’s supporting. What’s troubling, though, is that the story never actually revolves around her. Take Kirsten Durst’s character Claire in the movie Elizabethtown, for example. (Spoiler alert.) The movie revolves around a man, Drew, whose life is falling apart as he struggles with product design in the wake of his father’s death. All of his internal struggles are solved, however, when one springy flight attendant Claire entertains him out of his pain. To this day, I still don’t really know anything about the character Claire. She definitely seemed as though she was an in-depth character in my monkey brain when I first watched the movie, because, oh wow, she said something witty! Feminism. The truth is that she does not have a personality aside from contagious optimism and humor only used to help the male protagonist. This is the core of every manic pixie dream girl.

Often times, women in films and television are only shown as this supporting role. This reinforces the misogynistic idea that the role of a woman both on screen and at play is to “fix” the man. Of course, this is only done when it’s convenient for him. Otherwise, a manic pixie should never trouble anyone with ugly things like opinions or thoughts of her own. We need to change the dialogue of film and television to make it unacceptable for women to solely cater to the male protagonist in a film. The MPDG tends to be a thin, gorgeous, cis, white, straight woman, so let’s replace her with more intersectional roles and include more women as part of her squad. For example, let’s stop using fat girls as sidekicks and make them the centerpiece of their own stories. What about including more representation for women of color? Queer women? And almost no one even considers adding a disabled girl to their script, except to falsely “add depth” to the character with some tragic car crash story. Independent women come in all shapes and size and forms, but they will never simply be a supporting role. It’s time we replace the manic pixie dream girl trope and start empowering independent women appropriately.







Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor