On the Manic Pixie Dream Girl
The MPDG exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures - Wikipedia
To every boy who has fallen for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl,
We know by now that pop-culture - not policy - is the invisible force that sets every agenda. The batteries in our cultural carbon monoxide monitors have burnt out and we’ve slept through the alarms. Without our consent film, TV, music and advertising have stepped in as our shoddy supply teachers to tell us what men and women should be. We all know this, but how often do we punch out against the lessons they taught us?
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope turns women into whimsical devices to aid the lagging character development of anaemic male protagonists. It leaves us with the sinking impression that boys want titillation - origami mysteries that prove delightfully difficult to unfold - not flesh-and-blood women. When you fall for a woman’s mystery - for the MPDG - it leaves us wondering whether there’s space for us outside the 3 minute montage...whether there’s space for the whole of us.
We are constantly told not to spill our mess or blot the page with our colours - but girls are suffocating under the effort of editing and delighting. We’re busy dragging around the burden of being ourselves just like everyone else, with little energy spare to deftly drip-feed the most magical parts of our personalities or create psychological treasure hunts for cute indie boys. We cannot hide those cupboards filled with difficulties, crammed with unsightly, squirming fears and jealousies. Without light, without air, they rot and fetter and weigh more heavily than ever.
Boys, it wasn’t your fault - we’ve all had terrible teachers. But we need to work together to release women from the toxic compliments - ‘elusive’, ‘mysterious’, ‘unknowable’ - that have got us in a stranglehold. Release us from the curse of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Because we are fuller and heavier than that. The MPDG - like so many tropes - dismembers women, and encourages us to perform acts of self-mutilation in order to hide the more ugly, uncontrollable parts of their personality. To silence the parts that desperately need tender words whispered to them.
To be human is to possess a strong desire to be fully known - to be truly seen and accepted - to bring our whole selves to someone. I am all seasons, all times, all days. I am caves of complexity with no map and no exit sign. Don’t fall for the mystery in the girl because you’re falling for the tape over her mouth. Instead, invite her to open her book on any page and begin to read to you. Ask her to teach you her language so that you can read the inscriptions on her skin. Learn her shape and hold it for her when she needs to melt from time to time. Don’t ask her to be a mystery - search hungrily for the whole. Ask her to open up and drench you in everything she is; or we’ll all forget that it was ever designed to be seen.
Written and illustrated by Jess Bird