The writer who created the term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" is now apologizing for it.
In an essay for Salon, Nathan Rabin, who coined the term in a 2007 A.V. Club piece to refer to Kirsten Dunst's character in Elizabethtown, writes about how the term took on a life of its own, and how he feels "deeply weird, if not downright ashamed, at having created a cliche that has been trotted out again and again in an infinite internet feedback loop." He writes:
So 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 [Zoe] Kazan and [John] 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.
In his original essay Rabin wrote that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl "exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures," citing the Elizabethtown character and Natalie Portman's in Garden State. Now, Rabin writes about how he has watched the definition of the MPDG expand beyond its initial purview, as The A.V. Club published a listicle of MPDGs that included Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. The term then entered the cultural lexicon, as people branded Zooey Deschanel's a living and breathing MPDG thanks to her penchant for whimsy and ukeleles.
The MPDG been hearing her death rattle for a while. Around two years ago I published a post on this site titled "The Week the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Broke," focused on comments writer/actress Kazan made around the release of her movie Ruby Sparks. Kazan then argued that the term is "basically misogynist," an assertion with which Rabin explains agrees. But that was two years ago, and Rabin's post makes it clear that the use of the term is still going strong. It seems unlikely that Rabin's apology will put the nail in the MPDG's coffin, but hopefully it will inspire a more thoughtful consideration of its use. "Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multi-dimensional 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," he writes. For that we say, amen.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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