The manic pixie dream girl is not your average film trope for female characters. Rather, it’s the most eccentric, captivating and unrealistic portrayal of the modern woman. This common characterization of the carefree yet mysterious girl runs rampant in popular films to this day, helping the male lead “embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures,” as the creator of the term, Nathan Rabin, states. While some films fail to give the manic pixie dream girl any life of her own, others have created a more complex manic pixie dream girl that goes against its misogynistic roots. Thus, we at the Clog ranked some of the most popular manic pixie dream girls by three factors: relatability, personality and character development, in order to find the most evolved one.
5. Penny Lane from “Almost Famous”
Character development: 2/5
Penny Lane is enigmatic and mesmerizing, yet we do not learn a single thing about her until the end, which — spoiler alert — is just her real name. Everything else about her personal life remains a mystery to the audience. Her persona revolves around being the “band-aid” for the fictional rock band we watch. In the context of the film, I can understand that her lack of identity is tied to her role as a groupie during the ’70s. However, this doesn’t excuse Penny Lane from being a grade-A example of a manic pixie dream girl.
4. Ramona Flowers from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
Character Development: 0/5
With her brightly colored hair and seven evil exes, Ramona Flowers is one of the most notorious manic pixie dream girls. She embodies the trope completely as she quite literally appears in the main character’s dream at one point. While I was watching the movie, I felt myself relating more to Knives Chau than the dream girl herself. Ramona Flowers is cool, sarcastic and aloof to the world around her, which is no wonder why the main character quickly switches his attraction from Knives to Ramona. Although we see Knives’ growth throughout the movie, Ramona Flowers’ character development is practically nonexistent and, we never get to see who she is outside of her past and present romantic relationships.
3. Violet from “Watching the Detectives”
Character Development: 1/5
I’m going to be honest and say I might hold a favorable bias toward not only the movie but also Violet. While the manic pixie dream girl is objectively a harmful trope, it felt refreshing to finally see a woman of color in this alluring role. Not to mention, I found the movie funny and had a good time watching it. Still, despite my unwavering love for “Watching the Detectives,” I can’t refute the fact that Violet fits Nathan Rabin’s definition of the manic pixie dream girl perfectly. I do admire Violet’s adventurous spirit and how she purposely strives to make the leading male character’s life a living hell, but her character only lives to serve the main character’s journey.
2. Summer from “500 Days of Summer”
Character Development: 2/5
I’m a firm believer that if “500 Days of Summer” wasn’t from the perspective of its lovesick main character, Tom, Summer would’ve appeared less like the villain and more like your average young adult. It’s not her fault that the leading man thought that she was his soulmate just because she had slightly quirky tendencies and happened to be a fan of The Smiths. However, we can’t change the fact that we can only see the film through the eyes of a man that builds a normal woman up to be an idealized version of perfection. As a result, we unfortunately never see Summer’s depth as a human being, but it’s easy to relate to how she doesn’t live up to the main character’s unrealistic expectations.
1. Clementine from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
Character Development: 5/5
A part of me doesn’t even want to call Clementine a manic pixie dream girl because she reconstructs the trope so well. At the start of the movie, she appears to fit into the classic trope as she juxtaposes the protagonist with her extroverted and spontaneous nature, although her whimsical image begins to fade as we learn more about her flaws and impulsive behavior. Out of all the manic pixie dream girls, Clementine felt the most realistic, and I knew she wasn’t your average manic pixie dream girl once she said this: “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.”
Like many other cinematic tropes, the manic pixie dream girl will probably continue to exist in film and cinema no matter how problematic it is. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see if any more of these fictional dream girls will completely rewrite the way we see this trope.
Contact Zara Koroma at [email protected].