By Aislinn De'Ath

By Aislinn De'Ath
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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

10 ways to tell you're turning into a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl....

Reader, a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl is essentially the last thing you want to be (apart from dead. Or a woodlouse or something. Well, I'm exaggerating, shut up). There was a brilliant article written about them in the New Statesman (read the article, it's bloody brilliant). Essentially, we're the supporting lead characters (the character that really should be a lead but is only there to affect change upon the male lead's life) who wander around being a bit kooky and dancing in the rain to Nina Simone whilst knitting a hat for our pet banana. Were this the olden days we'd be locked up. Now we get seen as veritable Oracles for skinny boys who like vintage clothes and independent coffee shops.

The thing is, I (like so many girls in their twenties) did not realise I was a MPDG until fairly recently, when I realised how utterly irritating it was. I sew, I bake, I flirt awkwardly, I name things round my house (we have a pillow called Archimedes, a sewing machine called Bellatrix, a computer called Archie and we live in Bag End) and I have a terrible penchant for vintage style underwear. I also like tabletop gaming and have weird eating obsessions (mac n cheese with pulled pork and maple syrup anyone?). Which is all just ME. None of these things are things I cultivated, they're just aspects of my personality, but that doesn't stop people tossing 'New Girl' quotes at me when I talk about the healing qualities of cupcakes or wear fifties dresses to the pub.

I didn't realise how much I hated the MPDG tag until I realised that people were putting me in a weird, uncomfy box sort of thing because of it. Boys wouldn't ask me out, instead talking about me like I was some kind of bloody unicorn. I wasn't the girl that got grabbed and kissed at parties, I was the girl that kissed the boy then ran away, leaving them fairly confused (this has happened more times than I like to admit). I was the girl that boys would have long intense conversations with, looking soulfully into each others eyes (before they went out with the fairly normal girl who worked in an office, wearing clothes actually in fashion in the last 10 years or so). People didn't take me seriously at work, assuming I was constantly daydreaming (ok, so that one is partially true, but only because I could do the work with my eyes closed and it was INCREDIBLY dull). People make assumptions about you when you're perceived as a MPDG, and they're not always good. But look Reader, I'm going to help you out here. Here's some warning signs that you're turning into a MPDG, so you can stop before it's too late. (Don't ask me how, it's too late for me, I've already planned an adventure in New York and New Orleans for next year and am planning on wearing Victorian lace up boots tomorrow. SAVE YOURSELF).

How to tell you're turning into a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl

  1. People keep oversharing with you

You are that girl that people SEEK OUT at parties, at dinners, on the freakin' street, to tell about their deep, psychological issues. Or sex stuff that kind of makes your ears burn so hard they are close to exploding into ear-y catherine wheels. And then they look at you as if to say 'what should I do about it?' Most of the time I have NOWHERE NEAR the life experience to adequately answer these questions so I quote some literary or film character at them. Seems to do the trick. As does 'what does your heart tell you?' Which when it comes to Tinder related issues, has occasionally been changed to 'What does your foof tell you?'

    2. You are expected to bring cake everywhere you go

Reader, I bake. It's what I do. I bake in times of sadness, I bake in times of joy, I bake because it's a Thursday and WHY THE HELL NOT. But of late I have had to stop myself. Why? Because people have got to the stage where they EXPECT my delightful baked goods. It's got to the point that if I don't bring my delicious peanut butter brownies, people are OFFENDED. And does anyone ever bake me a cake? NO. (Ok, so my gran made me biscuits today, but still...). Also, there is a terrible thing where you're expected to both make cake all the time AND stay skinny enough to look good in high waisted shorts. Which is hard when you're an hourglass like me anyway! So I am now on cake strike. And a diet for the next two months in prep for my next film, my costume for The London Film and Comic Con and a stint at The Fringe. (There has been a lot of cake in my life of late)

    3. Guys will keep you up till late looking at the stars and talking about life, the universe and everything and then go shag the girl who wears nude shoes and goes to a salon to get her hair done

Sound familiar? This is the JOY of being a MPDG. Men will do the unrequited love thing, then worry that you are too flighty, too pure or too out of their league. Then they'll go for the girl who is higher maintenance but has heard less of their secrets. We do all the hard stuff, getting the guys to a point where they feel better about themselves, then they scurry off and ask someone else out. Story of our lives. The good thing about this is that you learn to get ok with asking people out yourself. Because you can bet they won't do it (they will assume you don't feel the same way. I didn't think this was a thing, until my male friends came to me for advice about women, and did EXACTLY THAT-go out with the easy option, who they feel less intensely about, but who earns a steady wage and doesn't ruin their bathroom with hair dye experiments. Meanwhile, my fabulous yet quirky friends were left going 'What did I do?!')

    4. Your wardrobe resembles a costume department more than a real person's clothing supply

I have ballgowns, petticoats, corsets, tights adorned with skulls, a crown, many many hats, fake flowers, all manner of 50's dresses, a Pat Butcher coat and a batman mask. You know what I don't have? Any clothes that are a) ironed or b) make me look like a grown up. Do I care? No. I love my clothes. Very dearly. And it may make more sense to buy some nice chinos and a cute shirt but let's face it, people are going to remember my cherry red fifties dress more than your various neutral tones from French Connection...even if you do look like you dressed yourself instead of letting a 7 year old do it...

   5. You know more songs that were popular before you were born than songs that are popular now

My mother knows more current music than I do. My voice agent asked me to do some impressions for a voice job and all I could think of was Monroe, Billie Holiday and Bette Davis... My I-pod is largely Sinatra based and I got super excited when I recently recognised a rap song on the radio-only to be told that it was 10 years old...

    6. Your life is one big adventure

The nice thing about being a MPDG is that you see excitement and hope in everything. Everything can be an adventure, so you approach life with zeal and zest and a fair amount of hyperactivity. You have about 10 escape plans at any given time and you have a list of VERY IMPORTANT THINGS you have to do in your lifetime. You know exactly what you would do if you won the lottery, and most of it involves running away. You also know that adventures don't have to be international ones. Marriage is an adventure, so is motherhood, so is your career. You just have to approach it in your special, unique way (which usually involves a spotted kerchief with cake in it and your favourite book)

   7. You live your life by the lessons learnt in books

Pippi Longstockings, Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre, Princess Kitty, George Kirrin, Nancy Drew, Matilda, Sara Crewe-we lived their stories along with them. And they now live in us. Which means occasionally we have a 'Look how puffy these sleeves are!' moment of joy in shops that people don't quite understand, find mysteries that we ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO SOLVE where there aren't actually any there and get urges to jump in the sea fully clothed or climb trees in our frilliest dresses (which we will always do, no matter how impractical). Books gave us our moral compass and our favourite quotes. We revisit them like old friends (Summertime is Lolita, Winter is Jane Eyre and anything Dickens, when I'm sad Roald Dahl brings me cheer and Oscar Wilde is always good for a giggle) and as such it would be churlish to ever have less than two books in your bag at any time (I get panicked if I'm stuck anywhere without a book for company, and my biggest decision when going on holiday is how many books can I pack) 

    8. You often get caught singing a song you made up about whatever task you're doing 

Baking, peeing, sewing, writing, name it, I have probably sang a little song about it. It won't have rhymed, nor been tuneful, nor will I know I'm doing it (apart from the times that I do, and in those times I'm pretty convinced I'm going to win a Grammy of some form)

    9. Your dancing is more like an old man at a wedding than a lithe young lass

I was not one of those girls who got asked to make up dances in a group in the playground. If you've ever been to a club with me, you've probably already worked that out. Knowing how to do the mashed potato more than twerking (still not entirely sure what that is) is a hallmark of MPDGs. 

   10. You keep getting cast as the emotional vunerable girl next door

You know what? I actually don't mind playing these parts, they're interesting, and complex and rarely straightforward. But I do get a bit tired of seeing in every script that this incredibly interesting character, who has her own rich life and stuff going on, is only there to influence what happens to the male lead. In Great Expectations I was Estella (perhaps the ultimate in weird emotionally buggered up girls next door who influences the male lead), I have played women who have awoken sexuality in men, women who have encouraged the men to be better people, women who spend the entire film or play talking about men. Which is pretty weird, because in real life, I don't make decisions based on how it impacts men. And I have quite a healthy emotional state. And I'm not really someone who has to have dead dramatic relationships or anything like that-but I get the feeling people sort of expect me to. If you're an actress in your twenties and you're even SLIGHTLY kooky, chances are you probably feel the same way. You have little choice in the matter. One look at your showreel and they KNOW. Girlfriend roles for the rest of your days...

The thing is Reader, I probably bring it on myself. I refuse to stop buying cute teacups, I am starting to accidentally build a wicker picnic basket collection and every valentines day I make tiny valentines monster pictures to give to my friends. My plans for next year include a trip to New York and New Orleans for a few months and my biggest quandry is how I'll keep my hair it's usual tangerine shade when I'm so far away from Superdrug (I may have to bring a supply with me-going back to having brown hair is NOT HAPPENING). I'm more excited about going to a comic convention than to most of the weddings I have booked this year. And I'm going in costume. Oh dear.

Anyway Reader, true to form, I'm off to dye my hair whilst I work and listen to some Elvis in the background...


  1. OMG, that is me. But I am still flattered. I know that this term (MPDG) was coined as a negative one, and I certainly DO know about my flaws and I have spent several years trying to change some of my ways (and I did, in many ways, but not the most important ones, which is quite sad, actually... but I have hope)... but as I said, I am STILL kinda flattered. At least I am not boring. The downside of it is that I am perhaps "too original" for men to really like me or take me as something more than a friend. Point number three is actually my biggest problem. I am, like Jane Krakowski´s character in Ally McBeal, " the heat-up" girl for most men (I dunno the actual term that was used in the TV series, but Jane´s character described herself like that): I am a girl who, in their own words, "heats men up and prepares them for another woman". I should probably learn not to be so friendly with them and act more seductive. Which will be definitely very awkward when I´ll try to apply it.