When I first saw the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World film, it was the version where he ended up with Knives, making me realize for the first time that there were readers who considered the story to be a love triangle. I remember being very confused by it that interpretation, as the conflict in the story as I read it wasn’t whether Ramona Flowers or Knives Chau would end up with Scott, but whether Ramona and Scott could stop being terrible people long enough to couple up. Ramona, as seen in the comics, is a terrible romantic partner, lying, keeping things to herself, and selfishly interacting with him in ways that were well beyond her own ability to follow through on. Indeed, the battle isn’t one young woman versus another, but a more existential battle between different aspects of the same troubled woman, leading to today’s precious little query…
The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) doesn’t want to let Pilgrim off the hook here, as he is as immature, selfish and jerk-faced as anyone in any of the volumes, asking: Ramona Flowers: Manic Pixie Dream Girl or Self-Involved Jerk?
I’m not sure that the two things are mutually exclusive. Sure, if you want to have a one-dimensional tale where your main characters boil down to one basic archetype then you have to pick one to the exclusion of others… but there is more than one way to approach a story.
My understanding is that a MPDG is about an idealized trophy to be ‘won’ by a male protagonist by improving himself. It’s a projection of the ideals of the protagonist onto the framework of another character. In the case of Ramona, she is an idealized presence for Scott in that she is someone who is as much of a self-involved jerk as he is.
Not to break the conceit, but I’m going to say neither MPDG nor self involved jerk, but simply a person with her own motivations and intentions that are beholden to nobody but herself. You as the reader only see that character as a self-absorbed jerk from the perspective of the protagonist/creator, who (not to cast aspersions) is himself a self absorbed jerk living in a world full of self absorbed jerks.
A big part of the MPDG is that not only are they seen as the idealized trophy/object, but that the mere presence of the MPDG in a male protagonists story improves that protagonists life, that somehow this girl is “the missing piece of this larger man puzzle,” and her presence makes him whole, completely negating her own agency, she only exists for him. But when a female character asserts her own agency, it comes out from the POV of Scott as selfish, lying, secretive, etc.
Everybody’s a self absorbed jerk, and you (the protagonist of your own story) only see other jerks as such when things arent immediately simpatico.