Natalie Portman is done with the manic pixie dream girl trope


Natalie Portman has seen firsthand what happens to women in Hollywood, and she’s 100 percent over it.

Appearing in her first feature film at the age of 12 — The Professional dropped in 1994 when she was only 13 — Natalie Portman had no choice but to endure the flood of comments that men (usually complete strangers much older than her) were making about her and her body.

So she changed who she was to change their perspective. But mostly, she did it to keep herself safe from predators and threats. It was the only way she knew how to stand up for herself then. She was, I’ll repeat, 13.

“Serious Natalie” took over. And it would be years before she would find her voice again.

Young actresses face certain expectations, Portman told Elle — they are expected to be “someone else’s idea of how a young woman should behave.” And this usually extends into adulthood, when women’s roles written and directed by men often portray women as everything they aren’t in real life.

But you won’t see Portman acting as any man’s manic pixie dream girl anymore, not even in her grand return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2021.

The MPDG — the shallow, uninteresting female character who only exists to drive the male lead’s story forward — is problematic for both men and women, creating unrealistic expectations on both sides. Men expect to always play the hero — both onscreen and off — and women expect to play the sidekick. The forgettable supporting role.

Portman is determined to continue portraying female characters whose presence extends beyond the screen — who viewers continue to think about long after the movie ends; someone who is memorable because she is relatable.

“I’m into women who are interesting to watch because they’re as confusing, and confused, as we are,” the actress explained. “… That’s my favorite character to play: the one who messes up, but you understand what’s going on to make her do that.”

Black Swan was only the beginning of Portman’s migration into roles written through a feminist lens. As time has progressed, her career has thrived despite the usual obstacles facing women in Hollywood. She has taken on the likenesses of women such as Jackie Kennedy and Lucy Cola. And she’s soon to take on the role of Thor in a way fans of the MCU haven’t seen before. (And she’s going to absolutely crush it.)

She’s also doing everything she can to advocate for women outside of the roles she accepts as well. While she once shied away from making friends in the industry, she now depends on her fellow actresses to maintain a support system for all involved.

“If we don’t talk to each other, we can’t share, we can’t get information, we can’t get angry and organize together,” she said. “It’s actually really important to talk.”

Speaking of organizing, can we talk about her speech at the 2018 Women’s March for a second? Specifically the part where she calls out the double standard allowing men to speak and act freely without consequence while women are reprimanded for every word that comes out of their mouths and every gesture they make, every outfit they wear, every character they play?

Watch Portman’s full Women’s March speech here:

“Maybe men can say and do whatever they want,” she said, “but women cannot. The current system inhibits women from expressing our wants, desires, and needs.”

And she’s going to be one of an army of women in the industry who are going to change that, one role at a time. Instead of behaving like the woman everyone expects her to be, as her 13-year-old self was forced to do for safety reasons, she’s going to continue speaking out against the atrocious ways men treat women.

Others will continue to rally behind her, and slowly but truly, change will happen. And maybe it all starts with the way women are written for the big screen — and everywhere else.

“I’ve seen a real change [in the industry] since I was 20,” she said. “But not a total change; you still see those roles of just being a dream girl or whatever some person wants you to enact.”

Movies, books, TV shows — they don’t need more “manic pixie dream girls.” We’ve had enough of those. We’re tired of men dominating writing and directing roles, simply because most men don’t know how to write women the way women know how to write women.

Women need to see themselves onscreen and in books and other media — who they really are, not the versions of themselves men would rather see.

It’s time for the manic pixie dream girl trope to end.

Next. Natalie Portman playing Mighty Thor is everything we never knew we needed. dark

Who’s the first manic pixie dream girl character that comes to mind? How would you rewrite her story today?