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

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?
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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.

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14 Inspirational 'Winnie The Pooh' Quotes For College Kids Feeling Like Eeyore

Of course he with the help of his friends.

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Winnie the Pooh and his friends were my best buds as a child. Now, as a college student, I've realized they knew more about life than I thought.

These 14 quotes from the 'Winnie the Pooh' movies, TV shows, and books, is getting me through this difficult semester, and maybe it will help you, too.

"You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." -Christopher Robin

"The nicest thing about rain is that it always stops. Eventually." -Eeyore

"The things that make me different are the things that make me." -Piglet

"It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine." -Eeyore

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." -Winnie the Pooh

"Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering." -Piglet

"Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be." -Eeyore

"Spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count." -Rabbit

"There's no difference between falling a thousand feet to the jagged rocks below and tumbling out of bed." -Tigger

"People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day." -Winnie the Pooh

"I always get to where I'm going by walking away from where I have been." -Winnie the Pooh

"To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks." -Eeyore 

"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for other to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes." -Piglet

"When you are a bear of very little brain, and you think of things, you find sometimes that a thing which seemed very thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it." -Winnie the Pooh

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The Cullen Girls: Part 18

Follow the lives of Meredith, Amy, Olivia, Sarah, and Jane Cullen, as they navigate the unknown territories that come with building a family through adoption.

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"What are you two fighting about now?" Olivia is sitting at the kitchen table with Sarah, and Amy is the stove making something mouth watering.

"Nothing," Jane mumbles, rolling her eyes as she comes through the screen door. Pete comes in behind her, hands up in disbelief.

"Really, Jane? You're gonna call that nothing?"

"Really, Pete? After everything you've put me through?"

"What did I do?"

"I'm talking about Davey. All that shit with Davey."

"Oh god, we're back to this." Sarah groans.

"Shut up." Jane and Pete tell her before turning and glaring at each other.

"What happened?" Olivia asks.

"Jane hates my girlfriend," Pete tells her.

"Oh my god, no I don't!"

"Aww, you have a girlfriend, Pete? And Jane's jealous?" Olivia leans forward, her own personal reality show right in front of her.

"I'm not jealous!" Jane shouts.

"It's obvious you don't like her - "

"That doesn't make me jealous. And I don't recall ever saying I didn't like her."

"You called her an airhead." Pete holds her stare. "To her face."

Even Amy is listening now. "Jeez, Jane. That's mean, even for you."

"Shut upppp!" Jane screams now. "I did not call her an airhead. All I said was that her comment made her sound like one. God."

Pete's face looks like he smells something bad. "You never have anything nice to say to her."

"You never have anything nice to say to Davey."

"I at least keep it to myself."

Jane punches Pete's arm as hard as she can, and his lack of reaction only pisses her off more. "Asshole! Go see your stupid movie with that airhead without me. Have fun explaining all of it to her the whole time."

"I will!" Pete is out the door, letting it slam behind him without another look at Jane. Jane runs for the door before he can get too far, yelling after him, "At least I get to make out when I go to the movies!" Behind her, her sisters are howling with laughter, and she turns her glare on them.

"Does this fucking amuse you?"

"More than you know." Olivia manages to get out.

"Well I can understand why you're amused," Jane shoots back, but Olivia is too caught up to be insulted.

……….

The change in Sarah is pretty quick. Her relationship with Ryan goes from casual to serious in a short time, and the result is the opposite of what her family expected. The same ends up being true with Olivia. She goes in the opposite direction with every step Sarah takes forward with Ryan. Her family goes days without hearing from her, and when she does grace them with her presence, she's short with everyone and downright nasty towards Sarah. After several dinners end with one or the other storming out of the house, Olivia stops showing up at all.

Tonight, after several minutes of hearing nothing but silverware on plates, Meredith asks, "Has anyone talked to Olivia?"

Amy looks at her mother, hesitating. "I tried calling before I came over, but she didn't answer."

"I talked to her yesterday." Jane offers, looking to Amy. "She said she wasn't coming, but I didn't think she meant it." Only Jane catches Sarah rolling her eyes. They both jump when Meredith throws her silverware on her plate.

"That's it. We are not having family dinners when family is missing."

"Mom, she's missing it by choice," Sarah scoffs, clearly annoyed.

"Choice or not, this isn't how this family works." Meredith starts grabbing everyone's plates as Sarah starts to protest. Her mother holds with a look that still manages to work, and Sarah knows better than to say anything more. When they reach Olivia's apartment her car isn't in its spot, but whether Meredith sees this or not doesn't matter. They all follow her silently up the stairs.

"Jeez, Mom, at least knock first," Jane says when Meredith pulls out a key. The last thing they need is to walk in on Ollie with a guy. Jane knocks loudly twice before reluctantly stepping back beside Amy. She doesn't like what they're doing, unsettles by what's happening between Olivia and Sarah. Amy puts her arms around her as they cautiously enter the apartment behind Meredith barging in with purpose. Sarah makes no move to follow, huffing and rolling her eyes in the hall.

"Sarah," Meredith warns without ever turning around. Sarah appears in the doorway, arms folded tightly across her chest. Ignoring her mom, she takes her glare and sits on the couch.

"Olivia?" Meredith walks through the apartment calling for her daughter. Jane looks out the window, finding Olivia exactly where she thought she'd be. Cigarette in hand, she sits on her balcony with a look on her face that Jane doesn't recognize. Amy comes to see what she's looking at, Meredith behind them cleaning up, unaware that Olivia's actually home.

"Something's wrong," Jane whispers. "Ollie doesn't act like this." Amy sighs softly but says nothing. She turns to Sarah, still scowling on the couch. They catch each other's eyes, and Sarah's expression hardens.

"What is she out there moping?" Her sisters ignore her, but a few seconds later they watch as Sarah appears next to Olivia. Jane pulls the window open enough to hear.

"Dude, what exactly is your issue?"

Olivia flicks the cigarette away, just missing Sarah, who doesn't flinch. "I'm not talking about anything with you," she says coldly.

"Fuckin Christ, are you serious right now? You're gonna keep acting like this, have mom come over here all worried about you, about nothing - "

"I don't want to see you!" Olivia screams, jumping up to get in Sarah's face. Jane is the one that startles as Sarah stands her ground. She's never seen her sister like this, and her expression is no longer sarcastic and annoyed, but confused. She starts to back away, unsure of what's happening.

"Too bad," she says. "I want to know why you're so mad at me. What is it that I did?" Sarah's voice gives a little, surprising everyone. It's enough to soften Olivia because she takes a step back, her face falling.

"It's not - you didn't…do - " Olivia can't finish what she wants to say, and with a hand to her face, she collapses into the chair. Sarah rushes to join her, squeezing herself into the space with her distraught sister. She throws her arms around Olivia as she breaks down.

"Ollie," Sarah murmurs. "What's going on?"

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