Wait, what? Isn’t Zooey Deschanel the embodiment of the manic pixie dream girl? In some ways, yes, which is exactly why what she is doing is so sneaky and underhanded and, dare I say it, empowering.
Take 500 days of Summer. The ultimate pixie dream girl setup. Sweet, fun, beautiful girl comes meets downtrodden melancholy man and literally turns his life into a musical number (ugh). But then, something is wrong. All is not what it seems. By the end we realize that the man was seeing it exactly what he wanted in her (the MPDG) but wasn’t seeing what she really was: moody, sometimes rude and really only using him for sex. She wasn’t going to save him at all but instead break his heart and make everything far worse. He literally couldn’t see past the fantasy. The funny thing Zooey was still known as the manic pixie, everyone seemed to disregard the second half of the film too. For example, this article here, although their description of the Manic Pixie Dream Guy is priceless.
Okay. I’ll admit it. I have been avoiding New Girl all year. Walking through St Kilda and seeing a row of yellow flags with Zooey’s face and the slogan ‘Adorkable’ was intensely irritating. And the idea of a show based on her being the embodiment of twee while looking for a man seemed grating. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a grown woman putting on a poofy dress and acting like an eight year old girl. But one fateful evening (last week) I caught the last fifteen minutes of the show on my sisters shitty little TV and I was hooked. Somehow she was being adorkable and I was loving it and I didn’t know why. And then I realized one of the steps was missing, she was being the ‘manic pixie dream girl’, she was coming into the lives of three sad jaded men, and she was intensely irritating all of them. Really, after all, she was subverting the role again. For example, in the third episode, she is taken along to a wedding as a pretend date of one of her new housemates. She is fun and silly and looks beautiful in a tiny dress. She points out that she is wearing her childhood pink slinky boxers to fit into the dress. So far, so twee. But by the third act she is drunk and sitting in the bathroom sink cutting the boxers off with a knife (they were cutting off the blood supply to her legs) while wearing false teeth and talking in a fake hillbilly voice. Oh. She manages to take the manic pixie into reality where it is super weird, somewhat annoying and definitely by no means anyone’s dream girl.