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Paper Towns - an attempt at deconstructing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

(Spoiler Alert)

So last night, I went to see Paper Towns in the theater. I’ve mentioned it around here before, but I LOVE to go to the movies alone at non-traditional times. It’s this nice piece of quiet time I get there that I can’t find in many other places. So Sunday late night showings are my jam.


The movie is a teen coming of age story, based on the book of the same name by John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars). It tells the story of Quentin, or Q, and his relationship with his neighbor, Margo, as he is nearing high school graduation. Q has been in love with Margo since she first moved in across the street. Margo is the quintessential Manic Pixic Dream Girl. She capitalizes her letters incorrectly (“the middle letters don’t get enough love”), she listens to Woody Guthrie (and owns an absurd amount of LPs), and she constantly sneaks out of her house to go on adventures.

One night, Margo sneaks into Q’s window, asking him to help her accomplish “9 things.” They go on a series of misadventures through the night, where Margo is basically teaching Q to loosen up and to find happiness in the moment and not to focus so much on his future goals. Margo then disappears suddenly. Her (awful) parents are convinced that she has run away for attention and make no effort to look for her. Margo has artfully left clues as to her whereabouts (seriously, so much effort goes into her clues), and the movie spends a significant portion of its length on the search for Margo, which is thematically compared to Ahab’s search for the white whale (ruh-roh). In the end, Q finds Margo (to her surprise) and realizes that he was more in love with the idea of Margo than the person.

There is little motivation given for her disappearance (except “finding herself”), and she basically trashes the idea of a conventional lifestyle (“College, job, husband, kids? That’s not for me.”) Okay, Margo, but you don’t have to run away to avoid these things. If you don’t want to go to college, don’t go. If you don’t want a family, don’t get one. The job thing is going to be hard, though, since you need to eat. I see where they were trying to deconstruct the Manic Pixie Dream Girl throughout the movie. Q pays some lip service to this idea, saying that Margo’s story is hers to tell, but Margo literally is not seen in the movie again once Q’s quest to live more in the moment is fulfilled.

Despite my aversion to the MPDG-ness of it all, the movie did have its fun moments. The three main boys in the movie were pretty off-beat, yet well-rounded characters (this is where John Green really succeeds). They even have a scene where all three boys un-ironically sing the Pokemon theme song, which this dork was the first person to recognize in the theater. Ansel Elgort (from The Fault in Our Stars) has a sweet cameo in it, which I appreciated. Has anyone else seen the movie or read the book (I haven’t read it)? What did you think?

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