"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Saturday, April 20, 2013

manic pixie dream girl.

Now Playing: Back to December by Taylor Swift (if we loved again I swear I'd love you right)

So here's the thing. Last year, when I somehow managed to get attention from guys - the validity of that plural is questionable, but anyways - people would often say 'oh, it's only because you say interesting stuff'.

It's only because you say interesting stuff. Right.

I love how girls like to put down other girls by begrudgingly giving someone one positive thing, one tiny sliver of hope that they are vaguely fuckable, and then denying that there is anything else remotely nice to say about them. But the idea that it is insulting for a guy to like what you have to say, for that to imply that you're too ugly to get any kind of reaction out of the opposite sex...I don't know, I found it an interesting reaction to my very public nerdiness. I don't understand why it's insulting to make the (sometimes very true) observation that people appear to have no brain cells at all, but it's perfectly okay to say that anyone with half a brain is obviously a one eyed obese troll. I guess people have to come to the realisation that some boys like me, and it's not all about what I have to say.

Anita Sarkeesian at Feminist Frequency discusses a sexist trope known as the 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl' and, to be honest, I was a little confused by that one to start off with. I knew a lot of my appeal was what I said and, to the right audience, all the weird shit I do. Is that wrong?

Well, no. A lot of my friends are much more likely to say that I am intelligent or enigmatic or...slightly manic-depressive before they say that I am beautiful, and for that I am actually quite glad; physical beauty is a fleeting gift, ever subject to the whim of time, but beauty of the mind is eternal. But just like some girls wonder whether the people in their lives actually like them or just like their face sometimes...sometimes I wonder if they'd like me less if I took a break, didn't devote so much energy into being intelligent and entertaining 24/7.

I'm learning now that as deep and meaningful as intellectual connection is and how important it is for women to be more than just a pretty face, especially in relationships with men...real friends give you off days. Real friends love you when you come up empty and sometimes have nothing to say. Real friends don't run after thirty seconds of sounding like a total twat. Real friends are there for you whether you understood their spiel on right wing economics or not. Trying to hold people through intelligence is like trying to hold people through beauty...it just doesn't work. Real friends love you unconditionally, and I love them too. That's all it is, really. I still enjoy entertaining my friends with my antics, and I still love how my real friends don't judge me by how incredibly psycho I can be. But it's not all of who I am; I'm not the rebellious twelve year old in skull loafers and goth stockings anymore. I have...a little more substance now, I should think, being a uni student and all.

I was someone's manic pixie dream girl, and it made me realise how much I detested being cast in that role. The femme fatale, whilst definitely sexist, can be reconstructed into something empowering and I guess in some incarnations manic pixie dream girl might not be sexist. But as it is, in it's pure and raw form...it's horrible.

The manic pixie dream girl trope is described by media critic Nathan Rabin 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.' When I was someones manic pixie dream girl I couldn't say anything remotely meaningful, couldn't challenge a remotely interesting debate...they just agreed with absolutely everything I said or laughed as the musings of a seventeen year old formerly depressed and thoroughly confused uni fresher entertained the living daylights out of them. I felt dumbed down and repressed; reduced to a trope, really. There was no interest, only a morbid fascination.

I know talking about sex and sexuality is an important part of mature relationships and I have talked that stuff over before, made something work as best as sixteen year olds can. This was different. Not only did this person introduce the topic waaay too early - about two days after I'd met him - but that conversation began and ended with what he was comfortable with and what he wanted to do. Sorry, did I say conversation? I meant monologue. The second I said I was uncomfortable he flipped out, and that was the end of whatever the hell that was. Literally.

I can't be someone's manic pixie dream girl. It's one thing to find someone who is weird and quirky and different interesting and fascinating and blah blah, but that kind of attachment is purely skin deep, very superficial and extremely selfish. If you don't love me at my worst you don't deserve me at my best; and I know I put my friends through a lot.

I don't walk out on friends who haven't wronged me. The reason why I am normally pretty comfortable with fighting with people that I'm close to is the trust and the faith that we're not going to part ways over a little squabble. People have left me for the most irrational things, and some have even admitted that there was no real legitimate reason for our relationship terminating at all. And I know a lot of people will think that I cut ties for no good reason, but that's not true. I found people to love and I've left people to drown and if you're one of the latter then you've hurt me. Badly. And I will not forgive you.

It's not just that though...my friends really understand me. A friend of mine knew of me for about three years before he actually knew me and he instantly saw the discrepancy between what people were saying about me and what I actually am. When somebody does something wrong and hurts you, that in itself is not necessarily a warning sign - people fuck up all the time, I certainly do, anyway, and you can't imply malice in stupidity. But what is a warning sign is when they start their defence with 'I thought you...', especially if you have not known that person for very long. Even the people who know me like the back of their hand will still ask if I'm okay, if I like this, what I didn't like about that, ask me what went wrong instead of claiming that they thought that I thought something that I wasn't thinking at all. If someone is strange enough to be cast as a manic pixie dream girl her thought processes are going to be very unpredictable and possibly just a little twisted; and it's the height of arrogance to think you can just tell what people are thinking and then act on that thought you've projected onto your blank canvas of a woman. 'Are you', 'what if', 'should I'...these are all questions we should ask the people we love, not 'I thought you'. The idea that somebody was trying to start a relationship with his head full of preconceptions and misconceptions and stereotypes was...disgusting.

The final straw was when someone tried to get me to help him deal with his problems in the context of a week old friendship that might possibly evolve into something more if we he wanted it to once I wasn't a legal child. One of the first things he said when I tried to pull away was 'I'd just been dumped'. Emotional blackmail, anyone?  Only I didn't feel a shred of sympathy, at all. I don't feel any sympathy for old men using young girls as emotional crutches; which is what the manic pixie dream girl trope is all about. Nobody gives a damn about how she's feeling; she's there to help, not to be helped.

The reason why I liked older men was because I was always the youngest sister who never gets taken seriously, or the older cousin rocking babies to sleep and cuddling screaming toddlers and juggling formula bottles and dirty diapers; I wanted someone to care for me and care about me in the mature, grown up way that I'd always been without. I wanted someone to look at me in the context of something romantic, something sexual, something grown up and egalitarian; it's just not the kind of treatment you get from self-absorbed teenagers and well-meaning but over-coddling family members. I love looking after babies but their love is one of clingy attachment and childish affection; endearing in a chubby three year old drooling melted ice cream, perhaps, but not so attractive in a partner. The manic pixie dream girl is just a mother, without any of the authority; a relationship with a manic pixie dream girl is the most condescending, patronising, degrading relationship with someone who saves your skin and wipes your ass and gets nothing in return.

When I was younger I wanted to be someone's manic pixie dream girl - because that was quite literally the only way I could get any attention. But now that I have the kind of friends that stay up until three in the morning whilst I regress into early childhood and cry over something silly, now that I have friends who will whether any storm with me, now that I have grown up and felt the rush of attraction, of love...being someone's manic pixie dream girl is a cheap substitution to being a real lover, a real friend, a real person in someone's life. Because that's all you are, when you're a manic pixie dream girl - a projection of thoughts and fantasies, a blank page for men to write on.

I'm the writer. That's what people don't always realise until it's too late. Writing gives me substance and gravity and authority in a world where people are constantly made into shallow, cheap, voiceless versions of themselves. There is no accountability, with relationships with manic pixie dream girls; trauma is silence, and in silence there is no responsibility. But I like to think that no matter how badly people treat me I will always find a way to arrange some kind of comeuppance. I'm not a manic pixie dream girl, I am not there to lure you out of the doldrums of reality, I am not going to paint you a blue sky. I have my own life to sort out, my own demons to face, my own art to create.

No comments: