She’s cute — no, she’s hot. She has standards but throws them all out the window just for you. She’s cool, calm, collected and everything you’ve been looking for. Who is she? Why, she’s a manic-pixie dream-girl. Bubbly, funny and oh-so perfect, the manic-pixie dream-girl character trope represents the objectification of women.
This weekend, I re-watched one of my favorite films, “500 Days of Summer.” The film is a romantic comedy-drama about a hopeless romantic named Tom Hansen, and Summer Finn, a girl that does not believe in love. The film follows a nonlinear storyline recounting the relationship between Summer and Tom over 500 days. It begins drearily, and a male narrator starts off the film telling the audience that “this is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.”
Tom instantly falls for Summer when he meets her, but she doesn’t believe in love or relationships. They begin to spend time together as “friends” while kissing, holding hands and having sex. Eventually, Tom can no longer stand this, and after a fight, he and Summer begin dating. Summer, however, no longer feels happy after months of dating, and breaks up with Tom.
I have seen the film a few times and each time, my perspective changes. The first time I saw it was during the summer, and I instantly fell in love with the movie. I was upset at Summer for not loving Tom back despite his efforts and love for her. After re-watching the film now though, instead of seeing Tom as the victim, I realized that no one is the victim.
My anger towards Summer became directed towards Tom, and pretty much every guy that talks about this idea of the “friend zone.” Instead of getting to know Summer before falling in love with her, instead of realizing that Summer is a human and has the right to have standards and feelings, Summer becomes Tom’s manic-pixie dream-girl. She’s that perfect girl that he has to have in his life and without her, he’s incomplete. Without her, he believes he will never be happy and when she finally realizes that she doesn’t want a relationship, he resents her. He guilt trips her into a relationship and becomes angry, calling her a “stuck-up bitch.”
My previous view of the movie stemmed from societal expectations of men and how they deserve women, no matter what, but I realized that this is a harmful notion that permeates throughout the media, especially in entertainment industry.
Last year, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was one of the hottest songs out. However, if you listen closely to the lyrics, they are deeply rooted in misogyny and sexism. Drake sings, “Ever since I left the city you/ Got a reputation for yourself now/ Everybody knows and I feel left out/ Girl you got me down you got me stressed out,” describing how bad he feels because his new girl has moved on, as if he has a right to be involved in her life when he was the one that left.
He makes the girl seem like she has changed so much and become an awful person. He makes listeners feel sorry for him because the girl that he believes belongs to him is becoming her own person and doing what makes her happy. Poor Drake is left alone because “his girl” is no longer pandering to his wants and needs.
Drake is not the only performer that is guilty of this. The hit song “Don’t” by Bryson Tiller is dripping with sexism. Originally, Tiller seems like a nice guy that wants to help a girl out of a bad situation by getting into a relationship with her.
Despite having seemingly good intentions, he still objectifies her and feels as if she has to be his, singing, “Don’t let me just let up/ I wanna give you better/ Baby, it’s whatever.” To add the icing to the sexist cake, Tiller then sings, “Somebody gotta step up/ Girl, I’m that somebody, so I’m next up,” treating this girl like dating her is a game of taking turns.
I could go on with examples of films and songs permeating the idea of the manic-pixie dream-girl, but that would take years because of how prevalent these ideas are in our society. They’re extremely harmful and dangerous to women, and while catchy songs can be created using them, we would be better off without these stereotypes.