Jenny Constable: Why the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ image is damaging the dating game

31/08/2016
angela

CommonSpace columnist Jenny Constable says the Hollywood image of a 'dream girl' is messing up relationships

AS a follower of films, fiction and dating, there’s one particular trend that has been on the rise in recent years; a toxic phenomenon that has become evermore prevalent in the dating world; the illusive figure of the manic pixie dream girl.

But what is this creature, I hear you ask. Brought to us in films like 500 Days of Summer and Ruby Sparks, the pixie dream girl is typically the female lead and love interest of most modern romances. 

She’s pretty, but not in an obvious way. She’s somewhat clever, but not especially academic. She’s had a troubled past, (this makes her interesting), but she’s never too sad or emotional. She’s quirky, she’s funny and she’s always up for a 'good time'. She’s not like other girls; she’s a cool girl. She is everything you wish you could have in a girlfriend and more, but there’s one fundamental problem: she’s not actually real.

Brought to us in films like 500 Days of Summer and Ruby Sparks, the pixie dream girl is typically the female lead and love interest of most modern romances. 

And herein lies the issue. The very idea that a person who embodies the pixie dream girl persona could actually exist is inherently wrong and unhealthy, but popular culture has taught women that in order to be seen as desirable, in order to be special, we too must achieve this artificial dream girl status. 

But arguably more dangerously, this fantasy girl has conditioned scores of men to believe that this fictional character: this two dimensional, blank canvas of a creation, is what a girlfriend should be, and anything that contradicts this model just simply won’t do.

In films, the pixie dream girl is a mere plot device, used to assist in the principal male’s own character development; an extension of his personality, upon which he can project his own vision of what she should be. 

She’s a prototype, not a person. Her biggest faults peak at eating peanut butter straight out the jar (how endearing) and stealing her boyfriend’s oversized sweaters to sleep in (cute, I know). God forbid she has any real problems; that she might break down and crumble – she’s just too cool for that.

This fantasy girl has conditioned scores of men to believe that this fictional character: this two dimensional, blank canvas of a creation, is what a girlfriend should be.

That’s the problem, though – the pixie dream girl is too cool; she’s misleadingly cool; dangerously cool – those of us who have seen Gone Girl know how dangerous it is to reduce a girl to being just 'cool' (Team Amy all the way).

No red-blooded human is physically able to be that perpetually cool, especially when it comes to something as emotionally charged and consuming as a relationship. Nothing phases her, she is the epitome of zen, and nothing you could do would ever annoy her. And this is wrong.

I don’t want a manic pixie relationship based on superficial fronts and pleasantries, where although we look cute together on a coffee date, back at home our problems burn away just below the surface, forever threatening to boil over. 

When it comes to dating, I’d take my partner for everything that they are, the brilliant and the awful, and, in return, I would expect that same treatment to be extended to me. 

The dynamic of the seemingly idyllic pixie dream relationship so many of us have come to expect has led to destructive, fleeting romances that crumble at the first hurdle, and buckle under the weight of any problem thrown in their path.

That’s the problem, though – the pixie dream girl is too cool; she’s misleadingly cool; dangerously cool. No red-blooded human is physically able to be that perpetually cool.

The pixie dream girl is a disingenuous representation of what a relationship is, that places a focus on the packaging rather than the content. A human being, a person, is a lot more complex and much more volatile than your standard screenplay character; we are not figments of anyone’s imagination, we have needs and flaws and freak outs. 

My issues and quirks surpass that of vaguely irritating eating habits and stealing the bae’s clothes, and instead stretch to dark days of not leaving my bed, the occasional bitter tweet, and at times unashamedly having a little cry in the staffroom at work when it all gets a bit too much. 

Sometimes I need to break down, and to not be 'cool'. And this is okay, because to love someone isn’t about loving them because they’re perfect, it’s accepting that they’re not and loving them all the more for it.

Picture courtesy of Jenny Constable

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