TIME movies

Here Comes the Manic Pixie Hot Mess

Anna Kendrick in Happy Christmas
Anna Kendrick in 'Happy Christmas' Magnolia Pictures

Move aside, dream girls--female characters' problems are no longer charming accoutrements. And that's a good thing

Even the creator of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl wants her to go away. The movie archetype, as first defined by Nathan Rabin in a 2007 A.V. Club piece about the film Elizabethtown, “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.” Though the MPDG has had a long reign as one of moviedom’s favorite female types, alongside the “Damsel in Distress” and the “Strong Female Character,” Rabin made news this month by apologizing, in Salon, for ever inventing the phrase in the first place. The concept, he wrote, had been diluted as it became more popular, becoming a cliché about any slightly quirky woman and losing its critical power.

But, with apologies to Rabin, who also decries the permutations of Manic Pixie Something or Other that have proliferated in his creation’s wake, there’s perhaps another reason for the term to go away: the Dream Girl’s place in the zeitgeist has been taken over by the Hot Mess.

Exhibit A: Anna Kendrick’s starring role in Happy Christmas, the new Joe Swanberg movie arriving in theaters Aug. 1. (It’s also available on VOD.) Kendrick plays Jenny, a young woman who moves in with her brother and sister-in-law and their baby after a bad breakup; though her life is pretty much falling apart — she sleeps in the basement, is an unreliable babysitter and gets so wasted that she’s essentially another child in the house — having her there isn’t all bad for her hosts. She’s got that young, unhinged energy that they seem to have lost.

So, at least at first, Jenny has the hallmarks of someone who might be lumped under the MPDG umbrella by those overusing the term. She’s pretty; she’s quirky; she shows up suddenly and helps people out.

Except that’s not the only thing she does. For one thing, though “pixie” types — Natalie Portman in Garden State for example — can have their own problems, their movies aren’t really about their problems. Their problems are, rather, charming accoutrements. In Happy Christmas, however, Jenny’s problems are solid. They’re actually dangerous, to herself and others — this is way beyond Cute Clumsy Girl territory — and they’re things you might actually worry about if you had a screw-up sister. She may be sweet, but her sweetness isn’t enough to make her a good house guest. Still, she’s not a traditional Damsel in Distress. Though she does need help, she doesn’t need to be rescued, at least not by another person. As Rabin points out in his Salon essay, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope “is a fundamentally sexist one”: the MPDG exists only in relation to the (male) lead. As soon as the character becomes the lead herself, as soon as her problems really matter, she’s out. Furthermore, the person who’s really helped by Jenny in Happy Christmas is her sister-in-law, not her love interest; even her use as a foil for another character is sisterly, not sexist.

And who else appears in Happy Christmas? Lena Dunham. Though Dunham’s character — a friend of Jenny’s — is actually pretty put together, the actress and writer can get a lot of credit for making young women with messy lives a subject of pop-culture fascination. That messiness is the focus of Girls, a show that exposes the ways in which even the most “with-it” person is inevitably hiding a crack underneath her veneer. The women on Girls don’t float down to use their quirkiness to help dudes out, because they need all their energy to help themselves. (If anything, the guys on the show, Adam especially, are the ones who use their weirdness in mystical, healing ways.)

So messiness is having a moment. In April, Katy Steinmetz explained for TIME how “hot mess,” A phrase now associated with Amy Schumer and her Comedy Central show, has come to denote someone who is “in obvious disarray” and yet remains attractive, a meaning that’s been in use for only about 10 years. Inside Amy Schumer and Girls are very different shows, but both have made it clear that audiences are eager for a type of female character who’s neither magical nor in need of rescuing nor heroically strong. (Schumer’s persona, however, isn’t exactly “manic pixie” anything — she remains attractive despite her disorder, but her attractiveness isn’t usually of the indie-twee-offbeat variety, which is what differentiates the protagonists of Happy Christmas and Girls from your garden-variety hot mess.)

Even New Girl, despite the fact that its star Zooey Deschanel is often held up as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl exemplar, fits the bill: protagonist Jess drops into the lives of four men and adds a touch of fun, but she’s got problems and back story of her own, as well as the focus of the show’s creators. Just as Deschanel has made sure that her real-life detractors know that the bit of pixie in her personality doesn’t mean they can’t take her seriously, New Girl is best when Jess is messing things up and capable of getting herself together, all at once. That balancing act is true of all the best examples of the trope: the woman in question often has an Anthropologie-inflected, Brooklyn-in-quotes appeal that lots of real-life women strive for, she’s struggling to figure things out, she wouldn’t say no to a hand but in the end she’ll probably figure it out on her own.

There are hints that the type is sticking around. Happy Christmas was preceded by the prime example that was Obvious Child, and this fall’s Laggies — which stars Keira Knightley as a woman struggling so much with growing up that she tries to pass herself off as a teenager — looks to continue the trend. And it’s notable that even shows like New Girl, which don’t strive for the grittiness of Swanberg’s films, are giving their female leads such imperfections. Because “messy,” of course, can also be shorthand for “real.” So, if the Manic Pixie Dream Girl’s creator wants the world to stop using that formula, here’s another way to sum up the archetype in question: human.

TIME movies

See Guardians of the Galaxy’s Most Amazing Makeup Transformations

Zoe Saldana goes green; Benicio Del Toro gets the platinum treatment

While some characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, like Groot and Rocket, were rendered with computer graphics, the majority of the movie’s aliens were transformed by makeup. Over the course of filming, the movie’s team of 50 makeup artists applied approximately 1,250 prosthetics between the principal cast and alien extras.

Guardians of the Galaxy comes out in theaters on August 1, 2014.

TIME Television

Doctor Who Season Premiere Will Debut on Big Screen

Doctor Who Series 8 Iconic
Doctor Who Ray Burmiston--BBC/BBC WORDLWIDE 2014

The feature-length episode will play in theaters in 12 cities

BBC America announced Thursday that it will be screening the premiere of the new season of Doctor Who on the big screen in select theaters. Season eight is the first to star Peter Capaldi in the lead role.

The feature-length episode (plus extra bonus scenes) will get midnight theatrical screenings on August 23 in 12 cities. The next day audiences will be able to watch the episode in 550 theaters across the U.S.

For those who can’t make it to the theater, the episode, “Deep Breath,” will premiere on TV at 8 pm ET on Saturday, Aug. 23. Nerdist.com CEO Chris Hardwick (who also hosts the Walking Dead after show, Talking Dead) will host both a pre- and post-show at 7:30 and 11:00, respectively. Both segments will feature guests like writers from the show and behind-the-scenes clips.

TIME

Tara Reid Created a Perfume Called ‘Shark’

Yes, really

Tara Reid can thank the Sharknado franchise for many things. Not only has it reinvigorated her career, but the movies have inspired a sense of entrepreneurship in the former party girl.

Today, you can be the owner of Shark by Tara, a perfume inspired by, you guessed it, sharks.

According to TaraReid.com, the $24.95 bottle “is a light and refreshing perfume perfect for day-to-day wear. It also incorporates a plethora of ‘lavender’ colored flowers, which is Tara’s favorite color, making them a true fit for Shark by Tara.”

TIME Television

Sharknado 2 Reels in 3.9 Million Viewers

Sharknado 2: The Second One
Sharknado 2: The Second One Syfy

Shark didn't tank

Syfy’s Shaknado 2: The Second One drew 3.9 million viewers Wednesday night, 183% more than the 1.4 million people who tuned into the original in July 2013, according to Nielsen ratings.

The campy action/comedy scored a 1.3 rating among viewers under 50, tripling its 0.4 rating from last year. It also took a bite out of its competition, CBS’ Halle Berry drama Extant and Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, which both scored lower ratings.

Nielsen also found that Sharknado 2 topped Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings Daily Top Five list with 581,000 tweets.

A third Sharknado movie is already in the works for summer 2015.

TIME Late Night Highlight

Watch Kate Hudson and Zach Braff Play ‘Plead the Fifth’

Andy Cohen played his signature ‘Plead the Fifth game with Zach Braff and Kate Hudson. And things got a little awkward.

+ READ ARTICLE

When Kate Hudson and her Wish I Was Here co-star Zach Braff visited Watch What Happens Live Wednesday night, host Andy Cohen invited them to join in a round of “Plead The Fifth.”

Cohen asked the actress if she had ever “taken a dip in the lady pond,” to which Hudson responded coyly. She asked the late night host how deep a “dip” was.

Braff and Hudson were on the program to promote their new film, which was released July 18th. The film was funded by donations made on the site Kickstarter.

TIME book

Happy 34th Birthday Harry Potter—You’re Way Older Than We Thought You Were

Harry Potter
Warner Bros.

He isn't even a Millennial!

I still remember meeting Harry Potter for the first time. We were both going through our awkward phases. Granted, he was a prepubescent wizard with a lightning bolt scar instead of acne on his forehead. And he was saving the world from forces of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, while I was still covertly playing with American Girl dolls.

But when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit American bookstores in 1998, despite the slightly different circumstances, we were peers. Just two 11-year-old kids with unkempt hair, trying to figure things out.

So imagine my surprise when I read on JK Rowling’s official blog that July 31 this year is Harry Potter’s 34th birthday — when I’m just 26-years-old.

Not only is Harry almost a decade further along than me but, according to Pew researchers, he isn’t even a part of my so-called “Millennial” generation! How did he grow up without me?

Here’s the thing that many Harry Potter fans didn’t fully realize: Though the first book starring an 11-year-old Harry Potter was released in 1997 in the UK and 1998 in America, it takes place almost a decade prior. Rowling concocted her tale on a crowded train in 1990. So Harry Potter’s story begins then–the same year Maggie Thatcher quit as Prime Minister of Muggles.

Rowling didn’t make this timeline explicitly clear in the books. Dates are scarce throughout the series and since the world of Hogwarts is somewhat removed from current events anyway, it was hard to isolate cultural details that would put its timing in a greater context. We might know when the Xbox came out. But a Nimbus 2000? Not so much.

Luckily, some extremely dedicated Potter fans created a timeline on their own, based on one concrete date given in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A 12-year-old Harry and friends were celebrating Nearly Headless Nick’s 500th anniversary of his October 31, 1492 deathday. And quicker than you can say, “Aparecium!” there it is–a clear indication that Harry was born in 1980.

Rowling was wise to leave these details vague: A powerful kinship is created when your target demographic grows up alongside its newfound hero. Every year, the Harry Potter generation would wait in line at midnight to see what his slightly aged wizarding cohort was up to. Over nearly decade, we transitioned from getting chaperoned by parents way past our bedtime at book stores, to driving ourselves to now defunct Borders to pick up a copy.

Harry Potter may not be a peer. The father of three is in the upper echelons of the Ministry of Magic, I’m still on Tinder figuring out what a 401K means. But I still think it’s fair to say that we still grew up together. So happy birthday, Old Man Potter!

TIME Television

Maggie Gyllenhaal on Israel and Palestine — and How Obama Broke Her Heart

"I still root for him," she says

+ READ ARTICLE

Maggie Gyllenhaal comes from a long line of lefties, including her mom Naomi Foner, whose screenplay for Running On Empty was nominated for an Oscar. The actress has been politically outspoken before standing up against the Iraq war. So it’s kind of surprising that she’s not such a fan of Obama,not will she take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Or maybe not that unexpected. Taking sides in the Middle East could turn potential viewers away from her new miniseries The Honorable Woman, which starts on July 31 on Sundance. “You know, you say one word on one side or the other, and you alienate hundreds of thousands of people,” she says in the longer version of her interview for the 10 Questions page of Time. “And I’m hoping actually to open many people’s minds and hearts even the tiniest bit. So, yes, I’m trying to think about what my ultimate intention is…and I’m trying to think before I speak.”

In the longer video below (pro-tip: skip the first minute if you watched the one above), Gyllenhaal also explains how President Obama broke her heart. “I really believed in him and I’m not sure what he believes in any more.” She thinks he wasn’t aggressive enough in dealing with the National Security Agency, after it was shown that their activities were Enemy of the State-ish than most Americans had been led to believe. “I still root for him,” says Gyllenhaal. “But I feel a little hopeless right now….I hope for a leader who will stand up and be unpopular.”

 

 

 

 

TIME movies

What’s New on Netflix in August? The First 5 Rocky Movies

Metro-Goldwyn-Maye/MGM/UA Entertainment

What's new to stream in August

A new crop of movies will be available on Netflix in August. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The first five Rocky movies (1976-1990)
  • Rounders (1998)
  • Nymphomaniac, volumes I and II (2013)
  • The Mighty Ducks (1992) and D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994)
  • Freaky Friday (2003)
  • The Birdcage (1996)
  • Mad Max (1979) — just in time for the Mad Max: Fury Road trailer
  • Spice World (1998)
  • Kinky Boots (2005), which has since been turned into an award-winning Broadway musical
  • The entire Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey series (2014)
  • Airbud (1997)
  • Red Dawn (1984)

Get streamin’, folks.

TIME Music

Watch Katy Perry Do What She Does Best In ‘This Is How We Do’ Video

Join the California gurl for some Mariah Carey-oke

+ READ ARTICLE

If you can get over the fact that Katy Perry’s new single “This Is How We Do” features groan-worthy lyrics like “Now we’re talking astrology / getting our nails did all Japanese-y,” you’ll realize it’s actually kind of a jam. It’s no Dark Horse in the running for Song of the Summer, sure, but it’s certainly worthy of a video featuring over-the-top visuals and outrageous outfits — basically everything Katy Perry does best.

The singer wisely steers the costumes clear of any ethnic groups this time, instead opting for pop culture references with the Pee-Wee Herman-inspired backup dancers, some Mondrian get-ups and a brief but always welcome tribute to Aretha Franklin’s inauguration hat.

Perry is one of the most consistent pop stars around when it comes to matching her ear candy with eye-catching visuals, so if this is really how she do, she should do it more often.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser