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Manic Pixie Dream Girl or Brooding Bad Boy?

eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mindThis 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.

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About Lela Bay

Lela lives in a modest house in a modest town with her husband, children, and pets. Despite living so far north, she requires a certain amount of sunshine each day or she gets grumpy. Her hands are always cold, but her heart is warm. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys strolling, gardening, reading, and tea time with friends. Music has always been a large part of her life, and she owns a ridiculous number of instruments, though these days she mostly plays Rock Band. Lela’s favorite romance authors include Laura Kinsale, Jennifer Cruise, and Jane Austen. She enjoys stories with intimacy and humor. Favorite movies include Overboard, All of Me, North & South, Pride and Prejudice (miniseries with Colin Firth, please), The Princess Bride, and While You Were Sleeping. On television she is a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, Downton Abbey, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. She frequently contributes movie and entertainment reviews to Meant to Be Press. Follow Lela on twitter @bay_lela

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This entry was posted on July 14, 2017 by in Entertainment, Uncategorized and tagged , .

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