The term “manic pixie dream girl” is a type of female character from movies which is forever associated with Natalie Portman. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean she likes it. Here’s a look at how she responded to her manic pixie dream girl character when she was first introduced to her and what she thinks of the character now.
This Natalie Portman movie has an especially bad reputation
Firstly, a little background. The Atlantic reports the manic pixie dream girl is an archetypal female character in romances. She’s quirky, lively, and exists to make a man appreciate the world more. The term originates from critic Nathan Rabin. It’s since been applied to Portman’s character in the film, a free spirit who really loves indie rock. Since the release of Garden State, the manic pixie dream girl has garnered criticism for portraying women as catalysts for men’s narratives rather than as the center of their own stories.
Garden State has a 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes which is fairly impressive. However, thanks to Rabin’s coinage of the term “manic pixie dream girl” and its subsequent popularization, Garden State has a bit of a negative reputation. This raises an interesting question: How did audiences react to it? According to Box Office Mojo, Garden State earned over $35 million against a budget of $2.5 million. Even if critics disliked the movie, audiences liked it quite a bit — even if it wasn’t a major blockbuster.
What Natalie Portman thought of her character in ‘Garden State’ before and after she made the film
So what did Portman initially think of her character in Garden State? When I read [the Garden State script] I was like, ‘Oh, this is a character that’s wacky and interesting, and no one’s ever given me a chance to play something like this,” Portman said. “But of course I see that trope and I think it’s a good thing to recognize the way those female characters are used.”
According to Elle, Portman described her issues with the archetype. “It certainly is stifling to be the one who’s enacting someone else’s idea of how a young woman should behave,” Portman said. “I’ve seen a real change [in the industry] since I was 20. But not a total change; you still see those roles of just being a dream girl or whatever some person wants you to enact.”
What kind of characters she’d rather play
Afterward, Portman discussed what kind of female characters she’d rather play than dream girls. “I’m into women who are interesting to watch because they’re as confusing, and confused, as we are,” she says. “That’s my favorite character to play: the one who messes up, but you understand what’s going on to make her do that.” Since Garden State, Portman has played characters who fail in movies like Black Swan. While she famously played a manic pixie dream girl, she’s moved beyond that cliche.
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