The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a stock character in films. Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term after seeing Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown (2005), describes the MPDG as "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and such characters never grow up, thus their men never grow up.
The "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" has been compared to another stock character, the "Magical Negro," a black character who seems to exist only to provide spiritual or mystical help to the (white) protagonist. In both cases, the stock character has no discernible inner life, and usually only exists to provide the protagonist some important life lessons.
MPDGs are usually static characters who have eccentric personality quirks and are unabashedly girlish. They invariably serve as the romantic interest for a (most often brooding or depressed) male protagonist. An example is Natalie Portman's character in the movie Garden State, written and directed by Zach Braff.
Rabin points to Katharine Hepburn's character in Bringing Up Baby (1938) as one of the earliest examples of the archetype; later examples include Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Goldie Hawn's characters in Cactus Flower and Butterflies Are Free, and Barbra Streisand's in What's Up, Doc. Zooey Deschanel's roles in (500) Days of Summer and Yes Man have also typified the MPDG.
The Filmspotting podcast created a list of "Top Five Manic Pixie Dream Girls"; Nathan Rabin appeared as a guest and created his own, separate list of MPDGs. Among those included were Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) in Jules and Jim, Jean (Barbara Stanwyck) in The Lady Eve, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) in Some Like It Hot, and Gerry Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) in The Palm Beach Story. Other examples of the MPDG the media has proposed include Jean Seberg's character in Breathless, Belle in Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast,  Maude in Harold and Maude, and Penny Lane in Almost Famous.
Kate Winslet's character Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind acknowledges the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and rejects this label, in a remark to Jim Carrey's Joel: "Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours." The title character of Annie Hall is also not a MPDG although often called such, as she has her own goals independent of the male lead.
Criticism and debate 
In an interview with Vulture about her film Ruby Sparks, actress and screenwriter Zoe Kazan criticized the term as reductive, diminutive, and misogynistic toward female characters. She disagreed with describing Hepburn's Bringing Up Baby character as a MPDG, stating "I think that to lump together all individual, original quirky women under that rubric is to erase all difference."
In a December 2012 video, AllMovie critic Cammila Collar embraced the term as an effective description of one-dimensional female characters who only seek the happiness of the male protagonist, and who do not deal with any complex issues of their own. The pejorative use of the term, then, is mainly directed at writers who do not give these female characters more to do than bolster the spirits of their male partners.
See also 
- Rabin, Nathan (January 25, 2007). "My Year Of Flops, Case File 1: Elizabethtown: The Bataan Death March of Whimsy". A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
- Welker, Holly (Spring 2010), "Forever Your Girl". Bitch Magazine (46):26–30.
- Gillette, Amelie. "Wild things: 16 films featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls". AV Club. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
- Berman, Judy (August 7, 2008). "The Natalie Portman problem". Salon.com. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
- Ulaby, Neda (October 9, 2008). "Manic Pixie Dream Girls: A Cinematic Scourge?". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
- Douthat, Ross (August 24, 2009), "True Love". National Review. 61 (15):50.
- "Indie Dream Girls", The Daily Beast, July 20, 2009.
- Poniewozik, James (October 6, 2011). "Women Watch TV Like This, But Men Watch TV Like This". Time. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
- "Top Five Manic Pixie Dream Girls". Filmspotting. November 19, 2010.
- "Manic Pixie Dream Girls". The Guardian. Clip Joint. January 9, 2013. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Greco, Patti (July 23, 2012). "Zoe Kazan on Writing Ruby Sparks and Why You Should Never Call Her a ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’". Vulture.
- Semantic Breakdown: The Manic Pixie Dream Bitch, YouTube, December 29 2012
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