Manic Pixie Dream...Boy?

Curator's Note

At this point, most of us have heard the term “manic pixie dream girl” tossed around to mean all sorts of different things. The phrase itself has evolved since it was first used by film critic Nathan Rabin in 2007.  What was originally meant to critique underdeveloped female characters was quickly repurposed to describe any woman in film who is presented as a bit quirky. The increased attention given to the aesthetic of the manic pixie dream girl is part of the reason why the true critical meaning of the term has lost its value. Recently, this quirky and lovable aesthetic shifted to occasionally represent male characters in film, creating the manic pixie dream boy.

This charming, young man has taken the form of Timothée Chalamet in Lady Bird and Ryan Gosling in La La Land, as shown by the clip provided. Just like the manic pixie dream girl, her male counterpart is markedly different from other men in the film. He leads the woman to come to a realization, is an inspiration, and is more of an influence (either negative or positive) or side-character than anything else. Yet, unlike a manic pixie dream girl, men who play this role are given their own desires and more human personalities rather than being purely objectified. Therefore, the idea of the manic pixie dream boy is inherently different than the manic pixie dream girl because the male gaze is integral to creating the character who was originally defined as a manic pixie dream girl.  

The idea of the manic pixie dream boy as a response by women filmmakers to the manic pixie dream girl may initially seem productive, as it could potentially bring attention to the objectification of women in film, but the problem is that the term was initially used as a critique of an undeveloped character, and no matter the circumstances, lazy filmmaking should not be encouraged. Because of his inherent differences, the manic pixie dream boy must be renamed so he is not associated with the sexist phenomenon of the manic pixie dream girl.

Works Cited:

Beams, S. (2020, August 03). The misuse of "MANIC Pixie DREAM girl" is only Furthering sexism in media. Retrieved March 19, 2021, from

Stoeffel, K. (2013, July 29). The 'manic pixie dream girl' has died. Retrieved March 19, 2021, from

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