Last year we posted Anita Sarkeesian’s great discussion of the manic pixie dream girl trope. The manic pixie is a female side character who, through her whimsical approach to life, “helps the male main character find himself, love life again, or overcome some obstacle.” Think Natalie Portman in Garden State.
Anyhow, I came across a skit making fun of the trope by taking the manic pixie to its logical conclusion, titled “Welcome to the State Home for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” Yep, it’s a state-run institution for the charming but totally helpless, perhaps-mentally-challenged not-so-dream girl. I’m putting it up here because it’s quite funny, but I also like how it deconstructs a version of ideal femininity, revealing it to be rather impractical indeed.
Film by Natural Disastronauts. Found via BoingBoing.
Transcript, by Trellany J. Evans, after the jump:
Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
State Home Administrator: Hi there! I’m so sorry that I kept you waiting. You must be–
Kyle: Kyle. We spoke on the phone.
State Home Administrator: Yes. Hello Kyle. *Turns to Katie* You must be Katie.
Katie: *Blows a kiss to the administrator*
State Home Administrator: Oh. *Catches the kiss*
Kyle: *Holds up the end of the headphone cable*
Katie: I like to listen to the songs in my head.
Kyle: *Gently sobs* I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry. I just..
State Home Administrator: It’s quite alright.
Katie: I paid the cab driver in buttons!
State Home Administrator: Well, why don’t I show you two around the facilities.
Kyle: *Continues to gently sob*
State Home Administrator: *Hands Katie’s husband a tissue*
Kyle: *Sobbing* Thank you.
State Home Administrator: It’s going to be okay.
State Home Administrator: When did you first suspect you were dating a manic pixie dream girl?
Kyle: Everything seemed so perfect at first. You know. She was cute, but also quirky and awkward. On our first date, she said she wanted pancakes for dinner. So adorable!
*The Shins begin to play as Katie and Kyle star at each other*
Katie: *Touches Kyle’s nose* Boop!
Kyle: We danced in the rain to the music in our hearts. I felt alive. But then after a few months, I started to realize she was eating pancakes for every meal. She can’t feed herself. She can’t pay bills. She just marvels at the wonder of every moment. I mean every moment! We got married in a fucking bouncy castle! *Sighs* Should I get here?
State Home Administrator: Oh, no. It’s alright. She can wander.
*Security guard mimics Katie’s movements*
State Home Administrator: We have excellent security.
*Security guard and administrator give each other a thumb’s *
State Home Administrator: I’m going to be honest with you Kyle, your wife’s case is sever.
Kyle: *Begins to sob again and pull his hoodie up*
State Home Administrator: But, as you can see, our facilities are designed to help girls like Katie function in… Oh, for the love of–
*Man in a hoodie walks in *
State Home Administrator: *Confronts the man* Out! Out! For the last time, she is here for her own good.
*Kyle takes his hoodie off*
Man: She’s such a free spirit.
State Home Administrator: Yes, I know sir, but she is really very sick.
Man: She listens to the Smiths.
State Home Administrator: They all listen to the Smiths, sir!
Man: Okay, okay, um, I made a mix CD.
*The Manic Pixie Dream Girls start staring the man*
State Home Administrator: I will make sure she gets it.
Man: Okay, I’m writing a play right now. I’m in the middle of the first act and she’s–
State Home Administrator: Okay.
Man: She’s my muse.
State Home Administrator: *Turns to Kyle* Sorry about that.
*Manic Pixie Dream Girls begin staring at the administrator*
State Home Administrator: *Throws the mix CD in the trash and leads Kyle out* It’s best not to watch.
*Manic Pixie Dream Girls rush towards the trash can to retrieve the mix CD*
Manic Pixie Dream Girl 1: Do you think it’s ever possible to ever be truly in the moment?
Manic Pixie Dream Girl 2: The Native American’s believed everything is alive
Manic Pixie Dream Girl 3: This is real pixie dust
Manic Pixie Dream Girl 2: Even this marker!
Manic Pixie Dream Girl 3: from the wings of a pixie.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl 4: This should be a game where you, like, put this thing, like, here and then you can make a Jolly Rancher pass right through it.
Katie: I told him “The best place to see the night sky is laying in the middle of the street.” It’s the flattest place there is!
Kyle: She does seem happy.
State Home Administrator: Happy as she can be, I suppose.
* Manic Pixie Dream Girls look outside as it starts to rain, then look at the administrator for approval*
State Home Administrator: Yes. It’s okay. Go ahead.
* Manic Pixie Dream Girls run outside and dance in slow motion to the Shins*
Kyle: How do they do that?
State Home Administrator: We don’t really know. The cause of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Condition is still only dimly understood. Although my own theory is sever retardation of the brain. Excuse me, if I don’t go out there they drown.
Rishi — April 20, 2012
Cracked.com FTW. It is interesting how much cross over there is between Cracked and Sociological Images.
Laurie J. Rich — April 20, 2012
It was so good until the ablest commentary at the end.
Laughing Rat — April 20, 2012
Hmm, when I saw this video a little while back, I thought it really fell short of its potential and wound up being super creepy. It *could* have dissected femininity, but what it did was just slam women/female characters who conform to a stereotype, without asking any real questions about why the stereotype exists or who it serves. Instead, men were portrayed as the *real* victims of the MPDG stereotype, because they were stuck being caretakers for their MPDGs (which has uncomfortable connotations of ableist, caretaker-centric, "disabled person as burden" imagery). Use of a female actor to play the doctor at the institution made it even worse, because it was playing out the whole "good woman vs. bad woman" battle, which benefits only men, and it allowed male viewers to feel okay about aiming disgust at a certain kind of femininity because, see, that lady is doing it too, so it can't be sexist!
It strikes me as textbook misogyny. Sure, people already familiar with conversations surrounding these issues might watch this video and be able to use it to deconstruct the MPDG stereotype and examine how our culture creates a trap for women by pushing femininity on them, then reviling them for being feminine. Is that actually the intent of the video? Doubtful. And yes, the ableist commentary is repulsive.
aek08 — April 20, 2012
Disappointed in Sociological Images and the author of this post for ignoring the blatant ableism of this video.
State institutions are locations of extreme civil rights infringement and violence against people with disabilities. Using such a place as a punchline is unacceptable. It is not "quite funny," it is extremely offensive.
Anonymous — April 20, 2012
mannnn... this is slightly sad cause i love eternal sunshine of the spotless mind but this is making me think clementine kruczynski was supposed to be a manic pixie dream girl character :(
Rosemary CG — April 20, 2012
I really enjoyed this right up until the ableist bit at the end. I do think they could've gone a little deeper and looked at the fact that these characters don't really have much character of their own outside of their interactions with the male lead, but it does make a good point that these characters really aren't the type that could function in a regular society if they really existed.
Joseph J Kane — April 20, 2012
So... at what point do we deconstruct the man-child in the grey hoodie?
Schmoopie — April 20, 2012
respect to Nathan Rabin of the Onion AV club who coined the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Anonymous — April 21, 2012
Seconding aek08, but maybe less nicely.
Seriously? Institutionalization by romantic partners and "retardation" are funny to you and not deserving of a warning? Wow, you fail all kinds of empathy forever and ever. MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT. This, right here, is bullshit.
Guest — April 21, 2012
This would be a very poignant film if it didn't end on a lame ableist joke.
Kinda cancels out any point it was trying to make.
blacknwhitesalright — April 21, 2012
As someone with mental illness and disabilities who has had multiple short stays in state psychiatric institutions and multiple suicide attempts, I find this clip creepy and kind of disgusting, not funny. "Mental retardation" should not be a laugh line, ever. Psychiatric hospitals do not generally permit one to have shoelaces, let alone dance in the rain on a moment's notice. They can be places for caring health workers to give compassionate and improving care, but the system tends to punish those people and overlook (or even perversely reward) large amounts of abuse. They're incredibly psychologically difficult places to live, and a lot of people in them are treated in fucked up ways and kept for fucked up reasons, often involving race, class, disability, being Deaf, queer or trans, being neuroatypical, etc. They punish neurodiversity, willful self-advocacy, and generally don't listen at all to one's own experiences in handling mental illness.
As another poster said, my feminism is intersectional or it's crap.
Redpyramid — April 21, 2012
Can someone explain to me what "ableism" is and how it relates to the video? I am not well acquainted with all the terminology on the site.
I do agree with the comments on the horror show that are mental institutions and would include the farce that are many out-patient programs having experienced it myself. In a city and medical facility that is world renowned for their research on the brain no less...
Andres — April 21, 2012
I've never liked The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, especially as Sarkeesian defines it. Sarkeesian's definition of the MPDG is all-over the place and many of her examples don't qualify. Even Natalie Portman's character from Garden State (supposedly, "the quintessential pixie girl") contradicts Sarkeesian's complaint that MPDGs don't have "a life of their own; no family or interests..." because she does have a family in the film (she has a mother, an adopted brother, and many pets) and interests (she loves figure skating and music). While many of the women from the other films (such as Summer from 500 Days of Summer and Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) are hardly there to "help the male main character find himself, love life again, or overcome some obstacle". Summer has a fickle interest in Tom and is unwilling to be the ideal woman that he wants her to be. And, in Clementine's own words, "Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm going to make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's looking for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours." Sarkeesian's error is in targeting generally "pixie-ish" qualities like a unique (generally indie) taste in fashion and music, spontaneity, and enthusiasm and equating those qualities with a lack of agency or even shallowness and idiocy. And, in so doing, she only furthers an offensive stereotype.
Readsalot — April 21, 2012
I don't see why the MPDG trope is anti-feminist. The whole point of feminism is that women are allowed to have an equal place in society to men. There is nothing in the MPDG canon that relates to that. The MPDG is not interested in subverting or supporting feminism; she is interested in taking pictures of her own feet. To me, saying that the MPDG trope paints women in a negative light is the only anti-feminist aspect of the MPDG trope. To me, saying that a woman is weird or even crazy for dancing in the rain and listening to the smiths is the same as saying a woman is a bitch for holding a position of power and respect. People should be allowed to do whatever they want without disdain or ostracism from society, as long as they don't put themselves or other people at risk.
The joke here, obviously, is that MPDGs neglect their lives and their relationships and are complete slaves to their quirkiness. That's like saying that all Republicans spend their spare time shooting baby deer or that Democrats spend hours gossiping with homeless people. Humerous thoughts, yes, but mostly untrue. What people have to learn to do is to view the quirks of an MPDG as what they are: quirks. They do not make up the quintessence of her entire being.
Now, I understand that this video was made with humerous intentions, and I have no problem with that. However, I get the feeling that most of these comments were not. So, I respond to everyone who feels that MPDGs should be looked down on or disdained, and I say to them:
I am a Manic Pixie. I dance in the rain and listen to The Smiths. I wear flowers in my hair and I put sticky notes with my favorite quotes on my bedroom wall. I eat pancakes for dinner, turkey & mashed potatoes for breakfast, and I write (very cheesy and old-fashioned) songs on my ukulele. I also attend university with a 3.4 GPA and have a job with the school administration. I am a fully-functioning member of society and I still enjoy drawing with sidewalk chalk. I am a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and I am proud.
Anonymous — April 22, 2012
I'll agree that the punchline is a cheap shot and problematic, but I can't believe how obnoxious some of the comments are on this site. How dare women make fun of themselves and their portrayal in film and other media? You argue that they're serving the interests of men, while you think they should be adhering to your own agenda, while discounting the possibility that they're making an interpretation of the world that is their own.
Also, the male characters were shone to be a stereo typical part of the trope, it was more subtle than most of the humour and possibly my favourite part of the video.
For the record, the MPDG does seem to have some basis in life I've known a few, some have been in some form of psychiatric care at some point (I've even been a Manic Pixie Dream Boy at certain points of my life). Where their depiction in movies becomes offensive is that not only do they not confront the problems of the real world, they never actually have to, often due to a boyfriend ex-machina.
Fakrul Karim Ruman — April 22, 2012
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Chlorine — April 22, 2012
Not defending this, because it read as ableist to me, too, but I didn't really equate it to a mental institution until others mentioned it.
My grandmother has Alzheimer's and was recently moved into a memory care unit. I toured it with her, my mother, and my grandfather prior to moving her in, and it went pretty much EXACTLY like this video, but replace "MPDG" with "Alzheimer's." They had a safe closed area they were allowed to wander and basically do whatever they wanted, including crafts and going outside. We walked through it and my grandmother looked at stuff while the lady touring us explained how everything worked.
So, I don't know. Maybe they were basing it off that kind of thing, because it was EXTREMELY similar.
iz — April 22, 2012
This video has NOTHING to do with the MPDG phenomenon (a female side character created to enhance the male main character). All this is doing is just making fun of all quirky women and implying that they are "retarded" and need to be "fixed", when what needs to be fixed is the male idea that a female character's existence is for the sole purpose of enhancing the male.
In what world is being quirky the "ideal femininity"?? I've never heard that before in my life. This is just one of those hipster-self-hating videos that are, frankly, so effing old. For the record, I do weird shit, eat breakfast cereal for dinner, hula hoop and dance to music in my head and I mostly don't care who is watching. I also have a master's of science, pay my bills on time, and never missed a deadline. So thanks everyone so much for thinking I'm either hilarious/ridiculous/retarded or I don't really exist. Awesome.
Casey — April 23, 2012
I'm offended that these comments don't seem to admit that legitimate mental problems can exist and instead think that we should just "empathy" psychopathy away. The existence of these institutions isn't to destroy human lives, it's literally giving a place that's not on the street for a section of society that is statistically incredibly likely to be outside on the street. Tearing down mental institutions is all fine and good, except you really don't have any alternatives set up in this or any other society. Critique is fine except when it's critique without actionable alternatives. Without action your critique essentially becomes "well, I think everyone should just love each other all the time." Cute sentiment, but neither realistic or legitimately thought out.
Megan — May 20, 2012
Aaaaand of course retardation is a punchline. Because institutionalizing people with disabilities is hilarious.
strangeday — July 31, 2012
This video is extremely misogynistic. Read some Elaine Showalter, moron.
State Home for Manic Pixie Dream Girls « The Prime Directive — January 13, 2013
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