Manic Pixie Dream Girl is the female equivalent of a Prince Charming
Updated: Aug 25
I’m aware it is a strong opinion, so I invite you to read the whole post and then try to change my mind.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a female character introduced in the story as a plot device solely to change the male protagonist’s attitude. She “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures,” according to film critic Nathan Rabin (who later regretted having coined this term).
Naturally, people grew tired of those types of characters. “MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and such characters never grow up; thus, their men never grow up.” (Wikipedia)
MPDGs are usually static characters with eccentric characteristics. And their primary role in the story is to be the romantic interest of a male protagonist that lost perspective in life. The MPDGs are the ones who “rescue” them. Can you see where I am going with this?
If not, I’ll spell it out. Both MPDG and the Prince-Charming types are idealized characters whose sole purpose is to save the protagonist.
In general, neither MPDG nor the Prince-Charming type has its own plot arc. They don’t evolve as a character. They’re only there to provide a happy ending to their lovers. A MPDG and Prince Charming are the same characters in different clothes tropes.
After realizing this, it is interesting to analyze what are the differences between the male and female versions of this character.
Is your mind blown?
After this realization, it is interesting to try to understand the differences between them.
The first one: why do they exist?
Prince-Charming types are the romantic ideal of a damsel in distress. The hero saves her from an external menace, such as dragons or witches. In contrast, MPDGs are the romantic interest of lonely men running on autopilot with dubious priorities. The quirky, young MPDG helps him to see the little pleasures and gives him a new meaning in life.
Isn’t it funny how women must be rescued from a hostile environment while men must be rescued from themselves?
Second: what is the general perception of them?
Prince Charming is...well, charming. And MPDG is manic. Need I say more?
I will, though. The romantic ideal of a lady in these stories is older, reliable, and caring. Someone to love her unconditionally. This is labeled as ‘charming.’ A man’s ideal is someone young and peculiar. Someone who changes his indifference into awareness and gives him happiness. And this is labeled as ‘manic.’
It says a lot, doesn’t it?
I will not go any further with this analysis. I will only add that I’ve never liked princess stories. I’ve always identified more with the witches. Needless to say, neither of those characters, the MPDG and the Prince-Charming type, are tropes I like. But, if I have to choose one, I say that I like the MPDG better. Maybe because of the rebel aspect of being a ‘Princess Charming’ but nutty.
What about you? Which one do you prefer? Let me know!
See you next post,
Carla Ra is a scientist by day, sci-fi writer by night.
You can check out her anthology ARTIFICIAL REBELLION here.