October 15, 2012

Liz Lemon Vs. the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

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So maybe you don’t exactly know what a manic pixie dream girl is. But unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know who Zooey Deschanel is. If you’re a girl, you probably want to be her, if only to kiss Joseph Gordon-Levitt (WHO IS COMING TO CORNELL NOVEMBER 18).

Deschanel is typecast as the fantasy girl every male protagonist dreams about getting in the end, but can never fully obtain, a.k.a. the “manic pixie dream girl” or MPDG (acronyms — the lazy writer’s best friend). She’s the free-spirited girl who is just the perfect antidote to the male protagonist’s doldrums. Despite not having any substance to their actual characters, these MPDGs are just quirky enough to captivate hot leading men. This is known to laypeople as sorcery.

You can see Deschanel exude this apparently irresistible charm in Yes Man, [500 Days of Summer] and New Girl. Natalie Portman portrayed this type of character in Garden State, Audrey Tautou in Amelie and Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown. As it turns out, this isn’t even a new phenomenon — Audrey Hepbern in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music could also be considered MPDGs.

Now, I’m not saying that I want to spontaneously become one and start frolicking and singing through the hills. (Although to be completely honest, frolicking is pretty much a daily activity for me.) This portrayal of women is unhealthy for impressionable teen girls. What we see in the movies is what we come to expect in real life.

But we’re all friends here, so I’ll come right out and say it: On occasion, I almost wish I could be an MPDG. I find myself having the sudden urge to drop out of Cornell to pursue a life of wandering through towns on a motorcycle, searching for some lonely guy to teach a monumental life lesson to.

But then reality strikes back. Will spontaneously riding a motorcycle through towns as a teenage girl get me kidnapped? Survey says “yes.” Will agreeing to everything in life just like Deschanel in Yes Man result in imminent death or marriage to a mail-order groom? I’m going to go with yes on that one, too. And beyond those concerns, I don’t think I even know any monumental life lessons.

The closest I have come to being the quirky female lead of a rom-com is sitting on my couch at two in the morning with a box of chocolates and Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked Fro-Yo…while crying at a Hugh Grant movie. (I really need to stop mentioning Hugh Grant in my posts before he gets a restraining order. Ehh, one more time couldn’t hurt: Hugh Grant). I have to accept the fact that I will never inspire some guy to live his life to the fullest while floating through my own. I’m too practical to be an MPDG and I can barely float. Maybe I prefer to be more like Liz Lemon, the anti-MPDG who secretly almost wishes she was one (but then remembers she has a brain).

And admittedly, I could deal with being an anti-MPDG (play up the rebel angle and all that). But what if I end up a supporting character in my own life? How will I compete with the MPDGs of the world if I’m just the best friend who will have some funny side moments unessential to the main plot and maybe end up with the nice guy best friend of the male protagonist who caught my eye during a scene centered around other people while no one really noticed or cared? Whatever happened to Allie’s cousin in The Notebook? Way to just forget about her, Nick. Does Cameron get a girl in the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? No. He destroys his dad’s beautiful Ferrari, damages property, and then lands a role 30 years later as a character on a failing ABC Family show who gets killed off after 45 minutes.

Basically, I’m torn. I want to remain the strong, independent, intelligent Liz Lemon type, but everytime I watch a movie like [500 Days of Summer], I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if it literally centered around being unwarrantedly captivating. How awesome would it be to have no apparent responsibilities and have everything magically work out without me having to work hard for anything? But then I remember, I go to Cornell. I enjoy actually accomplishing things (at least occasionally) and hope to one day have a somewhat impressive career. So I will settle for pretending I’m a quirky female lead as I walk across the Ag Quad listening to movie soundtracks, because I know that in a few minutes I will take the headphones off, walk into class, and actually do something with my life.

Original Author: Rachel Ellicott