The Manic Pixie Dream Girl: How I Failed & Why it’s OK

She’s the stuff romantic comedies are built on and almost every lost boy at some point has dreamed about being saved by one, but us real girls contemplate the MPDG (Manic Pixie Dream Girl) and conclude it’s really OK to fail at being one.

manic pixie dream girl zooey deschanel

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Who or what is she? Think Zooey Deschanel, think Natalie Portman, think about almost all the pretty young female protagonists in Yasmin Ahmad films.

She was coined based on Kirsten Dunst’s character in the film Elizabethtown and she’s that crazy but seriously lovable, impossibly pretty breath of fresh air and bringer of light and hope to all those lovely ‘lost boys’ who have either written one of those books or movies that have made growing up all the more bearable for us romantics.

manic pixie dream girl kirsten dunst

The most recent MPDG is Zoe Kazan’s role in the film Ruby Sparks (2012) where a man’s fictional character literally comes to life onscreen. (The writer of the film, Kazan insists she herself, is not an MPDG).

I for one have loved romantic comedies that feature a MPDG. I was a slave to Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State, or Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer. My favourite MPDG has got to be Kate Hudson’s character in Almost Famous…the list goes on. I grew up very adamant that I needed to be this sort of girl.

However, after years of trying to mould myself into this character type, I realised that it is virtually impossible to do so and thus, I have come up with a list of reasons why, as a real-life living breathing woman, I failed miserably at being an MPDG.

manic pixie dream girl kate hudsonSTEP 1: I wasn’t hot. Growing up, braces, bad eyesight, problem skin and a butch haircut happened. Also, there was a brief period where I did actually look like an old peasant lady complete with permed frizz, scarf wrapped around my face and really pale reddish skin. Not exactly the formula for the permanently unaffected beauty the MPDG is supposed to be.

STEP 2: I got emo. When I sorted my ‘petty pretty’ troubles out (ie. straightened hair, learned the use of makeup & contact lenses), I decided to revamp myself into being a Grunge/Goth Chick and got all existential and morose and decided to stay indoors writing my own eulogies. 

STEP 3: I got too dreamy. Funnily, I actually got cool at one point and as close to the MPDG as I possibly could. I had all the right elements like living in a nice area, having a big cat, partying in the right places and an interesting artsy part-time job while I was in university. Sadly, I started to believe I was a full-fledged MPDG. To the point, I became so oblivious to the real world and decided that I was in fact a character in a film. In other words, I wasn’t living THE dream, I was living IN a dream. This resulted in my sort of losing my grip on the important things in life, like family and friends and holding on to that nice, stable boy.

STEP 4: I got busy. See, what happened was, I got a job. It was an impossibly cool one at that, but the thing about really cool jobs? You actually have to work to keep them.  I started to wake up from the dream and get practical. I didn’t have much time to be flighty and carefree, and frankly I was too tired to be manic.

STEP 5: I got real. Eventually, I sort of realised that I couldn’t ever compete with an MPDG and trying to be one wasn’t actually helping anybody.  So I decided that if I couldn’t be any boy’s dream girl, then I had to be my own dream girl. As in, I’d take steps to becoming the sort of girl I dreamt about becoming. And I realised that that girl, wasn’t some flighty, manic ingénue who’s purpose in life was to save a boy…she was someone who wanted very much to do more with her life. I wanted to be the girl with a plan who didn’t just want to save one lost boy, but to truly help others who needed it.

So that’s how I failed at being the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. With each of my failures though, I realised something; I didn’t want to be some sad writer boy’s fantasy and live my life in a manic, blissfully delusional bubble. I had to face some of the harshness and pain in life and learn from it. It became apparent to me that most of all, I wanted to be my own dream girl. The girl who lives her own dreams and becomes somebody she wants to be.

manic pixie dream girl natalie portman

So to all you fabulous women who have failed or who are still trying and failing at being the MPDG, or to those of you who are in competition with one, don’t you worry. You can be a dream girl. It just depends on whose dreams you want to live or be. It’s fine if you don’t fit into being some lovely character born out of a boy’s imagination. You can be plain-looking, emo, cool, busy and as real as you want.

After all, being a Real Girl just means you’ve got more chances with REAL men!