I’ve been trying to write a literary essay for two years called The Death of This Dream Girl. I’ve never been anywhere “because of the movie.” I know that’s a thing, I know people do this kind of thing. This is my first time. I’m not sure I recommend that anyone watches Elizabethtown if they haven’t already. (FYI, it’s a rom-com from a decade ago with Kirstin Dunst and Orlando Bloom.) Historic downtown Elizabethtown itself is cute, though most of the film wasn’t even shot here. It was the name that inspired. The film got mostly negative reviews. It is very basic and quite lame in parts but there is the soundtrack and this one phone conversation and the road trip scene… Secretly, a decade ago I fell completely in love with the film, and like any love that was once real, it never actually goes away.
I am fascinated with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl concept. She didn’t have a name until 2005 but I’ve always been familiar with her. A film critic, Nathan Rabin coined the term after Dunst’s role as Claire in Elizabethtown. He describes the MPDG as “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.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.) Later, in an essay Rabin said he wished to retract the term because of what it blew up to become and its sexist implications. (Nathan, you just can’t take things back once you’ve said them.) Sure, she’s a character crafted purely for the male lead, and yeah, she’s fake but I have a soft spot for the charming MPDG. I love that she exists at all, even if she’s just in someone’s imagination. I mean, I don’t love her, I love the idea of her. I love her, but I’m not in love with her. I know her so well, because I have been her. I’ve played her role enough times to know I’ve got her down. I know her script. I know when to smile and when to kiss the boy and when to do that poignant look-back. I know how to forget about myself to save a man from himself. Over the years I have grown, I’ve had to take a good look at every part of myself. I have learnt I can be the MPDG whenever I want, but I also have a duty to be all my other selves, and I have many. Sometimes I imagine all my selves sitting down at a boardroom table, deciding who gets to speak first. My higher self sits at the head of the table, shakes her head when I let the Manic Pixie Dream Girl go first because she’s my favorite.