Publication Date

Spring 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Ted Hovet (Director), Dawn Hall, and Jerod Hollyfield

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This project chronicles an in-depth character study on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope in film. The term was coined in 2007 by a film critic about a very specific kind of female character—one 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.” The MPDG has often been written off as nothing more than a stereotype or sexist characterization of a woman, but I argue that the MPDG can be much more than a flat character, as evidenced by the increasingly complex characterization of the MPDG in independent film. Based on case studies of several films, I discuss how the MPDG has grown from a supporting archetype into a well-rounded and multi-dimensional character. Based on a history of female depiction in film, a discussion of the critical interpretations of the MPDG, and these case studies, I argue that the MPDG has the potential to exist as a complex and realistic character rather than just an archetype.


American Film Studies | American Popular Culture