A “trope” refers to a common or reoccuring theme or device often used in movies, works of literature, games, etc.
One very common trope is that of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The term was first coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in 2005. Rabin described the Manic Pixie Dream Girl as a character who “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”.
In simpler terms, this refers to a female character who serves the sole purpose of entering the lives of boring white men and through her child-like and bubbly personality makes him enjoy life again. The Manic Pixie Dream girl has seemingly no future plans of her own, no family, no job, no fears, no hopes… She seems to exist purely to help men find their way about the world. This reinforces the stereotype of women as caregivers always ready to give and expect nothing in return.
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is not a real, complete person, she’s a collection of male fantasies.
In Elizabethtown, Drew Baylor loses his job, his girlfriend and decides to commit suicide. His plans are interupted when he gets a phone call announcing his fathers death, urging him to return to his home town. Enter our manic pixie dream girl; a flight attendant named Claire who helps the down and out white, male protagonist to once more embrace life.
Other examples include Kate Hudson playing Penny Lane in Almost Famous (2000). Rachel Bilson in The Last Kiss (2006) as Kim. Zooey Deschanel playing Allison in Yes Man (2008).Keira Knightley, Anne Hathaway, Charlize Therone, Natalie Portman… the list goes on and on.
The trope has been around for far longer though. It began around the 1930s. With Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby (1938) and even Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot (1959).
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl has succeeded in perpetuating the stereotype that women cant do great things, they can only help men do great things. This is otherwise knows as a muse. A beautiful, interesting woman who helps and inspires men to follow their dreams and achieve things.
This mis-represents women as not full human beings. It insinuates that women are incapable of also having dreams and hopes of achieving things.
Its the reinforcment of the lie that women are not complete human beings.