BRINGING YOU THE BEST IN ROMANCE FICTION
This summer I revisited a couple of movies from the 90’s, and got to thinking about the once popular manic-pixie-dream-girl. What was it about the fun-loving, irrepressible, rule-breaking, girl that was so appealing? She changed her hair color on a whim, appeared on bicycles and roller skates, and generally led the hapless hero into situations he’d never have experienced in his normal, staid life.
The era of the manic-pixie-dream-girl, named in an article of the time that examined why this flighty picture of femininity had taken hold, has mostly passed. Even Zooey Deschanel, of The New Girl and 500 Days of Summer, has slowed down her pixie ways. In fact, watching the movie with a girl who didn’t live through the 90’s, she was aghast and asked why anyone would find this type of woman appealing. She was irresponsible, a bad influence, and arguably unstable.
If you haven’t seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it’s a fun romp reversing through a romance, from terrible ending back to the happy meetup and falling in love. Jim Carey is at the height of his serious-comedy phase and Kate Winslet, who plays the pixie dream girl in his memories, gives substance to the wispy dream girl. Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a tale where a boy-man fights to keep the blue-haired roller skating girl of his dreams.
I still enjoy these movies, but being asked to defend the manic-pixie-dream-girl trope forced me to come up with an explanation. The simple answer: she’s the brooding bad boy.
Bad boys are irresponsible, fun (until they’re not), and get the heroine out of her staid, uptight life. Sound familiar? It isn’t that a bad-boy or pixie-girl is good for you in the long run, but if you can just tone down the bad bits, wouldn’t they be perfect? They open up a new world of excitement and fun. Your odds of happily settling down with either one are about the same, too.
To give credit to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it’s aware of the trope and, in moments of reality gives Kate Winslet’s character her own dreams and awareness, explicitly saying, “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a f***ed-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”
It’s okay to long for the rule-breaking freedom that bad boys and MPDGs bring. Just don’t think they’re a real-life answer to anything. Everyone has to grow up some time, but we can still enjoy our fantasies of being dragged along to have fun.