My Photo


Stats & Etc.

  • All written content (c) 2005-2021 Billy Mernit, all rights reserved.

« The Truth About Bad Movies | Main | In Praise of Random »



Mark Duplass' character in SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is basically a gender-flipped MPDG. He's a Manic Pixie Dream Dude!


Hey Mr. Bennett: Must confess I've yet to see SAFETY, and now I'll seek it out.


I think that Colin Firth from BRIDGET JONES DIARY and affable Hugh Grant characters share a befuddled sweetness that women like, although I'm not sure if they also share the Pixie Girl's whack-a-mole hotness that intermittently arouses the lower chakras as well as the higher ones. Regardless, this video was a bracing wake up call. RIP Pixie Girl - I hardly knew ya (although that was the point).


I can't believe no one has said Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life. I'm 36 and for most women (and some men) in my generation he is the epitome of what you call a SSBB. See also, later Veronica Mars' Logan Echolls, who must be a subtype - Secretly Deep Rich Boy.

I know those are both TV rom-com, not film, but they seem such a perfect match.


Scott, you're onto something. Or on something. Maybe the Self-Deprecating Brit Wit (SDBW)?

Shananaomi, it's Jordan for sure. I like Secretly Deep Rich Boy - that's Redford in "The Way We Were."

Rob in L.A.

To me (and mernitman can let me know how far off the mark I am), the quintessential characteristic of the MPDG is that she is aggressively attracted to a guy (the male lead) for no apparent reason, and that she does most of the work (at least at first) to turn their encounter into a relationship. Also, while MPDGs are, like all female leads, pretty to gorgeous (it’s been a while since Marie Dressler was No. 1 at the box office in 1930), the male leads in this type of rom-com are variations on the nerd, which makes the “out of his league” MPDG’s attraction to him all the more bewildering.

So, to me, if a rom-com’s female lead doesn’t make an effort to be with the guy and (at first) take assertive control of the relationship, she’s not an MPDG. In other words, the MPDG is something like a stalker — but it’s okay because the kind of guy she’s stalking (the kinda-sorta nerd) isn’t used to having pretty girls/women shadowing him.

For this reason, I don’t think that there is a male equivalent of the MPDG because there’s nothing particularly lighthearted about a male stalking a female. (And the female lead can’t be a nerd because large audiences don’t go for leading ladies who aren’t pretty — or at least homely caterpillars waiting to become attractive butterflies — sad but true.)

In the SSBB stories that I’m familiar with, the female still does most of the work to bring out the guy’s sweet side. So, the roles of the MPDG and the SSBB aren’t commensurate.

In “Safety Not Guaranteed” (still my favorite film of the year so far — sorry, Abe), Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is compelled by her job to actively seek out Kenneth (Mark Duplass) and work to gain his trust. In other words, Darius is forced to play the role of Kenneth’s MPDG. If SNG were made ten years ago, it’s easy to imagine the story being told from Kenneth’s perspective, not Darius’.

To me, for the MPDG gender tables to truly be turned, the story would need to be something along the lines of an unthreatening, effervescent Channing Tatum actively and quirkily working to shake up the life of a frumpy Melissa McCarthy.


Manic Pixie Dream Boy - Ferris Bueller! The movie is not really a romantic comedy, but I think he's an early example of the type: he turns Cameron and Sloane's lives upside down with relentless jazz-hands marching-band Peter Pan madcap adventures. He's got the manic pixie down - I'm not so sure about the dream boy part, although that's true of most of these characters. I can't really imagine what he'd be doing at 50, which is also true of most of these characters. He exists for that one crazy day to exist.

I like your notion of the SSBB (although Heathcliff is a straight up psycho) - I agree with the examples that everyone has given here and would add James Franco as Daniel Desario from Freaks and Geeks.

Meghan at Remnant Time has posited another type - the Humble Pixie Dream Boy. (She's a very good writer, so I recommend checking out everything else as well.)


Rob, I don't think you're off the mark - though I think there's wider room within the archetype - and I appreciate the considered analysis. Interestingly apropos, Uni had a rom-com project in development for Melissa and John Hamm that was very much along the lines of what you've posited for Channing (we lost our package for the project, sadly).

But meanwhile, beyond your more narrow definition of the male MPDG equivalent, if we're looking more generally at the type (i.e. not only defining it by that character's arguably most significant active function - chasing/stalking), I like...

Jen's suggestions, which seem spot on to me. And thanks for the link to Meghan! Nice stuff.


Watching "Elf" the other day, I realized that it may, in fact, be the only movie in which a male goes MPDG on Zooey Deschanel, who's weirdly enough plays a disconcertingly jaded blond.


Ivan: That's hilarious. You're absolutely right.

Rob in L.A.

Okay, possible male MPDG: Steven Pasquale in the Lifetime TV mini-series rom-com "Marry Me" (2010).


A lot of good observations. I haven't seen any of the shows but I know the trope very well. Some itenresting deconstructions of it exist in literature too the first example that springs to mind is John Green's Paper Towns . The narrator paints a portrait of his childhood crush that is almost PAINFULLY Manic-pixie at times, then later comes to realise her complexity. Good solid YA, worth checking out if you aren't familiar with it.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Billy's Books

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2005