Help!! I Need Someone!

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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34 Responses

  1. DensityDuck says:

    The other proposal I’ve heard for “MPDG-for-girls” is “himbo”, the big goofy happy good-lookin’ clueless dude who’s honestly just here for a good time all the time, has his own thoughts but is always down for what you want, totally devoted to you but not in a creepy thirsty way, basically a Golden Retriever in human form. People said that Chris Hemsworth in the “Ghostbusters” remake was maybe the best movie example of a himbo.Report

    • I gotta think about that. That type of dude is completely without appeal to me so I have largely disregarded that trope, but it deserves a closer examination.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to DensityDuck says:

      They might be fun when you’re in your 20s, I don’t know, and they might be fun to have as a mere friend (there is the whole “pure of heart, dumb of ass” trope, and I’ve known a few guys like that as acquaintances, and sometimes that trait is kind of endearing) but I sure would not want to live with one, not now, not when I’m in my 50s.Report

  2. DensityDuck says:

    As for the Men Who Stay, maybe the fundamental difference between men’s-fantasy and women’s-fantasy is about consequences. In men’s fantasy, there are no consequences. The thing that makes the MPDG a fantasy is that she goes away at the end. The thing that makes the MWS a fantasy is that he doesn’t.

    Another “magic penis saves the day” movie is “Romancing The Stone”, which has an amusing twist at the end that’s relevant to this essay; Kathleen Turner’s romance-writer character has an adventure, and at the end of it Michael Douglas’s scoundrel character jumps off a dock and swims away; Turner’s character writes up her adventure as a book, and tacks on an ending where the Michael Douglas character comes back. It’s used to set up a twist at the very end of the movie but I did think it was interesting in relation to this essay.Report

  3. GAH that would have been a perfect example! I haven’t watched that movie in many, many years because I can’t stand Michael Douglas but yes! Thanks, I may incorporate that into part two.Report

  4. fillyjonk says:

    I think one thing some people who are anti-helpful-men (and I mean, not in a creepy overbearing helpful way, I’ve seen that) forget is it’s HARD to be out here on your own. You can’t move a sofa by yourself even if you’re pretty strong. If you have Norovirus and you’re out of Imodium and you don’t live somewhere with pharmacy delivery, you are literally up s*** creek until the virus subsides enough.

    The thing about a good partnership is that it’s that: a partnership. My parents had a thing for many years where “one person cooks, the other person cleans the kitchen” and it was such a simple but brilliant thing.

    I don’t mind helping someone; I do mind feeling like I’m shouldering it all myself – sometimes you hear women complain that they have “three kids” instead of “two kids and a husband” and while some of those complaints may be exaggerated, I’ve also seen the case of the guy who basically comes home and sits until dinner, while the woman comes home from work and cooks/cleans/sees to the kids doing the homework. (And yeah, in some couples that’s reversed, and it’s still a problem)

    But the “women can do it all on their own!!!111!!!!” rings increasingly hollow to me with each passing year. Maybe in my 20s I believed that, but I was younger and stupider then.Report

    • Yeah, there’s a real issue there that I’ve described as the “whenever I really need my partner not only is he not there for me, but he’s the biggest problem I’ve had” dynamic. Some guys seem to lie in wait to turn every stressful situation into an opportunity to whine how they’re not getting as much attention as they normally do and demand concessions.

      It’s nice to have someone there when you need them of course, it’s just that sometimes the person who is supposed to be there isn’t really there, if that makes sense.Report

  5. Marchmaine says:

    I wonder if The Intern with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro might be the Platonic form of the concept?Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    Luke on Gilmore Girls. He’s a rock. He stayed there and held the fort whilst she ran around and found herself. Now she’s back and he’s still there. He serves her coffee. He listens to her stories. He watches her rekindle the flame to the father of the kid who was the reason she ran off in the first place.

    And he’s still there. Serving coffee.


    Why can’t I have someone who still pines for me years after I screwed them over multiple times?Report

  7. Pinky says:

    Huh. I always thought of the Bad Boy as the male equivalent of the MPDG. I don’t know if I watched 500 Days of Summer too many times, but I think of the MPDG as being selfish. Shows up, makes you feel alive again, then disappears. Maybe not selfish, but elemental (so functionally, selfish). The Man Who Helps is the male equivalent of the pretty tomboy best friend who pines after you but you don’t even notice.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Pinky says:

      Bad Boy is not MPDG. Bad Boy is Bitchez Be Crazy – the wild ride that’s more trouble than they’re worth.

      Some incarnations of MPDG are selfish but most of them are portrayed as giving and wonderful.

      I think both men and women can get friendzoned.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        I think MPDG is also a wild ride, probably more trouble than they’re worth but you always have a wistful half-smile when you think back on them.

        There are different kinds, or maybe degrees, of Bad Boys. The “Latin lover” stereotype was a bad boy who loved awakening passion in a woman, but didn’t stick around.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Pinky says:

      I think the big difference between bad boys and MPDG is that at least some MPDGs are treated as permanent or even wife material. There are very few if any bad boys that get treated as permanent or husband materialReport

      • Kristin Devine in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I think we talked about this in the past so forgive me for being repetitive, but I don’t think that’s the case. You can see lots of former bad boys who reform and settle down IRL, that’s why it is compelling in fiction because it is something we see firsthand sometimes. 🙂Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Kristin Devine says:

          The reform and settled down aspect never really made narrative sense because in many bad boy fantasies, it is the bad boy element that forms a big part of the attraction. There is usually a husband material guy that the female lead doesn’t fall for because he is seen as kind of boring or something. So now the reformed bad boy lost the elements that caused the attraction and the female lead is still in love with him?Report

          • Kristin Devine in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Firstly, women are not that shallow – if they fall in love and a dude changes slightly, they don’t just go “ew, grotty” and dump him. My husband started off skinny and got fat and you know what, I’m if anything even more into him after 30 years. If you fall in love with someone, it really goes a little deeper than any fantasy.

            Secondly, a lot of the reformed bad boys still keep all the trappings that drew a woman to them in the first place. Same personal style, same attitude, they’re just more settled down than they were.

            and finally, I think you’re missing the point of this entire piece because a story without a “and we lived happily ever after” is UNsatisfying to a whole lot of women myself included. So this artificial division you have created between “bad boy” and “husband material” (and also that I think Nathan does too) it is BS. We WANT the happily ever after with our reformed bad boy. that’s the fantasy to end all fantasies.

            It is straight up MRA nonsense that women are always on the make for some rebel bad boy to cuck their husband with. It just isn’t true, and viewing the world thru that lens is going to mislead people in a way that I personally find exceedingly misogynistic.Report

  8. Fish says:

    Good stuff, Kristin. “What’s the point of feminism if we have to give up the stuff that makes being a woman fantastic like the magnificent lips of Tom Hardy?” made me snort out loud.Report

  9. I don’t have much to add other than it’s a great post, as usual.

    (I’ll say that when you were critiquing the trope you see in Bridges Over Madison County, I was thinking, that sounds a lot like Shane. And then you mentioned Shane!)Report

  10. Nathan G Alexander says:

    FWIW, I think you set up your equivalency wrong at first, but you ended up in the same place.

    For me, it goes back to biology or reproductive strategy.

    Females of the species carry the baby and/or tend the young, and so their genes are more likely to be passed on if they are good at selecting a male that has healthy genes *and* stays around to help her when she is weak, vulnerable, or unable to do everything herself.
    Males of the species, however, don’t have any direct consequences from progeny. Their genes are more likely to be passed on if they spread them among many different females, never sticking with any of them…because if they do that enough, some of the progeny will survive.

    So the MPDG regenerates his zest for life, has sex with him, and leaves before there are any consequences.
    The Man who Helps and Stays is more of the opposite than the Man who Helps and Leaves, because sticking around helps ensure their progeny survives.

    Anyway, that’s the way I see it.

    “We WANT to help. Regardless of what the MRA claim, we don’t want to just take from a man. We want to be needed. We want to make a difference in a man’s life just as he makes a difference in our own. ”
    This is how I try to help men understand and change their view of nagging. It is an attempt to help men be better and achieve more. If I could insert a picture, I’d show that picture of the 20-something male’s apartment, which has a big screen TV, game console, gaming chair, and nothing else.
    That saying that behind every great man is a great woman is 100% true, because few men get off our asses to do anything once we’ve achieved comfort. It’s women that push us to continue for the finer things in life, like a box spring for the mattress, and enough plates for 4 people, and glasses that aren’t cracked. The men who do achieve more without a woman pushing them are just doing it to have accomplishments to help them get laid, so it’s still true of them, too.Report

    • I’m going to answer this in more detail tomorrow since I’m supposed to be working now – but thanks for reading and commenting. I come at these issues from much the same place (and I suspect we’re friends on another site, right?) and just draw slightly different conclusions sometimes.Report

    • I think we tend to agree that biology underwrites culture and culture and biology underwrite fiction. We may have some disagreements in what biology really entails and how culture and fiction branch off from that.

      That having been said I’m honestly not too sure where we differ in opinion here? I’m not sure why you think what I wrote is necessarily denying biological reality?Report

  11. Aaron David says:

    This is a great post, Kristin, but I will reserve any comments I have until the sequel comes out, as I am not sure about a few things that might become clear in the next bit.Report

  12. LTL FTC says:

    Consider Chriss from 30 Rock. He’s an acknowledged hottie who falls for the supposedly slovenly Liz Lemon, and just… goes along. No friends, joke of a career, only makes demands not in conflict with what our hero wants. Perhaps you can call him a “Utility Oaf.”Report

  13. LeeEsq says:

    One reason why there might not be a strict male equivalent to a manic pixie dream girl is that the male in romances aimed at heterosexual woman rarely has the eccentric nerdy tendencies of the manic pixie dream girl. It doesn’t matter if they are the wealthy gentleman, the steady provider, or the smoldering bad boy. They just don’t seem to have the eccentricity that typical manic pixie dream girl has. So you aren’t going to get a male lead that spices up the female leads life by walking barefoot in the grass and introducing her to Dungeons & Dragons. Romances with very nerdy, eccentric, or even innocent male leads are generally aimed at men not women.Report