Oxford Dictionaries, the hip, young cousin to the Oxford English Dictionary, announced its newest additions last week. One item in the entirely delightful list—is it “beer o'clock” yet?—is “manic pixie dream girl”:
manic pixie dream girl (noun): (especially in film) a type of female character depicted as vivacious and appealingly quirky, whose main purpose within the narrative is to inspire a greater appreciation for life in a male protagonist
The term was coined in 2007 by AV Club writer Nathan Rabin in derisively describing Kirsten Dunst’s character in the movie Elizabethtown. Unlike real women, Rabin notes, the MPDG “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.”
Allow me to use it in a sentence:
“The other day I was out with Attractive-Yet-Dull Tinder Guy, and in the middle of our second flight of wine I dropped into conversation that Manic Pixie Dream Girl had recently been added to Oxford Dictionaries, because I want him to think that I’m full of whimsical trivia that is sure to keep our conversations sparkling long after the third date.”
After the term became widespread to the point of cliche, Rabin apologized for introducing it. Still, his mea culpa ended with a call to action: “Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional 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.”
Now that the term is in a dictionary, the quintessence of mainstream, maybe the trope will become rarer in indie films. I wonder if there’s a way for that to happen without killing Zooey Deschanel’s career forever.