The always-relevant Onion A.V. Club has coined a term for the type of movie girl-woman whom we've long despised: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The A.V. Club defines 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." Our own Sadie had a fantastic rant about this particular kind of flighty creature, whom she termed "Amazing Girls," or, ideal muses whose beauty, sweetness and gentle, studied eccentricity renders them entirely docile. Of all the MPDGs listed by the A.V. Club, the most pernicious of these cinematic sweethearts is far and away Natalie Portman's irksome moppet in Garden State.
I hated that character from the second she flounced on the screen. I remember distinctly Portman telling Zach Braff's character that she was "weird" and then doing a silly little dance to illustrate her "weirdness." Honestly? Anyone who telegraphs their so-called weirdness so outlandishly is not actually weird, they're merely quirky enough to be vaguely interesting without having their own thing going on. They're completely mainstream but have one really big tattoo, or occasionally sing really loud in the shower! "Oh, Natalie," the A.V. Club writes, "your unconventional ways are so inspiring, and your beauty is surprisingly non-threatening!"
As the A.V. Club deftly notes, "Like the Magical Negro, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype is largely defined by secondary status and lack of an inner life. She's on hand to lift a gloomy male protagonist out of the doldrums, not to pursue her own happiness." Since they've defined it so succinctly, I've realized that many recent films employ the MPDG stock character — Forgetting Sarah Marshall, for instance, where Mila Kunis's character is a free spirited nymph deposited on the shores of Hawaii in order to encourage Jason Segel to write the vampire rock puppet musical he's been fantasizing about for years. But what of the dude? You know, the brooding artsy loser in need of a MPDG to revive his creative and sexual juices? The ones who use MPDG's to stroke their fragile egos and project their muse-fantasies on? What should we call him? I think he deserves a name because these movies, and the notion of the MPDG, are really about him: his needs, his desires, his artistic endeavors.
Wimpster, while appropriate, lacks the specificity of MPDG and also is so four years ago. Maybe the new bromantics, because that term emphasizes their dudeliness but also their childish notions of romantic attachment? In any event, these self-absorbed whiners are to be avoided in real life, though, like (adorable!) Jason Segal in FSM, new bromantics can be charming in film.
Wild Things: 16 Films Featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls [AV Club]
Soapbox [The Petite Sophisticate]
Meet The Wimpster [The Black Table]