What in the world is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl?
What kind of girl does the average guy likes to see on film? A bubbly, vivacious, and shallow girl that enters a man’s life magically and breaks their heart in order to get a point through? That’s exactly what they are. The typical MPDG is the breath of fresh air that changes the male character’s point of view on life. Along the way she exposes him to the wonders of being free-spirited, then she usually leaves abruptly because she can not be committed or tied down. The male character is left heartbroken but later realizes that she was exactly what he needed in order to live a more fulfilling life. Does this sound familiar? Oh, and often times she is gorgeous in her own right—a total eye candy, and iconic face, of course.
For decades, film producers and directors have continuously created a female character that provides some sort of support for their leading men. That support is open minded, cute and bubbly on screen; the MPDG is a self-proclaimed martyr ready to save leading men one starlette at a time.
We’ve seen it in film since the 1930s and we’ve also seen it in literature (remember “Daisy Miller: A Study”?). For most of her career, Katherine Hepburn starred in meaningful roles that had her act in unexpected ways for a women in that era. Hepburn’s character in “Bringing Up Baby” for example, is said was tailored to fit Hepburn specifically. It becomes questionable if she took the role because she believed in women being that certain way—a way out of normalcy and acting more like an airhead and someone who has a need of endless attention. Hepburn ultimately played this role comically, but falling short from representing a mature lady. Hepburn even managed to turn Cary Grant’s character crazy, as she admits at the end of the film that following her manic ways led to the best he’s ever felt.
Many times actresses transcend this message in a romantic comedy. Audrey Hepburn’s role in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” mimics the same — however, making her character an iconic MPDG. Holly Golightly (played by Hepburn) is an extroverted yet eccentric naïve girl that became Hepburn’s most notable role. The film follows Holly, a party girl who is not afraid to express her opinion and is reluctant in her affection towards men. However, the leading man in the film, George Peppard goes after Holly (Hepburn’s character) for her eccentric look — her style in the film left a mark on popular culture. Her look is still considered iconic today.
Natalie Portman in “Garden State” is a total muse of sweetness and beauty — a true MPDG. Right from the beginning of the film she describes her character as being weird and dancing around to show how weird she is. No one weird actually comes out saying that they are weird by the way. The immediate action portrayed by Portman shows the character’s peculiarity, falling short of interesting. What does make her interesting is her non-threatening beauty — which is also what keeps us watching. Her character has a boring job, but is a kook and tells the male protagonist that she is able to show him how to change his life without an attempt to making hers any better. And of course, he goes for it.
An MPDG exemplifies such an eccentric personality and quirkiness that makes her extremely attractive. That attractiveness transcends into the desire of this portrayal. It seems like every guy wants a girl who will be strictly devoted to him, that they can not attain. Like Ruby Sparks in “Ruby Sparks” and Summer Finn in “500 Days of Summer,” male characters are often written to want the girl they can not stay with forever. The heartbreaker is always the most wanted.
In this world, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, is the girl we all have grown to despise, but the one that men are in need of.
Here are other MPDG’s you should watch out for:
Kirsten Dunst in “Elizabethtown”
Sarah Jessica Parker in “LA Story”
Kate Hudson in “Almost Famous”
Kate Winslet in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
Mila Kunis in “McAllister”
Jennifer Aniston in “Along Came Poly”