Our Attraction/Disgust Reaction to Manic Pixies

I've been turning this over in my head for a while, so these are just some thoughts, really, but with "why you need to date a crazy girl" going Kinky & Popular on Fetlife, and as a woman who thought being a 'crazy girl" was appealing and cute until I realized that there's a vast difference between quirkiness and actual mental instability, I figured it was time to type some of these thoughts out.

I notice that we have always had an attraction/disgust reaction to "crazy girls", both desiring not to be them (and struggling to resist gaslighting by authorities, partners, family, etc) and yet also being told that "crazy girls" are fun, wild, sexually free. One of the things that saddens me in my experience with mental illness is that sure, a lot of "crazy girls" are quite sexually free- because they're taught that sex is compulsory, and maybe people will love and protect them if they provide sex with as few boundaries as possible.

The sex positive community, in a genuine but misguided desire to suggest that "sex is nice" at all times for all people in all situations, further tends to push these women along to believe that they can develop worth by being sexually desired among these communities. "Slut" is seen as a thing of pride, which it can be, but we also need the self-awareness to deconstruct why we place such value on female sluttiness. The gendering of this is important and should not be ignored.

Additionally, we need to consider why we think "crazy girls" are cute and sexy, but "crazy boys" are dangerous and to be avoided (unless they're depressed, then they should be rescued). Could it be because of perceived vulnerability? That's... pretty creepy, really. There is patriarchy at work here, along with some weird ableism and almost a fetishization of perceived female weakness. I'm reminded of how male artists who were mad are often treated with reverence for their madness, while female artists who were mad are often discredited/forgotten for being so.

The manic pixie is a great example in my mind of the tragic female experience of mental illness. As long as it's unthreatening, it's seen as adorable and enchanting, not something that requires self care and clear boundaries. As soon as it becomes dangerous, though, and crosses the line from manic pixie into something darker? Then suddenly it's all "let's force her into an institution or put her on meds and shame and shun her".

When I deconstruct the manic pixie in film, I often see a depressed guy who meets a woman and ends up deciding to make radical life changes, often involving her moving in, in an incredibly short period of time. It's romantic, right? Except if you've been in that situation and know how it works. "Garden State" is all well and good, but I can promise you that it's only a few months later that Depressed Male Protagonist questions why he gave up his career to move back to his hometown and be with a compulsive liar, however "fun" she might seem in the short term. And she will become bored with his need for constant validation and their codependency. It'll end in misery more often than not.

I often wish the manic pixie's story would be told. I'm more curious about her, to be honest. I wonder why we as a culture laugh at her, when so many female characters in film are equally simplistic- just there to support the male character and led him along his journey. The supportive housewife. The attractive woman the lead wants to impress. The kidnapped daughter. The girl in the fridge. The girlfriend who gets raped. This is a widespread phenomenon, of which the manic pixie is just yet another example.

I probably have a lot more to say on this, but am at work. Curious to see what others think, what others have experienced. I may add to this later, so consider this a living document.

Categories: best of, community, consent, female sexuality, feminism, male privilege, manic pixie dream domme, pop culture, psychology

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