The Manic Pixie Nightmare

The manic pixie dream girl is the modern muse for artists that can no longer languish away in a Parisian garret. She exists to be quirky, eccentric, deeply loved but unable to commit to anything concrete.If you tend toward theatrical or simply hipster tendencies, then the MPDG will appear in your life, or you will believe that you are a MPDG. She is Natalie Portman in Garden State and Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer. She is alluring, mysterious, and deeply flawed, but she is also vivacious, beautiful, and drawn to soulful, nerdy, slightly attractive guys. She lacks ambition, a serious career, or any unappealing attributes (or features that might repel the mournful guy she is drawn to.)

I loved (500) Days of Summer. It’s a funny movie that protests any comparisons to romantic comedies. But the premise only goes so far. It’s a film; its very concept is to present the . Like the clean Los Angeles it presents,the MPDG is a lovely idea but utterly unattainable (but that’s what makes it so desirable). The MPDG is so appealing because anyone can project their ideas onto her. But what lies at her core? Nothing really because she’s a composition of expectations.
One of my closest friends had all the requisites to become a MPDG. She was enchantingly beautiful, a sculptor, and incorrigibly lazy. She had had several boyfriends but you would never really apply the phrase “in love” to her. At the time I had a boyfriend. Then my close friend and boyfriend became an item.

There was surprise, confusion and pain. Gosh, that hurt. Rejection from a boyfriend then rejection from my friend. I had a poker face but who genuinely believed it? It was bewildering and painful. I played it cool, as if it was nothing to see my boyfriend’s quick transition from girl to girl.


The manic pixie dream girl did something incredibly unexpected. She became ugly, antagonistic and aggressive; she broke out of the mold of “amusing friend” (I’m sure someone was amused by these high-school antics). Although her agency did cause me deep pain, she became something else-a person. She wasn’t manic or dreamy or “ethereal”. She was the bitch who stole my boyfriend. But that set us both free. It was easier to dislike, ignore and eventually forgive someone who was as flawed as I was. She wasn’t the perpetual “cool girl.” To me, she had been an amalgamation of eccentricities and the ideal  friend. She was around to make me feel better, to impress, to admire. Then she stopped being that. She darted off with my boyfriend and I wondered why the plot lines had become so mangled.

The MPDG trope is another impossible standard that cuts both sexes. It teaches straight men that women will provide solace to their wounded egos. Women are told to listen to sad music and read big books because it will appeal to men. Not because they are thoroughly entertaining in their own right. One’s lover is supposed to be supportive, loving, kind but not the foundation upon we build everything. No one is always carefree and light. When the boy looked towards me and I was unable to defeat the adorkable girl in his head, it hurt. But when I refused to listen to her, when I refused to treat her as a friend with needs and wants, I must have caused her pain.

Feelings of inadequacy can result from any break-up. What was so memorable about this one was the unique taste of failure. Each moment I felt I blundered, I was an elephant where I should have been a sprite. Perhaps I’d have been able to forgive myself more easily if I had realized the MPDG in my life was as screwed up as I was. Maybe if I had reacted to the people around me as full human beings instead cramming them into roles, I could have forgiven and been forgiven more easily.

I’ll save it for the sequel.