Meet the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”: She’s mysterious, aloof, but has no tangible desires or personality. She has no depth, but pushes her male counterpart character to find his own depth and his place in the world. Men drool over her magical aura, pining over her even though once she has fixed their broken soul, she disappears back into her nothingness.
The MPDG has existed since the beginning of film. You can see these flouncy females only on screen, as no person on earth resembles her hollow yet somehow inspiring nature. Zooey Deschanel plays her 500 Days of Summer. Kate Hudson in Almost Famous. You can even date this back to Katharine Hepburn’s role in Bringing Up Baby. This cliche limits the film industry’s ability to tell valuable stories about real women, and overall contributes to Hollywood’s sexist narrative.
But if you scour the internet enough, you can come across the idea of the “manic pixie dream boy,” a trope that seems contradictory. Which beckons the question: what could a manic pixie dream boy even look like?
This trope is meant to reflect the same thing as the MPDG, but swap the genders. Character examples of these men supposedly include Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation, Chris Chros from 30 Rock, and Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars.***
But it is hard to accept that these characters could somehow fit in such a shallow, demeaning bubble. The characteristics that all these men have in coming are that they are charming, nice, and not only respect their leading lady, but treat them as a complete and total equal in their relationship, something that can, does, and should exist in the real world.
Looking specifically at Ben and Chris from Parks and 30 Rock, you can see that they actively support their significant other both emotionally and in their careers. Their relationship consists of equal work and measure between both partners. These men have real personalities, real character arcs, goals and feelings. The relationships they have with their female leads actually sets an example of how to behave in a real, healthy relationship. To give these characters this title would suggest that girls expecting this in life is some sort of “manic pixie dream,” which is simply unfair and untrue.
If this is what a MPDB theoretically looks like, then it simply doesn’t exist. The reason we have the manic pixie dream trope to begin with is based purely in sexism. The idea that women should exist solely as tools for men. That women hold some sort of mystical love power over men, causing them to get trapped in our tight clingy clutches. These concepts have never been associated with men, thus we see no evidence of it in film.
So men, even though you usually do get to claim most things in film (and in life), just leave yourselves out of the manic pixie dream trope. This one is just for us ladies, and trust us, we don’t even want it.
***I’m very confused about Augustus from TFIOS being considered a manic pixie dream boy when Hazel, his girlfriend, is a totally unbearable manic pixie dream girl. I don’t know that one couple can have two manic pixie dreams, because then then it would be impossible for any character to learn and develop. But, if anyone can write a book/film with a relationship so shallow that it has TWO manic pixie dream people in it, I guess it would be John Green.