Meet 2009's 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl': The 'Sphinx Minx'

For a while there (think Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown and Natalie Portman in Garden State), cinematic love interests seemed to come in only one, ostentatiously quirky variety: the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl." As writer Nathan Rabin explained after coining the term: "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."

This year, though, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl has been replaced by the very "infinite mystery" she once helped our heroes find. Meet 2009's unknowable-but-irresistible variation on the formula: the "Sphinx Minx."

The Sphinx Minx may be beautiful and sexually forward, but behind that cool, opaque exterior lies...well, who knows? Our hero certainly doesn't, and it's his inability to figure out what she's thinking that comes to bite him in the ass. Through loving a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, our hero can find fulfillment, but with a Sphinx Minx, you can only become a better man once she breaks your heart.

Here are the four notable Sphinx Minxes from this year (mild spoilers follow):

Summer Finn, 500 Days of Summer

Played By: Zooey Deschanel

Out-of-Reach Rating: 9. For as much as Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) obsesses about Summer, he never truly feels he understands her. If anything, she becomes harder and harder for him to read the longer they date.

Biggest Betrayal: After constantly reminding Tom that she's not interested in love or marriage, she swiftly finds both with another man.

Facilitates Our Hero's Growth By: Coaxing him to fulfill his true potential as an architect (mostly, just so he can impress her).

Cindy, Extract

Played By: Mila Kunis

Out-of-Reach Rating: 8. Cindy comes on strong, but it's all an act -- before you know it, she's fled to the next guy and stolen your wallet.

Biggest Betrayal: Bats her eyes at two guitar store employees who fall all over themselves to show her an expensive guitar, then steals it when they aren't looking.

Facilitates Our Hero's Growth By: Giving Joel (Jason Bateman) a sexy, mysterious figure to lust for after he tires of his too-predictable wife.

Sheeni Saunders, Youth in Revolt

Played By: Portia Doubleday

Out-of-Reach Rating: 10. Each time Nick (Michael Cera) thinks he's close to bedding the tantalizing Sheeni, she throws another, seemingly insurmountable obstacle in his way. You'd almost think she delighted in torturing him, if her placid face and withholding demeanor betrayed any hint of emotion.

Biggest Betrayal: After consenting to a few dates with Nick, Sheeni casually reveals that she has a boyfriend just as Nick's ardor is at its peak.

Facilitates Our Hero's Growth By: Encouraging Nick to be manly enough to win her from her perfect beau.

Wichita, Zombieland

Played By: Emma Stone

Out-of-Reach Rating: 7. Like Extract's Cindy, Wichita isn't what she seems -- though she initially comes off as a vulnerable dream girl, it's just a con job this hardened survivor employs to steal weapons from her fellow travelers.

Biggest Betrayal: Every time she regains the trust of love interest Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita flees to the next city with more of his hard-won possessions in tow.

Facilitates Our Hero's Growth By: Giving him someone to impress, which causes him to finally grow a backbone and become an action hero.


  • Josh says:

    "though she initially comes off as a vulnerable dream girl, it’s just a con job this hardened survivor employs to steal weapons from her fellow travelers."
    Is this a spoiler?

  • Mchael Pemulis says:

    It's only a spoiler if you are actually going to see that piece of shit. It's got Direct to DVD written all over it.

  • Jen says:

    the 2008 film 'forgetting Sarah Marshall' starring Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Kristan Bell follows the main male character getting dumped by a confusing character played by Kristan Bell not sure whether she always fits the sphinx minx profile, she seems to flit from sphinx minx to shallow harpy.
    in other words, not a very well drawn character who the main character has to get over so he can become a "better man once she breaks [his] heart".
    Mila Kunis plays the part of the manic pixie dream girl, helps Segal get over his ex by being a perpetually happy and exciting little nymph (undoubtedly SHE won't EVER nag him). Finally he can fulfill his creative destiny and create his vampire puppet musical or some such shit.
    so many problems with this film!!