If we tried really hard to come up with something critical to say about the show as a whole, it’s that it sometimes veers a little close to beatifying its characters, as if every single inmate at Litchfield was either the victim of someone else’s evil or just a person who made a bad decision or wrong turn somewhere. It’s a good thing for the show to pull back a little from the broadness that defines its style and remind us that prison is also – and many would say “mainly” – a place to send people who are dangerous and sometimes even psychotic. There’s no better way to shock us into remembering this fact than by using a character like Lorna to illustrate it. Yes, it was one of those classic “Everything you THOUGHT you knew is a lie!” twists, but it was executed so perfectly that it made us wish we were watching a network or cable show in real time, just so we could get on twitter and gasp along with everyone else.
We thought it was pretty much a given that Christopher was not going to marry Lorna and assumed it was because he’d long since moved on. Anyone watching the show could see that her constant wedding planning was a total pipe dream and that she was just deluding herself in order to get through her sentence. But to find out that Lorna’s delusions are much stronger and go much further back than prison? To find out the extent to which she harrassed and threatened Christopher and his real fiancee, to the point of it being legitimately scary? That was a genuine “Whoa” moment. And yet, our hearts still break for her, even after the reveal that she planted a bomb under Christopher’s car. That’s a testament to the writing and to Yael Stone’s fragile, high-strung performance. The scene in Christopher’s house went from tense to full on batshit crazy slowly, letting you come to terms with the idea that Lorna is quite a different person than you thought. By the time she’s naked in the tub with a wedding veil on, you’ve got your face in your hands, begging her to get out of there; pleading with her not to get caught, even as you recognize that what she’s doing is very, very wrong. It was some of the best directing and acting the show has ever put together, making for one of the most talked-about sequences of the second season. A sharp, poignant turn that reminded us just when we needed the reminder of how much this show can be a knife to your heart."
The scene is the same as ever. Summer and sweat, and an imagination
incapable of seeing beyond the horizon. And today is better than
tomorrow. But the dead are what’s new. They’re born every day and when
they’re trying to sleep death takes them away from their drowsiness
into a sleep without dreams. It’s not worth counting them. None of
them asks for help from anyone. Voices search for words in the open
country, and the echo comes back clearly, woundingly: ‘There’s nobody
here.’ But there’s somebody who says: ‘It’s the killer’s right to defend
the killer instinct,’ while the dead say belatedly: ‘It’s the victim’s right to
defend his right to scream.’ The call to prayer rises to accompany the
indistinguishable funerals: coffins hastily raised in the air, hastily
buried - no time to carry out the rites, more dead are arriving at speed
from other raids, individually or in groups, or a whole family with no
orphans or grieving parents left behind. The sky is leaden grey and
the sea blue grey, but the colour of blood is hidden from the camera by
swarms of green flies.
—Mahmoud Darwish, “Green flies,” A River Dies of Thirst. Archipelago Books, 2009
I want to come back now
On June 18, 1964, black and white protesters jumped into the whites-only pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Fla. In an attempt to force them out, the owner of the hotel poured acid into the pool.
Martin Luther King Jr. had planned the sit-in during the St. Augustine Movement, a part of the larger civil rights movement. The protest — and the owner’s acidic response — is largely forgotten today, but it played a role in the passing of the Civil Rights Act, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.
J.T. Johnson, now 76, and Al Lingo, 78, were two of the protesters in the pool that day. On a visit to StoryCorps in Atlanta, the pair recalled the hotel owner, James Brock, “losing it.”
"Everybody was kind of caught off guard," J.T. says.
"The girls, they were most frightened, and we moved to the center of the pool," Al says.
"I tried to calm the gang down. I knew that there was too much water for that acid to do anything," J.T. says. "When they drug us out in bathing suits and they carried us out to the jail, they wouldn’t feed me because they said I didn’t have on any clothes. I said, ‘Well, that’s the way you locked me up!’
"But all of the news media were there, because somehow I guess they’d gotten word that something was going to happen at that pool that day. And I think that’s when President [Lyndon B.] Johnson got the message."
The following day, the Civil Rights Act was approved, after an 83-day filibuster in the U.S. Senate.
"That had not happened before in this country, that some man is pouring acid on people in the swimming pool," J.T. says. "I’m not so sure the Civil Rights Act would have been passed had [there] not been a St. Augustine. It was a milestone. We was young, and we thought we’d done something — and we had."
J.T. went back to St. Augustine 40 years later, he tells Al. By then, the Monson Motor Lodge had been replaced with a Hilton Hotel.
"I sat and talked with the manager. I said to him that, ‘You know, I can’t stay in this hotel. You don’t have any African-Americans working here,’ " J.T. recalls.
"He said, ‘Well, I promise you that next time you come down here it’ll be different.’ He immediately got busy," J.T. continues. "But he was one of the few people in St. Augustine, I think, that did some of the things that we had been talking about."
"So, to go back to St. Augustine, and it’s still somewhat the same — now, that does make me feel bad. The lifting is still kind of heavy, but I’ll continue to work as hard as I can, as long as I live," J.T. says. "I won’t ever stop, and I won’t ever give up."
T.B. LaBerge // Go Now (via thatkindofwoman)
When I coined the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” in an essay about the movie “Elizabethtown” in 2007, I never could have imagined how that phrase would explode. Describing the film’s adorably daffy love interest played by Kirsten Dunst, I defined the MPDG as a fantasy figure 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.”
That day in 2007, I remember watching “Elizabethtown” and being distracted by the preposterousness of its heroine, Claire. Dunst’s psychotically bubbly stewardess seemed to belong in some magical, otherworldly realm — hence the “pixie” — offering up her phone number to strangers and drawing whimsical maps to help her man find his way. And as Dunst cavorted across the screen, I thought also of Natalie Portman in “Garden State,” a similarly carefree nymphet who is the accessory to Zach Braff’s character development. It’s an archetype, I realized, that taps into a particular male fantasy: of being saved from depression and ennui by a fantasy woman who sweeps in like a glittery breeze to save you from yourself, then disappears once her work is done.
When I hit “publish” on that piece, the first entry in a column I called “My Year of Flops,” I was pretty proud of myself. I felt as if I had tapped into something that had been a part of our culture for a long time and given it a catchy, descriptive name — a name with what Malcolm Gladwell might call “stickiness.”
But I should clarify a few things here. The trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a fundamentally sexist one, since it makes women seem less like autonomous, independent entities than appealing props to help mopey, sad white men self-actualize. Within that context, the phrase was useful precisely because, while still fairly flexible, it also benefited from a certain specificity. Claire was an unusually pure example of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl — a fancifully if thinly conceived flibbertigibbet who has no reason to exist except to cheer up one miserable guy.
The response to my review was pretty positive but relatively sleepy. The A.V. Club was a whole lot smaller back then and the phrase didn’t really gain traction until a year later, when my colleague Tasha Robinson proposed doing a list of Manic Pixie Dream Girls for the “Inventory” feature of our site. The list, published in 2008, was titled “16 films featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls,” and featured, along with Dunst and Portman, Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” and Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
I remember thinking, even back then, that a whole list of Manic Pixie Dream Girls might be stretching the conceit too far. The archetype of the free-spirited life-lover who cheers up a male sad-sack had existed in the culture for ages. But by giving an idea a name and a fuzzy definition, you apparently also give it power. And in my case, that power spun out of control.
In the years since I wrote about the MPDG, I’ve been floored by how pervasive the trope has become. At first it was just a few scattered mentions in other critics’ reviews. Then Zooey Deschanel strummed a ukulele and became a Hollywood It girl and suddenly theMPDGwaseverywhere. During one particularly strange day in 2011, I read that Cameron Crowe (the man behind “Elizabethtown,” as well as “Almost Famous” and much else) was asked about the phrase and replied, “I dig it … I keep thinking I’ll run into Nathan Rabin and we’ll have a great conversation about it.” This blew my mind. I have been writing about pop culture for a long time but I could honestly not believe that Cameron Crowe knew my name and thought about meeting me someday.
But the more the cultural myth of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl expanded, the more my ambivalence about it grew. “Manicpixiedreamgirl” became the title of a young adult novelabout a teenage boy obsessed with a free-spirited female classmate, something I only learned about when a reader directed me to the book’s Amazon page. The author did not choose the book’s title, I learned in my one exchange with him over Facebook; it was his publisher’s idea. I couldn’t bring myself to read it. Critics began coining spinoff tropes like the “manic pixie dream guy.” Mindy Kaling name-dropped Manic Pixie Dream Girls in a New Yorker piece on female-centric films. And last year I had the surreal experience of watching a musical called Manic Pixie Dreamland, about a fantasy realm that produces Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Sitting in the dark theater, I thought: “What have I done?!”
Sure, part of it was that by that point, I had begun to feel a little like a one-hit wonder. But I also realized that I didn’t recognize the manic pixie anymore. Clearly labels and definitions are inherently reductive. And if you are a critic, labels and names and definitions are a necessary evil. But it’s a particular feature of the fast-paced, ephemeral world of online criticism that writers are always seeking quick reference points to contextualize their analysis — so the rise of the MPDG was in large part a creation of the Internet as well.
At the film site the Dissolve, where I am a staff writer, my editor has gently discouraged me from using the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” in my writing, less because using a phrase I coined reeks of self-congratulation, but because in 2014 calling a character a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is nearly as much of a cliché as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.
And I don’t need much discouraging, even when writing about a fairly clear-cut instance of a Manic Pixie, like Charlize Theron’s impossibly perfect, sexy, supportive gun-slinger in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” As is often the case in conversations about gender, or race, or class, or sexuality, things get cloudy and murky really quickly. I coined the phrase to call out cultural sexism and to make it harder for male writers to posit reductive, condescending male fantasies of ideal women as realistic characters. But I looked on queasily as the phrase was increasingly accused of being sexist itself.
John Green, for one, felt so passionately about the toxic nature of the trope that in a Tumblr post he declared that his novel “Paper Towns” “is devoted IN ITS ENTIRETY to destroying the lie of the manic pixie dream girl” before adding, “I do not know how I could have been less ambiguous about this without calling (Paper Towns) The Patriarchal Lie of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Must Be Stabbed in the Heart and Killed.” In an interview with Vulture, “Ruby Sparks” writer-star Zoe Kazan answered a question about whether her character was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl by asserting: “I think it’s basically misogynist.” In a later interview, when once again confronted with the dreaded MPDG label, Kazan continued, “I don’t like that term … I think it’s turned into this unstoppable monster where people use it to describe things that don’t really fall under that rubric.”
Here’s the thing: I completely agree with Kazan. And at this point in my life, I honestly hate the term too. I feel deeply weird, if not downright ashamed, at having created a cliché that has been trotted out again and again in an infinite Internet feedback loop. I understand how someone could read the A.V. Club list of Manic Pixie Dream Girls and be offended by the assertion that a character they deeply love and have an enduring affection for, whether it’s Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall or Katharine Hepburn in “Bringing Up Baby,” is nothing more than a representation of a sexist trope or some sad dude’s regressive fantasy.
It doesn’t make sense that a character as nuanced and unforgettable as Annie Hall could exist solely to cheer up Alvy Singer. As Kazan has noted, Allen based a lot of Annie Hall on Diane Keaton, who, as far as I know, is a real person and not a ridiculous male fantasy.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. I would welcome its erasure from public discourse. I’d applaud an end to articles about its countless different permutations. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest.