The manic pixie dream girl is a film trope we’re all familiar with, and sick of, by now. But what about the flip side of the coin? Won’t anyone think of the unique snowflake men? That’s a question Thunders’ Ryan Reidy asked himself when writing “Manic Pixie Dream Guy” from the Chicago group’s Weird Spines White Trash Whatever, out this month on Maximum Pelt. Like their previous single “Noasis“, the song is a screeching blast of distorted tunefulness.
We asked Reidy who wrote the song in between substitute teaching at an elementary school, to explain the story behind it over email.
“A few years ago, I found myself living in a strange city [Chicago], friendless — not necessarily wanting to make any really — and at a crisis point in making music. My roommate suggested I find other things in my life that to be interested in that weren’t necessarily music related, so I decided to just sit around and watch movies all the time. I kind of immersed myself in films, and a lot of those concepts found their way onto the songs I wrote for the record; three of the songs titles come from movies.”
“There’s a somewhat ubiquitous cinema trope about manic pixie dream girls, which are these super shallow artistic devices devised by male screenwriters that teach these sad sack young men to embrace life and its inherent mysteries, etc. Which got me thinking about what the real world analog would be for men with regard to women.”
“I kind of decided it would be this unkempt, gypsy, unstable guy that kind of excites this paternal instinct in women. And then I looked at myself in the mirror and kind of realized that it was me. Haha. I used that as a jumping off point to explore and explain that I’m probably this heartbroken dude, that I may not actually believe in the infallibility of love (Maybe? Probably?), and that despite all of these things, I don’t care, and I need to find the courage to keep putting myself out there and taking risks, or else what the hell is the point?”
“In the song, I make references to Cat Power, though I think that in her song ‘Metal Heart’ she kind of concludes that hiding behind an unbreakable heart is a cowardly thing to do. But I kind of think it’s super freeing, which is probably the opposite idea she was trying to get across. [There’s also a reference to] Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’, which Gainsbourg said was an ‘anti-fuck’ song about the ‘desperation and innate impossibility of physical love,’ which I can relate to in ways I am unable to fully articulate.
“It’s probably an insanely convoluted thing to try to ram into the constraints of an ostensibly upbeat, two and a half minute pop song, but that creates some dialectical friction that sits well with me on an intellectual level, I guess.”