As someone once said, history repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce. And then, finally, as sales pitch.
The A.V. Club‘s Nathan Rabin coined the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” (or MPDG) in an article about Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown,” in order to describe onscreen women — typified in that case by Kirsten Dunst’s absurdly supportive flight attendant — who exist “solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” The phrase, useful and perceptive, caught on. It became a thing. It even has its own Wikipedia page. And now it is being used to hawk cardboard cutouts of occasional Manic Pixie Dream Girl Zooey Deschanel.
“Gaze upon the ‘New Girl’ Jess Cardboard Standup and sing with us now, ‘Hey Girl, whatcha doin’? Hey girl, where ya goin’? Who’s that Girl? Who’s that Girl?’ Now you can take everyone’s favorite manic pixie dream girl home. The Zooey Deschanel standup deposits that sunny disposition wherever she goes.”
On Twitter, Rabin called the sight “fucking surreal,” and it certainly is. If an expression can jump the shark, this might be that moment for the MPDG; somehow this term of insightful critique has been defanged into cutesy ad copy. Then again, there is a certain kind of deranged logic in using a phrase invented to describe male screenwriters’ flat, superficial characterization of women to sell a two-dimensional cardboard cutout.
Read more of “The Bataan Death March of Whimsy Case File #1: ‘Elizabethtown’” or buy your own ‘New Girl’ Jess.