Archive for August 7th, 2008

There’s a certain sort of girl who crops up regularly in films, especially those of the indie variety. She’s kooky, she’s crazy, she dances to the beat of her own annoying drum, and her mission is to teach some boring bloke how to live. Oh, and she’s totally hot. The Onion A. V. Club call her, brilliantly, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and she’s “that sentient ray of sunshine sent from heaven to warm the heart and readjust the attitude of even the broodiest, most uptight male protagonist.” As Neal Rabin, who coined the phrase, says:

[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.”

So kooky! Yet so conventionally attractive (phew).

So kooky! Yet so conventionally attractive (phew).

Natalie Portman in Garden State, I’m looking at you! Why do I hate this kooky archetype so much? Well, for one, she’s always really fucking annoying, wittering on about pet cemeteries or rainbows or whatever crap the scriptwriter picked at random from his (and these characters are pretty much always written by men, presumably those who wish more girls would be pixie-like rays of sunshine rather than real people with boring stuff like jobs and political opinions) Big Book Of Kook. But here’s the core of the MPDG’s irritatingness:

the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype is largely defined by secondary status and lack of an inner life. She’s on hand to lift a gloomy male protagonist out of the doldrums, not to pursue her own happiness…. Oh, Natalie, your unconventional ways are so inspiring, and your beauty is surprisingly non-threatening!

I’ve got to disagree with the inclusion of Shirley Maclaine in The Apartment in this list, because her character is actually pretty world weary and cool; likewise, Holly Golightly is a bit too reserved for a true MPDG. And I think of Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby more as an archetypical screwball comedy pratfaller than a kooky pixie lady (although technically, of course, she fits the bill). But the definition of the MPDG remains spot on. No wonder none of them ever seem to have any female friends. You can never imagine any of the MPDGs saying anything funny or snarky – they just like laughing at life! Everything’s just so crazy! So they’ve made transforming some boring bloke’s life into their calling, and will work tirelessly until the boy du jour has learned how to ride a vintage motorbike, or indulge in some light shoplifting, or wear an unusual hat, or receive mildly non-vanilla sexual services, or whatever it takes to loosen him up. In fact, when you think about it, being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl all sounds like a lot of work, really. Kind of makes me grateful for my office job.

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Some mornings before heading out to work, I turn on TV3’s Ireland AM. The main reason – I swear – is for the Irish news headlines, not for Mark Cagney’s smug demeanour or Aidan Cooney’s out-of-placeness (and what is it with that stuff on his lips? He looks like a pantomime dame). There’s much wrong with the program – flimsy sets, tired formula and an over-reliance on daily fashion packages that are just glorified ad inserts. The items covered are clearly aimed at women and never stray far from the usual health, beauty, food, gardening set-up with the occasional serious piece. It’s as fluffy as a marshmallow, and not half as tasty or appealing.

Writing in the Sunday Times Culture Mag recently, the misanthropic master (or moany old toad, depending on your viewpoint) Liam Fay wrote about the programme’s Showbiz Correspondent Noel Cunningham, calling him a “perma-tanned middle-aged dandy with a migraine-inducing penchant for combining pinstriped suits with lime-green shirts”, or as Stephen Meyler puts it “a leprechaun who’s escaped from the reserve up in the Mourne Mountains… dressed head-to-toe in violent cerise pink.” Personally, and I may go to hell for this, he always reminds me a bit of Sloth from The Goonies in drag, wearing lots of make-up, loud clothes and the odd cravat.

In his article, Fay says that Cunningham comes across as a “tweedy bumpkin who has wandered into a TV studio and isn’t quite sure what to do”. But hey, not knowing what to do on TV hasn’t stopped half the broadcasters in this country who regularly appear on the tellybox. The “exclusive” nature of Noel’s big news reveals are very dubious. He doles out advice – while directly looking at the camera – to the world’s trouble megastars. According to Fay, Cunningham saying: “’Keep your chin up Britney’, straight to camera, adding a you-go girl wink as an additional morale boost” is both “creepy and hilarious”.

Yesterday morning though, was a new low – and not just because the newsreader referred to the plane that dropped the Hiroshima bomb as “Enola Gray” – but because of what passed for an “item”. Rosanna Davison was a guest, alongside the irritating Fiona Looney (how does that woman keep getting work?). Davison was there not to expand on her desire for world peace, most likely last trotted out at the Miss World Final a few years back, but to talk about the fact that she is now a brunette. Yes, you read that right. A whole 10 coma-inducing minutes of Rosanna talking about her now dark tresses. My leg involuntarily formed itself into a toepoke and I had to restrain myself form putting my foot through the telly. What’s worse, is that a slot on any TV show, even one as inane and lightweight as Ireland AM, is publicity that could have been afforded to highlight a serious issue, or to give some aspiring singer/writer/actor/sportsperson their 15 minutes of fame. Instead Rosie’s hair colour was deemed a worthy hook for a quarter of an hour of miserably dull viewing. The focus on appearance, and the “dark or blonde, being pretty is important” tone, was soul-destroying. No wonder so many girls grow up aspiring to be Barbie dolls, if this kind of vacuousness will get you on TV.

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If, like me, you like word games, this website is good fun, not unlike that word section in the Cranium board game (of which, more later…that game is just legendary). Playing this word game seems fairly altruistic too…for every word that you define correctly, they donate grains of rice to the UN World Food Programme. I’m not entirely sure whether or not these websites (like The Breast Cancer Site that pledges to offer free mammograms to women when you click through to the site) actually do deliver on their promises: I presume they do, but a few clicks can’t hurt, right?

I’ve managed a personal best of 48, but seeing as I don’t know anyone else playing this, I have no idea or not whether this makes me a lexicon legend. If you do decide have a go, report back on your scores…

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