Looking At The… Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Kate Winslet & Jim Carrey in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004)

After viewing the 2005 film Elizabethtown, critic Nathan Rabin coined the phrase ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’. He described this as; “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely…to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

To fit into the category of being a MPDG, this female character will be extrovert, eccentric and quirky. They are often paired against a brooding or depressed male character, to show him that adult life can be fun and exciting.

Although the phrase was first written in 2005, the idea of an MPDG in film can be traced back as early as 1939, to Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, in which she stared opposite Cary Grant.

Over the years, there has been criticism of the MPDG description, with some saying it lumps all female characters in film to the same group. It has also been noted that these characters aren’t written just to parallel a male character, but instead they often have their own goals and aims within the narrative.

Well known Manic Pixie Dream Girl’s from across the years have included;

  • Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
  • Barbra Streisand in What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
  • Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (1977)
  • Charlize Theron in Sweet November (2001)
  • Natalie Portman in Garden State (2004)
  • Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  • Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown (2005)
  • Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer (2009)

What are your thoughts on this label? Who is your favourite Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Let me know in the comments below!


About writingsuzanne

History graduate. Freelance writer and reviewer. Passionate about film, theatre and music (film soundtracks!).
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4 Responses to Looking At The… Manic Pixie Dream Girl

  1. eleanorrosem says:

    I think what’s interesting about 500 Days of Summer is that, even though Zooey Deschanel seems to always play MPDG, to me the point of the film is that we never get proper insight into her character’s mind – the reason the guy can’t understand the break up was because he made Summer his ideal girl, and she just wasn’t feeling the same about him, but it took him a whole movie to realise. Which is why I love the film! I think the idea of MPDGs is interesting both to criticise and analyse, why is it both appealing and frustrating to see? Don’t forget Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gmbakerblog says:

    I think the label reflects some anxiety in modern culture about uniqueness, being “special” etc. Most of us are prone to seeing ourselves as unique, and relate to characters who apparently demonstrate these traits (in themselves, and in their unique, spontaneous, “interesting” relationships). The irony in the end is that it produces a kind of conformity, with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl just becoming another trope.

    Liked by 1 person

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