March 17, 2021

SEX ON THURSDAY | Manic Pixie Dream Girl, But She’s the Main Character

Print More

The manic pixie dream girl is my greatest foe. I jest, but she’s higher on the list than I like to admit. I detest her daring attitude: motivated not by a sad girl’s hopeless disregard for bodily safety but by some romantic notion of heroism ingrained in her stupid, little head. I despise her allegedly adorable inability to produce an unhappy thought, or to truly think at all. And I loathe her supposedly sexy stint as no more than a quarter of a whole person whose relevance fails to extend beyond the bounds of some guy’s own experience. More than anything, I hate that she undermines my meticulous efforts to give off particular impressions I wish others would entertain at the thought of me. Or, at least, I fear that she does – that she lays the groundwork of strangers’ perceptions of my character before I get the chance. Time and time again, I find myself under (possibly self-imposed) pressure to prove that —  pink hair, colorful clothes, pet rat ownership, art and music and drug enthusiasm, feminist wit, and tiny pixie stature aside — she and I are not the same. 

Where Harley Quinn (in Suicide Squad, not in Birds of Prey) flings herself towards perilous adventure, with not a single sound thought behind her psychopathically wide eyes, I like to think that any adventurousness of mine is accompanied by calm consideration of the hazards at play. And, that it’s often inspired by a well thought-out desire to escape the stifling realities of my schooling, my mental unhealth and the many other facets of my life experience. And that maybe I subscribe to chaos in part to obtain content for this newspaper column I write because I’m literate and sometimes engage in intellectual things. The little girl in Bridge to Terabithia might have simply passed away once she’d exhausted her purpose, but I stick around, as inconvenient as my continued presence may be for the men who wish that — rather than going into any depth about my week after they ask me about it —  I’d just give them head, tell them I think they’re strong and special (so that they return the favor, but they needn’t know that bit), and then disappear. 

And so one might imagine that my feathers were rather ruffled the other day, when a boy I like called me a nymph. But as we lay in the mud, entangled in each other’s arms and feeling all of the feelings, I didn’t mind it. It seems important to note that we were tripping. On shrooms and in the forest, to be precise, hence the Nordic folklore-esque aura we were fantasizing about and that brought him to jokingly call me a nymph in the first place — think red mushrooms with white spots and forest fairies perched on flower petals. It’s also important to note that we had briefly been discussing the manic pixie dream girl trope itself, an exchange in which, despite his silly state of mind, he managed to exhibit an impressive understanding of the concept’s unfavorability as well as an admirable inclination towards listening to what I had to say about it. And what I had said was along the lines of, “I hate the trope, but I kinda wanna see a female-directed movie where a manic pixie dream girl is the main character.” 

In retrospect, a manic pixie dream girl couldn’t be a main character, as that would mandate that she have some depth, and, in that truth alone, she wouldn’t be a manic pixie dream girl. I suppose I meant that I’d like to see a girl who is bold and brash, colorful and fun-loving, witty and wise, and of substantial influence on the people around her (including, if not especially, the men), but who isn’t mindlessly all of those things. A girl with social anxieties that underlie her coquettish quirkiness, or with existential angst beneath her seemingly untroubled “love of life” (which, in a classic manic pixie dream girl movie, she would then inspire in a male protagonist), or who undergoes an ideological transformation of her own rather than only facilitating that change in a male character. I dream of a female lead with a dynamic role and mighty impact that change shape in coordination with the events of her psyche, as opposed to a narrow duty which she fulfills via some coincidental collection of innate beauties and specialties. A heroine with an amorphous identity that ebbs and flows and sometimes floods as she undergoes one cerebral crisis after another or, less dramatically, as she continuously utilizes her brain to consider the world around her and her role in it. Put simply, I dream of a female lead who is portrayed less like an object and more like a human.

Brat Baby is a student at Cornell University. Pillow Princess Diaries runs alternate Sex on Thursdays this semester. Sex on Thursday runs every Thursday this semester.