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Saturday, March 25, 2017

So where's my Manic Pixie Dream Man?

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. It’s a common Hollywood trope, though I’ve got to admit I’ve never met one of these women in real life. A man is trudging along in his boring/routine/depressed/dead end life, and Poof! There she is, dropping accidentally into his lap, and for no apparent reason deciding he’s the man she wants. Promptly she sets about dragging him into fun, shaking up his routine, pulling him up from depression, and showing him a brand new way to live. This trope wasn’t given a name until recently, but it’s been around a long time. Example: Bringing Up Baby, 1938, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. It’s one of my favorite rom-coms. (Baby isn’t a human, it’s a leopard.)

Others include Elizabethtown, I love you, Alice B. Toklas, The Garden State, Butterflies are Free, Almost Famous, and many, many more. The main characteristics include joie de vivre, flakieness, a bit elfin, quirky to a fault. Sadly, this is all there is to these characters. They have no goals, no depth, nothing else to them. They're bubbly, cute, and impulsive. Nothing else.

So where’s the male equivalent? It is actually out there. Sadly, they aren’t as wonderful as the dream girls. The qualities just don’t seem to transfer well, because the Manic Pixie Dream Man is basically Peter Pan. He never grows up. As shallow a character as the Girl, he has no goals and no depth. He’s childish instead of childlike, charming but shallow, and for absolutely no apparent reason is devoted to this woman who frequently doesn’t want him. She may even be committed to someone else. Looks good in a rom-com, but in real life it’s a disaster. In real life, women want more. Shallow wears thin fast. We want men, not perpetual boys. Someone to be a true partner, not one more child to take care of.

But hey, right when your life is boring and routine and seems like a dead end, when you’re depressed and feel hopeless, wouldn’t it be great to have a Sean Spencer (Psych), a Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything) or a Benny (Benny and Joon) come and fill your life up with quirkiness and drag you out to make you have fun, even if it’s just for a while?

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