Manic Pixie Dream Girls Open Access

Metcalf, Meredith Helen (2014)

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The "Manic Pixie Dream Girl," a term coined in 2007 to describe a character type who "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," has been criticized for being used to chastise unconventional female supporting characters. I argue that the term itself, when clearly defined, may be useful in critical discourse about the role of women in films. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a character type whose personality and narrative function remain largely constant over time, even though the films in which she change to reflect the sociocultural context and aesthetic trends of the era in which they are created. I take a closer look at six films from the past decade - Garden State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Elizabethtown, (500) Days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Ruby Sparks - that belong to different genres but at united by their use of Manic Pixie Dream Girls in a way that reflects the current sociocultural phenomenon of prolonged adolescence and the aesthetic trend toward self-reflexivity. When clearly defined and considered a neutral descriptor, this term can serve a useful function in critical discourse about how films from different eras and genres may promote the same gender roles.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl and the Discourse Surrounding Her - page 1

Manic Pixie Dream Girls Through the Ages - page 5

Early 1930s: Design for Living - page 6

Screwball Comedy: Bringing Up Baby - page 7

Comedies of Seduction: Some Like It Hot - page 10

The Nervous Romance: Annie Hall - page 11

Genre Hybrids: Weird Science - page 13

Slackers and Self-reflexivity: There's Something About Mary - page 15

Recent Films with Manic Pixie Dream Girls - page 19

Character Types - page 20

Formal Innovations and Fantasy - page 28

Music - page 33

Conclusion - page 37

Filmography - page 39

Endnotes - page 39

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