Tropes: break em’

Emmie Poth-Nebel

You’ve probably heard of critic Nathan Rabin’s term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” (MPDG) before, but haven’t thought about its harmful effects on people today.

Quirky, smart, conventionally attractive white girls generally make up this trope.

She has one trait unlike “normal” girls and little to no character development throughout the story.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – the game ending screen

She appears in movies like Garden State, with Natalie Portman being the shoulder to cry on for Zach Braff’s troubled 26-year-old character, Andrew Largeman or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing a hardcore damsel in distress.

John Green is notorious for the use of this trope, as you can find her in many of his books including Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns.

Looking for Alaska features a group of friends, including protagonist Miles Halter and his love interest, Alaska Young. Alaska’s famous quote, “Ya’ll smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die,” is what ultimately turns Miles on to her.

A beautiful, vulnerable depressed girl. The perfect girl.

“Men grow up to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else’s,” said Laurie Penny, author of the article “Laurie Penny on sexism in storytelling: I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.”

Bayer slowly comes to terms with herself after years of trying to fit a mold.

What’s problematic about this desirable girl?

“It’s a label that confines girls to acting a certain way,” said Ainslie Bayer, a Decatur sophomore who finds the trope harmful to all genders. “The MPDG trope definitely affects everyone negatively because it creates an absurd dream for lonely boys, and crafts a hollow set of sparkly shoes for girls to fill.”

Bayer recognized the negative effect of this mindset.

“It taught me that my purpose was to serve boys who look to girls for an eye-opening experience on the greener side of the pasture, so to speak,” she said.

Others don’t let the mold shape them.

“For the most part, I couldn’t care less about what people think of me,” said Amelia Priest, another Decatur sophomore. “I care about my looks, but for myself and no one else.”

Neither girl thinks the trope is necessary.

“It’s completely unrealistic to create a non-existent species of girl whose bright personality and independent spirit are the extent of her character,” Bayer said.