Researching this particular topic I felt like I was investigating a crime ring, every character of the trope led to another source. The Sandman (Der Sandmann), a short story by E.T.A. Hoffman circa 1815 was a pretty necessary place to stop.
Nathan Rabin who coined the term in a 2007 review for Elizabethtown is quoted saying: “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl 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.” He has since apologised for the term but I think the apology should actually focus on the pathetic boys who dream up these women and then fail to accept them as more than a fantasy.
The films that possess this stock character nearly always start with some artsy guy in a dead end job living life without any life until the beautiful and quirky person introduces themselves. Holly Golightly, Gilda, and the many, many others are the personification of these sad little boys’ fantasies. I’m half and half about Juliet being a MPDG because Romeo did kinda prove he was pretty keen on her- although maybe that is the height of the pixie dream magic. I’ll investigate later.
I wish I could blame men entirely for this projection, (curse you patriarchy!) But rarely are women encouraged to be supportive or make nice. I mean think about it! Our magazines, commercials, Instagram feeds, are one-dimensional characters that seem to share no physical attributes with the rest of us. It seems the majority of us are destined to a life of “Oh I hated you when I first met you until you actively worked to prove you weren’t a threat.” Surely female friendships are not exclusive to the drunken ramblings in club bathrooms on nights out. But when my competition is already the unachievable idea of me, can you imagine how I’m going to feel about someone else entirely?
Despite my best goddamn efforts everyday I am not the idea of me- I’m me. Stuck with this idea that I can strive to be a shiny thing, a new star in someone else’s horizon. And feeling like I’ve perpetually let myself down because another day has passed and I failed to do anything dreamy. Instead I had a brutal day where I couldn’t get my thoughts together, wondering why I had to draw the short straw of being me. And then, as if on cue, the problematic male inserts his narrative into the film and blames a person for being only a person. How dare she? Better start brooding, honey, how else will you be able to hold someone else accountable for your life?
In real life, she doesn’t stay, she gets sick of your shit and leaves in a way that seems sudden or out-of-the-blue because you didn’t see the signs. But rest assured, the viewers at home know exactly who you are and the sympathy does not last long.
My shirt, my statement if you will, bears no reflection on me. It’s acknowledging that we see right through you and refuse to be your rainbows in your cloudy existence. We’re not wasting thoughts comparing your fictional characters.