Like a Frankenstein with doe eyes, Nathan Rabin unknowingly created a monster back in 2007, when he coined the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” while critiquing Kirsten Dunst’s character in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown and characters like hers, such as Natalie Portman’s Sam in Garden State. Now, after years of the terms use, overuse, and misuse, Rabin wants to apologize. “At this point in my life, I honestly hate the term too. I feel deeply weird, if not downright ashamed, at having created a cliche that has been trotted out again and again in an infinite internet feedback loop,” he writes for Salon.
Rabin explains that, at the time, his goal was to point out the “fundamentally sexist” trope of female characters that “seem less like autonomous, independent entities than appealing props to help mopey, sad white men self-actualize.” However, Rabin sees now how the term itself has become sexist. He points to author John Green, who wrote that his Paper Towns is dedicated to “destroying the lie of the manic pixie dream girl.” Green added, “I do not know how I could have been less ambiguous about this without calling the novel The Patriarchal Lie of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Must Be Stabbed in the Heart and Killed.” Ruby Sparks writer/star Zoe Kazan also served as an eye-opener for Rabin, calling the term “basically misogynist” in an interview with Vulture, saying, “It’s a way of describing female characters that’s reductive and diminutive.” What started as a critique of movie writers oversimplifying female characters transformed into a way for movie critics to oversimplify female characters.
Rabin writes, “Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the ‘Patriarchal Lie’ of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.” He closes with this look to the future: “Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multi-dimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness.”