"Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest."

Film Nathan Rabin, the culturalist who coined the term "manic pixie dream girl" has now disowned and apologised for creating the term "manic pixie dream girl". Writing for Salon, he says:
"I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. I would welcome its erasure from public discourse. I’d applaud an end to articles about its countless different permutations. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest."
I can think of about a dozen films I utterly adore which feature a character like this. Half of those feature Zooey, a couple of Megs, a Natalie or two and some Kirstins. Ok, so actually more than twelve. I appreciate this is problematic especially since I'm also one of the first people to bemoan the lack of autonomous female protagonists (see recent moan about La Grande Bellezza) and how as was noted in the original articles these characters exist simply as motivational plot points but there's also an extent to which some films are fantasy and can and should work on that level, especially if they're only ninety minutes long. I liked Elizabethtown.

The problem is that there's no gender reversed equivalent that I can think of and we're still living through a moment when they're often the only portrayal of young women on screen.  That's the problem.  It's especially galling in films like Cemetary Junction or Love and Other Drugs when the MPDG figure is suddenly given a scene or twos worth of narrative agency in the worst kind of tokenism imaginable and only so that they can either make the big decision as to whether they're going chase after the male protagonist or put them in a position so that the male protagonist has to go find them and learn something about themselves anyway.

As the Norah Ephron scripted Meg Ryan films, Friends with Benefits and Easy A have demonstrated, balance is possible in romantic comedies and there have been other moments when female leads have been in the ascendency, notably in the eighties teen cycle.  Kazan's being slightly disingenuous about Ruby Sparks since at least under my reading its actively criticising the writers who create these characters even if it ultimately bottles it at the very end.  The character she plays therein is a MPDG as a way of demonstrating how disastrous in creative terms the worst excesses of these characters can be.  Which is all to the good, because it's only when you point this stuff out that anyone learns anything, or something.

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