Careful with that killer highlighter, ladies and gents! One swipe too many and you could wind up a manic pixie murderer, too!
If we're honest (and we are), after watching the trailer for Charmed (2018) Season 1 Episode 13, I expected to walk away from this episode rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath about the manic pixie dream girl trope getting used as an overabundant plot device in today’s media.
I kind of expected to be angry. How dare they? What kind of self-proclaimed feminist show centers an entire installment around a character habitually rooted in misogyny?
A very clever one, that’s what.
There has been a sizeable amount of controversy surrounding the manic pixie dream girl. It used to revolve around the use of female characters getting used as props for the wish fulfillment of men’s desires.
A flatly written female whole only use was to elevate the brooding (and let’s be honest--so, totally, white) male protagonist’s life.
The manic pixie dream girl was around to teach the protagonist how to love hard and live fast. This, of course, was all at the detriment of the said female character, who maintained zero development when placed in the role.
Her job was merely to help him find meaning in his life without any sort of goals or desires of her own.
The second bout of the controversy stemmed from the overuse of the MPDG label. It became a stereotype for any “quirky, out of the box” female character, no matter how well rounded or written she was.
People even deemed Joey Deschanel – the actual person, not her character – a manic pixie dream girl herself.
How a real, human being's defining trait could be their lack of interior self is beyond me.
Either way, the trope has historically landed on misogynistic ground. The character gets created as a plot device for the male hero, or she’s a well-written, realistic, female character whose eccentric nature nullifies her depth and development.
Manic-pixie-dream-girl plotlines are almost always lose/lose scenarios.
Until Charmed (2018), that is.
“Manic Pixie Nightmare” took the MPDG trope and subverted it into a self-aware piece of satire, and the results couldn't have been more gratifying.
By viewing the MPDG from a feminist perspective, the writers were able to play around with highlighting how grossly offensive and outlandish the trope truly is.
By making the manic pixie girl an actual pixie, the entire concept seamlessly tied into Charmed’s supernatural centric world.
The typical issue with some of Charmed’s content is how harsh of a juxtaposition the subject matter can be. Hot button topics tend to come off preachy and heavy-handed against an otherwise lighthearted and whimsical series.
There was no forcing a storyline on "Manic Pixie Nightmare." The meta attempted narrative paid off in significant ways. Chloe was delightful yet incredibly insulting, something of which the episode was fully aware.
It used Chloe's irksome nature to hyperbolize the character and showcase how absurd the concept of the manic pixie dream girl is.
The subversion of gender stereotype did not go unnoticed, either.
Chloe’s over the top personality highlighted the MPDG farcicality, but every newly introduced male character was a heightened version of Mr. Broody Hipster Male Artist Type – and the show was not shy in throwing shade their way.
Chloe ended up being a lovely, dynamic, intriguing character with a fulfilling life (anything but a typical MPDG), but not one male was shown as anything but a one-note character with a single goal –making themselves look extra important.
Beyond the excellent meta take, “Manic Pixie Dream Nightmare” worked on just about every level of storytelling. Charmed (2018) is finally finding its stride, and the overarching plotlines of the season have found a healthy rhythm.
It’s hard to believe Galvin was ever an unlikable character. Macy unveiling her powers was the best move the writers could have made for Galvin. They have done an excellent job of keeping him relevant.
The concept of sending Galvin on a journey to help Macy find answers will undoubtedly be a wild ride, but it was the use of Haitian Creole that was a lovely addition to his ancestry.
No more token characters here. Charmed (2018) isn't just about casting people of color in roles; it's about giving those characters the same rich history and depth as their white ones.
Speaking of white characters, the two white men who weren’t eye-roll inducing this episode deserve a small moment of recognition.
Harry always works best as a character when he takes a back seat to the sisters. Rupert Evans is likable, funny and hits all the right marks, but the Power of Three is meant for the spotlight.
When Harry just follows the lead (or gets caught up in ridiculous antics), the story flows beautifully.
Parker’s character had a bit of transcendence. There was a lighter side that helped him come alive in ways he hasn’t before. It can only get attributed to his mothers' potion allowing him to express his human side.
A tortured half demon whose father is out to destroy the love of his life is an exciting premise, and I look forward to seeing how that particular conflict comes to a head. However, I want more for Parker than just being Allister's son.
His humanity is what will propel him into becoming a character worth sticking around for seasons to come.
That human side, combined with the way Maggie worked through her pain, made their reconciliation feel justly placed.
The two have earned their second chance at romance, and when the supernatural world isn’t coming between them, it’s crystal clear why they make such an excellent pairing. They’re both funny, optimistic, loyal, and much smarter than people give them credit.
As Maggie (rightly) pointed out—she and Parker are equals. There’s no damsel in distress. These two characters save each other, and that's exactly how it should be.
A fairly more lukewarm pairing is Mel and Jada, who (although they share an interesting storyline) don’t quite deliver the same heat and chemistry. I’m captivated by Jada’s familial backstory, and curious about the Sarcona’s true nature, but if you want me to root for Mel x Jada, don’t give Mel so many scenes with Niko!
Even with her memory erased, those two have a magnetic pull that cannot be denied.
The most satisfying moment of the episode came in one of its last scenes, during the incredibly poignant (yet almost completely non-verbal) moment of consent between Macy and Galvin.
I have been a huge proponent of Macy’s virginity storyline. The writers do it justice by keeping it understated and therefore realistic. Hyper-focusing on Macy's virginity would force it to become her main charactersitc – it would have defined her.
Just like the “manic pixie dream girl,” the “untouched virgin” has become a type of disturbing stock character to be viewed solely for male indulgence. By making virginity a part of who she is – but not all of who she is – Macy became someone with whom women who haven’t had sex could connect.
Keeping things modest stayed true to who Macy is as a character, kept the arc from veering into “male gaze” territory, and allowed a moment of consent to be sexy!
Consent is a big topic in our current social climate.
The argument against it (if you can believe there is one) stems from the idea consent isn’t cute; it ruins the mood. But someone whispering “can I kiss you?” or in Galvin's case – slowly lifting their head to ask if it’s OK to proceed – can be all kinds of racy and sensual.
Now, if you’re a guy reading this and you don’t think consent can be a major turn on, well, please, let me introduce you to a girl named Chloe. She seems like she might be able to satisfy all your unfulfilled needs.
- Harry in glasses and a black leather jacket? I didn’t hate it.
- Chloe telling Macy to “smile more, boys like that” was the epitome of MPDG propaganda perfection
- There were lots of witches using their powers this episode, which is always a plus on a show about … witches
- It’s gratifying to see Maggie actively using her powers to solve conflicts. Phoebe's powers in the OG Charmed were always inactive and indicated her as a weak link. I’m glad they don’t have to give Maggie a black belt in jujitsu for her to help save the day.
- WHO WERE THOSE MASKED MEN?!
Okay Charmed Fanatics, it's your turn! Sound off in the comments below, and let me know what you thought of this weeks episode!
It was a favorite for me.
If you missed it, remember you can watch Charmed (2018) online, right here at TV Fanatic!
IMPORTANT NOTE: This episode deals with the topic of SUICIDE. If this topic is potentially triggering for you, please be conscious and make the best decision for yourself.
Kat Pettibone is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.