The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Trope

Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency has produced an enlightening series of videos analyzing various tropes in film and television that reduce women to something less than persons.  Her exploration of the Straw Feminist trope is especially good.

The first video in the series examines the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.  Sarkeesian defines this trope as "a supporting character used to further the storyline of the male hero."  According to her, the Manic Pixie "really has no life of her own, she has no family or interests or much of job that we ever see.  She is as the AVclub describes, 'On hand to lift a gloomy male protagonist out of the doldrums,  not to pursue her own happiness.' All of these male characters find a Manic Pixie to help them out of their depressed, uptight and doom and gloom state so that they can be happy functioning members of society again."

The male characters highlighted in the video include among others the protagonists of 500 Days of Summer, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Garden State, three films told from a less-than-grown-up, yearning-for-love adult male perspective.  I can see something of the manic pixie personality in the films' lead female characters, but they don't exemplify the trope as Anita Sarkeesian describes it. 

Summer Finn in 500 Days of Summer has her own life and long-term interests apart from Tom, and her desire to be herself is precisely the conflict that propels the drama.  She doesn't help Tom become a happy functioning member of society; his attempts to make her into someone she isn't cause him seemingly no end of angst and sadness.  He longs for love; she doesn't believe in it. 

Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is certainly manic, but she too rebels against the men in her life treating her as a comforting thing. "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; don't assign me yours," she tells Joel, the male lead. 

I can maybe kinda-sorta see the Manic Pixie in Natalie Portman's character Sam in Garden State, and yet she, the quintessential Manic Pixie according to Anita Sarkeesian, is given a family and history and interests beyond guiding the "angsty, emo Andrew Largeman" out of his depression. 

Anyhow, there is, to be sure, such a trope as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but these three fictional women don't serve as examples.  I haven't seen Elizabethtown or the other films the video highlights, so I can't speak to those. (VN)