The Case of Keenan and Kel

This week we’re continuing our SNICK-tember with a very special guest. He’s another old friend of ours, but this is his first time appearing on the show! So let’s give a warm BCD welcome to Jaren Lewis! 

We asked Jaren to join us this week because we’re covering a childhood favorite of his, the hilarious SNICK-com Kenan and Kel! Even though the show ended 20 years ago, Kenan and Kel continues to be one of the most beloved parts of the SNICK lineup. It starred two break-out stars from All That, and followed the misadventures of Kenan Rockmore and Kel Kimble; two teens from Chicago, IL. 

Kenan and Kel had it all: an iconic theme song, quotable catch-phrases, and two lead actors with impeccable comedic chemistry. So, everybody out there go run and tell your homeboys and homegirls, it’s time for Keenan and Kel!


  • Back in the early 1990’s, Brian Robbins, Michael Tollin, and Dan Schneider started a nation-wide search for young comedic actors. The result was the original cast of All That, premiering in 1994.
  • All That became a huge success for Nickelodeon, and this is where producers and audiences first saw the magic between Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. The boys made the audience laugh on screen, and the cast and crew laugh off screen. They starred in sketches together as Mavis and Clavis, two grumpy old men. They delivered the lines that played at the end of many All That episodes: “Hey Clavis, Wake up, the show’s over!” “Oh Yeah, kick it!” 
    • In an Entertainment Weekly article, Kenan Thompson remarked about how similar the two were, and how they connected almost immediately. They really shined while playing Mavis and Clavis because of the off-the-cuff nature of the sketch. The boys really made the characters their own.
  • Kenan and Kel were break-out stars, and All That was a major success. Nickelodeon executives started forming plans for a new project starring the teens.


  • Writer Kim Bass was attending a birthday party for the comedian Sinbad (I feel like that’s the most 90s thing that we could ever say), when a Nickelodeon executive approached him about the possibility of a spin-off show starring Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. 
  • At that point, Bass was well-known for creating “Sister Sister,” an ABC sitcom starring Tia and Tamera Mowry (now streaming on Netflix). Unfortunately, his name seemed to confuse this particular executive, who reportedly told him, “We’ve been looking for you. I thought you were an older white lady.” 
  • Bass agreed to meet with Thompson and Mitchell, and he immediately noticed their incredible dynamic. Bass felt that the two were so naturally funny, it almost seemed as if they had rehearsed jokes before meeting him. He thought the boys were so well matched, they could be the same person. It was a conversation with two people, who were in perfect comedic rhythm with each other. 
  • So, the show was ordered, and once the second season of All That was complete, the actors stayed at Universal Studios in Orlando, to immediately begin filming Kenan & Kel.


  • In August of 1996, Nickelodeon viewers met Kenan Rockmore and Kel Kimble, two mischievous best friends chasing schemes that always landed them in trouble. Kenan was the straight man, the leader that always dragged a reluctant Kel into his shenanigans. Kel was the goofy best friend, an orange-soda-loving comedic foil.
    • The writers gave Thompson and Mitchell the bare bones of their characters, but they allowed the boys to develop them further. Kenan said back in 1996, “The writers gave us a skeleton of the characters, and we put the meat on them. We bring our own shenanigans into the show.”
  • Filmed in front of a live audience at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, FL, Kenan and Kel was the first of many spin-offs from All That. In fact, much of Nickelodeon’s live-action programming from the late-90’s to the mid-2000’s could be traced back to All That in some form, and this was the first of all of them. 
    • Each episode opened with the boys standing in front of the theatre curtain, telling the audience (and viewers at home) what the episode would be about. This always ended with Kenan getting an idea for a new scheme, and often asking Kel to get various items and meet him somewhere. Kel then followed him off the stage crying out, “Ahh, here it goes!” 
  • According to a 1996 issue of the “Ooze News,” it took about 75 crew members and four months to create the first season of the show.
    • Although the show was created by Kim Bass, it shared the same executive producers as All That, and producer Brian Robbins was the head of the crew.
      • He oversaw the entire episode process from script writing to editing. He even directed some episodes.
    • The main writers for the first season were: Kevin Kopelow, Heath Seifert, and Dan Schneider. They were also writers for All That, and Schnieder also guest-starred as Angus, the rival to Kenan’s grocery store boss.
    • Producer Merrie Dudley managed everyone’s schedule. Each workday lasted 10 hours, and she made sure everyone was staying on task. The five-day work week ended in the taping on Friday night, with the studio audience. 
      • Could you imagine going to see Kenan and Kel on a Friday night? A childhood dream. 
    • Joel Fisher was the production coordinator, which is essentially a stage manager. Imagine Kevin from All That. Joel did everything in his power to make the show go on, which meant wearing a headset and beeper to be reached at all times.
      • I wonder how many orange soda runs he did 😉 
    • Bruce Anthony Marshal was responsible for costumes, buying or making about 20 outfits per episode! David Jordan Jr was responsible for the props and scenery, and he also designed the iconic Nickelodeon news anchor, Stick Stickly! 
  • Kenan and Kel originally aired on Nickelodeon for four seasons, from August 1996, to July 2000. After the series finished, reruns continued on Nickelodeon from 2001 to 2004.
  • The series appeared on The N (later known as TeenNick) from 2007-2009, which reinvigorated its popularity with late-90’s kids. 


  • Coolio
    • All That’s theme song had the incredibly popular and talented group TLC sing their intro, so it only stood to reason that Kenan and Kel would deserve the same treatment. 
    • Who do you choose to do the intro song for an amazing comedy duo? Well Nickelodeon chose someone who had just received a Grammy for the hit “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Yes, that’s right, Coolio. 
      • In the Entertainment Weekly article Kenan said that “It was the best. He had been on All That before at that point, so we felt like we knew him. That’s how you are when you’re young, ‘Oh yeah, Coolio’s my best friend.’”
    • Instead of using an already established hit song, Coolio delivered an original theme that captured the spirit of the 90’s. The intro to the show was essentially a music video, featuring classic Nickelodeon staples like the Universal globe fixture and the big orange couch.
      • The song was named for Kel’s famous line: “Aww, here it goes,” and the lyrics introduced the show’s characters, making the tune unique to Kenan and Kel.
      • The theme song’s visuals are engaging, and honestly endearing. Here are two kids hanging out with a huge star, having the time of their lives. They look like they’re having an absolute blast, and it really reflected the tone of Nickelodeon in general. 


  • So, if you  watched Nickelodeon in the 90’s, there was one undeniable truth that absolutely everyone knew: Kel loves Orange Soda. Apparently the line came from Dan Schneider, one of the main writers on the show. It was a silly running gag, that audiences might have forgotten years later–but it was Kel’s delivery and slapstick humor that cemented it into the 90’s Nick quote hall of fame.
  • Back in the 90’s, people would stop Kel on the street and ask, “Who loves orange soda?” Even in later years, it’s something that follows him everywhere he goes. He said, “When my wife and I go out to eat, it doesn’t matter what type of restaurant we’re at, whether it’s a five-star restaurant or a burger shack, people go crazy if I don’t get an orange soda. And they’re like, ‘Oh, what are you going to drink? Orange soda?’ And they just crack up, but I enjoy it. I’m happy that people enjoy the show and are still drinking orange soda.”
  • Kel wasn’t the only character with a catchphrase. Kenan would often scream, “WHYYYY” when things went wrong. The soundbite of it often appeared at the end of each episode after the credits.


  • Kenan Thompson as Kenan Rockmore
    • Kenan, before getting a role in All That, had a starring role in Mighty Ducks 2. Before he and Kel starred in Good Burger, he had also starred in Mighty Ducks 3 and Heavyweights. 
  • Kel Mitchell as Kel Kimble
    • We mentioned this in our episode of All That but.. He forgot his monologue he’d prepared for his audition to be on All That, but when he tripped on some studio equipment, he turned it into a joke and had the producers laughing. He has said that his Ed voice for the Good Burger sketch also came out of that audition.
    • Good Burger was his first starring role in a feature film.
    • When talking about their role model status Kel said. “It makes me feel so good to see kids laugh and smile at us. But what makes it really great is kids of different ages, backgrounds and cultures like what we do. That’s when you know you’re doing good work.”
  • Ken Foree as Roger Rockmore
    • Roger is Kenan’s father who is not afraid to ground Kel as well, even though he is not Kel’s father.
    • Ken Foree has had a lot of roles. A lot of them in spooky movies such as Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He has also had many small roles in several tv shows like Family Matters, The A-Team, and the X-Files.
  • Teal Marchande as Sheryl Rockmore
    • Sheryl is Kenan’s mother.
    • Teal Marchande has not been in much but was in a movie called Kraa! The Sea Monster and also had a role in an episode of Martin.
  • Dan Frischman as Chris Potter
    • Chris is the owner of Rigby’s which is where Kenan works.
    • Dan Frischman’s other biggest role was in the tv show Head of the Class from 1986. He has had small parts in various tv shows like Seinfeld, Melrose Place, and Passions. 
      • There was a lot of overlap with Head of the Class and Kenan and Kel. For example, Dan Schneider wrote for both, and producer Brian Robbins also acted on Head of the Class as well! 
  • Vanessa Baden as Kyra Rockmore
    • Kyra is Kenan’s little sister who eavesdrops on his and Kel’s conversations and tries to get him in trouble. She is also hopelessly in love with Kel and would do almost anything for him.
    • Vanessa Baden has starred in a couple different tv shows. She was on the kids show, Gullah Gullah Island. She has also starred in the tv shows Fail from 2011 and Giants from 2017.


  • In 2000, Kenan and Kel ended, and the actors both left Nickelodeon. The 90’s were over (though most of us still don’t want to believe it) and the boys needed to make it on their own. At this point, they were known almost exclusively as a duo. So, they attempted to establish themselves separately. 
    • Three years later, Kenan landed a spot on SNL. He also starred in the movie, “Fat Albert.” 
    • Although Kel continued to appear in various roles after leaving the show, he seemingly drifted from the limelight. There were even rumors that he had died! 
    • Another, more recent rumor, was that Kenan and Kel had a falling out and would likely never perform together again. Many believed that this was connected to the fact that Kel had also auditioned for SNL and did not get cast. 
      • Kel reportedly told TMZ that Kenan didn’t want anything to do with him, as the two had lost touch. In 2014, Kel reached back out to Kenan, and the two became friends again.
    • In 2015, 90’s nick fans were given a great gift, when the two appeared on The Tonight Show, reenacting the famous Good Burger sketch once more. It was the first time they had appeared on screen together in 10 years. The appearance reignited talks of an All That, and even Kenan and Kel reboot!
  • Well, that was five years ago, and the duo has played a big role in the rebooted All That currently airing on Nickelodeon! 
  • So far, a Kenan and Kel reboot is just rumors and speculation, though both have noted that they would like to do it. They have the money and status to produce it, so will it happen? Who knows! 

So, why was Kenan and Kel so special? Well, much of it had to do with the chemistry between the two leads. The show had great writers, but they also knew when to step back and let the kids do their thing. Kenan and Kel seemed to run the show, introducing the audience to each episode. It felt personal, like they invited you over to see their show.

Kenan and Kel also struck a chord with audiences. Although it wasn’t the first sitcom with a black lead on Nickelodeon, it certainly was the most successful. It set the stage for more diverse stories and characters in the years to come. And, not to mention, its success also paved the way for more All That spin-offs. If Kenan and Kel hadn’t been successful, would there have been an Amanda Show

Kenan and Kel was relatable, funny, and downright entertaining. It had the BEST theme song of any 90s Nickelodeon show (don’t @ me). It was yet another show that defined the golden era of Nickelodeon. 

Thank you again to our guest Jaren Lewis for coming on the show!


This Case Explains It All

In the spring of 1991, even before SNICK existed, Nickelodeon premiered its first live-action show with a female lead. It starred (a fairly unknown) Melissa Joan Hart, and became a massive cable success, paving the way for many shows like it to follow. 

Clarissa Explains It All followed the lives of the Darling family, told from the perspective of young teenager, Clarissa. Tackling subjects like crushes, grades, and annoying siblings, the series struck a chord with young viewers and their families, and would go on to headline the SNICK line-up. 

So, if you’re wondering how this show came to be, don’t worry, we’re here to explain it all for you! 


  • Created by Mitchell Kriegman, Clarissa Explains it All was a multi-camera sitcom filmed in Nickelodeon Studios. Every episode, Clarissa addresses the camera in a very honest and charismatic way, catching us up on her current life issues. 
    • In TV, this is often known as breaking the fourth wall. But, Kriegman didn’t see it this way. In an interview with Vulture, he said that he doesn’t feel like there really is a fourth wall in TV, and Clarissa wasn’t talking to a camera, she was talking to us. We were meant to feel as if we were in the room with her, like a friend and not an audience. 
    • Kriegman had a major hand in 90’s Nickelodeon, having worked on Doug, Ren and Stimpy, and Rocko’s Modern Life. He also created the 2000’s Nick Jr TV show, Bear in the Big Blue House
  • When he pitched Clarissa to the network, he had been a writer for SNL, and helped develop two shows on the Comedy Network. He got the idea for this new sitcom from the other shows he had helped produce. Sadly no one seemed interested in it at the Comedy Network so he brought the idea to Nickelodeon. 
    • At the time, Geraldine Laybourne was the head of Nickelodeon, and was working to lead the network into its golden era. She was a bit of an iconoclast herself, and wanted to try things that adults were telling her wouldn’t work with kids. She also was interested in building a network that appealed to kids more than toy companies or parents.
    • So, when Kriegman pitched the show, she gave it a chance. There was only one sitcom on Nickelodeon at the time, Hey Dude, but this new show would have a completely different style. Laybourne also gave Kriegman access to the studies that she was looking at as a guide to creating the show, and that was when he decided that his lead needed to be female.
  • Kriegman said, “For a variety of reasons, I decided that a girl would be better than a guy. I felt they wouldn’t let a guy be smart enough, sensitive enough and different enough. I’ve had a lot of real experience with programmers having problems with boys being articulate, still to this day. ‘Clarissa’ was a kid’s story more than a girl’s story, and that orientation was really effective with their audience.”
    • At the time, TV networks seemed to struggle with creating realistic teen girl characters. Many teen girl characters at the time were unrealistic or just not relatable. Of course there were exceptions, but it seemed to be an issue across the board. 
    • Kriegman’s goal was to create a character that personified Nickelodeon and what the channel stood for. He read teen magazines and consulted his wife who was an editor for Seventeen Magazine for help with portraying a modern teen girl. 
    • He knew it was important to have a character that young girls could look up to and identify with, but that boys would enjoy watching too. The result was Clarissa Darling, an outspoken teen that defied labels. She wasn’t exactly girly,and she wasn’t really a tomboy. Clarissa was a girl that enjoyed fashion and programming her own computer games. She had a best friend that was a boy, but he wasn’t a boyfriend. The topics of the show were things that were universal to kids, not something that would appeal to either gender specifically. 
  • On March 23rd, 1991, the world met Clarissa: a bright blonde girl in mis-matched clothes and black squares painted over her pink papered walls. The show opened with her introducing herself and immediately expressing that she hated her own name. That was, in part, why Mitchell Kriegman chose Clarissa Darling as her name. He knew it was a name that the audience could believe she hated–and Darling was lifted straight from Peter Pan. 
    • Clarissa was a hit! Here was a girl that, at first glance, would fit into the basic stereotypes of a young teen girl–and then she subverted them almost instantly. 
  • At first, producers did not like Clarissa  because they thought she was rude for doing things like speaking her mind and talking back to her parents. Kriegman defended the show’s portrayal of Clarissa, saying that producers wouldn’t have issues with these snarky comments or jokes if they came from a lead male. This is an issue that still carries on today, though shows like Clarissa Explains It All really helped show young girls that it’s okay to speak your mind–but don’t be disrespectful. Clarissa got in trouble in the show, just like any teen girl. Portraying a lead teen character that never gets grounded would be laughable, so of course Clarissa messes up every once in a while.
  • Kriegman rounded out the cast of characters by creating Sam, Clarissa’s neighbor and best friend who appears in her window at any given time. 
    • He also added Ferguson, Clarissa’s annoying younger brother. 
    • In the same Vulture article that we referenced before, Kriegman said, “Clarissa was going to be this wildly creative person. It stood to reason that Ferguson was going to be this “stick.” A really rigid stick of a person who was extremely competitive. And that made perfect sense from a character/show point of view, more than anything else. Ferguson had to be something utterly contrasting to her. I wanted that red-headed obnoxious little kid.”


  • The iconic theme song for the show was created by Rachel Sweet, someone that Mitchell Kriegman had worked with in the past. In fact, he had even worked on a parody show where Sweet would explain things! (Sound familiar?) So, it was only fitting that she collaborated with him again and gave him the intro to Clarissa. 
    • If you’re unfamiliar with the catchy earworm, it consisted of a lot of Nah-nah’s with interjected Way Cool! and All right! All right! throughout.
    • Sweet said “I didn’t want to do the typical sitcom theme song where it kind of tells a story or tries to convey what the show is about. I just wanted it to be something fun to listen to. Like ear candy. I had been recording for many years and was very into 60’s pop, and girl group stuff like the Shondells and Ronettes.”
  • But, the theme song was more than its music, it had great visuals as well! It introduces each character without saying who they are, but the audience immediately gets the idea. 
  • If you’re a 90’s Nick fan you might also notice the similarities between this opening and the opening of Doug! Both characters write on the screen in some capacity, and the other characters are introduced through action instead of words. Doug came out several months later in 1991, and Kriegman worked on that show as well.


  • Today, we take screen graphics for granted. They’re much simpler to create. Obviously it still takes skill and a flair for design but there are a lot more programs to help with this.
  • But, when they were filming Clarissa Explains it all, they had to hire a news graphics artist. His name was Don St. Mars and he had to use a specific computer called the Quantel Paintbox, which at the time cost about $150,000.
  • Don St. Mars created these designs that appeared on screen as Clarissa talked, and sometimes wrote. The designs had to appear as though Clarissa created them with her style but also look a tad better than what she would actually create to keep the aesthetic of the show. 
Notice the lock on her shoe!
Notice the lock on her shoe!



  • One of the most unique things about this show is Clarissa’s fashion. Her outfits never matched. They were always a cool conglomerate of patterns and textures. Mitchell Kriegman even said that they could tell the show was popular because kids started to dress like Clarissa!
  • The two geniuses behind these looks were Lisa Lederer and Bruce Marshall.
    • If Melissa Joan Hart was uncomfortable in anything they would change it for her. Although not a fashionista herself, Melissa enjoyed the outfits overall, saying that they made her just feel like a kid. They chose outfits that were not sexy or too tight. She didn’t even have to wear heels! She personally loved the combat boots.
      • She revealed in an interview with Elle magazine that she kept every single piece that she wore for the show and has it all in a theater closet in her basement. She is also very possessive of it because her sister tried on the blue combat boots with a  Betsey Johnson top and she told her she couldn’t take it. 
    • There were also episode plots centered on Clarissa’s fashion and need to express herself. In one episode, for school picture day, Clarissa argues with her parents about what she can wear. It turns out at the end of the episode, Clarissa has started a trend and she’s horrified to find that she came to school dressed just like everyone else.
      • Some of Clarissa’s style choices and antics were inspired by Mitchell Kleigman’s days as an artist–Clarissa is a creative character just like him.
    • A special little Easter Egg for everyone is that Melissa Joan Hart liked to wear a key lock on one of her shoes and so they let her do that in the show too. So if you look closely there should be one in every episode on one of her shoes! 
    • Also, while you’re watching the show, look for the color purple. Kriegman arbitrarily eliminated the color purple from the set and clothing. Of course, he couldn’t completely eliminate the color, and you can see it in patterns every once in a while. 


  • We’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: video games are not just for boys. But, it was and is still a commonly held belief that video games are more of a “guy” thing. Clarissa subverted that expectation once again by not only playing video games, but by coding her own games to play. 
  • Tim Burns is responsible for the video games that Clarissa creates within the show.


  • Sibling Rivalry wasn’t just there for plot reasons, it was deeply ingrained in the framework of the show. Kriegman intentionally created siblings that were different in every way, and he wanted their fighting to be always present, a fact of life that never had to be explained. When Clarissa walked in the room and insulted her brother, and he gave a nasty reply, it felt like an authentic portrayal of the kid experience.
    • This was another groundbreaking part of the show, and it made sense because kids don’t have fully developed emotions yet–and sometimes–they really feel like they hate each other. 
  • One of the most ground-breaking parts of the show was the relationship between Sam and Clarissa. It’s a common TV and movie trope that the boy and girl best friends will one day become romantically involved. But their relationship was totally innocent. Sam never even knocked, Clarissa always knew when he was coming up by the sound of his ladder hitting the window. 
    • There is one episode where Sam and Clarissa explore romantic feelings, but it ultimately ends with them realizing that they are just friends and it never comes up again. 


  • Today shows contain a lot of diversity but unfortunately this was not always the case in the early 90’s. Clarissa, while being an amazing way to expand on the life of a female teenager, does fall short in this aspect.  
  • Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa Darling
    • Clarissa is the main star of course that explains her life to us.
      • In the show bible that Mitchell Kriegman wrote for Clarissa Explains it All, he described the main character as “The Ferris Bueller of Girldom.” 
    • Melissa Joan Hart was also auditioning for a character on Blossom at the same time she auditioned as Clarissa. She decided that Clarissa was the right character for her, but Kriegman still had to choose between Melissa and another girl. Kreigman later said that the other girl really had the coolness of Clarissa, but Melissa lit up the screen so much with her personality, he decided she was the one to go with.
    • She started with small parts in things like commercials and shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark. Clarissa Explains It All was her first starring role on TV. She is also well known now for her role as Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Melissa and Joey.
  • Jason Zimbler as Ferguson Darling
    • Ferguson is Clarissa’s annoying and tattle tale little brother.
    • Jason Zimbler started his own theater company in 2007 and has worked for HBO as a software designer since 2009.
  • Elizabeth Hess as Janet Darling
    • Janet is her loving mother who likes to cook healthy food and save the planet.
    • Elizabeth Hess has had small roles on other shows like All My Children and Law and Order.
  • Joe O’Connor as Marshall Darling
    • Marshall is her loving father who usually refers to her lovingly as “sport.” He is an architect that designs strange buildings for houses and companies. 
    • Joe O’Connor has been on a lot of different things including Friends, Melrose Place, and Blue Bloods. 
  • Sean O’Neal as Sam Anders
    • Sam is Clarissa’s best friend, and was described by Kriegman to be a “Tip of the Iceberg” character (everything he says has a backstory that doesn’t get explored.)
    • Sean O’Neal wasn’t the first person chosen for Sam, as another actor played the character in the pilot episode. During his final audition, Kriegman asked Sean to leave and come back with his hair messed up. Sean did as he was told, and when he returned to the audition, Kriegman told him he got the part. 
    • He has acted in a couple roles since the show, but is still most well-known for playing Sam 


  • James Van Der Beek known for Dawson’s Creek
    • Melissa Joan Hart’s first on screen kiss was James Van Der Beek and she didn’t want to kiss him! She said she was more into the dark haired “skater dudes” like Pauly Shore and Johnny Depp. They had given her head shots of boys and asked her who she would be ok kissing and she remembers pointing to his and saying that she didn’t want to kiss him, but… it ended up being him anyway.
  • Michelle Trachtenberg known for Pete & Pete, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Gossip Girl
    • She guest stars as a young girl that can be a handful that Clarissa babysits.
  • Megyn Price for many roles on sitcoms like Rules of Engagement
    • She plays Lisa Welsh, Clarissa’s cousin.


  • A lot of fans remember Elvis the Alligator, Clarissa’s pet, but he didn’t last past the first season because he was too boring to cut to. So, in the show Clarissa says that he “grew longer than his size in the catalog” and had to go.
    • Kriegman has also said that he got the idea for the alligator from a college girlfriend who had a kiddie pool with turtles. 
  • The series ended with her wanting to be a journalist, and there was a planned sequel series that would follow her on a news internship.
  • In 1994 Melissa Joan Hart recorded an introduction for a recording of Peter and the Wolf recorded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She did this intro as Clarissa Darling.
  • The show had some incredible writing talent, including Suzanne Collins who would write The Hunger Games trilogy! Some of the other writers worked on such shows as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Friends,” “Daria,” “The Simpsons,” “Roseanne,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and many more. 


  • As Melissa Joan Hart got older the show naturally ended. Although there was the possibility of doing a continuation titled Clarissa Now, it never came to be. The creator Mitchell Kriegman wanted to continue Clarissa’s story into the teen years. However Nickelodeon did not agree with everything Kriegman wanted for the show. He was surprised to find that they hired a new writer and took out most of what he wanted in the show. Nickelodeon’s reasoning was that audiences supposedly did not like talking to the camera and fantasies. It caused Mitchell Kriegman to ask “What did you buy? Why did you do this?” 
  • In 2015 the creator Mitchell Kriegman wrote a novel called Things I Can’t Explain, that continued Clarissa’s story as a young adult in her 20’s trying to figure out life. 
  • In 2018 it was revealed that Nickelodeon was in talks with both Mitchell Kriegman and Melissa Joan Hart for a Clarissa reboot. The early reports said that Clarissa would be the mother of the family much like Topanga and Corey were for the Disney sequel Girl Meets World from 2014.
    • When asked about Clarissa being rebooted Melissa Joan Hart said, “I like the way we left Sabrina. I think Sabrina ended on a really great note, and I don’t think you want to go back and explore that. At the same time, I think Clarissa ended on a note that could be explored again, because it didn’t really have an ending — it sort of ended.”
    • In 2019 Melissa Joan Hart revealed to US Weekly that the production on the reboot has stalled. She was not able to give any details but instead said that it is up to the writers, producers, and network.

In a lot of ways, Clarissa Explains it All was a game-changer. It spoke to young girls in a way that no other kids show had before. Of course, shows like Blossom did a lot for young female representation, but this show broke so many molds, even just within the sitcom format. 

Clarissa Explains it All was a trailblazer. It’s a show that’s made a lasting mark on American pop culture, whether we realize it or not.  And, if you watched the show, you don’t need anyone to explain why. 


Reboot Sources:

The Ka-Case of KaBlam!

From the early 90s until the mid 2000s, children gathered around their TV sets at 8pm on Saturday nights to catch a legendary 2-hour block of programming. It ran on the network Nickelodeon, featuring shows meant for older kids, and of course, a big orange couch.

SNICK, named for “Saturday Night Nick,” featured shows like: Clarissa Explains it all, the Adventures of Pete and Pete, Are You Afraid of the Dark, and so many more. We love these shows so much, it’s hard to imagine a time when they were all airing on the same network. So, to honor a few of them, we are doing SNICK-tember! Each week will feature an episode on a SNICK TV show. The first one on our list? Ka-Blam!

Ka-Blam! was billed as “A New Kind of Cartoon Show,” that featured a mixture of different shorts in a variety of mediums. It played as a video comic book, with the animated hosts Henry and June guiding you through the pages. Ka-Blam was unlike any Nicktoon before it, a strange–yet hilarious–show that perfectly harnessed the magic of 90’s Nickelodeon. 

Today we’re covering the history of this often-forgotten gem. So, grab your popcorn, sit back, relax, and let us turn the pages for you. 


  • Many people consider Kablam to be a spin-off from All That, the children’s sketch comedy show that started airing two years before Kablam. 
    • Apparently an episode of All That aired the short: Action League Now before Kablam started airing in 1996.
    • I haven’t been able to track down this episode, but it seems to be a widely held belief.
    • Much like All That, Kablam was a sketch comedy show. The key difference is that the show is animated, but the concepts are similar.
  • Kablam! Premiered on October 11, 1996 as part of Nickelodeon’s plan to extend their prime-time block of entertainment past the usual 8 PM cut-off. It came out alongside another brand new Nicktoon: Hey Arnold!
  • It was created by Bob Mittenthal, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi.
    • Bob Mittenthal was responsible for classic 90’s Nick shows like, Welcome Freshmen, and Family Double Dare.
    • Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi were, of course, responsible for The Adventures of Pete and Pete (Absolute Heroes, honestly.) 
    • The idea of the show was to fill a half hour with brand new cartoons created by artists all over the country. In a Chicago Tribune article, Will McRobb was quoted saying, “Kids love cartoons and that’s a scientific fact. We are just giving kids more cartoons in a half-hour than they are used to getting and we are giving them stories in a way that’s fresh and new.”
      • Fresh and new is right! The show featured a variety of animation styles, from traditional, to clay, to puppetry, to something they liked to call, “Chuckimation.” (Which we will get to in a minute.) 
      • Shorts like, “Life With Loopy” and “Action League Now!” pushed animation boundaries, and provided a type of entertainment alternative to what children were used to seeing.
  • Henry, June, and Mark
    • Henry and June were two cartoon best friends, and the hosts of Kablam! They provided the in-between segments that tied the wildly different animation together. Without them, the show would seem to be a mis-matched hodge-podge of animation styles. These characters provided commentary on the cartoons, and of course, “turned the page” for viewers.
    • Artist Mark Marek was hired to create the two characters specifically for the show. He operated out of a strip mall (and before that, his basement) in New Jersey. He also owned, “Crank! It! Out! Inc,” a small animation studio.
      • The creators didn’t give Marek a lot of direction, except that Henry should look unkempt–as if he had just gotten out of bed. June was a little more organized, and Henry would be the one who was always catching up to her. Marek filled in the blanks from there.
      • Marek’s studio handled all the animation for the Henry and June shorts.
      • Kevin Kay, Nickelodeon’s former Senior Vice President of Production, told a local New Jersey newspaper that Marek’s style and fairly unknown status as an animator, totally fit with the alternative sensibility of Kablam! 
      • He said, “Mark has a unique talent. We’re very anti-`house style,’ and his work looks very different from everything else that is on our air.”
      • In the beginning, Mark animated the segments by himself, and then with one other animator. By the time the show was done airing, he had a team of 14 people. The 5-minutes of Henry and June for each episode took about three weeks to complete.
    • Henry and June were break-out characters on the show, and Nickelodeon used them as hosts for a summer Nicktoons program. 
    • When Kablam! was in its fourth season, Henry and June got their own special! Nickelodeon was hoping that it could become its own spinoff show. Unfortunately, The Henry and June Show did not get picked up. You can watch the original special here: 


  • Henry was played by 13-year-old Noah Segan.
    • Besides voice acting he also was recently in Knives Out as Trooper Wagner, Kid Blue in Looper, and an x-wing pilot in Star Wars Episode VIII-The Last Jedi.
  • Julia McIlvaine played June.
    • She has worked on several things, some live action and some voice. Examples are Netflix’s Dark, The Seven Deadly Sins, Judging Amy, and Pokemon: Twilight Wings.
  • Bert Pence voiced the general announcer.
    • He has done a few other voice acting jobs, one of the most notable being a narrator for the second episode of Documentary Now!


    • What quickly became the most popular short on Kablam, Action League Now won over audiences with its childish humor and innovative concept. Created by the same three men who created Kablam, this short followed a heroic group of children’s dolls as they humorously saved the day.
    • The show portrayed how children play with their toys. The audience was meant to imagine an unseen child character, moving the dolls and making them talk. That’s why the events of the show are so zany, they’re meant to come from a child’s imagination. This also explains why the dolls are so miss-matched, a funny collection that you would find on the floor of a child’s bedroom.
    • It was the only segment to air every episode(not including the specials.)
      • It proved to be really popular [on All That], but we decided that it needed to be on its own stage so we made it the anchor of KaBlam!.” -Robert Mittenthal
    • Action League Now! had its own special name for its animation. They referred to it as “Chuckimation!”
      • The name came from the action of chucking the dolls around, just as a kid would do. The creators would throw the dolls, run over them with cars, drop them off the roof, and then just layed funny dialog over the footage.
    • One of the dolls, The Flesh, is notable for not having any clothing. Mittenthal said, “When I was a kid, we used to take action figures and dolls’ clothes off and throw them away. They didn’t have genitalia so it wasn’t dirty. It’s just funny. Just saying the word `naked’ makes kids laugh.”
    • The characters that make up the Action League are various modified dolls and action figures.
      • The Flesh is a refashioned Conan the Adventurer.
      • Thundergirl is a mixture of a Barbie and She-Ra.
      • Stinky Diver is a GI Joe “Shipwrecked” doll with the mask on backwards.
      • Meltman is a GI Joe Cobra figure that has been melted.
      • The Chief and The Mayor are both mixtures of different Playschool People Dolls.
    • The villainous Mayor’s voice was modeled after Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy.
    • Voice Actors
      • Scott Paulsen played the announcer and Meltman.
      • Jim Krenn voiced The Flesh, Bill the Lab Guy, Stinky Diver, and The Mayor.
      • Cris Winter played Thundergirl.
      • Collin M. McGee as The Chief.
    • There was one episode of the show called, “Rock a Big Baby” where Kiss members actually voiced their characters and Harry Connick Jr. played Big Baby?!?!
    • Created by Cote Zellers, this segment consisted of claymation (although Zellers did not like this term because the characters were mostly made of foam latex).  It centered around two main characters: One is Prometheus, an advanced alien life-form who continually records his progress in trying to teach the second character Bob (a caveman) how to become evolved. It involved a lot of slap-stick humor that kept you coming back for more!
      • Cote Zellers began by directing commercials. Often there would be leftover sets and equipment that was loaned for another day. He got into the practice of taking these items to create little shorts.
      • The Prometheus and Bob sketch was born from the leftover set for a lottery commercial. He thought it would be funny if an alien tried to teach a caveman how to use fire. This would be the unaired pilot where Bob, after the fire is built, he puts Prometheus on the fire to cook and the monkey flies the saucer into the camera.
        • The producers at Kablam! really liked it but said that this original one could not be used or shown to anyone. He even had to sign a contract saying it would not be released, as it was too intense for kids to watch.
      • David Ernst would help to create the models for the following episodes as Cote would be filming the current episode. Daniel Shklair was the sound director for these shorts. It would mostly be these three men that put together this brilliant segment.
      • You can find the full interview with Cote Zellers here:
    • Each time, a script would have to be submitted for approval. Cote Zellers said that he had a rule. If there were more than 4 notes on the script he would scrap it and start a different one. He did not want to work on something that he felt was not his own.
    • There was a full-length movie planned, but it was eventually scrapped.
      • It had been slated to have David Spade and Chris Farley as Prometheus and Bob but was thrown out when Chris Farley passed away and when Cote Zellers disapproved of the script. What was left of the script was worked into “Gulliver’s Travels” starring Jack Black.
      • The final short that Zellers shot was titled “Painting” but was unaired because it was supposed to be a short before the scrapped movie.
    • In one of the most popular episodes, Tape 677 Evolution Chamber, Prometheus and Bob use the chamber to evolve themselves. Bob turns into Prometheus, Prometheus turns into a version of Bob, and the monkey turns into a modern-day human.
      • The theory behind this episode is that both characters are idiots.
      • Apparently the episode was banned in Kansas for portraying evolution.
    • Voice Actors
      • Prometheus was voiced by Cote Zellers.
        • He said a lot of swear words, which they would have to flip around in the audio.
        • Zellers still thought that it sounded like swear words.
      • Bob was also voiced by Cote Zellers.
    • Sniz and Fondue was created by Michael Pearlstein who is now known as Mike R. Brandon. 
    • Kablam! was not the first time that Sniz and Fondue appeared. It began as a pilot in 1992 with a short called “Psyched for Snuppa.” In this original pilot Snuppa and Bianca were the main focus and Snuppa was voiced by the musician Meatloaf.
    • This segment was in 3 of the 4 seasons and is done with the more traditional form of animation.
      • When the segment returned as a part of Kablam, Mike Brandon was the only one of the crew to return.
        • He would go on to be its writer, storyboard creator, artist, and voice actor for additional characters.
      • It only was on Kablam for 3 seasons because Mike Brandon’s animation studio, Funbag Animation Studios, was facing bankruptcy while they also were planning animation for the TV series, Watership Down.
    • Sniz and Fondue live with their friends Snuppa and Bianca, as the show follows the four ferrets and their adventures. Sniz is full of life and tends to get into sticky situations, and he usually pulls the anxious and reserved Fondue along for the ride.
    • Voice Actors
      • Rick Gomez as Sniz Bronkowski.
        • Those who are Nickelodeon fans may also know him as Endless Mike Hellstrom from The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
        • Among many other roles he was also Klump in Sin City.
      • Oscar Riba as Squeaky Fondue.
      • John Walsh as Snuppa.
      • Monica Lee Gradischek as Bianca.
    • This short was created by Stephen Holman. Holman began in the world of animation when he got to work in the last two seasons of Peewee’s Playhouse as a designer. Peewee’s show would greatly influence his personal style because of the mixed media approach within it. 
      • After Peewee’s Playhouse he would go on to create the short “Joe Normal” for Liquid Television on MTV. Liquid Television showcased animation, some of which would become bigger and well known like Beavis and Butthead. Joe Normal combined pixelated live action, stop motion animation, and live puppetry. 
      • In 1993 he and his wife, Josephine Huang, would create their own animation studio called (W)holesome Products Inc. 
        • It was then that he would pitch an idea to Nickelodeon called “We Are the Shrimpskins.” While this live action show would not make it far, only one developed episode, it would be the reason that Life with Loopy exists. When signing with Nickelodeon for the Shrimpskins, there was an agreement in the contract that a short of some kind would be included. This short would end up being Life with Loopy. When Shrimpskins did not continue, Life with Loopy found its perfect home within the Kablam! show.
    • The Life with Loopy segment also combined various art forms by utilizing stop motion, puppetry, and live action pieces done by the show’s creators. 
      • The tricky part with using all these forms was that everything had to match the lighting and atmosphere to make it seem as if it all went together. 
      • Stephen Holman said that doing the live action sequences really helped to break up the long hours spent on animation. It kept it fun and silly. He in fact played several of the live action characters, the most recurring ones being Charlie Chicken and the TV host Hank Hankerman who was meant to be like a David Letterman.
    • Life with Loopy was narrated by Loopy’s 12-year-old brother Larry as he took the audience through the daily life of his family–more specifically his little sister. Loopy is an adventurous young girl, who explores the world around her with imagination and wonder. 
    • The heads were made from metal which is why they have a flatter look but also made it really easy to switch out the facial features as they were magnetic.
    • Voice Actors
      • Danielle Judovits played Loopy.
    • The Off-Beats is a traditional animation segment created by Mo Willems, of Codename: Kids Next Door fame. 
    • It had a similar feel to that of the Peanuts TV specials and Hanna-Barbera cartoons due to its art style and jazzy soundtrack. The series itself in story and concept pays homage to the classic Peanuts, especially since the majority of the voice cast are child actors. Originally for the pilot episodes this segment was called “The Misfits” and featured a slightly less developed animation style with different voices.
    • Each segment was two to four minutes in length and are about the title group of outcasts dealing with problems from a rival group called The Populars. The ambience was filled by scoring the short with jazz. It was created mostly with just a piano, drums, and a double bass.
    • Voice Actors
      • Betty Anne Bongo voiced by Mischa Barton
        • She is the leader of the outcast of kids who has her own theme song that she herself sings “My name is Betty Anne Bongo, I sing this little song-O, I sing it all day long-O!” 
      • Tommy voiced by Mark Wagner with his yelling voice by Kevin Seal.
        • He is a self-proclaimed outsider of the group who loves his plaid coat.
      • Repunzil voiced by Trisha Hedgecock.
        • Her name makes sense due to her long floor length hair. She is also the youngest and the most naive.
      • August voiced by Dylan Roberts. 
        • August strives the most to be included with the Populars clique but remains in the status quo with his love for technology, even though most times his inventions are failures.
      • September was the only main character voiced by an adult and that was the creator himself, Mo Willems.
        • September is August’s talking dog with a sarcastic attitude. Although he is there he has no motivation to affect the plot-lines that happen. He is intelligent but yet cannot open a simple can of dog food. You may notice he and his owner August have similarities to Peabody and Sherman.
      • The three “Populars” are Tina, Beth and Billy.
    • Angela Anaconda is a cut-out animated short created by Joanna Ferrone and Sue Rose.
      • These two animators were first known for creating the old mascot for the 7-Up commercials. 
        • His name was Fido Dido, a teenager with a triangular face and wavy hair. He began as a sketch that Rose made on a napkin in 1985, then became a cartoon, and finally was licensed as the mascot for 7-Up by PepsiCo.
      • Sue Rose also is known for creating the popular animated show Pepper Ann.
    • This segment only lived for two episodes within Season one of Kablam! It would, however, go on to become its own show on Fox Family Channel for 65 episodes.
    • In the shorts for Kablam! Angela Anaconda finds herself as the unpopular kid in school that is often mocked by the conventionally pretty Nannette Manoir. She then gets “revenge” on her antagonist but it is mostly just revenge that she imagines to happen. 
    • Every aspect of this segment begins as a photo reference.
      • Each object, even things like hair, is taken from three different viewpoints; the front, side, and three quarter view. All of these images are then stored within a computer database that is easily accessed. 
      • Once they had all these images they would use the program Houdini which would load these images together and switch angles to create movement by quickly changing what angle is shown. 
    • Voice Actors
      • Angela Anaconda was voiced by one of her animators Sue Rose.
      • Nannette Manoir who is the original antagonist of the short, (who is not even french) was according to Sue Rose was the name of an actual person that Joanna Ferrone knew as an adult and disliked for her similar attitude to the character. She was voiced by Ruby Smith-Merovitz.
      • Johnny Abatti is Angela’s love interest though she is only 8 years old. He is voiced by Ali Mukaddam.
      • Mrs. Brinks, her teacher that obviously favors, Nannette is voiced by Richard Binsley.
    • This short was only in one episode but featured Louie the Chameleon and Louie the Hamster who are desperately trying to get their owners to pay attention to them.
    • The story was written by Gary Baseman who would later go on to write for Disney’s TV animated show Teacher’s Pet.
    • Voice Actors
      • Louie the Chameleon was voiced by Jim Belushi.
      • Louie the Hamster was voiced by Billy West.
    • JetCat began as an actual comic book series which makes it perfect for the Kablam! line-up. It was created by Jay Stephens and did not appear until Season 3. It would be in a total of 4 episodes. 
    • It centers around a young girl, Melanie McCay, who has an alter-ego which is a cat-themed superhero. 
    • Voice Actors
      • Melanie McCay voiced by Ashley Michelle.
      • Tod Johnson who is her best friend is voiced by Grady Larkin.
    • Created by Scott Fellows was featured in the later seasons, 3 and 4. Scott Fellows was also the creator of the popular Nickelodeon show Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide.
    • He’s a British Race Rabbit and he’s tearin’ up the tracks, he’s got a need for speed, but he’s always got time for anybody in need.
      • While helping others he also manages to always foil the plans of the Boolies (from the upper crust.)
    • This segment is live-action and uses real animals as the race rabbit. The other characters were:
      • Gabby McSHOUTS-ALOT, the race announcer.
      • The Boolies are aptly named because they are bullies that want to catch and stuff Race Rabbit for their wall.
      • Superchip M.A.X. is always trying to keep Race Rabbit on track to win the race. She never wants him to stop and help others because it could delay their winning.
        • This superchip takes inspiration from Knight Rider’s K.I.T.T.
    • This segment of the show would feature one of a kind shorts that would not be recurring. In the first season Henry and June would introduce them by having June pull-down Henry’s pants which would reveal boxer shorts with fun animals or flowers on them. In all the other seasons they were introduced just as any other short was, by saying it was the world premier. 
    • Some of these shorts were; Lava!, Anemia and Iodine, The Brothers Tiki, Randall Flan’s Incredible Big-Top, and Garbage Boy.

Kablam! Captured 90’s Nickelodeon in the most wonderful way. It was strange, a little gross at times, silly, and original. It was made to showcase artists that were under the radar, and bring them to the forefront. Kablam exposed audiences to stories and characters that they would otherwise never have seen. It was ambitious and entertaining–and very funny. 

I have so many fond memories of Kablam, it felt like a show that was meant just for me. And in that way, it made it the perfect show for Nickelodeon: the first kid’s network.


The Second Case of Second Chances

Way back, in the ancient time of 2018, we started our podcast. Back then we were a different show. We did less research, almost no scripting, and we also had only one microphone. This was how we recorded our second episode: The Case of Second Chances. 

If you never listened to it, the three of us each brought a film that we believed deserved a second chance. This could mean two things: a movie we saw once and hated, but enjoyed the second time–OR a movie that was unpopular with critics and viewers, that we think deserves a second look. 

Well, that was a long time ago. So, we’re giving that episode a second chance with new equipment, new research skills, and new movies that deserve another watch!

The Idea for the episode

  • Everyone should see every movie at least twice. Why? Well, because context is everything. Maybe you were in a bad mood the first time you watched something? Maybe you had unrealistic expectations based on all the hype surrounding the movie? Maybe you were in a different place in your life, or recent events swayed your opinion.
  • Of course different people have different tastes, but if you hate something, you should have reasons why–and maybe those reasons could be affected by another viewing.


    • In 1993 a movie called Sleepless in Seattle came out. It was directed by Nora Ephron, who had already become known for the classic When Harry Met Sally from 1989. The story follows two main characters and how they find each other and fall in love. The first is Sam Baldwin who is a widower with a young son named Jonah. The second is Annie Reed who is a recently engaged reporter in Baltimore. The young boy Jonah calls into a radio show where he tells Dr. Marcia Fieldstone that his dad needs to remarry. When Sam ends up on the phone, and thus on the radio, the women of the country fall in love with him but especially Annie who writes and asks them to meet her on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.
    • Creators
      • Film producer Gary Foster brought Nora Ephron on to direct Sleepless. There was already a script but he knew that she could rework it and make it magic, just as she had put her own spin on When Harry Met Sally. In order to accomplish this movie she brought in her sister Delia to help.
    • Why I didn’t like it the first time
      • Sleepless in Seattle is a movie I believe I received as a gift from my brother Greg and sister-in-law Janeen. I think I was in high-school when I watched it. Of course it is one of those classic romantic movies that everyone hears about. How could you not? It has Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as the leads.  
      • When I think about it, I believe that one of the reasons I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped would be because Annie and Sam really do not spend time together in the movie. They are mostly separate, and are explored individually until the final scene when they officially get to meet each other. 
      • I would be remiss if I did not say that it bugged me that Bill Pullman was the man that Meg Ryan leaves. Up to this point I had watched movies, such as Spaceballs and While You Were Sleeping, which had him as this handsome leading man. It felt wrong that he was the allergic, sneezing, and almost unlikable fiance in this movie.
    • Why I gave it a second chance
      • So one of the things you may or may not know is that Sleepless in Seattle is like a soft retelling of An Affair to Remember. (Fun fact this would be the first of two retellings that Meg and Tom would take part in, the next would be “You’ve Got Mail” which is “The Shop Around the Corner.”) Not only does it have a similar story-line but it also references An Affair to Remember several times. When I found out later, probably in college, that An Affair to Remember was an actual movie— I had to watch it. I checked it out at my local library and gave it a watch. Once I had watched it, Sleepless made more sense. I then re-watched Sleepless in Seattle and here we are. My mind was changed, and I got a new perspective on what the movie was. Even watching it a third and fourth time there is more to get with each watch.
        • For anyone who does not know what an Affair to Remember is, it is a movie from 1957 (During the time of the Hays Code.) It stars Cary Grant as Nickie Ferrante and Deborah Kerr as Terry McKay. They are both engaged to other people but meet on a cruise from Europe to New York. They fall in love and agree to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in 6 months if they still feel the same way about each other. Tragedy strikes however when she is not able to make it because she is in an accident that cripples her. She is too proud to ask him for help until she gets better, and he is too angry and hurt to ask why she did not show. It is a really dramatic but beautiful movie and what leads the motivations for love in Sleepless in Seattle. A great example of the dramatics in this movie is when Terry says the famous line “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories… we’ve already missed the spring!” 
    • Why I was wrong/ What is Special about it
      • The Stars in it!
        • This movie continued the magic of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s chemistry.
        • Ross Malinger as the son.
        • Rita Wilson as Sam’s sister, and Victor Garber as his brother-in-law.
        • Bill Pullman as Annie’s fiance. 
          • Due to watching An Affair to Remember I was able to reconcile with Bill Pullman and this movie. He is very much like the fiance in An Affair to Remember. He does not want to be the one someone settles with. He is a strong character for this, especially because he does not hold it against her.
        • Rosie O’Donnell as Annie’s Friend.
        • And Rob Reiner as one of Sam’s friends.
      • What is really special about this movie is that there is a lot to unpack. This is a movie that is as much about how movies shape our ideas and thoughts about love, as it is about finding love. The director’s sister Delia Ephron said in the movie featurette that “This isn’t a movie about love. It is a movie about love in the movies.” 
        • The fact that movies are a part of everyone’s lives is pointed out many times throughout. Some other movies mentioned are Fatal Attraction and The Dirty Dozen. 
          • Sam Baldwin : There is no way that we are going on a plane to meet some woman who could be a crazy, sick lunatic! Didn’t you see “Fatal Attraction”?
          • Jonah Baldwin : You wouldn’t let me!
          • Sam Baldwin : Well, I saw it, and it scared the shit out of me! It scared the shit out of every man in America!
      • There are actually a lot of amazing lines within this movie. Here are just a few….
        • Annie: “Now that was when people knew how to be in love. They knew it! Time, distance … nothing could separate them because they knew. It was right. It was real. It was …”
          • Becky (Rosie O’Donnell): “… a movie. … You don’t want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie.”
        • Jay (Rob Reiner): “Well, this is fate! She’s divorced, we don’t want to redo the cabinets, and you need a wife. What do they call it when everything intersects?”    
          • Sam: “The Bermuda Triangle.”
        •  Sam Baldwin (Hanks): “It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together, and I knew it. I knew it the first time I touched her. It was like coming home, only to no home I’d ever known. I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew it. It was like magic.”
      • Ratings
        • I picked this movie because I did not like it upon first watch. I was probably in the minority on this being that..
          • It currently has a 6.8/10 on IMDB, 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 72% on Metacritic. At the box office worldwide it made around $227 million. So even though it came out around the time of Jurassic Park, it did pretty well for itself. 
          • Even Roger Ebert had this to say about it, “”Sleepless in Seattle” is as ephemeral as a talk show, as contrived as the late show, and yet so warm and gentle I smiled the whole way through.”
      • Fun Facts:
        • Lydia Ruth, the spokeswoman for the corporation that runs the Empire State Building, said that after the movie was released people kept calling to ask if the heart could be displayed on the sides of the building like in the movie. Unfortunately they could not, because it had been computer generated for the movie. 
        • The final scene at the Empire State Building almost did not happen. They had been turned away from shooting at the building. Luckily the director Nora Ephron was able to pull it off because she knew the publicist for the building’s owner. The owner, Leona Helmsley, was currently in jail for tax evasion but allowed them just 6 hours to shoot those final shots.
        • It was so popular that it became a stage musical at The Pasadena Playhouse and was set to be made into a Broadway production and a London Premier. Even through Covid they were planning for a socially distant opening in London during August 2020. You can listen to a sneak peak of one of the songs here-called “Outta My Hands”–
    • As far back as 1999, Pixar of all companies had an alleged interest in creating a sequel to the 1982 film TRON after it garnered a cult following. Rumors further ignited after the 2003 release of the video game TRON 2.0. But it wouldn’t be until 2005, when Disney would finally begin a somewhat lackluster effort to devise that sequel. They began by hiring Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal as writers. Then Joseph Kosinski was brought on to direct two years into the project. As he was not very optimistic about Disney’s Matrix-esque approach to the film, Kosinski filmed a high-concept, which he used to convey his version of the TRON universe and convince Disney to fully greenlight the film. 
    • After a 5 year production, TRON: Legacy premiered in Tokyo on November 30, 2010 and was released worldwide on December 17th of the same year. Upon its release the film received mixed reviews. Critics praised the visual effects, production and soundtrack, but criticized the character development, cast performances and story. Despite this, TRON: Legacy would gross $400 million during its theatrical run, making it a box office success. It was also nominated for an Academy award for best sound editing (lost to Inception.) In the end, like the original TRON before it, TRON: Legacy has been described as a cult classic. 
    • Cast
      • Garrett Hedlund stars as Sam Flynn, a primary shareholder of ENCOM who, while investigating his father’s disappearance, is transported onto the Grid.
        • Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, the former CEO of ENCOM and creator of the popular in universe arcade game Tron, who disappeared in 1989 while developing “a digital frontier that will reshape the human condition.”
        • Bridges also portrays Clu (Codified Likeness Utility), a more advanced version of Flynn’s original computer-hacking program, designed as an “exact duplicate of himself” within the Grid.
        • Olivia Wilde as Quorra, an “isomorphic algorithm,” a new life form born from the Grid. The last of her kind, an adept warrior, and confidante of Kevin Flynn. 
        • Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley, an executive consultant for ENCOM, and close friend of Kevin who, after receiving a cryptic page from the office at the shut down Flynn’s Arcade, encourages Sam to investigate its origin.
        • Boxleitner also portrays Tron.
        • Michael Sheen as Castor, a flamboyant supermodel program who runs the End of Line Club at the top of the tallest tower in the system.
        • James Frain as Jarvis, an administration program who serves as Clu’s right-hand man and chief intelligence officer. 
    • Why it is widely disliked 
      • Imdb – 6.8
      • Rotten Tomatoes – 51%
      • Metacritic – 49%
      • The biggest hook for TRON: Legacy is the special effects. There are over 1500 visual effects shots in this movie, all of which blend a variety of CGI techniques. This includes everyone’s favorite computer-generated Jeff Bridges. The problem is you can’t make a film solely on its CGI potential (looking at you James Cameron). 
      • While TRON: Legacy brings great visuals, it has little in terms of thematic or character depth. It takes itself incredibly seriously but lacks any motivation other than, “he’s my dad” or “I’m blue and he’s red so he must be the bad guy”. Now for some, amazing visuals are enough. However, by 2010, audiences were used to the huge amounts of CGI in films. Another big issue with TRON: Legacy is that it comes across as a disappointing waste of potential. 
      • In 2010, video games had become a mainstream norm, and a major part of pop culture. They have helped shape decades of storytelling and creative expectations. Stories about the omnipresence of technology and its growing grip on our daily lives make up a significant portion of science fiction. Think Terminator or Black Mirror. So TRON: Legacy has all of these fascinating angles to explore yet it does nothing with them. 
    • Why I like it
      • I am a sucker for visual effects and I am easily transported to new and interesting worlds. I believe TRON: Legacy did this, and did it well. As soon as Sam enters the Grid, I am instantly put in the “aw man this is so cool” mindset. I find myself even now wanting to attempt a TRON: Legacy cosplay one day. 
      • The music is absolutely amazing and I continually listen to the soundtrack. Daft Punk were able to capture the sound of a dark and mysterious electronic dystopia that mixes old and new, while also giving their iconic electronic sound an orchestral twist. 
      • Jeff Bridges is also one of my favorite actors and he brings it as both Clu and Kevin Flynn. Say what you want about the CGI young version, but that wasn’t on him. Clu is still a wonderfully acted and intimidating villain. It’s also fascinating to see how Flynn handles being a prisoner in his own creation. 
      • For me the film does enough to entertain. I’m not going to hold a thin plot against it. The story is still compelling enough for me to want to move forward and see the next great visual set piece. 
    • Why it should be given a second chance 
      • So I cannot lie and tell you that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that TRON: Legacy’s enduring popularity among cult fans was because of its Oscar worthy plot. Its focus was clearly less on story and more on visual uniqueness. Something that would help it stand out in a crowded market of “Star Wars knock-off” sci-fi while Disney tried to find its way in. Disney would simply go on to purchase Lucasfilm instead. Still, what TRON: Legacy did have, was real forward momentum and a great blend of retro and modern. It’s a classic hero’s journey full of tasks Sam must complete to save the day, mixed with the boundary-pushing technology and art direction. 
      • We all love a good popcorn flick every now and then but TRON: Legacy also stands out in one particular way that makes it worth watching. While re-watching this movie for this episode, I was struck with an idea for a term that I couldn’t shake. That being “calm action”. This movie has a certain flow to it that is unlike anything else I can think of. During some of the most action-heavy scenes, what is happening can actually be seen on screen and is able to be easily followed and understood. It lacks the hundreds of quick cuts that many big budget action movies are filled with. Even the climax of the film is a great example of a chilled out action scene where everything down to the very movement of the vehicles are long, slow, and smooth. This is what I mean by “calm action”. To the characters living it, the action may be hectic and intense, but to those of us watching, we are able to observe like a true audience. 
      • You can see that TRON: Legacy did a lot of important things really well. It expanded the original concept of the Grid into an entire realm filled with endless possibilities, while still remaining true to the source material and its characters. It gave us an awesome new character in Quorra, who is a great mix of naivety and ass-kickery. AND on top of that some absolutely brilliant atmospheric Daft Punk tunes. 
      • Overall TRON: Legacy is a well done sci-fi movie with an interesting world that can be built on and explored even further. It is a visual marvel and musical masterwork. So if even just for a taste of original TRON nostalgia, it deserves a second chance. 
    • Back in 2011, an R-rated comedy smashed the box office and took the world by storm. At the time, raunchy buddy comedies were all-the-rage (ie The Hangover, Role Models, Hot Tub Time Machine) which proved that adult audiences craved more grown-up humor. But, there was another reason this particular movie was making headlines–and history. It was written by and starred WOMEN. That’s right, I’m talking about Bridesmaids. 
    • If you’re unfamiliar, (you’re probably familiar) Bridesmaids follows Annie (Kristin Wiig) as she struggles through her adult life alongside her bestie Lillian (Maya Rudolph). When Lillian announces that she is getting married, Annie agrees to be the maid of honor. After meeting the rest of the bridal party, Annie soon discovers that she must compete with the beautiful wife of the groom’s boss: Helen. Helen majored in passive-aggressive in college, and she quickly takes over and out-shines Annie at every turn. Will Annie be able to hold it together and guide her best friend down the aisle, or is she in danger of losing her best friend forever? 
    • Creators
      • When Judd Apatow directed his 2007 movie Knocked Up, he was impressed with Kristin Wiig’s comedic acting. He approached her and asked her to write a movie of her choice for him to produce. 
        • Wiig asked her friend and fellow castmate at Groundlings Theatre School, Annie Mumolo to co-write a screenplay.
        • From the beginning, the idea was to write an ensemble comedy, simply because they themselves knew so many funny women. (They say to write what you know, right?) 
        • After the first draft was written, Apatow contacted his friend Paul Feig. Feig had been looking to create a female-led comedy since he felt that the formulaic Rom-coms weren’t giving funny women the right roles to show off their comedic abilities; and that male-led comedies weren’t very relatable.
          • With Apatow, Feig, and a few actors chosen for the cast, the group did its first table read. After a few years and lots of script changes, the movie finally moved forward 
            • Wiig and Mumolo had a different style of humor than Apatow and Feig, and they reportedly argued over the type of humor in the movie. The women wanted to go with a more natural humor that played on everyday moments–while the men wanted slapstick. 
            • The incredibly famous dress-shop scene when all the women get sick was added to appease the producer and director. 
    • The Cast
      • The film starred Kristin Wiig as Annie. Although she was already well-known for SNL, this was her first starring film role. Annie is meant to be the most relatable character in the film–a woman in her 30’s who feels like she doesn’t know where her life is going.
      • Maya Rudolph was cast as Annie’s best friend Lillian. Feig specifically brought Rudolph into the casting process because he wanted Wiig to play off someone that she was actually friends with. Rather than saying how long the women have been friends in the script, the movie relies on the actors’ chemistry to show the audience how close they are.
      • Rose Byrne had recently been in the comedy, “Get Him to the Greek” when she was cast as Helen. Feig realized her potential for the role when he brought her in to play off of Wiig. The women were both funny, but in completely different ways that really worked for the characters.
        • The first thing they shot with Rose was the engagement party–particularly the scene where she turns around in her elegant floor-length gown. This is also the scene where she and Kristin Wiig keep one-upping each other with speeches, passing the mic back and forth. 
        • While they were filming the scene, Paul Feig let the women go back and forth improvising ways to surpass the other one. Rose stepped in and pretended to speak a Thailand proverb. Everyone thought it was so funny that they made her learn an actual proverb and speak it in the movie!
      • Ellie Kemper was known for playing Erin on the US version of The Office when she was cast as Becca. Originally she read for the part of Megan–the part that originally went to Melissa McCarthy. She later said that before shooting, Paul Feig met with each actress about their characters and she used emails from real brides that she knew as inspiration for her character.
      • Veteran comedic actress Wendi McLendon-Covey of “Reno 911” was cast as Rita. She was perfect for the role of the older, frustrated mother of teenage boys. She said she was shocked when she got the part, but her comedic charm perfectly balances with other characters–most notably Ellie Kemper’s character Becca. 
      • When Bridesmaids took off, the obvious stand-out was Melissa McCarthy. The movie made her a household name for her strange and hilarious portrayal of Megan–a part that was almost cut when Feig and Apatow had trouble finding an actress for the part. 
        • When McCarthy read for the part, Feig didn’t originally understand where she was going with the part. It was a weird and different take on the character. McCarthy has said that she based her performance on Guy Fieri. 
        • Another stand-out moment for McCarthy was the speech Megan gives to Annie to get her back on track later in the movie. Originally the speech was written for a bill collector who would urge Annie to get it together over the phone. But, the writers realized that the scene would better suit a character that the audience already knew.
        • McCarthy also got the chance to work with her husband! He plays the Air Marshal on the plane.
      • Annie Mumolo
        • Although it’s only one scene, co-writer Annie Mumolo appears next to Wiig in the airplane scene as a stressed passenger.
        • It was easy for her to appear in the scene, as she was on set for sudden re-writes. She was also very pregnant at the time. 
      • Jon Hamm
        • Hamm plays Ted, Annie’s original love interest and “fuck buddy.” Hamm is actually uncredited for the role, at his own request. He was afraid that his name would make audiences think that the film was more dramatic than it was, thus hurting it financially. 
        • Jon Hamm was also Ellie Kemper’s acting teacher at one point in time! 
      • Chris O’Dowd plays the lovable Irish cop, Nathan Rhodes. Originally, O’Dowd was meant to put on an American accent, but the filmmakers liked the authenticity of his Irish voice, and they even re-wrote the character to be Irish for him.  
  • Bridesmaids made $169,106,725 in the US and $288,383,523 worldwide. Its obvious success paved the way for more R-rated female-led comedies and films in general. It seemed to answer the question, “can women be funny?” with a resounding yes. Of course, if you listen to our Todd and Pitts episode, it’s clear that women were always funny. 
    • Ratings
      • IMDB – 6.8/10
      • Rotten Tomatoes – 90% from critics 76% from audiences 
      • MetaCritic – 75 
    • Why I didn’t like it the first time
      • This is always a difficult question to answer. Bridesmaids was SO popular, I kept my dislike for it quiet. I think it was a combination of things: too much hype, and it wasn’t really my brand of humor. I loved Chris O’Dowd, though. That’s one thing that never changed. 
      • I had just graduated high school, so I didn’t really relate to what was happening–and yet, I almost related too much at times. The scene where Annie gives the speech at the engagement party gives me terrible second-hand embarrassment. It was really hard for me to watch her be so insecure in their friendship, and get pushed away from her best friend by this seemingly horrible woman. 
      • I also didn’t appreciate how she treated Chris O’Dowd. After the scene where Annie and Lillian fight at the bridal shower, I turned the movie off. I was furious that Lillian kicked Annie out of the wedding in the first place, and that she didn’t even consider that “Helen-the-horrible” could be causing distance between them. I told myself that they would figure it out, and I moved on. 
    • Why I gave it a second chance
      • Back when we recorded part one, I mentioned that another movie that I didn’t like was Bridesmaids. My friend, Sarah, listened to that episode and actually wrote us a letter telling me that I should re-watch it. It’s the only fan mail we’ve ever gotten, and it’s actually hanging in our studio! So, thanks Sarah you’re the best.
      • Of course, I waited almost another two years to give Bridesmaids a shot. I went into it with an open mind and heart, and tried to view it through the eyes of an adult woman in 2011. 
    • Why I was wrong
      • While I was researching the movie, I found a quote from Kristin Wiig, where she expressed that the women making the movie didn’t understand what a big deal it was at the time. I can relate to that, because even though I knew there weren’t a lot of raunchy female comedies, I still didn’t understand how this movie could change Hollywood.
      • But even all that aside, I barely gave the movie a first chance. It hit close to home in a way that made it hard for me to watch. Being a teenage girl who just graduated high school, I had had enough of bitchy women to last a lifetime. So, I could not stand to watch Annie and Lillian fight, I had such a hard time when Helen stepped in and took over. I was tired, SO TIRED, of women being compared to each other, of this constant competition, and that’s what I saw in this movie. That’s why I turned it off. 
      • But I was wrong to turn it off. In fact, the last act of the movie is undoubtedly my favorite part. When Helen can’t find Lillian on the day of her wedding, she comes to Annie for help. Up until this point I genuinely could not tell if Helen was just a heartless woman, hellbent on destroying a lifelong relationship, or just a lonely person who took charge just because she’s used to running the show. 
        • When she needs Annie’s help, Helen isn’t too proud to ask for it. She apologizes for what she’s done, and although the apology was way overdue, it seems sincere. Helen isn’t a bitch. Helen is alone, she was on the defensive, and she saw Annie as a threat just as Annie saw her as one. 
        • The way these women can mend their differences in a matter of minutes in a (mostly) adult way, really impressed me. I can see how this movie broke new ground in Hollywood. Not only because these women subverted expectations by performing raunchy (and sometimes crude) humor, but because it showed how women can come together without the typical “catty” stereotypes. 
      • When it comes to anyone–woman or man–shitting in the middle of the street, it’s still not my brand of humor. But, that’s one scene. When Annie drunkenly struts into first class on the airplane and hilariously delivers the now iconic line, “help me I’m poor,” that’s funny. 
      • The movie was funnier for me the second time. It still made me cringe, but so does Planes, Trains, and Automobiles–so does The Hangover. And as an adult woman, I’m grateful that this movie was made to pave the way for more female-led stories. 


Bridesmaids Sources-

Sleepless in Seattle Sources-

Tron: Legacy Sources-

The Manic Pixie Dream Case

Every once in a while on our show, we talk about a film concept. Today we are taking a look at a specific film trope that has existed since the screwball comedies of the 1930’s. It endured through generations, although nameless, until 2007 when a film critic coined the term: Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG.) defines the term: “a type of female character depicted as vivacious and appealingly quirky, whose main purpose within the narrative is to inspire a greater appreciation for life in a male protagonist.” 

But, what exactly does this mean? Is it pointing out a sexist portrayal of women in film, or is the term itself sexist? Has the term gotten out of hand, and who exactly qualifies as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Today we’re taking a look at the creation of the term, and its influence on pop culture.

*Disclaimer* It’s okay to like any or all of the movies that we will mention in this episode. I (Marci) in fact have always loved watching many of these. As a viewer we must be aware that movies may, even if unintentionally, portray people in a way that could cause cultural harm by reinforcing certain stereotypes. 


  • Let’s go back to 2007, a time when flip phones, flared jeans, flash mobs, and popped collars were popular. At this time the AV Club website was still fairly small and not as well known as it is now. Nathan Rabin, one of their writers, wrote a review of the 2005 romance drama Elizabethtown. While his review did not shed a positive light on the movie, it narrowed in on one particular character that bothered him: Claire Colburn. Claire is the romantic love interest of Orlando Bloom’s character Drew Baylor. 
  • Drew Baylor is a down-on-his-luck shoe designer that recently cost his company almost a billion dollars on a failed shoe design. Just as Drew is fired from his job and contemplating suicide, he receives a call that his father has passed away. So, Drew hops on a plane to go take care of the funeral arrangements for his family. Enter Claire. 
  • When Nathan Rabin describes Claire he coins the phrase Manic Pixie Dream Girl:
    • Quote “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. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an all-or-nothing-proposition. Audiences either want to marry her instantly (despite The Manic Pixie Dream Girl being, you know, a fictional character) or they want to commit grievous bodily harm against them and their immediate family.”
Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom in Elizabethtown
Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom in Elizabethtown
  • Because the AV Club wasn’t well-known, the article received little attention. 
  • But, in 2008, Rabin and his colleagues published another article entitled, “Wild Things: 16 Films Featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls.” 
    • Maybe it was a combination of a catchy name and a list of popular movie characters, but this article attracted much more attention when it was published.
    • The reactions were mixed, some believed that the term needed to be created to point out a misogynistic movie trope; others were upset to see characters they truly loved and identified with, presented as an unflattering example of a poorly written female character.
  • While a lot of characters throughout film history have some of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl attributes, the defining quality for MPDG is that they receive NO REAL TRANSFORMATION throughout the film. They have no story arc of their own and exist solely to progress the man’s transformation. 
  • Calling a character MPDG is more of a critique of the filmmakers than it is of the character itself. You might find yourself wondering: why would audiences identify with a character that represents a sexist movie trope? The answer is simple. 
    • First of all, people are complicated and they like what they like.
    • Second, let’s take a line from Who Framed Roger Rabbit: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” These are not bad characters, but characters that weren’t treated fairly within the context of the story–not by other characters, but by the film itself.  


Mary Winstead in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Ramona Flower
  • 16 Characters were named in the list, but we will point out just a few to discuss today, and whether or not we agree with assigning them this term.
    • Sam in Garden State played by Natalie Portman
    • Penny Lane in Almost Famous played by Kate Hudson
    • Annie Hall in Annie Hall played by Diane Keaton
    • Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s played by Audrey Hepburn
    • Sara Deever in Sweet November played by Charlize Theron
  • One character not mentioned in the article but who comes up often is Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
  • If you would like to hear our take on each of these characters be sure to take a listen to our episode!
Kate Hudson in Almost Famous


As a term or phrase is used, there will always be times when it is misused or misunderstood. Two of the most common movies that get accused of the MPDG trope are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and 500 Days of Summer. The female characters in these movies, however, have their own goals, arcs, and intentions and are not solely there for the man. If you have not seen these movies please do, they were really well done.

  • Clementine, from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, appears at first glance to be a pixie because she has colorful hair, her introduction to us is whimsical, and she is quirky. However this is all turned around on us with conversations within the movie and (spoilers) when we find out she chose to erase the male protagonist from her memory. What we thought was their first meeting was in fact technically their second. So when she seems to know him she doesn’t realize that it’s because she did. She just can’t remember.
    • There is a great scene in this movie where the male protagonist Joel, played by Jim Carrey, is talking to Clementine but it is made clear that it is a combination of a memory he has of them talking with added dialogue from his new perspective on the relationship that they had. It illustrates that Clementine makes decisions that are in her own interest and not to further his life.
      • Clementine: Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.
      • Joel: I remember that speech really well.
      • Clementine: I had you pegged, didn’t I?
      • Joel: You had the whole human race pegged.
      • Clementine: Hmm. Probably.
      • Joel: I still thought you were gonna save my life… even after that.
      • Clementine: Ohhh… I know.
  • While 500 Days of Summer is told as most MPDG films are, through the male perspective, if you look a little closer you will see that throughout the entire film Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel) is not afraid to say what it is she wants and stand up for herself. She clearly from the beginning says that she does not believe in love and that she does not want a full relationship with Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character Tom. 
    • In a bar scene where he “defends her honor” after she is hit on by another man she chastises Tom saying “Oh, really? Was that for me? Was that for my benefit? Okay, well, next time don’t, ’cause I don’t need your help.”  
    • The biggest flip comes at the end of the movie. Remember when we talked about how a Manic Pixie Dream Girl has no transformation? Well with Summer, not only does she inadvertently teach Tom about life and love, she learns too. He has changed her. She is finally able to accept a marriage from someone else, something she thought she would never do. She does what she wants and what she believes will make her happy.


  • Elizabethtown is the first movie that Nathan Rabin called out as an MPDG movie. It is hard not to notice that this story is shown through the male perspective. If you look up examples of these movies you may even notice that the majority of them are in fact through the man’s viewpoint. Let’s look at the difference between two specific movies that were both made in 2001.
Charlize Theron in Sweet November
Charlize Theron in Sweet November
  • Example of a male perspective- Sweet November
    • In this movie, that Nathan Rabin listed in 2008, we are fed the story through the perspective of Keanu Reeves’s character Nelson. His love interest Sara is played by Charlize Theron. This movie is a “by the book” MPDG. Nelson is the classic workaholic that does not have time to appreciate life and the people around him. When we are introduced to Sara, she is a quirky eccentric character that wears colorful scarves and saves puppies from being experimented on. 
    • There are many times within this movie that she says all she wants to do is help Nelson, that he doesn’t need to understand her and she “has a special ability to help men with problems.” She is the excitement in his life and she gets him to treat others better. She refuses to talk about her family (we learn of one sister) or her life because it is her month to help him
Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary
Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary
  • Now let’s compare with an example of a female perspective- Bridget Jones’s Diary 
    • In this modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice we are introduced to Bridget Jones as the female protagonist. She is a woman with goals that she writes down in a diary. We get to hear her through voice-over narration talk about her career, family, friends, love, and self-image. These are all things that people struggle with in life, especially women. Her love life just so happens to be caught between the two men in the film Marc Darcy (played by Colin Firth) and Daniel Cleaver (played by Hugh Grant.)
    • Imagine Bridget’s character if the movie was told through Marc Darcy’s perspective? Bridget is quirky, awkward, and teaches a staunch and formal man to break his engagement with another woman that he does not love.    

Being that these movies tend to be from the male perspective it would suggest that the MPDG hinges on there being a male lead. Once a woman becomes the protagonist she is given goals and problems, which in turn creates a transformation to her character instead of focusing on his. 


  • In a NewsStatesMen article by a woman named Laurie Penny, she identifies herself as an “MPDG” and says she grew into that personality because of the rise of the stereotype in the media. 
    • “Manic Pixies, like other female archetypes, crop up in real life partly because fiction creates real life, particularly for those of us who grow up immersed in it.” — Laurie Penny
    • She goes on to later say, “Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story, women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else’s.”
  • In an Atlantic article, writer Hugo Schwyzer uses Penny’s piece, but from the male perspective. He explains how the trope can cause men to have a skewed view of women in real life. Schwyzer explains, “As unstable as she may be, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl not only senses a young man’s potential in a way he can’t, she intuitively knows how to lead him to his destiny. She knows him better than he knows himself, or so he believes. That convenient assumption allows the young man both to adore the MPDG and to avoid any responsibility for reciprocity. How can he be expected to give anything back when she has this magical intuition about the world that so vastly exceeds his own?”
  • Schwyzer describes how he played the role of the male to the MPDG in real life with a woman. He explains that the relationship they had was one-sided, and after knowing each other for years, she committed suicide. He was shocked. He knew nothing about her mental illness, and he realized that he never asked. 
    • This is an extreme example of how dangerous the archetype can be, but it shows that these ideas can cause real world issues in relationships.
    • While Laurie Penny said, “For me, Manic Pixie Dream Girl was the story that fit,” writes Laurie Penny, admitting that she had the “basic physical and personality traits… the raw materials” to live into the part; Hugo Schwyzer said, “I, on the other hand, had the requisite qualities to be the boy who fell in love with MPDGs”–Hugo Schwyzer
  • It’s bad for both men and women, which ends being just doubly bad for women. Women are expected to be supporting actors in life’s movies for men, and then men are expected to use women for their own self-discovery while never helping or challenging their female counterparts to grow. 
  • There are also examples of media that inadvertently perpetuate the stereotype, even while trying to destroy it. 
    • For example, writer John Greene, author of the popular Young Adult books “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns.” 
    • Green explained that, “Paper Towns is devoted IN ITS ENTIRETY to destroying the lie of the manic pixie dream girl… I do not know how I could have been less ambiguous about this without calling the novel The Patriarchal Lie of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Must Be Stabbed in the Heart and Killed.”
      • Others argue that as much as John Greene claims that it is a destruction of the phrase it actually feeds right into the trope. The main reason being that at the end of the book and movie we are left with only the mystery of who Margo is because she exits Quentin’s (the male protagonist) story having changed him. In the end of the movie Quentin says “Because whatever Margo is doing, wherever she is now, I’m sure it’s something special. But hey… That’s her story to tell.” On a surface level this is good, we know that she has her own life and story but also shows that for this movie she was still just an MPDG elevating Quentin’s story line. 


In recent years there has been a call to lay the phrase to rest and cancel it. When Nathan Rabin first released this phrase into the world he meant no harm. He was simply trying to point out that there are movies (especially like Elizabethtown) where the female characters are left underdeveloped by writers and directors.  

Nathan Rabin in a July 2014 Salon article apologized for coining the phrase. He said, “I remember thinking, even back then, that a whole list of Manic Pixie Dream Girls might be stretching the conceit too far. The archetype of the free-spirited life-lover who cheers up a male sad-sack had existed in the culture for ages. But by giving an idea a name and a fuzzy definition, you apparently also give it power. And in my case, that power spun out of control.”

Unfortunately it has now become a kind of catch all for any girl that is slightly different or quirky. 

There are examples of the term being used to describe actual people. Based on the definition, this is inherently as incorrect as it is hurtful. The MPDG qualification relies on the idea that the female character doesn’t have an arc of her own. How could we look at any real woman and determine that she doesn’t have her own goals and life journey? 

One such example is a Bulwark article calling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “the left’s manic pixie dream girl.” The case could be made that the phrase is reaching a point where it is causing some measure of harm, and it all started from a movie review.


In recent years there has been a greater focus on how women are represented in movies. We see this with the Bechdel test and the pointing out of harmful stereotypes. It can be as simple as when a woman, to become a bombshell, removes their “geeky” glasses and takes down their hair. In a Washington Post Article Sonia Rao said that “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope demonstrates our culture’s compulsive need to categorize people.” The question is, does categorizing these characters help or hurt our society?

  • Some would argue that the term has been used to subvert audience expectations. 500 Days of Summer is a good example of subverting this trope.
    • As opposed to John Greene who tried but was ultimately unsuccessful.
  • In recent years, there has been a movement to take back the term, but the term itself is largely viewed as negative. 
  • But is it inherently negative? Defenders of the term claim that it actually ISN’T bad, it’s the fact that the MPDG’s are not the protagonists of the story. Writer Akilah Hughes, in her HelloGiggles article, lists some characters that she thinks are MPDG’s but are also protagonists: Zenon, Pippi Longstockings, and Ellie in Up.
    • Hughes says that she “shows up unannounced all spritely and cute and gets Carl to come out of his shell.”

So, even though the term may be misused, and in some cases could be harmful, what’s more harmful is what Nathan Rabin was trying to pin down. Women are not magic (well, not all of them anyway). They do not appear only for the purpose of others, especially not men. And, if your favorite female characters have been called a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, don’t get too upset. It doesn’t mean the character–or even the movie is bad. It means that this woman wasn’t shot with the correct metaphorical lens. It means that she wasn’t given her due.