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The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Might Be Here to Stay

by Ariel Joseph about a month ago in pop culture

And it's all our fault.

Remember when liking The Smiths made you the most interesting girl in the elevator?

She's the "one".

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

She'll be the one that got away. The one he thinks about years later when he's bored and disappointed with everything his life has become.

It's the early 2000s and you know her all too well. She's in absolutely every indie movie you've seen.

And yet you feel like you can relate to her. You feel very unique, just like her, because, well, because you watch indie movies, but also because you want to be like her, maybe you already are like her. You sure don't feel like you always fit in with other girls.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

The older I get the harder it is to remember why the hell this was such a thing. And the more difficult it is to figure out how exactly to describe the phenomena that was that time when movies tried to convince us that being perceived as "different" for a having a few niche interests, made you unusual, and therefore desirable.

I like to think of her as the mother of the "not like other girls" girl, and the grandmother of the "pick me" girl.

Or maybe she's all the same girl? I actually have no idea.

Like a lot of millenials I think I have an interesting relationship to the manic pixie dream girl, because if I'm being honest, she's what I wanted to be. She's what a lot of us wanted to be.

I don't think it's fair or accurate to say she was born of Gen Y. She's been around in some form all throughout history. She sure as hell was peaking during our time as teenagers though, or so it seemed.

She was everywhere, and she was so damn quirky. So intriguing. And yet she was just another woman in a box.

Manic pixie dream girl. Not like other girls girl. Pick me girl. We all know her but why are we so interested in labeling which of us is her.

If she herself was born of a desire to be different, to be unique, to be the most interesting girl in the room, then what are we doing by boxing up every girl who we think fits the bill?

It’s not surprising to watch men do this, but traditionally women have joined in as well. At the risk of inviting anger, I'll just be bold and flat out say, in fact, I think more often than not, women are the worse perpetrators of using these labels.

As evidenced by the "not like other girls" girl morphing into the "pick me" girl, years later we are creating a constant breeding ground for a never ending list of names to describe a girl who wants to be "special" when compared to other women. Whatever the hell that actually means.

Not to be cliché but we are all special. I mean kind of. We are also all the same in some ways. The bigger question is why are we so obsessed with which we are? Or why do we want to cultivate an entire personality that falls into one category or the other all the time?

The manic pixie dream girl somehow both wanted to be like other girls and wished she could care about "the things other girls cared about," and also valued her individuality and how peculiar she was compared to other girls.

So first you want to not be like other girls. Then one day you become "woke" and you realize it's toxic to want to not be like other girls and now you do want to be like them. You're proud to be like them.

What?

You simultaneously want to be acknowledged for being different, but also want to feel like you fit in and can relate to everyone else.

It's a catch 22.

I'm including myself in this because lord knows I've been there.

Why does it feel like every generation we find a rendition of the girl who wants to be different to pick on, when at some point and on some level all of us wanted to feel unique. We all wanted to be memorable.

To be clear I understand the inherent toxicity of the trope. I understand the unrealistic portrayal of it as well. I also understands that she exists because we want her to.

We are the reason the manic pixie dream girl lives on and breeds new forms decade after decade.

The more we call out this girl, the more we put a name to her, the more we discuss her, both positive and negative, the more she will live on and in truth, she's just a girl.

There are pieces of her in all of us. We all have quirks or niche interests that we feel set us apart from others. Whether we wear that as a badge of honor or hide it like a curse, we all have a thing or two about us that feels a little odd, or a little out there when compared to our perception of what is "normal".

We are also, all incredibly basic sometimes. Go ahead, rewatch that season of Friends. Light that scented candle. And enjoy the hell out of that Starbucks Frappuccino. I won't judge you. I'm probably doing the same thing.

Trying to be interesting all the time is exhausting and why try at all? Think about the manic pixie dream girl. Half the appeal was how effortless being "interesting" was for her.

In opposition to the "not like other girls" girl or the "pick me" girl, the manic pixie dream girl didn't tell us she knew she was different. She was actually more annoying because she didn't. She'd do something ever so quirky and pretend it was totally normal. Shameless. Proud. Effortlessly odd and completely unaware that anyone was looking at her thinking, "damn this girl is so weird and cool" and of course, ever naive at the fact that every man in the movie was falling in love with her more and more by the second.

She's not real. She's a combination of everything we ever thought might get us the attention we so desperately wanted. She's everything we wanted to believe that someday we might be noticed for in a positive way.

And seriously who cares?

All these years later I look around and see that we still haven't outgrown her and it's really no surprise. She speaks to that part of us that wants to be acknowledged, the part of us that wants to stand out and make an impact on someone. That part also lives in all of us and as long as it lives on so will the manic pixie dream girl. In some form anyway.

She might take a different name, or a different look but as long as we ourselves imagine that being considered "average" is the worst case scenario she will survive.

Be yourself.

What an incredibly basic piece of advice that somehow continues to need to be told to generation after generation.

We spend so much of our young lives worried about how we are perceived by others and tailoring our behavior and interests in an attempt to impress our peers and ultimately we all grow up and realize how useless it was.

At some point we all look back at our past selves and think what the actual hell was I thinking? I’m sure at least a few manic pixies have thought that too.

pop culture

About the author

Ariel Joseph

I love to write pretty much everything and anything, except profile page bio's.

You can check out more of what I'm doing on my website 👇🏼

arielejoseph.com

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