(500) Days of MPDG?

(500) Days of MPDG?

Aug 18

Today, on Twitter, Caroline started up a convo about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype and why it’s bad/whether women should ‘take it back’.  As is the natural course of such conversations, various parties threw out their favorite MPDG characters and, of course, Zooey Deschanel – or more accurately Summer, from Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer – got tossed out. While ZD kind of emanates MPDG constantly like an immortal firefly trapped in some sort of nerd crush object mason jar, though, I don’t think that Summer fits the bill at all.

Summer isn’t a typical Omega Male romcom, though it looks suspiciously like one at times.  Ultimately, it exposes the main problem with the OM/MPDG relationship as it’s presented in the type of movie that I’ll datedly call a ‘Zach Braff Film’: that it is obsessed with its gloomy male protagonist to the point that the female lead is an extension of the male lead, a panacea to his dysfunctions, and nothing more.  Which is fine, I guess, if you’re telling a story about a guy who gets over because of the love of a good woman. But is that the best version of the story you could be telling? UP told that story in two minutes and then kept going and treated Carl and Ellie as a unit (so much so that her absence through much of the film is like a character itself). Don’t luxuriate on it for ninety minutes unless you have something new to say, right?

But Summer….

Summer is a movie about Tom trying to make his life into a Zach Braff Film. He lays that template over Summer Finn, and is completely blind (though the audience is not) to the fact that she doesn’t fit inside the confines of it. Though she initially appears manic and pixieish because of her fear of commitment and her reticence, she is neither. She is operating in a system that she believes in and is comfortable with.

The point, of course, is that Tom is a self-defeating ass. It’s only after he finishes with Summer that he’s able to kickstart his artistic dreams.  Staying with her – staying with that fantasy version of what your life wants to be – was only going to make him stagnant and complacent.

And yes, the Autumn thing at the end of the film is a groaner, but it doesn’t undermine the message of the movie, chiefly because – on the surface, in the few moments we have with her – she is a better fit for Tom, and Tom has changed enough to ask her out. She seems neither M nor P and is his peer (a fellow architect), while Summer, as a secretary, was a rung beneath him (is that classist? Maybe? It’s there in the film, it’s not just me I swear).

What do you think? Who is your favorite Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Are they always a bad thing?