Kimberly Alexis Bledel plays roles that make you love her, roles that place her in a certain romantic limelight. From speed-talking, book-inhaling Rory Gilmore (“Gilmore Girls”) to brave, wide-eyed Winnie (“Tuck Everlasting”) to sketchbook-toting sweetheart Lena (“Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”), Bledel occupies a happy medium among female romantic leads: she loves and is loved but is taken by her own choice; she makes her own choices.
The boys who come for her are of the ilk to overwhelm — soulful, with untamed hair and sentiment. But Bledel isn’t overwhelmed. She is whelmed. She is an even-handed, point-scoring player on the field of love, not a catalyst for others’ life-affirming adventures, nor a salve for someone else’s heartbreak. She is protagonist, hear her roar. And she remains so in “The Kate Logan Affair” and “Post Grad,” and even in her minor roles in “Sin City” and “Mad Men.”
To me, she justifies the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope as something that isn’t minimizing or confining. Her Manic Pixie is something of a hero. The Bledel Manic Pixie isn’t always plot-driving, but the details of her life are dramatically exposited with intent to matter, in and of themselves, because she matters, in and of herself.
When Jesse comes back for Winnie in “Tuck Everlasting,” he finds her in her grave, not as an immortal teenager. She lived and lived happily, unafraid of dying off-screen, and certainly not pathetically waiting for Jesse. Bledel played, not the treasure of a romance that wouldn’t ultimately make her happy, but a woman who lived and died a woman’s life, a life that the immortal Jesse did not get a lead role in.
When Rory dates Dean, Jess and Logan in “Gilmore Girls,” we experience those relationships from her eyes. Her schooling remains central among her priorities. Her journalism career remains central among her priorities. And even if you didn’t agree with her and her mothers’ choices in the end, there’s no doubt who the show was really about.
So when I say Alexis Bledel is my Manic Pixie Dream Girl, please don’t scoff at her for being reduced to a trope or an object of affection, and please don’t scoff at me for referring to her with the sentimental possessive that’s the vice of my brood. She’s a Manic Pixie with or without boys like me loving her. She and other so-called Manic Pixie Dream Girls will go ahead and live their lives, on and off-screen, regardless of their brooding, sentimental following.