This post looks at the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope and explains her as an evolution, rather than subversion, of the male gaze as defined by Mulvey (1975) as discussed in my previous post (here).
A Manic Pixie Dream Girl (henceforth MPDG) requires certain circumstances in order to exist. Specifically, a male protagonist living a boring, emotionless life, who is probably rather uninteresting on his own. Enter the attractive, wild, playful young woman who’s a little bit crazy and maybe even breaks the law (both her craziness and law breaking are the ‘good’ kind rather than serious problem). For some reason, she focuses her energies on the protagonist and continually attempts to draw him out of his boring shell in order to live a freer, more exciting life. This is our MPDG (TV Tropes 2017).
On her surface a MPDG appears to subvert the male gaze, she is far more interesting than her male counterpart and actively seeks his attention rather than being unaware of his gaze. However, the male gaze is not just a way of looking male to female but the embodiment of the prioritized heterosexual male point of view. By inviting men to look at her, the MPDG reinforces this prioritization. Despite the jarring juxtaposition between her colourful persona and the dullness of male protagonist, her actions and existence still revolve around him. She embraces the position of being looked upon, rather than rejecting or being unaware of it, but she is still the watched object who does little to no plot driving. In Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, Ramona’s role seems to be limited to telling Scott relevant information and waiting for him to help, despite her being the one that has this information in the first place. Despite the MPDG being an active seeker of the gaze, the plot still very much belong to the male protagonist.
Rather than a tool of subversion, the MPDG is part of the male gaze’s evolution that attempts to protect it from challenge. She wants to be looked upon therefore the voyeurism is not problematic, and by reassuring the protagonist that his fetishizing gaze is acceptable, she reassure the audience of the same.
Mulvey, L., 1975, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Screen, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 6-18.
2017, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, TV Tropes, viewed 22/04/2017, <http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ManicPixieDreamGirl>.