The other day, I posted something about how I’d come to realize that being tired all of the time wasn’t so much an isolated problem as it was just part of being an goddamn adult. So much so that if a kid ever asks me what being a grownup is like, I’ll probably answer “Being a grownup is being exhausted on a constant basis, and also your nightmares are about filing for bankruptcy now.”
It just feels like no matter how much sleep I actually get, I’m bone tired all of the time. As in, I’m so tired that my bones feel heavier. If I can go to sleep that’s great, but because I am a grownup and am around my bed only a minimum of the time, I mostly have to ignore how tired I am and depending on how long I have to ignore it, that’s when the headaches, dizziness and nausea start. I want to say now that I don’t really believe in chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, and that I’m not insinuating that something is medically wrong with me. For all I know, this happens to everyone and maybe other people didn’t spend so many sleepless nights when they were younger, thus unknowingly adding to this weird version of a biological clock that’s like “remember all those sleepless and crazy nights you had in your ‘20s? Yeah, well FUCK YOU for turning 30!”
I don’t even know how those of you with kids are able to function. I imagine my normal level of tired and then multiply that by a billion and it makes me feel like collapsing on myself. Is it love that does it? I know creating an actual life is supposed to unleash this Grinch heart-like, whole other level of love you couldn’t previously know was possible, but does energy and the will to somehow not die of extreme fatigue come from the same place? Physiologically, I think it would be an interesting subject.
And you know what else would be an interesting subject? Or maybe not interesting, but at least very helpful? To me?
If movies ignored their standard warning system about violence, suspense, nudity, etc. and instead put a warning label on every film with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl in it (Nathan Rabin’s original usage linked, but I kind of like Julie Klausner’s description better). God, I’m getting so sick of this kind of character and their batshit crazy redeeming qualities (for the protagonist, never for themselves) and it just won’t die.
I turned off a movie in disgust last night (in disgust!) because the female lead was a Manic Pixie Dream girl who:
– Walks around in a babydoll dress, Chuck Taylors, and a granny afghan.
– Is 15 minutes late for everything, even the apocalypse.
– Has hypersomnia, some enigmatic disease where she sleeps heavily.
– Flees her apartment in the middle of the night and saves only albums.
– Drives a Prius.
And you know, is just your standard flaky, silly, male-penned character way of avoiding responsibility but still getting laid. And rediscovering love, or some other make believe bullshit plot device.
I know this is supposed to be a tired subject and plenty of sources on the Internet say its dead, but they’re still making movies with Manic Pixie Dream Girls in them and just because they don’t wear hipster glasses and jumpers, that doesn’t mean they’re gone. The New Manic Pixie Dream Girl would probably be like Jessa from Girls, sort of bohemian but, because she has money, no understanding of what bohemian actually means, and who is described by a beauty site as “A 5 year old in an adults body. Wavering and wanting, going wherever her heart takes her, always in search of fun with a childlike innocence mixed with adventurous curiosity…I adore Jessa–seriosly, who wouldn’t want her to be their ‘crack spirit guide’.”
(grammatical and misspelling errors are the site’s, not mine – and they stay.)
Last week, the New Statesman published an essay by Laurie Penny titled “I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl” in which the author rails against the men who created the character trope, thus forcing her to become one. She had to, she argues, because she wasn’t blonde or busty and what other option is there for a kind of nerdy girl who wanted boys to like her? She also spends a fair amount of time writing things that have no place in the piece at all, like this:
“I felt it sometimes like a sharp pain under the ribcage, the kind of chest pain that lasts for minutes and hours and might be nothing at all or might mean you’re slowly dying of something mundane and awful.”
Ugh, you mean like that sentence? Look, lady, if that line didn’t fly at Bennington then it’s certainly not going to fly here. What a Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing to write, preferably at a vintage typewriter while wearing a thrift store tank top and a pair of frilly underwear.
As most Manic Pixie Dream Girls realize eventually (when they get evicted or HPV or whatever else happens when you don’t give a shit about real life), Penny shed her image when it was time to become a grownup with a job, goals, and (probably) no desire to hitchhike to Coachella this year. She’s still plenty bitter, though, and I say “bitter” because she doesn’t ever seem to take responsibility for her part in her former personality.
She claims that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype exists because men write the women they want, and that sometimes, they write women out of revenge or obsession. Which is true. But everyone who writes does this, and if women didn’t do the same, the genre of chick lit – which is, for better or worse (but the answer is worse), one of the most profitable genres in the history of publishing – wouldn’t exist. Neither would songs. Neither would poetry. Neither would any characters ever, because even though some people are writing to save the world, they’re also writing to grind a few axes and fantasize about some imaginary person they’ve always wanted. Based on the way a few of Penny’s sentences read, she’s not too far away from this herself, despite all her talk about being a serious journalist who writes about politics, dammit.
And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just how writing works, and I would expect someone who calls writing “the central romance of her life” to know this. I would also expect them to know that just because they no longer pose pigeon-toed in saddle shoes for photos or claim that David Bowie saved their life (but only the Labyrinth version, because you just try to talk to them about his ‘80s electro businessman years), that doesn’t mean that everyone has forgotten who they used to be. No one takes Manic Pixie Dream Girls seriously for obvious reasons, so forgive everyone for doubting whichever persona you’re choosing today. And above all, remember that you chose it. No evil male writer chose it for you.