Tag Archives: Media

Manic Pixie Nightmare

So, you have dyed hair, a mysterious past, and a bubbly personality. You also love your flawed yet lovable protagonist. So, congratulations! You might be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl! 

We’ve all seen the movies and heard the stories: the bubbly, kind female love interest falls for the dark, brooding male protagonist. His life magically changes overnight when the quirky female love interest walks into his life, forever changing his edgy ways, and they live happily-ever-after, “The End”. But what exactly is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope? Where did it come from, and who, if anyone, is the first MPDG?

The History

The term Manic Pixie Dream Girl was first used to describe Kirsten Dunst’s character in the film Elizabethtown. Her character, Claire Colburn, is the romantic lead opposite of Orlando Bloom’s character Drew Baylor. Drew slowly realizes that he is in love with Claire as he wades through his own issues of doubt and self-pity. A fairly standard MPDG plot, Claire gives her all emotionally and physically as the pair meets in rather unlikely circumstances. Claire seems to care so deeply about Drew upon their first meeting, despite knowing little to nothing about him.

Film critic Nathan Robin used the term as he described her character, along with other MPDGs, to “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.” This description fits perfectly for the male protagonists who are often paired with MPDGs such as Drew Baylor from Elizabethtown, Scott Pilgrim from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Andrew Largeman in Garden State, all of whom are brooding, edgy, down-on-their-luck male protagonists whose lives change upon meeting their perfect, effortlessly cool MPDG.

However, the history of MPDGs can be traced back much farther in film history. A “historical” example of the MPDG is Susan Vance’s character from the 1938 film Bringing Up Baby. Played by Katherine Hepburn, Susan is a free-spirited, scatter-brained ball of chaos. In the film, her erratic nature gets her caught in all sorts of zany problems with the mild-mannered protagonist David Huxley. However, throughout the film, David grows to love the state of confusion and chaos he finds himself in when with Susan. Susan, like Claire, is unsuspectingly brought into the life of our dull male protagonist, whose life is lit with joy as he meets his magical ray of sunshine, who loves and adores him. 

MPDGs exist in film and other forms of media: literature, anime, and all other places where brooding writers are creating two-dimensional women. One such example, found in a rather unlikely place, is Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451. Yes, that is Fahrenheit 451. With the books and the fire that you read for high school Lit. Not exactly the romantic comedy akin to the films previously mentioned. The character Clarisse McClellan is often attributed to being one of the first MPDGs, with Ray Bradbury accidentally creating the trope. This has even gone as far as literary critic Jimmy Mahar going to say “Bradbury has been credited, with some truth, with foreshadowing… I’ve never, however, seen him properly credited for his most insidious creation: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl”.

The Critiques

Since the terms’ inception in 2005, the MPDG trope has been largely criticized (and rightfully so) for its diminutive use of women as plot devices and stock characters. 

The main critique of the trope states that the MPDG reduces women who are inherently girly into nothing more than lifeless shells: useless unless involved with a man. The trope also lumps all female characters who have stereotypically MPDG-esque interests into one characterization, even when their lives and personalities are far greater than a one-dimensional trope. Again, this diminishes their lives, interests, and personalities as a whole into nothing more than feminine shells. 

Meanwhile, this can’t be farther from the truth. Feminine characters are more than just their bubbly demeanor and potential to make good love interests. They are flawed, which supports a major critique of the MPDG trope. MPDGs are written as beautiful, perfect angels sent from heaven to save their male protagonist from a life of solitude. Any “flaw” is merely a perfectly planned quirk that the male protagonist finds adorably unique to his new love, leaving no room for imperfection. But real women are flawed and imperfect. We get angry; we have interests other than writing poetry in the moonlight and being devoted to our partner. We are whole, amazing people with personalities and lives of our own. Something that the MPDG trope doesn’t capture.

The Future

With the history of the MPDGs, to its origins in Kirsten Dunst, and a banned book about banning books, where does that leave the future for the MPDG? Well, no one really knows!

Rabin himself wishes he never used the term in the first place, claiming that the MPDG has since been used for sexist interpretations of female characters, reducing fully-fledged female characters into empty shells for male protagonists. Rabin believes that the term should be retired, and an end should be put to the cliche.

Meanwhile, some people have taken a new spin on the MPDG, subverting the trope to make girly, quirky characters who don’t care for the male protagonist. One example is Zoey Deschanel’s character Summer from 500 Days of Summer. The male protagonist Tom Hansen holds an idealized version of his ex-girlfriend Summer, showing the dangers of holding unrealized and incorrect views of real, living people. Meanwhile, the audience learns that Summer isn’t the perfect, angelic person Tom has in his head. Instead, Summer is a whole person, complete with a past and flaws that Tom chooses to remove from his perfect version of Summer. In this instance, we begin with a MPDG, beautiful, idealized, perfect. But, we leave the film with Summer. Complete, angry, imperfect.

It isn’t known what the true future of MPDG is. Some people hate the term. Some people relish it in, romanticizing their lives to their heart’s content (myself included). What matters is that women continue to be written as whole people, with histories, trauma, and personalities. They can love and hate and do everything in between. They can be their own protagonist.

Featured Image by Bettina Mateo

“Is your Favorite Character Hot?”: Pretty Privilege in Media

Does being beautiful make your life easier? More interesting? Have a dramatic soundtrack or endless close-up camera angles? Hollywood obviously thinks it does. It doesn’t take watching more than a few movies or TV episodes to realize the entertainment industry is saturated with inhumanly gorgeous actors and actresses. Does this change how we as viewers judge their characters though? Today, we will be examining “pretty privilege” in our media. 

What is pretty privilege? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Characters can get away with more simply because the people who play them are pleasing to look at. They can be cruel, selfish, callous and downright evil. Yet, these qualities seem more acceptable because the actor is just “too cute to really be that bad.”

Let’s look at this stereotype of beauty and its correspondence to goodness through a movie most of us have seen: “Sleeping Beauty.” The main protagonist is kind, talented and innocent. How do we know this? Because she’s beautiful. With her golden hair, pink lips and glittering eyes (plus her being referred to as “Sleeping Beauty”),  it is not up for debate that the character is meant to be seen as lovely. The main antagonist on the other hand is malicious and harsh. How do we know? Because she’s ugly. It was not until the breathtaking Angelina Jolie took over this “antagonistic” role in the 2014 live-action film “Maleficent” that the character was redeemed as loyal and misunderstood. 

There is clearly a conditioned coordination between perceptions of beauty and perceptions of goodness. We have been taught to assume the best of attractive characters and the worst of unattractive ones. How does this idea of pretty privilege apply to less obvious examples of media though? To answer that, I will remind you of the once wildly popular musical TV show, “Glee.” Two characters share a shocking similar backstory: Santana Lopez and David “Dave” Karofsky. Both characters struggle with their sexualities in the show. Due to their insecurities about their sexualities, Santana and Dave lash out and bully many other characters. Despite their similarities, the fanbase tends to treat them considerably differently. Dave is treated with indifference or even hostility by most fans while Santana is widely regarded as a fan favorite. 

One could argue this treatment is because Dave threatened serious physical violence against another character, Kurt, in season two. However, the aversion to Dave by the fanbase predates this threat. In addition, Santana has also threatened physical violence against multiple characters and even made another character bleed by hitting him repeatedly with a dodgeball after the game was over. 

Both characters have the same drive behind their cruelness. Both characters display inclinations towards physical violence. Both characters are bullies. So, why is one loved and the other disliked? It could be because of how they look. 

Max Adler, who plays Dave, is certainly not ugly but he also isn’t depicted as the traditional Hollywood hunk either. Naya Rivera, who plays Santana, is known for her beauty though. Would fans have liked Santana so much and forgiven her so easily if Naya had been average-looking or even unattractive? While there is no way to say for sure, I’m tempted to vote no. 

Let’s look at an entirely different show to further explore pretty privilege in media: The crime comedy-drama series “Bones.” Just like in “Glee,” two characters stick out as having similar personalities that are perceived completely differently. Both characters, Oliver Wells and Rodolfo Fuentes are interns on the show who are incredibly brilliant but also incredibly arrogant. 

Now, what makes these characters different? Rodolfo is portrayed by the handsome Ignacio Serricchio. The show and audience is well aware of Rodolfo’s status as a beautiful man as other characters frequently comment on his attractiveness. He even has a line where he states “I’m handsome.” Oliver Wells, on the other hand, is played by Brian Klugman. Much like Alder, Klugman is not unattractive but is not depicted as extremely handsome the way Serrichho is. 

Despite having similar arrogance and intelligence, fans significantly prefer Rodolfo to Oliver. Even the review website “Screen Rant” ranked Rodolfo two places ahead of Oliver in their “Bones: All of Brennan’s Interns, Ranked” article. Could this fan favoritism be because of pretty privilege?

We have been taught from a young age to think favorably of attractive people so it’s no shocker that we’re often kinder to characters played by attractive actors. Next time you’re watching a show or movie, take a moment to think: Do I really like this character or do I just like the way they look? The answer may surprise you.

The best classes at ut: According to ut students

There are a LOT of classes at UT: History of Religion, Architecture and Society, Introduction to Geology, etc. So, how are Longhorns supposed to pick what to take this fall? How about recommendations from fellow students about the best classes they have ever taken at UT?

Without further ado, here are the best classes at UT Austin according to current UT students.

Disclaimer: Some submissions have been edited for length or clarity.

1. Life in the Universe (UGS303) – Ken Wisian

“Firstly, I enjoyed the main subject of the course itself. It is about the search for extraterrestrial life in the Universe and what is being done to progress this search. I was particularly fascinated by this topic. Secondly, I enjoyed how this course navigated this subject. The course dove into many different areas of study: astronomy, biology, physics, chemistry, a little bit of rocket science, and even philosophy. I enjoyed how the professor encouraged discussion. He encouraged students to interrupt and pitch in. This made the class fun and engaging.”

– Computer Science Major, 1st Year

Note: This class can only be taken by 1st year students.

2. Strategic Learning for the 21st Century (EDP 304) – Taught by various doctorate students

“The class was centered around how people learn information and implementing new note-taking techniques. Learning these techniques has really enhanced my studying. It changed my mindset on “memorizing” information. I would recommend this class. It teaches you how to better study in the college setting. “

– Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, 2nd Year

3. Race/Cultural Intelligence in the Age of Trump (UGS303) – Leonard Moore

“I learned that communication is the only way we can truly learn about people’s identities. In the course, we learned about the struggles that Latinx people, white working-class individuals and Asian Americans endure. It was nice to gain cultural awareness in an educational setting. The teaching style is very relaxed and Dr. Moore was very approachable. There is so much room for growth and errors in this class.”

– Political Communications Studies, 2nd Year

Notes: This class is only available to 1st year students and changes when the current U.S. president does.

4. Professional/Career Development (LAH104H) – Tatem Oldham

“I wish everyone had the opportunity to take this class with Professor Oldham. It’s a development course that makes internships a lot more approachable.”

– Sustainability Studies and Geography, 2nd Year

Note: This course is restricted to students in the Liberal Arts Honors Program in the College of Liberal Arts.

5. Intro to LGBTQ Studies (WGS303) – Ashley Coleman Taylor

“As a queer person, I found this class really rewarding to learn about the history of those that came before me, a history that is often overlooked and left out of mainstream narratives. I loved the intersectional approach Dr. Coleman Taylor took the course and how the material challenged me to reevaluate my perception of self as well as my own biases. I highly recommend taking any class offered by Dr. Coleman Taylor and the Center for Women’s & Gender Studies.”

– Human Development and Family Sciences, 2nd Year

6. Jewish Humor (UGS303) – Yitskhok Gottesman

“I enjoyed learning about Jewish culture and seeing how that culture translates in the comedy style of Jewish Americans from the 1950s to today. I enjoyed that the professor put in the effort to create a safe space for talking about modern comedy and addressing cultural differences in the context of comedy. I learned comedy is universal and is a way we can embrace our culture or connect with others no matter our cultural background.”

– Biology, 3rd Year

Note: This class can only be taken by 1st year students.

7. Reel Horror: The Holocaust in Film (UGS302) – Pascale Bos

“This class was super enlightening. We analyzed films made about the Holocaust, especially the American films made, and learned how censored they were. Hollywood films would often breeze over the brutality of the Holocaust and to make it seem less bad. The course was super interesting and it was eye-opening to learn about all the history.”

– Ratio-Television-Film (RTF), 2nd Year

Note: This class can only be taken by 1st year students.

8. Media Law (J350F) – Amy Sanders

“Media Law is an 8am class with dense reading materials so people think I’m crazy for loving it so much. However, I felt like I learned the most from this class and felt most engaged with professor Sanders. To be honest, law is really interesting! I loved using laws and cases that I had learned to structure an argument in this class. “

– Journalism and Chinese, 3rd Year

Note: You must have upper-division standing to take this course.

9. General Microbiology (BIO326R) – Peter King

“I really enjoyed this class because of my professor and the content. I especially liked it because of the circumstances we are in now. It’s really cool getting to have a better understanding of the “whys” of the ways certain things happen rather than just memorizing definitions. I enjoyed how Professor King’s lectures were almost like stories. It makes them more engaging.”

-Biology, 2nd Year

Note: In order to take this course, you must have credit with a grade of at least C- or registration for Biology 325 or 325H, and Chemistry 302 or 302H with a grade of at least C-.

10. Psychology of Advertising (ADV319) – Lee Ann Kahlor

“This class was super interesting and approachable even with no prior knowledge of psychology or advertising. I learned something in every lecture. There were no “buffer” or “filler” classes. Professor Kahlor is a great teacher. She’s funny, engaging, and cares deeply about her students and the subject.”

– Journalism, 2nd Year