Thursday, May 10, 2012

State Home for Manic Pixie Dream Girls

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, it's a common trope of movies and television. If you think of the characters played by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, Natalie Portman in The Garden State, and Zooey Deschanel in everything, then you've got a good sense of what she's like.

The term was coined by Nathan Rabin of the TV AV Club in his review of Elizabethtown in 2007.
(For a list of films starring the MPDG, see the TV AV Club's list here.)

To properly understand the nature of the MPDG (and for a hint of the scorn heaped upon this type by feminists), check out this short explanation by Anita Sarkeesian (whose series discussing Tropes vs. Women at Feminist Frequency is great, though as a Christian I have problems with her discussion about Mystical Pregnancy - but more on that later).

Two folks at NPR discuss this trope, mentioning my personal favorite Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby.

Jezebel calls the MPDG the "Scourge of Modern Cinema" and I'm inclined to agree.

Writer Sadie Stein dubs her "The Amazing Girl", though she targets real-life women who fit the stereotype, particularly the famous muses of history, who is "the Romantics' ideal of the pure and naturally innocent woman, a creature morally inferior to men but capable of spiritual perfection -- in short, a childlike vessel for the projection of masculine ideals." Basically, the MPDG is the modern muse.

I had read the Jezebel article about a year ago, but hadn't thought about it much after that. However, I recently volunteered to do a consumer survey at a local movie theater. I was asked questions about my movie viewing habits, watched a trailer, was asked questions about my response to the trailer, and then asked to watch the trailer again, followed by more questions. (It took longer than I thought it would.) It was an interesting glimpse into the very intentional marketing done to attract moviegoers via trailers. The film was called Ruby Sparks, and you can see the trailer I watched below:

It bothered me that not only is Ruby the perfect MPDG, with literally no private existence of her own, but that she is also literally created by a man and can be manipulated by him at will. She comes into being to fulfill his needs by pulling him from his funk. Does she have her own needs? Is she allowed to?

Part of the problem with MPDGs is their lack of personal dreams - much less ambition. They exist to be shallow characters whose effervescent quirkiness brings joy to the life of a man. Everything they do is darling, as cute as a basket full of puppies and kittens. But they lack power, they exist for the pleasure of men, and they're basically adorable little dolls. Everything a feminist dislikes. (Although I love Hepburn. Katharine, not that twit Audrey with her stupid accent.)

Ruby Sparks is the quintessential MPDG, and I kind of hate her. (The movie theater most likely showed that trailer to me because I'm a young woman, though I realized during the survey that I never see anything without explosions on the big screen anymore. It seems a waste of money if nothing blows up.)

But here, to refresh your palate, is a brilliant send-up of the type, created by Natural Disastronauts. Enjoy!

Found via The Society Pages.

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