Yesterday’s post got a bit rambly, sorry about that. I didn’t mean to go all academic girl power on everyone. I just think it is interesting to dissect these things that I take for granted: I will never write a Mary Sue because everyone hates her. You don’t invite the girl everyone hates to the party.
That being said, there is one crazy stereotype girl that ALWAYS gets invited to the party. Even though she is just as ridiculous as Mary, there is something about her that every boy wants to date and every girl wants to emulate.
Let me introduce you to Mary Sue’s weird little cousin, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
The true Manic Pixie Dream Girl is never the protagonist and there’s a very important reason for this: she is the Manic Pixie BECAUSE of how another character sees her, not despite it, and because of this she is almost universally a flat, somewhat ambiguous character. She’s quirky, shuns social norms, and is a bit of an Indigo Child. She’s girlish but crazy, eccentric and careless. She’s always the love interest of a broody, sensitive male protagonist who secretly longs to see the world just like she does. Nathan Rabin originally coined the Manic Pixie as a “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.” Perfect.
Hurricane Pixie also knows how to break into cemeteries, is friends with all the bouncers, and has made out with the band. She’s a tree climber, a doodle artist, an impatient Here-and-Now, breaking-and-entering crime committing wild thing that refuses to believe in gravity if she doesn’t feel like believing in it.
Even though the term originated from a film critic, she’s all over the YA literary-verse, most notably in pretty much all of John Green’s books. Unlike Mary, the Manic Pixie is EVERYWHERE.
She’s a mostly flat character because she’s eccentric and beautiful and sees the world with a unique heart, and yet we never know (or care) WHY she became this way, or how she feels about never fitting in or how she feels about being lusted after by depressed, soul-gazing boys who write poetry and songs about her and inevitably stalk her outside her bedroom window at some point in the book. It’s also probable that she’s really nothing like the Pixie we are led to believe she is because we always see her through the brooding boy’s eyes who is currently idolizing her to death. She never feels real because she’s missing half her personality.
The irony is that in real life, a girl like this would love a boy like that powerfully but briefly before burning out and breaking his heart into a million billion little unfixable pieces that will bring baggage and bitterness to every relationship he ever enters in again for the rest of his natural life.
But I digress.
In literature, the Pixie blows into the protagonist’s life and sweeps him up into a series of adventures where he is irrevocably changed as a person for the climactic better. And if he should win her affections, it will always be brief and steamy before she blows out of town again because her purpose in life is to change him, never stay with him.
The fact that the Pixie is talented and clever, beautiful and doesn’t care what other people think of her SHOULD make her a Strong Female Character, but because she’s missing half of her personality we never quite buy into her so when she inevitably blows out of the story it’s really just as well.
While we girls (who either hate or want to be the Pixie) recognize her as unbelievable, we’re struck with this weird idea that she is the sensitive boy’s idealized version of us. But she’s not complete! What about all her flaws and bad music tastes and family baggage? Maybe she doesn’t like being stalked, not that anyone has ever bothered to ask her.
So we have these two extremes, one girl is well rounded but too good at everything and everyone hates that, the other is girlish and unique but ultimately empty of personality and is the idealized version of the perfect artistic girl and boys love her and girls want to be her. Where’s the middle ground? How can a real girl be strong and clever and wise and tough and beautiful and unique and eccentric ever be believed?