When there are hundreds of movies made every year, patterns start to show up. Whether it’s the characters or the ending, there isn’t much in the way of originality in the movies. This is especially true with characters, whose archetypes have been mixed and matched since Hollywood’s inception. As time progressed, new characters have emerged, and been implemented and overused just like the old stereotypes before them. Here is a list of movie characters we’ve seen time and again the past few years, and that we’ll probably continue to see for many more to come.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl- Realizing your dreams and fulfilling your potential is one of the most common goals of movie protagonists. Young male independent writers/directors like to do this with the help of a leading lady. At first, these characters almost demand to be recognized as free spirits, but as soon as love and narrative momentum chains them down, they become muses whose only purpose is to help the main character fulfill their own potential while they are left unfulfilled. The phrase was first coined by critic Nathan Rabin, who used the term in his review of Elizabethtown. Find them in: Garden State (Natalie Portman), (500) Days of Summer (Zooey Deschanel), Almost Famous (Kate Hudson) and Elizabethtown (Kirsten Dunst)
Ferrell Man-Child- Will Ferrel isn’t the only one to play this kind of character, but he helped perpetuate its insane popularity in modern movies. Completely arrogant and ignorant, this character is also loud. He yells pretty much every line, especially the ones that are not funny. Find them in: Anchorman, Talledega Nights, Step Brothers and Semi-Pro (All Will Ferrel)
Partner-Hating Friend- Usually found in romantic comedies, this character does everything in their power to undermine their friend’s significant other, whether it’s pointing out what the other isn’t doing in the relationship or by flat-out calling out them “loser” to their face. Find them in: Knocked Up (Leslie Mann), The Hangover (Bradley Cooper), Superbad (Jonah Hill)
Friend-Hating Partner- The reason many friends in comedies hate the main character’s spouse is because the spouse hates them in equal measure. Almost every female character in any bromance comedy made today is merely a roadblock in the way of the main character’s fun. Find them in: Knocked Up (Katherine Heigl), Hallpass (Jenna Fischer), Saving Silverman (Amanda Peet)
The Pretentious Quirk-Off- Hopelessly quiet and shy, usually portrayed by Michael Cera or in Wes Anderson movies, this movie character is defined more by his pop culture interests than by human characteristics. They probably collect a random knick-knack or have a weird verbal or physical tick when they see the girl of their dreams. Find them in: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Michael Cera), Zombieland (Jesse Eisenberg), Almost any Wes Anderson Movie (Jason Schwartzman)
Scruffy Relief- Usually the big comic relief was loud and fat, not short and quiet. But lately, with help from movies like The Hangover, quiet deadpan is the new Chris Farley busting through a wall. Of course you could find it earlier than that in various comedies, but Galifianakis really mainstreamed it. Find them in: The Hangover & Due Date (Zach Galifianakis), Office Space (Stephen Root), The Royal Tenenbaums (Bill Murray).
What are some other movie stereotypes that you’ve noticed? Where are some of the ones we mentioned also found?
I despise Manic Pixie Dream Girls!