January 11, 2020

Manic Pixie Dream Girls were born during manic phase of excitement cycle: Will the next be born '95-'99?

While we're still working our way out of the emo trauma-porn hangover of the past 5 years, it's worth looking for clues about where the changes will come from as we leave behind the refractory phase of the excitement cycle and enter the restless warm-up phase.

I was just thinking about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character type, which an earlier post showed clusters in the warm-up phase of the cycle, as people are coming out of their shells. She serves to coax the guy out of his refractory cocoon, letting him know it's OK to interact again -- that we're out of the phase where all social contact feels over-stimulatingly painful.

Who will play such a role this time around? I looked at the previous wave of them from the late 2000s (and the lesser crop from the 2010s), and they were nearly all born between 1980-'84 (with one born in '79, and another in '85, just outside this range by one year). That birth range was the manic phase of the early '80s. Then I checked the early '90s MPDG's, and though there weren't as many to study, they too were born in a manic phase (the late '60s: Sarah Jessica Parker from L.A. Story, and Julia Roberts).

So, this time around, will the actresses who play the role be born during the manic phase of 1995-'99? I have no idea who that could be, and this role tends to be a break-out role for the actress anyway.

Pop music doesn't offer too many examples of the role, since it has to be set within a character drama (or dramedy) narrative, where you can set up the withdrawn guy, the adorkable girl, her coaxing him, him resisting at first, and so on and so forth. It's hard to pack all that into a 4-minute pop song.

Nevertheless, I pointed to Katy Perry's deep cut "Simple" from 2005 in that earlier post, and during the late 2000s she projected a witty-banter, partner-in-crime, free-spirit persona. She's born in '84. Avril Lavigne, also born in '84, put on such a persona in 2007 with "Girlfriend," after she'd gotten out of the emo phase of the early 2000s (akin to the late 2010s emo phase, when she reverted to the emo type with "Head Above Water").

But the Manic Pixie Dream Girl wasn't meant for the Billboard Hot 100 kind of music. She was more of an indie girl. Not that I was big into the indie scene in the late 2000s, but even I remember Au Revoir Simone -- and sure enough, all three of them were born in 1980! In case you forgot or never experienced them during that phase (before their moody music for the Twin Peaks revival during the vulnerable phase of the late 2010s):

"Dark Halls" by Au Revoir Simone (2007)

That band in that time reminds me of our dear, departed anti-woke leftist Alison Balsam (@foolinthelotus on Twitter before she left). I'll bet she was like that during the late 2000s, and she too was born in the early '80s.

From the early '90s warm-up phase, the most visible Manic Pixie Dream Girl was Lisa Loeb ("Stay" in 1994), and she's born during the late '60s manic phase.

Everyone's so focused on the political domain these days, though -- who could coax us out of our self-centered partisan cocoons, and deliver us into a Manic Pixie Dream Government? Why, it's another early '80s birth -- Tulsi Gabbard, the most soothing, reassuring, and fun-loving free spirit in politics. (Her proto-form, Marianne Williamson, was also born during a manic phase -- the early '50s.)

On the younger platforms of social media, podcasting, etc., I'd expect the type to come more from the '95-'99 cohort, though. They've been listening to the Red Scare podcast to cope with the bad vibes of the late 2010s, but soon they're going to want to do their own thing.

They'll go from analytically criticizing the trauma porn industry and the absurdities of #MeToo, to becoming Manic Pixie Dream E-girls who sound the wake-up alarm to the male half of the audience, that it's OK to come out of your cocoon and mix it up with girls again. "We promise we're over that mood, and we're in a flirtatious, getting-to-know-you mood now." It won't even be that political in scope -- although they may identify as feminists -- but more about the social-cultural mood and the relations between the sexes.

I've left out the matter of explaining why the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is born during a manic phase -- or equivalently, why she was a certain age during another of the phases -- although the simplest explanation is that they absorbed the manic mood of their birth year and carried it with them for life, as a social imprinting. But if I think of something more satisfying, I'll post it in the comments, where you can spitball ideas as well. The main point here is descriptive and predictive, without necessarily understanding why the world works the way it apparently does.


  1. Another explanation: it's about the mood when they turned 15, since those born from '80-'84 were 15 during the manic phase of '95-'99. Perhaps that's the relevant age of social imprinting, not birth (or they could be reinforcing each other).

    Why age 15? You're pretty clear of the awkward stage of puberty (which is closer to 12-13), and you're dating, or at least flirting, and likely to get it on for the first time.

    Being in that stage of the lifespan, during a manic phase of the social excitement cycle, leaves a lasting imprint on you -- you associate dating and mating with a manic, invincible, carefree background mood.

    When it's time to coax guys out of their cocoons, those girls will have the easiest time because they have the best possible memories or associations of dating and mating (the first time).

    Girls who were 15 during a vulnerable phase may associate dating and mating with the traumatic / emo / withdrawn / numb mood of their first experiences. Those would be the '85-'89 births.

    Girls who were 15 during a warm-up phase (most recently, the '90-'94 births) might not have such vulnerable emo memories of their first experiences dating-and-mating. But still not at the level of carefree invincibility as those who were 15 during a manic phase.

    That leaves, for the current warm-up phase, the girls born from '95-'99, whose first-time memories are from the good ol' early 2010s manic phase. They have to be the most itching to ditch the emo bullshit mood and start having fun again.

    During a refractory phase, those who imprinted on a manic phase will feel the most out of step with the world -- it's polar opposite moods.

    (That's why I noticed how oppressively emo the mood had gotten during the late 2010s, and developed this theory. I was born in the early '80s manic phase, imprinting on that mood from early on, as well as when I was 15 to 19 during the late '90s manic phase.)

    Then when the vulnerable phase is over, those who are most itching to get back to their natural state will be those who imprinted on the manic phase. They're best suited to serve as encouraging models for leaving your emo phase behind and mixing it up socially again.

  2. The Twin Peaks songs are from Au Revoir Simone's 2007 album, not new for the series. I was thinking of the Chromatics' contributions.

  3. Yes, thought it might be possible that the excitation cycle represented permanent preferences. as you pointed out in this post, you yourself appear to have pretty permanent music preferences for manic and warmup music, only tolerating defractory era music at best.

    Might also be conflated with cocooning vs. rising crime - which has more to do with normal interpersonal relationships, being active and hardworking, etc. Remember, our 30-year crime decline is bottoming out in the late 2010s, which made this past defractory phase seem particularly nasty. We may have confused the effects of the two different trends.

    Then again, your original theory, about people changing moods over time, might be true instead. I'm not sure; sorry to throw you off track.

    To take a page from you and focus on observations, one thing I've noticed is that, during the warmup phase, you can reverse gender roles of the "Manic Pixie Girl" trope, and have it be a man trying to coax a wounded woman out of her shell, instead.

    Though the man tends to play a different role, instead of being 'manic' and lighthearted, is instead more soulful and compassionate. But still, the same basic theme of being healed and coaxed by a love partner.

    Two examples, both from warmup phases:

    "I'll Make Love to you"(1994) - Boyz II Men


    'Halo'(2009) - Beyonce


  4. This past emo phase was worse than others b/c cocooning has only gotten worse compared to the early 2000s or late '80s (on the separate cocooning / falling-crime vs. outgoing / rising-crime cycle). People were even less trusting during the last emo phase than they were during the early 2000s.

    And the status-striving vs. egalitarian cycle has only gone one way for the worse since roughly 1980. People were more hyper-competitive in the last emo phase than in the early 2000s -- everyone was injecting emo steroids in order to defeat their rivals in the trauma porn Olympics.

    The early 2010s, by contrast, were still a period of greater cocooning / less trust, and greater competitiveness -- but at least we had a manic phase of the excitement cycle to take the edge off, and put everyone in a good mood for a little while.


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