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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Women in Film: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl and 500 days of Summer

By Susuana Antubam

The damsel in distress, the subtle dominatrix or femme fatale are female stock characters that have been repeated endlessly throughout film history. The British feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey, wrote that in patriarchal society ‘pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female'. Look at Laura Mulvey's work by the way – she's awesome.

In a male lead film, women are usually presented as accessories, while in a female lead film, a lot of the time the women appears to be really lacking a man in her life. This isn’t always the case for all movies, but don't you just get sick of it! Take for instance, the Disney film Mulan, story of a kick ass mighty woman, that film was really going somewhere, but nooooo, she had to stop fighting in the army go home please her father, and become a pretty wife for Mr prince didn't she? Forget about being China's great hero Mulan! Go home, get married! Sit your self back in the social order you were repelling against for the whole movie. Anyway personal rant over.

So introducing one of the newest developments in women in film in terms of stock characters (new in comparison the the others): The Manic Pixie dream girl. Whats that? I hear you ask. Well she's the muse-like character, the breath of fresh air, usually single, fun and witty. Everyone loves her! She's not like the other women in the film, she's not afraid to talk out of turn, climb up a tree and sing Bob Dylan songs from the branches. And more specifically, she's a pixie version of wonder woman … that saves the man.
Well I personally didn't fully realise this aspect of the The Manic Pixie Dream Girl until I watched Tropes vs. Women: #1 The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Then it made me realise.... how comes we never really know much about this woman who comes out of no where and pops into the male characters life and saves him from himself? Even superman had history. What about herstory?

This moves us onto the film: 500 days of Summer REALLY GOOD but sad film. <SPOILER ALERT> 
Zoey Deschanel plays Summer Finn, the love interest of Tom. This film, as it says at the start, is a story about love, not a love story. I respected Summer's character at the start of the film, so what if she was uncommitting? she was pretty and fun, she liked The Smiths!
Tom falls in love with her, they start a sort of undefined relationship. If they had facebook it would probably “complicated”. But then she dumps him and gets engaged with out telling him. He's distraught, we're distraught, bring out the Kleenex. I mean what happened to the happy ending? Why did I expect a happy ending?... awkward.
However Tom does move on and his encounter with Summer does make him quit his job and start one he actually likes and meet a new girl... reasonably called “Autumn”. But at the end of the film the general consensus is we hate her and we are left screaming questions like HOW COULD SHE DO THAT? BAD, NAUGHTY HORRID FEMINISTY MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL!

But wait.

She fell in love with someone else after they broke up. Its not a crime. I now realise how much of the film we were seeing through his eyes. Why does it surprise us so much that she had another path in life and decided to follow it. Yes I agree she should have told him! But I actually respect her, even though that respect came through hating her first, we got to see a small side of the manic pixie dream girl, a side that didn't go with Tom and the happy ending but oh well... she did what was best for her and didn't go on living a lie. A great film... but not one I'm pulling out on this leap year Valentines day :P LOL

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