I’m a manic pixie dream girl (and I’m not shallow)


This morning Ben showed me this video.

For those not interested in watching it I will summarize: the video posits that the ‘muse’ or ‘manic pixie dream girl’ is a sexist trope and that the character archetype of said girl is shallow, has no life of her own and only exists for the self-actualization of her male counterpart in the story.

In response I say: bullshit.

We were offended while watching this because I am (or more specifically was) a manic pixie dream girl and I am not shallow, without my own life, nor do I only exist for the self-actualization of the male counterpart in my story.

When I say I am a manic pixie dream girl I’m not exaggerating.  When I was younger I travelled the world, footloose and fancy-free, inspiring people (I literally called myself a muse), getting into wild sexual relationships, trying to help people be happier and championing freedom from day-to-day doldrums.  My greatest sorrow is to see people not living their dreams.  I specifically wear crazy clothes (rainbows, tutus, dyed hair) not just because I think it’s cool to dress like that, but to make people look at me and hopefully be inspired to bring a little colour into their own lives.

When I was younger (and even to an extent now) I was drawn to the serious types, the people with problems and the people (both men and women) who seemed unsatisfied with their lives.  I would chat with them, sleep with them and attempt to stir in them a passion for life and adventure because I believe everyone should get a chance to live how they want if they are not doing so already.

My favourite question was and still is: are you happy?

For a long, long time I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  I pursued many different things most of which had to do with inspiring/helping people (I wanted to be a spiritual life coach at one point) or making things fun for people (I wanted to be an event planner who made individualized adventures for people).  I was all over the board.  I worked as a server and told people’s fortunes, I worked as a bartender and tried to inspire the drunks, I even quit a bar job to go to a party once.  Yup, to go to a party.  Finally, now that I’ve found my partner and settled down a bit I’ve realized I want to be a writer, but it took me thirty years to get to that point because I was so…manic.  But during all my wild and roaming days I supported myself, paid my own way and rocked whatever it was a chose to do (and still do, I hope).

Also for a long, long time I was on the lookout for a partner who I could inspire every day.  I literally travelled the world to find that person (it turned out to be a man but could have just as easily been a woman).  I invested loads of time and energy into every prospective partner I met and it was a fun adventure.  Then, one summer afternoon I met my future husband in the forest in the middle of a Live Action Role Playing game.  I had a sword and a shield and I was out looking for love and there he was.  He was an overweight, slightly depressed guy who was in a relationship with the wrong girl.  He was a bit sullen and still lived with his parents, but the second he saw me leap into action in the woods (sword drawn, bleach-blonde hair ablaze) he was hooked.  I dazzled him with my manic pixie dream girl charm and he dazzled me with his ability to love all of me (good, bad and crazy), his sense of humour and his kindness.  Soon his sullenness slipped away (along with the extra pounds), he moved in and we lived happily ever after.  He inspires me every day just as I inspire him and it’s all just a whole lotta love.

Now, in my infinite maturity (yeah right) my manic pixie dream girl ways have changed a bit.  For one I no longer sleep with the people I’m trying to inspire (as I’m sure Ben is grateful for).  Also, I’m a bit more rational (less pie-in-the-sky) and practical, and a bit more hard-assed (forged in the fires of tough life lessons).  But I still wear my crazy clothes and enjoy going into conservative environments in the hopes of inspiring people to wear a little less grey.  I channel a lot more energy into inspiring people to write and love their work, but I also try to generally inspire when I get the chance.  I put a lot into writing stories with a bit of magic in them (I just add a sprinkling of pixie dust) and I focus on helping Ben be the best person he can be.

So that’s me.

I am a manic pixie dream girl.

So does that make me a shallow, sexist trope?

Fuck no.

I am a person and I think all those other manic pixie dream girls are people too.

So maybe they are free-floating ladies who don’t have jobs they care about because what they care about is exactly what they are doing in the moment.  So maybe family isn’t of the paramount concern to them because they are focussed on their non-familial relationships.  So maybe they are muses and they love to be inspiring.  As a muse myself I know it’s not me-centred.  Being a muse means caring about the other person and not getting asked a lot of questions about yourself.  And that’s okay.  So maybe these girls haven’t figured out what they want to do with their lives and when the story is over they will go on to focus on themselves and their goals a little more with the help of their new-found loves.

So what’s my point here?

Just because I’m a manic pixie dream girl doesn’t make me shallow and I don’t think those other girls in movies and stories are either.

The stories are a slice of life and they are based on an archetype.  Just like the sullen men the dream girls love are an archetype (which is just as sexist according to this video’s logic, because it assumes all men are depressed, dissatisfied and should ‘man up’).  Archetypes exist because they are often representations of a type of person and they guide character creation.

 This is not to say I wouldn’t like to see a little variation (manic pixie dream boy?), and for the stories to be a little less cliche (because cliches can get pretty boring).  But overall I think it’s unfair to say that these types of gals are shallow and only exist for the pleasure of men.  I love inspiring people, it’s a passion of mine and I don’t think there’s a problem with it.  Sometimes it came with sexuality, sometimes it comes with pixie dust, but overall it was/is me and I’m pretty damn happy with who I am.

So please think before you go calling a character shallow, because that character may just be a representation of a type of person and us manic pixie dream girls have feelings too.

2 thoughts on “I’m a manic pixie dream girl (and I’m not shallow)”

  1. (tried to post this before and internet lost it. Hopefully works this time, please delete if you end up with two similar comments from me…)

    It’s not like me to defend the feminists (I find their prejudices often outweigh the ones they are trying to rectify), but in this instance I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, and interpret this film as attacking the 2-dimensional stereotypical pixie character whose personality runs about as deep as her hair colour.
    In this, I think they are right. As you so clearly demonstrate, pixie girls are 3-d people with histories, personalities and reasons just as much as anyone else. And while we’re at it, so are the men they inspire (and let’s just note, feminists, at least it’s the girls doing the saving in this particular trope!).
    If this interpretation is right, what the filmmakers are really attacking, is bad writing. People, like fictional characters, can always be classified if that’s what you’re looking to achieve, but real people are also unique and individual and special. In my opinion, as writers, that’s what we should be looking to give our characters too – explicitly for the main ones, and by implication for every single member of the cast.

  2. I agree that we should have good writing and multidimensional characters, but what I’m arguing is that sometimes a character is a muse and that doesn’t make the character shallow. I haven’t seen all the movies listed certainly, but I know the type and although in some cases I’m sure they can be pretty vapid (depending on the writer), I think in some cases they are accurate (and therefore not sexist per se).

    I was trying to think about what I was like as a young muse travelling the world and frankly, I was pretty fancy-free. I thought about bigger picture stuff (why are we here, are we happy, what is love, how to live life to the fullest) and I thought about my conquests and how to make them happy. I wanted adventure, love, sex, drugs, philosophizing and fun. I didn’t talk about my family much, or really focus on my job (because I didn’t care about a career). I lived for my connections with the world and with other people.

    I’m not saying every muse has to be like this and I do hope for variation, but I am proof that this ‘character’ is authentic and not (in my opinion) shallow. I had grand desires and I enjoy seeing those reflected in some of the muses we see in media and stories because it reminds me of my past.

    I don’t think I was particularly 2-D back then, but I was sort of airy-fairy and that’s okay I think.

    ‘Shallow’ is totally subjective.

    As for your point about the women doing the rescuing, I know! Shouldn’t feminists love this? The manic pixie dream girl is often independent, self-reliant and the one doing the wooing/rescuing. Isn’t that what we hope for? A woman rescuing the dude in distress instead of the usual sleeping damsel needing a prince?

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