Before there were Mary Sues, there was the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’. Famously exemplified by Natalie Portman in 2004’s “Garden State” and Kirsten Dunst in 2005’s “Elizabethtown,” the name refers to a stock character type – a young pretty woman who exists solely to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and all its mystery and adventure.
It’s an idealistic, vapid and limiting character creation said to be born in the “fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors”. The character has no discernible inner life, no goals of their own and don’t pursue their own happiness – their only point is to help a (usually white) male protagonist to learn a lesson. It’s essentially a white female version of the infamous ‘Magical Negro’ stock character type.
In a new interview with Vanity Fair, Academy Award-winner Portman looks back at her various roles and says that role and what it represents is one of her low points:
“I was very lucky that what I was cast in wasn’t anything deliberate – serious adult fare and not child-appropriate things. But I feel like I totally ended up in female tropes, like Lolita. And clearly, I was part of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl coining. I find it very upsetting to be part of that.”
In recent months, Portman has made herself one of the most vocal women in the Time’s Up movement and been very supportive of the #MeToo movement. Her new film “Vox Lux” hits cinemas December 7th.