The "John Green Formula" Of The Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Entertainment

The "John Green Formula" Of The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

The quirky girl with a dark history might be "cool" in books, but does this become a toxic characterization of real-life women?

1999
The "John Green Formula" Of The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

John Green is a popular young adult fiction writer and YouTube video blogger, best known for books such as The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, which recently became top-selling novels and movies. Green’s popularity has skyrocketed since the release of TFIOS, and has generated buzz around his frequent discussions about the manic pixie dream girl and male-female relationships as teenagers.

Although John Green did not invent any of the recurring tropes heavily found in his books, the impact of Green’s books has led me to develop a theory entitled the “John Green Formula.” This formula is commonly found in contemporary young adult fiction where person X (typically a girl who is “not like other girls”) and person Y (typically a boy who may have a plethora of personality traits, more than the girl) come together under turbulent circumstances, fall in love, and may leave a problematic impression on readers. There are a million and one interpretations over how Green uses this formula; other authors are now showing signs of it as well.

...But, what is the “manic pixie dream girl” trope? “Manic pixie dream girl” (MDPG) is a term coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in 2007. Rabin originally called for the term to describe a female counterpart to a male protagonist existing solely to provide happiness to a brooding male without having any of her own independent goals. Later, it became misconstrued to define characteristics of all quirky, Zooey Deschanel-esque female supporting characters. Rabin later disowned the term, and now the MPDG has become a marketable trope for young adult authors.

In books, the MPDG can be a toxic character, leaving an impression on young readers, both male and female. Mainstream views of women are inherently sexist. A mold for the “ideal female character,” especially in books, is usually a girl who embodies unadulterated femininity whilst disassociating herself with the entire gender. Examples in contemporary culture would be Robin Scherbatsky on How I Met Your Mother, or Alaska Young in Green’s Looking for Alaska. In other words, the ideal is the “she’s not like other girls” girl. Although MPDGs are different than their original textbook definition, it’s the quirky girl with nice hair who reads books by dead authors and has curves that look like they’ve been crafted by a Greek sculptor.

Green relies heavily on MPDGs in his books. In his first novel Looking for Alaska, the main character, Miles “Pudge” Halter, is obsessed with his classmate and new friend Alaska. Alaska smokes, hides alcohol in the grass of the soccer field, and has been through countless hardships that ultimately become her downfall. Pudge places Alaska on such a high pedestal, Alaska had to get herself down somehow. Much of the book’s analysis is focused on the dangers of this view, and how we as people must imagine people complexly. Pudge fails to imagine Alaska complexly in the “before” but learns in the “after.”

Green’s MPDG continues through his other works, too; notably, Paper Towns. Quentin--or “Q” as he is referred in the book--has been in love with Margo since the day she moved next door, and wholeheartedly believes he is able to persuade Margo into loving him and “saving” her from her antics. According to Green’s response on his Tumblr, he said Paper Towns is heavily devoted to “tearing down the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in its entirety.” It is often interpreted as a romanticization of broken people (particularly girls) who need to be saved by boys in order to be happy. Critics and even Green himself have noted the impression this may leave on young consumers if not handled properly in context.

The reliance on MPDGs in Green’s work is overused, and Green could benefit from exploring other topics outside of the traditional heterosexual teenage relationship. The "John Green Formula” is taking over, and misused tropes used as a message against said tropes will get lost in translation. Many newer authors--such as Green’s fellow YouTube star, Zoella or Rainbow Rowell--have taken it upon themselves to emulate the characters in Green’s novels. In Zoe Sugg’s (Zoella) debut novel, Girl Online, the protagonist, Penny, has a very similar characterization as the typical female character in Green’s novels. She suffers from panic attacks and writes a blog, but her character doesn’t begin development until she meets a boy. Penny relates to Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars, who also (in the text superficially) found happiness through a male counterpart--or, the Manic Pixie Dream Boy. A MPDB is just as toxic of an atmosphere for young boys as a MPDG can be for young girls.

The "John Green Formula” has toxic facets that may accidentally embrace the nuances of fabricated fairytale happiness. When writers of books, TV shows, movies, and other forms of media create for younger, impressionable consumers, the typical response is to develop similar personalities to those characters. This real-life interpretation becomes dangerous in the hands of those consumers. To quote Green himself, “Books belong to their readers.” Green’s quote is significant to the dismantling of these tropes because consumers need to sharpen the line between fiction and reality. When entertainment media is characterizing women as “weak” and using phrases such as “you run like a girl” as an insult, the gap between fiction and reality is pushed closer together.

Despite the problems associated to the “John Green Formula,” use of this formula/MPDG is a marketable way of writing novels and producing entertainment. To provide an anecdotal perspective, when I was 15-years-old and chasing after boys, I wanted nothing more than to be someone’s MPDG. Being “the quirky girl” who liked books and indie music seemed much more interesting than the girl who likes parties and pop music--at least that’s what books and TV taught me. Thoughts such as that shine a light on the internalized misogyny deeply rooted in girl-on-girl relationships. Young girls are taught from very young ages to treat men as competition and that if you don’t embody certain traits to look more interesting, “boys won’t like you.” The MPDG trope provides a template for young girls to become more appealing to the opposite sex. Unfortunately, mainstream societal expectations of how women must act are influenced by the opinions of men.

Green plays into this ideal by showcasing its realistic nature, but readers may not recognize the lesson to be learned. Based on certain interpretations, Green’s use of the MPDG is genius, but also problematic. MPDGs are dangerous territory. Green is still a white, cisgender man who may acknowledge his privilege, but that does not stop him from benefiting from producing this type of content. In order to see the positive side of Green’s work, there must be more transparency in how women are perceived in books/media versus real life. Criticisms will not take away from Green’s success, but it just might open the eyes of consumers about the strict standards forced upon women in reality and fiction.
Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Swoon

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B just dropped the hottest summer single yet. It's called "WAP" and we're going to get into all the intoxicating lyrics.

This song empowers females and their sexuality. These women put the ridiculous music industry female beef to bed, and I mean tucked away in a coma.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

How To Write Down The Holy Grail Recipe Everyone Begs You To Make

Because everyone has a signature cocktail, cake, or pasta they bring to every potluck.

NBC

From back when I used to bring my mom's classic white chocolate chip cookies to preschool on my birthday to now stirring up my signature tequila cocktails at every friends' barbecue, I've always had a couple of standby recipes in my culinary rotation.

Keep Reading... Show less
Adulting

Meet My Cat: Cheshire, The Stray Turned House Cat Who Lives in Michigan

I never considered myself a cat person, but Chess immediately stole my heart.

Madelyn Darbonne

In 2016, a stray cat gave birth to a litter of three grey kittens on my aunt and uncle's property. I had never considered myself to be much of a cat person, but these furballs immediately stole my heart. I got to watch them grow up until they were old enough to leave their mother's side.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

How To Binge-Watch A TV Show —And Then Write A Review About It

Writing your favorite and least favorite things about a show could not be more fun.

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Looking for a new show to binge? Stop scrolling through your options and listen.

Sometimes a good show doesn't come down to the genre or the actors involved, it comes down to the fact that it is simply a GOOD show. If any of these things sound appealing to you, you should definitely watch.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

11 Reasons Why Getting A Cat Is The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Cats may mess up your puzzles but they'll always love you unconditionally — as long as you have some catnip, that is.

Scout Guarino

Alright, everyone, it's time to stop spreading the rumor that all cats are mean, aloof, and hate everyone. Like dogs, each cat has its own personality and tendencies. Some like a lot of attention, some like less — each person has to find the right cat for them. As for me, my cats Bienfu and Reptar have seen me at my worst, but they've also helped pull me out of it. They're a constant in my life and they give me the strength to get through the day in spite of my depression, and there's even scientific evidence to support it!

Keep Reading... Show less

I've been bleaching my hair since I was in seventh grade. Yes, you read that correctly, seventh grade. That's nearly 10 years of maintaining a very light shade of blonde that too-often brings about dryness and brittle strands.

Keep Reading... Show less

Chances are if you're here, you're probably interested in writing an open letter. Yay! We're excited to have you.

Of course, not all open letters are created equal. In fact, there's a recipe to writing one for Odyssey that'll get featured on one of our many verticals. When it comes to Swoon specifically (for those new around here, that's our dating and relationships vertical), we receive dozens of open letters each month, many of which are all very similar.

Keep Reading... Show less

With a new phone comes great responsibility: Do not break it! And the best way to do that is with a case. However, picking a case can be a challenge. No need to fret, I am here to help break down some of the best cases for the new iPhone SE 2020. Honestly, I think it's going to be impossible to choose!

Keep Reading... Show less

To some who have been out of the dating world for a while, it can be hard to get back into the swing of things after being single for some time. So, I asked 26 people what they think is important to know before looking for love again, here's what they had to say.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments