I was given a gift today. I was directed to a (savage) Twitter thread, wherein women – readers and writers, alike – were given the assignment of describing themselves as if they were a character in a story, written by a man.
The whole thing started because one (male) author was publicly boasting about his “realistic” female characters, positing that because he – and his male author brethren – could write such “realistic” female characters, diversity in the literary world wasn’t really all that necessary. Unfortunately, for him, things went steadily sideways from there. For a peek at the shenanigans, look here.
What was offered by the collective Twitter community was feminist snark in top form. But after only reading the headline, and sub-headline, I got the idea to take it a step further. It has only been fairly recently that I was enlightened to the misogynistic views surrounding the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope (more about that here). Before that, I was blissfully naïve in my own personal love of the Winona Ryders and Zooey Deschanels of the world. And I wrapped myself in the MPDG cloak as well.
I loved that the media took all of my odd quirks and made them into a character that kept occurring and reoccurring in movies and literature. Not my quirks specifically but to see a girl who would likely be found dancing, by herself, through the aisles of the bookstore or turn a simple trip to the grocery into an epic blockbuster adventure, made me even more confident in my weirdness. And I let that freak flag fly every chance I find.
Yes, she emboldens the male protagonist to be more open to the world around him but, as far as I was concerned, if my quirks and idiosyncrasies could bring someone out of their shell, teach them to be more positive and to have a greater appreciation for the little things in life, then HOORAY for that! Why did being a catalyst for another person’s awakening have to be twisted into this negative thing?
So, I decided to create an MPDG (me) from a female perspective, appreciating the weirdness, while also addressing the sub-headline of the above linked article (“[…] what happens when you try to write a character you don’t respect or understand”) by trying to understand and respect her for what she is. And then to write her as she would be written if she were what makes feminists hate the trope – a fantasy whose only depth is in her relationship to her male counter. And let me tell you, it was not as easy as it sounds. Because unlike the women of Twitter, I was actually trying to give her something other than boobs on top of boobs, while still giving her boobs, because let’s be real…
Without further ado, I offer you two separate treatments of the same Manic Pixie Dream Girl (me), starting with the female perspective (me, playing the part of Some Female Writer Who Is Not Me).
She carries herself with a confidence that is both infectious and calming. She makes it easy to open up and share with her your deepest secrets, before even realizing what you were saying. She makes it easy to have the same confidence in yourself, even if just for a little while.
She approaches every person and every situation with the brand of genuine kindness found in someone who hadn’t always received it. She loves those she loves in the same way; wholly and completely, because of her pain, not in spite of it. She treats every moment as if it holds the potential for an adventure.
It was rare for her to spend a day in public without being engaged in a conversation about her candy-colored hair or handwritten tattoos. They all lament an inability to “pull it off,” applauding her courage. Courage, she thinks, is not what drives her to paint the walls of the temple, and so she smiles, genuinely, and dismisses the compliment with a giggle. Giggling is not her default, however. She laughs, with abandon, explosively and loud, a laugh that rings out above a crowd.
She dances, and sings, in even the most inappropriate moments. To her, music is the world’s most perfect art, and not to enjoy it is a tragedy. She tells stories with too many details because she remembers every single one of them. She wads and unwads, scrunches and unscrunches the muscles in her face when she is solving a puzzle. She describes actions as she is performing them – “Shrug,” “kick,” “chew” – because she believes those actions are more poignant if emphasized.
She is a tornado of twitches and idiosyncratic charm and if you are able to forget her, you probably weren’t paying attention.
She sits on the edge of the chair, her straight, rigid posture pushing her chest forward. Her brightly-colored hair draws attention to her, making sure that she is seen, that she stands out against every other girl in the room.
In fact, it could be said that everything – from her hair to her handwritten tattoos, from her ringing laughter to the elfish way she wrinkles her nose when she’s thinking – is an attempt to make people notice her. And it works. For better or worse, people notice her. For better or worse, people remember her. It is not easy to forget someone so maddening.
She has a way, though, of making people do things they wouldn’t do, without her influence. She knows how to turn even the most mundane of trips to the grocery into an adventure that would make Spielberg proud.