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Movie Trope: Manic Pixie Dream Girl, What? 

Movie Trope: Manic Pixie Dream Girl, What? 

MPDG

Have you ever watched a film wherein a certain female character is pretty, but in-her-own-way kind of beauty? Did it also happen that she is a misfit? Does she listen to Metallica and ACDC but dresses like your typical chic girl? Does she have her own distinct set of quirks that, for some reason, looks cute on her? Well, I see you have met the quintessential Manic Pixie Dream Girl, huh?

But, I know you will ask what on earth is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, anyway?

Definition of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

In 2007, The Onion’s A.V. Club film critic Nathan Rabin coined the exhausting term Manic Pixie Dream Girl (or MPDG) to define female characters who are used as plot devices in films.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Photo | IMDb, Franchesca Martin

Manic Pixie Dream Girls’ main purpose in the story is mostly to help brooding and introverted young men achieve their entire capabilities in life. However, once the male protagonists have reached their happily-ever-after epilogues as brand-new and much-improved individuals, the MPDGs are quick to be set aside. Much worse and more often than not, their characters even end up with the most random conclusions there are. 

Examples

You get the gist? Good! Now we proceed to the personification. 

Coming up, Zooey Deschanel’s Summer from 500 Days of Summer. In the film, Summer became Tom’s perfect girl because of her attractiveness, out-of-the-box humor, and cleverness. In their not-a-relationship relationship, Summer managed to inspire Tom to be a better person.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Photo | IMDb, Franchesca Martin

However, since Summer is a woman of a sound mind, she dumped Tom when she does not feel the same way towards him anymore. With this Summer event, Tom finally got the courage to pursue his dream to become an architect. You see how a woman’s villainization was used as a plot device for one man’s evolution? Girl, you are not the only one!

In a more local landscape, one example of a Filipina Manic Pixie Dream Girl is Bela Padilla’s Stella from 100 Tula Para Kay Stella. In the movie, the male protagonist college student Fidel (JC Santos) fell in love with his frustrated rockstar classmate Stella. Because of his speech impediment, he cannot confess his feelings to Stella. Thus, he wrote her a hundred poems instead.

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Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Photo | Viva Films, Franchesca Martin

After graduating college and gaining his confidence with the help of Stella, Fidel was able to overcome his stutter. When he was finally able to proclaim his love for Stella, Stella was already impregnated and stuck in a loveless marriage with a man she barely knew. Oh, the way they did her dirty. 

Confusion

Even though he was the one who came up with the term, Nathan Rabin later disowned the Manic Pixie Dream Girl term.

Photo | IMDb, Franchesca Martin

According to the critic, the main purpose of creating the MPDG is to create spaces wherein conversations about the lack of independent and developing female characters can happen. But despite that, over the years, people used the term carelessly to the point where it condemned all the quirky and fun female film characters out there. 

Now that you have met her, I will leave you with this question: is Manic Pixie Dream Girl a symbol of feminism or sexism?

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