We've entered the restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle, and there's now a new cohort of 20-somethings whose development has been shaped mainly by the manic phase -- they imprinted on a manic phase around their birth, as well as their second birth around age 15 when they emerged from their adolescent chrysalis.
These people were born during the late 1990s and turned 15 during the early 2010s, and we haven't seen or heard much of them until now. (The last time we were in this situation was the warm-up phase of the late 2000s, with 20-somethings who were born in the early '80s and turned 15 in the late '90s.)
Shaped by a zeitgeist of carefree invincibility, this cohort comes off differently from those shaped by the other two phases -- those born during a vulnerable phase (such as the late '80s or early '70s), who come off more emo, and those born during a restless phase (such as the early '90s or late '70s), who come off as the wild child type. Manic-phase births are carefree, resilient, easygoing, fun-loving, happy-go-lucky types.
Technically, the most recent crop of manic-phase births were those born during the early 2010s, but they haven't even turned 15 yet, so they aren't going to make an impression on the broader culture for awhile. Before them, the most recent crop are the late '90s births, and they're in their early 20s now, ready to contribute directly to the zeitgeist.
And that's causing some resistance among the other young-ish cohorts. The vulnerable-phase births of the late '80s bristle at their cheerful and resilient disposition, while the restless-phase births of the early '90s dismiss them as not risk-taking enough to qualify as a true youth culture -- and who are instead just a watered-down version of their early '90s wild-child elders.
However, as the manic-phase late '90s births begin to make their impression, some of the older young-ish cohorts will start to appreciate their differences -- mainly the older guys appreciating the younger girls.
Judging from the past two waves of manic pixie dream girls (who are born during a manic phase), their older male love interests will be born during a warm-up phase. These men are most able to take the leap of faith required to open up to the MPDG, and leave their humdrum emo cocoon behind, because they were shaped by the risk-taking recklessness of the restless phase (most recently the late 2000s, also the early '90s, late '70s, and early '60s).
Earlier pop culture examples include Zach Braff and Orlando Bloom, born in the late '70s; Jim Carrey, born in the early '60s; and Richard Gere and Steve Martin, born in the late '40s. This is not about a certain age gap, since those men were paired with women that resulted in a wide variety of age gaps, but all of them consisting of a warm-up-phase man and a manic-phase girl (Natalie Portman and Rachel Bilson, Kirsten Dunst, Zooey Deschanel, Julia Roberts, and Sarah Jessica Parker, respectively). Today, that means guys born in the early '90s -- or perhaps older ones still, born in the late '70s -- taking a shine to girls born in the late '90s.
Guys born in all phases will be drawn to the MPDG in this phase, because all guys have been in a vulnerable-phase cocoon from 2015-'19, and all are ready to come out of their shells in the present warm-up phase. And that's the role of the MPDG -- to coax romantically wary men out of their shells. I'm simply saying who the main male target audience will be, and who she's most likely to be paired with in pop culture examples.
We're already seeing a hint of that with the hype surrounding Zach Braff and Florence Pugh. Braff is a restless-phase birth (late '70s), while Pugh is a manic-phase birth (late '90s). Braff's earlier love interests were also manic-phase births -- then, the early '80s -- during the zeitgeist of a restless phase (the late 2000s). Somehow he skipped over those born in the late '80s and early '90s, and landed on another manic-phase birth. Although they have yet to be paired in a MPDG movie during the early 2020s, it would make a natural fit.
I don't buy the idea that women who chafe at their relationship are reacting to the age gap per se -- if she were a late '80s or early '90s birth, that would still make for a double-digit age gap. It's really the fact that she's born in a different phase from the disapproving women, and these older young-ish women don't want the late '90s cohort to start making an impression and exerting influence on the actual dating-and-mating market, or on pop culture. Their specialty is in being withdrawn and emo (late '80s) or a wild child (early '90s), so they can't compete in the MPDG niche, which selects for manic-phase births.
Elsewhere we're seeing the sudden popularity of late '90s girls from the world of video game streaming, who also post on Twitter, pose on Instagram, dance on TikTok, and put these all together on YouTube. The most famous example is @neekolul, AKA "OK Boomer girl". She made a viral TikTok video of herself wearing a Bernie shirt, set to a song version of the "OK Boomer" meme. I'd get too bored seeing what she's like playing video games, so here's a brief compilation of her TikTok dance videos:
Notice that she's not withdrawn, emo, dark, or tortured like the vulnerable phase births (late '80s, or early 2000s like Billie Eilish). And she's not wild-eyed, dangerous, chaotic, or instigating, like a restless-phase birth (early '90s). She's upbeat, carefree, happy-go-lucky, engaging in some harmless silly fun, and indulging in her cutesy and girly side. You can see why people shaped by those other phases might bristle at her, but she wouldn't have become such an overnight phenomenon if she weren't appealing to a broad audience.
It's not "e-girls thirst-trapping simps" since this happens across all phases, and does not explain why her haters are so opposed to her rather than other e-girls who have a different persona, and who appeal to a different group of guys for a different reason. They are mainly reacting against her upbeat, harmless-fun personality, since they let the other varieties of e-girls and simps skate on the charges of being too-online.
I don't think she's started to play the role of encouraging romantically wary guys to come out of their shells and take a chance on connecting with a free-spirited guardian angel -- yet. We're only four months into the warm-up phase. But it's not hard to see her doing this for her massive male audience, either by becoming such a persona herself, or speaking matter-of-factly about what they ought to do to find their own MPDG. What else is there to talk about while streaming video gameplay for hours and hours every day? Especially with a video game addict audience, "dating advice for the romantically wary" would be an instant hit.
Although Neeko is the most famous so far, I actually think a more promising example is @pokimanelol. She's the other name that came up when I searched for "neekolul," so there could be other better examples -- I'm just not going to browse through dozens of video game streamer girls. A simple compare / contrast of two will have to do for now.
She's also born in the late '90s, upbeat and carefree, cutesy and girly. But she fits the profile of a MPDG more than Neeko does -- namely, by having a thicc fertile body shape, rather than the "no meat, narrow hips, big boobs" shape. She seems more corporeal as well, judging from her more natural dancing ability. Correlated with the more fertile shape, she's got a stronger nurturing instinct, helplessly coo-ing over babies and little animals. These nurturing traits are at the core of the MPDG, since she'll be nursing the guy back to social-emotional health.
Here's a compilation of her TikTok videos, both playing video games and lip syncing / dancing:
For those keeping track, Neeko is American of Mexican background, and Pokimane is Canadian of mostly Moroccan background, with a bit of Iberian. The fact that she took and discussed a DNA test -- non-ironically, and without worrying about whether that makes her a Nazi skull-measurer -- shows that she's appealing to a broader audience, while Neeko's Bernie shirt was a clear nod to the online Left, who are a million times more ideologically woke. (Further evidence that political junkies are boob men and women, not butt men and women.) So, Pokimane has more potential to go mainstream as a MPDG, whether by assuming the role for herself or by giving her male audience the kind of advice and encouragement that a MPDG would give.
I didn't do a search for older video game streamer girls, but one of them trended on Twitter the other day -- @Alinity. She's born in the late '80s and has a more dark and brooding persona, judging from Google Images. She does more degenerate stuff on camera (like flashing her boob during a livestream, which got her trending on social media). She's from Colombia, and I'm not sure if they're on the same timing of phases in the excitement cycle as we are. She seems like a classic wild-child type, or perhaps a dark emo type, but definitely not a carefree and upbeat type born during a manic phase. She's certainly not going to be coaxing wary men out of their shells.
That's all I'm willing to investigate into the video game streaming world. YouTube personalities would be another area to sift through, but I'd be too bored for that as well. However, I do occasionally watch stuff from the FBE channel -- you may remember them from years ago, with "teens react to Walkmans / film cameras / other ancient artifacts". Now they're all reactions to pop culture, and simple physical challenges (try not to laugh, eat as much as you can, etc.).
There's pretty clear MPDG potential there -- Tori -- who naturally was born in the late '90s, has a modest chest and a fertile figure, and is upbeat, carefree, super-extraverted, ditzy, quirky, and all the rest. Mikaela comes in a close 2nd, born in the late '90s, mostly the same personality traits as Tori, but having a "narrow figure with big boobs" shape that keeps her from being 100% natural in the role. This early in the warm-up phase, it remains to be seen what roles they will play. (So far, Tori has only been sham-partnered with another FBE participant, Eric, who is flamingly gay -- typical Hollywood relationship.)