Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Love & the 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl'

There are several problems with the modern mainstream definition of ‘love’. It sets off unrealistic expectations and conforms to outdated notions, such as ‘monogamy.’ Young men and women have been pre-programmed, and expect to find ‘the one’ lurking around every corner. (Although lately it seems society wishes to ‘rebel’ against this in the most turgid way possible. No folks, reading Fifty Shades of Grey does not qualify you as an expert in the realm of BSDM. It might actually help if you understood what the acronym actually means first).

The problem with this notion of ‘the one’ is that this particular individual does not exist. Rather I have come to believe that there might be two, three or four people (possibly at the same time) who fill in your blanks to complete the sketch of love throughout the course of your life. American film making suggests otherwise for they have constantly revived and expanded a tried and true concept of 'romance'.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope is largely responsible for propagating the notion of ‘the one'. and made it acceptable for this unrealistic goal to be realised.
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is there to give new meaning to the male hero's life. She's stunningly attractive, high on life, full of wacky quirks and idiosyncrasies (generally including childlike playfulness and a tendency towards petty crime), often with a touch of wild hair dye. She's inexplicably obsessed with our stuffed-shirt hero, on whom she will focus her kuh-razy antics until he learns to live freely and love madly (Sound familiar?).
Although this term was first coined by The AV Club writer Nathan Rabin in 2007, the origins of the MPDG can be traced back to the days of Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. In each case the beautiful eccentric woman would waltz into the life of the male protagonist, take him on a few zany adventures, where they both fall in love and the audience enjoys the show leaving satisfied. One could argue that the high point of the ‘Classic MPDG’ genre defines the terms for what constitutes 'romance' for much of the Baby Boomer and Generation X cohorts.

Even though I don't belong to either generation, I had inadvertently fallen into this tired notion without even realising it. Every woman that I had shown the slightest interest in for my first quarter century conceivably fell into the MPDG archetype. I wanted to be swept off my feet, to escape from what I had seen as an ordinary life. Retrospectively I now realise that is what the MPDG plays on: a lack of self esteem. If you are not confident enough to change the circumstances of a terrible life, why not let the presence of an MPDG do it for you?

That is why I acted with such justified revoltion to 500 Days of Summer. That movie is the most sickening piece of propaganda for 'romance' one could ever see. Summer (and by extension Zooey Deschanel, because that’s the only role she has ever played) is of the most vapid, superficial, vengeful and nasty characters in modern cinema. There is no attempt to examine the motivations for her ‘quirkiness’ or demonstrate that she has any intelligence, beyond being the hipster’s ideal sex toy. (Additionally, I bet the sex would be awful too, as we all know the most intelligent people have the most creative sexual tools at their disposal and Summer is a screw short of a tool box).

But it is not only Zooey and Summer that have questions to answer. Think of a popular romantic comedy made in the last 75 years.When doesn’t the female love interest achieve MPDG status? This applies to television as well.

This cynic has given up on finding a MPDG to make him happy, even if there were a political variation on the traditional model. ‘Love’ in its strictest societal definition seems unattainable to me, and just as well too. A MPDG will not be your soul mate, but instead your most painful memory.

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