How Dead Hannah Baker keeps the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Trope Alive
*pictured above: Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) from 13 Reasons Why
***SPOILERS AHEAD FOR 13 REASONS WHY, PAPER TOWNS, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. AND ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND!***
I know that some of you may be wondering what exactly is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Well there’s no text book definition but here’s one I found online from urbandictionary.com:
“A Manic Pixie Dream Girl or MPDG, is a term coined by film critic Nathan Rabin after seeing Elizabethtown. It refers to “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” A pretty, outgoing, whacky female romantic lead whose sole purpose is to help broody male characters lighten up and enjoy their lives.”
Now that you have an idea of what this is I’ll start by giving you examples. Usually the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, MPDG for short, is only there so the nerdy usually white male that is obsessed with them can grow from the experience with them. Now I know you’re thinking “how exactly do I spot one of these creatures?” Well guys it’s very easy and I’ll give you some tips. Most MPDG’s are white, have a wild outlook on the world, and are deemed gorgeous by the general public.
*pictured above: Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) and Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The first MPDG I can think of is Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind. She is a wild says whatever is on her mind kind of girl and meets poor Joel on the train. This film happens through flashbacks and dreams showing how happy she made him. The relationship went sour which it usually does with a MPDG and they both have each other erased from their memories. Dramatic, I know, but losing her and getting her back helps Joel in some crazy way. It’s like without her he can’t fully live his life and that’s just sad.
*pictured above: Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) in 500 Days of Summer
People love this movie and don’t even realize that Summer is problematic as fuck. Summer is this cool girl who doesn’t believe in love and basically drags poor Tom around for you fucking guessed it, 500 days. Tom thinks that Summer is the one for him and tries to date her and show her love exists. Even though they do end up dating things fall apart because cool, secure, witty as all hell Summer is still scared of love. I mean I thought that was a LA thing. It doesn’t take Tom to realize how pathetic he is until he sees Summer at a park AND REALIZES SHE FUCKING GOT MARRIED. Summer’s excuse is that she wasn’t sure about Tom but she was sure about her husband now…. LOL need I say more?
*pictured above: Margo (Cara Delevigne) and Quentin (Nat Wolff) in Paper Towns.
Last example is John Green’s book turned film Paper Towns. Quentin has been in love with the popular girl next door Margo. One random night Margo climbs into Quentin’s window and asks him to get revenge on her now ex boyfriend. They spend the whole night at the store getting supplies, ruining the boy’s car, and looking over the city they live in. Margo feels stuck where she is and unlike feels different tan her friends. Spoiler alert: she’s not. At the end of the night they both go home and of course nerdy Quentin is blissed the fuck out. Before I go in on this, we have to acknowledge that all of John Green‘s main characters are MPDG’s. It’s basically his forte. But I digress. Quentin wakes up and, surprise, Margo has gone missing. Quentin is determined to find her and believes that she left clues for him. Quentin his two friends and Margo’s bestie go on a roadtrip from florida to upstate New York and find themselves while trying to find Margo. His friends eventually leave him because no way in teen rom com hell are they going to miss the prom. Quentin stays and eventually finds the girl of his dreams. Turns out Margo didn’t want to be found at all and just like Tom in 500 days of Summer Quentin looks like a fucking dumb ass. Quentin makes it home in time for prom and enjoys it with his friends cause in the end that’s all he really needed… but it took a cross country road trip trying to find a selfish teen girl who doesn’t care about you to figure that out. Nice!
*pictured above: Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) in 13 Reasons Why
As we all know Jay Asher’s book 13 Reasons why has been turned into a tv show on Netflix. The premise is that high schooler Hannah Baker has killed herself and left 13 tapes for certain people to listen to. If you’re on this tape, you’re one of the reasons why she’s gone. Creepy right? Well in the book, which is only 288 pages, Hannah is a sweet girl who seemed to have the worst time of her damn life. The book is short so it seems like every event that happened to Hannah happens like one day after the other. Clay listens to his friend’s tapes in one night and it really hits you in the gut. Personally I like the book better but I am here to address the show. If you want to read my full opinion on the entire show you can do so by clicking here.
The problem with the Tv series is that by stretching the fuck out of this book they have to add on to the characters. Unfortunately Hannah is made into a MPDG from beyond the grave. In the show Hannah is deemed pretty by everyone around her. If the high school jocks think you’re hot, you’re golden am I right? What makes Hannah a MPDG is the way she treats poor Clay Jensen. Clay is the main character in the show and you find out what happens to Hannah by watching him listen to the tapes. SInce it takes Clay fucking weeks to listen to 13 DAMN TAPES only through flashbacks do you get to see what Hannah is truly like. Hannah on the show confused me after I watched it. I was like “Why don’t I like her?” Don’t get me wrong I felt for the girl and everything that happened was horrible but something was just off. She talked to Clay all the time in witty banter and even gave him a nickname. There were so many chances where she could have just kissed him or got alone time but she didn’t. The other problem with Hannah Is that she was so confident and cool, and filled with teen angst, it didn’t make sense for her to care about what people thought. It’s like she had two personalities. When we see her with Clay she’s this smart funny girl who seemed unattainable but when we see her with virtually anyone else she’s insecure and dying for attention from any popular boy in school. Hannah makes it seem as if Clay isn’t good enough for her when in reality he’s the only person she has. In the 12th episode while Hannah is taking a walk she ends up at a house party where all the popular kids are. Even though she thinks Clay hates her at this point she could’ve tried to talk things out with him. It just frustrates me that she would go to a rapist’s house cause she’s that desperate for attention. Why fight for these douche bags that have done nothing but hurt you instead of fighting for Clay?
Clay shows character progression only when he’s listening to the tapes. Hearing his dream girl tell the stories before her untimely death makes Clay a better person to people around him. I mean that is the point of all this but at the same time, it shouldn’t take tapes from a girl who has committed suicide to realize that hey, high school is hard don’t be a fucking asshole to people. Clay also grows some balls while listening to the tapes. He basically yells in the middle of the school hall and even lowkey bullies this kid Tyler. I mean Tyler was a creep but bullying someone would be the last thing on my agenda while listening to a dead girl’s tapes. I wrote this for me to get my thoughts out cause everyone keeps asking me about this show. Every conversation I have I always say that I didn’t really like Hannah so if you think Hannah kind of sucks I’m here with you. Hannah is the most twisted MPDG ever and yes it’s because she’s dead. Clay only grows while listening to these tapes which is kind of in a way fucked up. Even though Clay, unlike the book, gets justice for two sexually assaulted girls and Hannah’s life it shouldn’t take Hannah’s 13 tapes to grow. Hannah killing herself should’ve made everyone change and grow on their own.
I know at this point you’re probably saying “ I read this long ass article what is the point?!” The point is that women are not objects. Being a woman is hard and having to grow up is truly a journey. You have media constantly showing you how the perfect woman acts or talks or dresses. Going through high school you have to deal with the pressure of society and unfortunately care about what your peers think. I grew up from my own damn experiences. I didn’t just find myself cause I left a boyfriend or cause I cut my hair I learned that I am what I am and I can’t change that and I’m very happy with who I turned out to be. This is especially hard to do when you’re a black girl like me raised in an all white community. Why must men in these movies need a girl for them to realize who they are? I’m not saying it’s easy to be a boy but come on dude the girl of your dreams isn’t gonna finally give you this sense of Omg I know what my purpose in life is. Your dream girl is not your mom teaching you about life. You know what’s right and what’s wrong without a girl whispering you to the right direction in your ear. You can only figure out who you are by being you and it is completely possible for films and TV shows to show this without a MPDG. I know the show 13 Reasons Why is supposed to show how small things matter and can snowball into this big thing. I get it I really do. The problem is that they could’ve shown that making Hannah solely the victim and not a jaded Manic Pixie Dream Girl.