The Trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Why It’s the Actual Worst

-by Dkeama Alexis, student volunteer

On one level or another, we are all familiar with the ways women are overtly objectified and dehumanized in various forms of media, but this practice has evolved to be disseminated in less obvious manners. One of these methods is the use of the ever-popular trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a form of characterization that essentially robs the female character of any personality whatsoever.

This term was coined by film critic Nathan Rabin during his review of Elizabethtown (not super on board with the title), the quintessential example of a film that makes use of this trope. He describes this role as a woman who “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” but who also doesn’t have her own personality fleshed out in the slightest during the entirety of the movie. Since his partner has been constructed as a blank slate that serves to inspire his self-development, the usually boring, exceedingly insufferable, always stuck-in-a-rut male protagonist can then foist his fantasies and desires onto his partner and find fulfillment, happiness, and/or success in that way, a practice that essentially robs the woman of her own personhood.

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The Last of Us: Moral Grey Areas and Repetition of Narrative

by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

-trigger warning for discussion of scenes of violence against women of color

The videogame the Last of Us has been out for a few months now (June 14th, 2013), and there’s been plenty of general and feminist discussion about it. The game is a zombie game, with the main character Joel attempting to guide Ellie, whose blood carries a potential cure, to the Fireflies, an organization who may be able to synthesize a cure from Ellie. The game does a lot of things well, and a lot of things just average. In July, Carolyn Petit wrote this great article discussing that while the game features women characters who are treated as human beings, and while this is sadly shocking, this standard should be the bare minimum narratively. Petit also points out that while game critics and reviewers have lauded The Last of Us for its women as people stance, the game nonetheless presents players with yet another “emotionally distant white male protagonist.” I too would have liked, as Petit presents in a hypothetical, for Joel’s partner Tess to have been the protagonist, with the game building up to a mother-daughter salvation narrative rather than yet another father-daughter one (which, as I will point out, there have been a lot of). But of course, Tess has to die, because, as Petit points out: “Far from subverting the typical game narrative about violent men, The Last of Us reinforces the notion that stories about men are more valuable and meaningful than stories about women, and that women are often important not so much for being fully-fledged people in their own right, but for what they–and often, what their deaths–mean to the men of the world. “

last of us

Petit’s points are all superb, but I would like to build on the article a bit, and discuss which women get to live through the narrative, as well as push Petit’s point about Joel as generic hero (so basically, if you’re reading on, you need to read that article first).

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An Open Letter to DC Comics

edited on 9/23/13 – I was wrong about a timeline issue. Original text kept in tact, corrections follows.

(trigger warning for multiple mentions of violence and sexual assault)

Dear DC,

So, I saw that you thought that an art contest where the topic was a naked Harley Quinn committing suicide was an appropriate thing at any point in time. I also saw you thought it was appropriate to do this contest that trivializes suicide a week before National Suicide Prevention Week.

I saw that J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are being kind, decent human beings and leaving the Batwoman title after your editorial refused to let Batwoman get married to her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer, even after Batwoman has proposed twice on panel. I saw that you’ve been saying that this move has nothing to do with Batwoman’s sexuality, that its just that you don’t want characters getting married, but wow, does that sound hollow.

I’ve seen a lot of the shitty things you’ve done over the years. I’m like Martian Manhunter watching over the world from the Justice League satellite, in a way.

I have loved the world you own for over 8 years. I have bought movies, soundtracks, action figures, comic book after comic book. I have leant trade paper backs out to friends, recommended titles for them to pick up, bought them series as gifts. I loved your Animated Universe and would watch the Batman and Justice League cartoons over and over and over. I’d invite friends over and have viewing parties where we’d watch all the Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn episodes, or the Black Canary episodes, or all the Wonder Woman ones. I have given you so much business, poured so much money into your company. I love superheroes so much.


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Dragons Are Fine; Queer People Cross the Line

-by Gabrielle Friesen

Skyrim sure is a game that I enjoy sometimes. The plot and setting are kind of derivative for the fantasy genre (dragons and forests and surface-level references to Norse mythology wow, amazing, never before seen), and its not particularly challenging, but I still enjoy wandering around the environment and clearing random dungeons for hours on end. I enjoy the character creation a lot – I have thirteen characters right now, it’s a bit of a problem. The game lacks character interaction and development, which are normally some of my main criteria for buying a game. Basically the game isn’t stellar, but I still enjoy it. I’m weirdly addicted to building houses and sending out my Dragonborn and their spouse to slay draugr. They have matching warhammers, it’s cute.

And, hey! That’s cool! A game with marriage as a mechanic that allows same-sex marriage too! Great? Sort of. Skyrim takes a stab at inclusivity with the ability to marry any of the available love interests, which is nice, that they added in marriage and didn’t just restrict it to straight marriage. But that’s as far as the game goes. It very much takes the real-world stance that marriage access equals equality, and promptly stops trying to integrate same-sex attraction on any further level, even though straightness is embedded far deeper in the game in places other than the marriage function.

Photo from

Marriage Ceremony at the Temple of Mara from
Text Reads: Maramal: We gather here today, under Mara’s loving gaze, to bear witness to the union of two souls in eternal companionship.

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Pacific Rim Made Me Smile; The Movie Trailers Beforehand Made Me Seethe in Rage

-by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

Edit additions added on 8/05/13

Pacific Rim is a really great movie about robots punching monsters, and you should really go see it. In the second scene of the movie, it looks like yet another generic Hollywood action film. One white guy growls to another white guy something about muscles while piloting a giant robot suit. This generic opening is brilliant though, in that it shows what the movie could have been: another dumb white-dude centric action movie. But the movie quickly moves away from that, not only injecting soul into what at first glance was a generic action archetype, but reversing almost every stupid Hollywood action movie trend throughout the rest of the film.


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Feminism and Videogames (part 2)

– by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

In last week’s post I mentioned my frustration with mainstream feminist academia’s illiteracy in regards to videogames. Since conversation has in my experience often stalled around Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) and Duke Nukem (assumedly the first one from 1991), I thought I would bring up some more recent and some more varied points of discussion, and questions that it would be cool if women and gender studies as a field got more caught up with (not in any way a comprehensive list).

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Feminism and Videogames (Part 1)

-by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

Videogames are one of my favorite pastimes, but I have a love-hate relationship with them. As much of an escape as they can provide, they are often (painfully often) rooted in a lot of real-world issues and –isms. Obviously, media doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and people living in the real world and carrying around those –isms are the ones making those games. The videogame industry overwhelmingly works from the mentality that straight white dudes are either the only audience or the most profitable audience –which is really a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you make games that are offensive to everyone but the least self-aware straight white dudes, then yeah, only those un-self-aware straight white dudes are going to buy your nonsense. The problems in the industry aren’t things I deny. Analyzing videogames to the point of near un-playability is sometimes cathartic for me. And some games I really love, in spite of their deep problems.

Mainstream feminist academia, on the other hand, is often incapable of holding a similar multifaceted view of videogames. Continue reading