Even before it was given an actual title, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl has long been one of the most popular — and most critically debated — stock film characters. Originally coined by Nathan Rabin, it’s defined 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.” Basically, think of every character Zooey Deschanel has ever played.
As ubiquitous as this character type is, though, it doesn’t seem to include Black women. More specifically, when this character is spoken of and/or cited, White women are named almost exclusively. Wiki lists 17 cinematic examples of them; Jamie Loftus at BDCWire lists 15; The AV Club 16; and Flavorwire…too many to count. Dozens of binders full of quirky, awkward, and super cute White women. And no Black women. Because while Black women can be strong and sexy and strong and sultry and strong and strong, they apparently can’t be sweet and silly and fun and girly and cute and free.
But we know that’s bullshit. Because we know these women, these “Free Black Girls” who are a bit quirkier, a bit stranger, a bit more eccentric, and a bit more idiosyncratic than most. Who exist outside the usual sphere of expectation for “how Black women should be” and seem to live unconstrained. Who were natural before being natural was cool. Who will shade and side eye you for speaking recklessly…and then have a very serious conversation with a squirrel. Who own so much property in Gives-No-Fucks-Ville that they’re leasing land to other people. Who everyone — men and women; straight and gay — crushes on.
And while they do exist on screen, I prefer to cite some real life examples.
Although she was labeled a wild child when younger, history will continue to look favorably on her. Mainly because she was the first to publicly acknowledge that Bill Cosby was full of shit.
And, speaking of the Cos, can we all agree to just collectively forget about everything Jill Scott has publicly said in the last year and a half? Is everyone with me on this?
Jada Pinkett Smith
We tend to forget that as, um, “interesting” are Jaden and Willow Smith are, they likely got most of their interestingness from their interesting-ass mother.
Was recently elected Gives-No-Fucks-Ville’s Prime Minister of Negative Fucks Given. Congratulations, RiRi.
(Admittedly, is probably more of a “bad” girl than a “quirky” one, but the list needed to be stretched to 10. Plus, I really like that “Prime Minister” line.)
Will forever deserve placement on this list for incorporating “you cannot police me so get off my areola” in a radio-friendly pop song about stretching.
There was a five year stretch when L Boogie was both everyone’s pretend girlfriend and everyone’s pretend best friend.
And then she met a Marley.
And, well, let’s move on.
Currently fills three roles as everyone’s pretend girlfriend, everyone’s pretend best friend, and everyone’s pretend “down for whatever” homie who’s just a text away from coming through and landing a flying elbow on whoever’s beefing with you.
Although “Milkshake” will likely be her most memorable contribution to our cultural zeitgeist, raise your hand if you didn’t say “Wait…who the hell is this??? And where can I meet her???” after watching the “Caught Out There” video the first time. And, if your hand is up, choke yourself, because you’re lying.
It’s unfortunate there’s an entire generation of young Black folks who only know Cree Summer because of Kanye’s line in “Spaceship.” Because every generation of young Black folks need to know about Cree Summer. Perhaps a flag with her face should replace every Confederate flag. I mean, she is a part of our heritage. And our ancestors fought and died to defend her. So why not?
Is the queen Manic Pixie Dream Free Black Girl. Feels like a fictional character, but actually exists in real life. And is also the anti-Marley, because guys date her and start making better decisions.