This is a problem, according to Penny, because women "deserve to be able to write our own stories rather than exist as supporting characters in the stories for men."
The end of the MPDG would be good news for men, too. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl may serve as a catalyst for male transformation, but in both her real and fictional manifestations, she sends the message that a bright and sensitive young man can only learn to embrace life by falling in love with a woman who sees the dazzling colors and rich complexities he can't. Just as the all-too familiar "Magical Negro" character uses mystical intuitive powers to help white folks tap their God-given potential, the MPDG reminds men that they need (and, more precisely, are entitled to) a women's inspiration and encouragement to reach their own true destiny.
"For me, Manic Pixie Dream Girl was the story that fit," writes Laurie Penny, admitting that she had the "basic physical and personality traits... the raw materials" to live into the part. I, on the other hand, had the requisite qualities to be the boy who fell in love with MPDGs. I was shy, un-athletic, bookish and pudgy. I was horny, lonely, and brooding. I fell for clever, impulsive, short-haired brunettes. I kept my longings to myself, wanting to spare them the awkwardness of making the "I'm flattered but I don't want to spoil our friendship" speech, and wanting to spare myself what I correctly imagined would be the excruciating humiliation of having to hear it. Not old enough to buy cigarettes or vote, I was well on my way to being one of what Penny calls the "mournful men-children" who attach themselves to the bright, the unconventionally pretty, the eager-to-please.
Decades before the term was coined, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl gave me my first proper kiss. Thirty years ago this month, while visiting relatives in Austria, my Viennese grandmother introduced me to Bettina, one of the many teens to whom she gave private English lessons. Bettina was six months older than I was; dark haired and impulsive. On our first date, we went to see La Cage aux Folles with German subtitles; on our second, we went skinny-dipping in the Old Danube; on our third, we smoked hash, listened to the Sex Pistols, and read Paul Celan aloud with her friends from an anarchist youth collective.
We didn't sleep together, but she taught me to open my mouth when I was kissing, and to cup her face in my hand as my tongue touched hers. After a fourth date and hours of hiking and making out in the Lainzer Tiergarten, I asked if I was her boyfriend. She laughed, shook her head, and decades ahead of her time, gave a short but impassioned speech about how monogamy was the enemy of true love.
By the time I left Vienna, I was utterly infatuated.
For the next two years, we wrote each other long letters two or three times a month. Feeling that my American education wasn't up to par, Bettina sent me reading, listening, and viewing lists in both German and English. She turned me on to the Lessings (Gotthold and Doris), the Velvet Underground, and Oskar Kokoschka. I read and listened to everything she suggested whether I liked it or not. I rarely reciprocated with my own offerings, fearful she'd find my own tastes (Stephen King, The Police) pedestrian, unimaginative and thoroughly disappointing.