Across my social media profiles, from AIM in 2002 to Instagram in 2014, I’ve cycled through a lot of different ways to describe myself. The early years involved song lyrics from the pop group of the moment tYPeD liKe tHIs (brief reminder: this is a judgment free zone), which turned into Mean Girls quotes, which turned into me trying to wax poetic while mostly just not making sense. While putting together the early stages of this blog, I decided it was time for a “rebranding,” another way to describe myself with a little more permanence, something to hit the desired balance of intriguing and funny, interesting and unobvious. I thought for a while and brainstormed, but a small brush of inspiration led me to settle on what I think hits the perfect chord: “Aspiring Manic Pixie Dream Girl.”
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, or MPDG, is a film concept coined a few years ago which essentially describes a female character who has no central development of her own, and stands instead to serve as part of the male protagonist’s lessons learned, a stepping stool towards growing up. My personal favorite example is Holly Golightly, but there are myriad other examples of this particular stereotype. It’s a hotly controversial film tactic for a few reasons; largely that it makes the female character a prop rather than a part of the male character’s journey, but you can argue that women put themselves into the role of MPDG without realizing it, citing a caretaker instinct that just wants to help.
I think the reason the MPDG gets such flak for playing into that stereotype is because it’s seen as anti-feminist, someone who exists independent of her own goals and aspirations for the sole purpose of helping the male protagonist find some joy in a situation which is otherwise causing pain. I like to think of it as a joke, to aspire to be this archetype so widely panned and dissected in the movie world, fluctuating between anti-feminist and pro-joie de vivre, especially because bringing happiness or fun into someone’s life who needs it, independent of my own goals and aspirations, sounds like something to admire. It’s not to say I don’t have my own goals and aspirations at all – I’m an incredibly ambitious, motivated, competitive person; I have milestones set that I want to reach that have nothing to do with anyone else. But there’s no harm in being my flighty, hippie, positive (mostly) self around someone who might need a boost from time to time. I don’t think wanting to spread some sunshine to people around me in any way reduces or cheapens my ambitions and goals.
And yet, as someone who puts a lot of energy into making other people happy, it puts me in situations where I become a prop in people’s lives rather than a star player. Looking back at the past few months, I can even categorize myself in someone’s life: the rebound, a faceless entity there to help remind a broken heart that there’s a light at the end of it all. Finding the delicate balance of making people happy and making yourself happy is a hallmark of life, but only when someone meets you halfway. I keep hoping I’ve found the right balance, struck the chord where calling myself an MPDG is funny because it’s funny, instead of funny because it’s true.
Perhaps at the end of the day I’m just a Manic Pixie Dream Girl after all, a flower child existing for the amusement and the enjoyment of others, but not something to adore, not something to keep. Maybe it’s the hair, maybe it’s the tattoos. Maybe it’s the way I carry myself, maybe it’s just a fantasy for someone, like finding a real New York City gal on a subway and having her fall in love, just to see what it’s like. I don’t think it would stop me from sending out this love, because radiating the warmth I know so well is something I would never change. I can never escape that I had and have so much love in my life. Instead, I’ll keep sharing it with anyone who deserves it, who needs it, and maybe someday there’s someone who will do the same for me.