So we've all heard of the Hooker with a Heart of Gold, right? Well step aside Ms. Thang, because there's a new clichéd sheriff in town, and this time she's equal parts cute, cuddly and quirky. Before I get started, I just want to make sure you know I think Natalie Portman, Kirsten Dunst, and Penelope Cruz are wonderfully talented actresses. Unfortunately, I also happen to think these gals have perpetuated one of the most cloying and sickeningly adorable characters to ever grace the screen: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (it's a mouthful, but bear with me...).
Maybe the easiest way to define an MPDG is to leave it to the originator of the term, Nathan Rabin, who first used it when reviewing Elizabethtown. According to Rabin, the MPG is "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." Or maybe an easier definition is pretty much any girl in a Cameron Crowe film ... or Natalie "My hair's blowin' in the wind" Portman in Garden State, who seems to be everyone's pick for the most annoying MPG in cinematic history.
So what makes this character different from other free-spirited, whimsical ladies like Susan Vance in Bringing up Baby or Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's? Well, there is a very small difference, and it's that the MPG has no function other than to support our sulky fellow as he makes sense of his suspended adolescence or commitment issues. The MPG in the end isn't even a fully realized character; she has no storyline or purpose other than to serve as a romantic vision for our mopey hero -- maybe it's a small distinction, but hey, the devil is in the details.
Cont'd... Maybe I'm being too harsh, and our pixie friend isn't the worst Hollywood stereotype to cross our big-screen path -- and in the history of cinema there have been some doozies. But that doesn't make her any less insidious. Women have remained on the sidelines for too long. Is an MPDG really the best we can do? I don't know if I'm going to go as far as my friends over at Jezebel, but I can't blame them for being just a little sick of these ridiculously hot and childlike gals who pop up, say something silly and nonsensical and then wander off until the next time a Lower East Sider is having an emotional crisis. Take note: the chick flicks aren't the biggest offenders when it comes to women on the big screen -- if there's anything worse than being a cliché, it's not even being a real person at all.
So let's open it up to you folks ... is The Manic Pixie Dream Girl really "the scourge of modern cinema"? Or are they just another in a long line of harmless 'dream-girls' on the big screen.
[Thanks to David Chen for inspiring this topic]