How to Spot a Manic Pixie Dream Girl:
1. She is insanely beautiful, usually with some stunning (and unlikely combination) of dark hair and blue eyes.
2. She is white.
3. She dresses in a way that isn't necessarily conventional. Most of her clothes are handmade, or come from a thrift store.
4. She reads really pretentious books and listens to music by bands you've never heard of.
5. She is mysterious and kind of tragic- in a hot way, though.
6. She is "not like other girls."
Now, there isn't anything inherently wrong with being beautiful, or dressing in thrift store clothes, or listening to obscure music. What gets me all riled up when it comes to manic pixie dream girls is not any of this- it's that their characterization, what makes them important, is determined by how they affect the angsty white male protagonist.
Who they are isn't important. Manic pixie dream girls are plot devices, plain and simple.
This is especially damaging because while the male main character goes through emotional growth- since he is complex, or if nothing else, not two-dimensional- the female character is only there for male use. She is a catalyst, she is the conflict, she is the goal, but she is not her own character.
The problem with the manic pixie dream girl continues with the above #5 (She is mysterious and kind of tragic- in a hot way, though) and #6 (She is "not like other girls") because, in a way, the manic pixie dream girl is presented as something for other girls to aspire to. She's the kind of girl who is interesting and cool and "worthy" of male attention, unlike the others (which, as many before me have pointed out, begs the question: what is wrong with other girls?). And this becomes even worse when you factor in that most manic pixie dream girls suffer from some sort of depression, which just serves to glamorize and romanticize mental illness.
Perversely, the MPDG trope also demonizes mental illness. Since she typically tries to cope with her depression through emotionless relationships, continuously shirking the affections of our poor wittle male MC, we're supposed to sympathize with him and dislike her. She is heartless while he deserves love. Just look at Lady Brett in The Sun Also Rises or Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.
There have been works that have debunked the idea of the manic pixie dream girl (for example, John Green's Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns; the movie (500) Days of Summer; etc.), but what I really want to see is a story told from the MPDG's perspective. I want her to get the chance to be the three-dimensional character she deserves to be.
Better yet, I want more stories told about girls and/or from girls' perspectives who don't just fit one mold. Stories that are about girls of every ethnicity and religion and background, stories about girls who are insanely beautiful or not, or girls who read a lot, or girls who prefer TV, or whatever.
Ultimately, I just want girls in books to be characters, not plot devices. And I don't think that's too much to ask for.