In defense of Mary Sue/Mary Sue, my hero

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Let me mention two things right away.
First, I only learned about who a Mary Sue was a few years ago. I credit the Twilight phenomenon and the seemingly endless articles, blog posts, analysis written about it for really introducing me to the concept of Mary Sue.
Second, there is nothing is wrong with Mary Sue. There I said it. It seems almost blasphemy for me to proclaim this since I noticed the term was most often (always?) used derisively – a kind of short hand for a hack writer or the misguided fantasies of a fan or just the willfully obtuse reader.
Instead I think Mary Sues provide outlets for our most perfected selves, the adolescent fantasies when you dreamed you had actual super powers and no one could oppose you OR it was simply either your beauty, your wit, your courage or your style (feel free to chime in here any fantasies of perfection you have) that could manage to turn anyone into an ally or admirer.
For the remaining few who were not converted, you had the power, skill or just luck at times to defeat them in some fashion or another. You know, because of the greatness of you. This is fantasy after all so why not? The fantasy of perfection is not dangerous once you learn what it is its limits and impossibility. Many, fictitious characters whether they are Mary Sue or not, are an exaggerated fantasy of some aspect of ourselves we want to explore/wish we could be/do/have/etc.
I think the rash of negativity have conflated the trope with the awful, yet mind boggingly popular stories Mary Sue has been featured in as of late. Instead of hanging up the trope all together (I very rarely think an aspect of story telling has absolutely no redeeming value), I just think the trope needs – smarter, more complex stories to be featured in. • A helpful hint for future writers of Mary Sue – please give the character real stakes, something that they care about must really appear to be on the line (so worded, because you know as the Mary Sue she’s gonna triumphant in the end)
Ok, this post isn’t an absolute paen to Mary Sue. Though she deserves to exist and function ever at the ready in an author’s arsenal, the trope shouldn’t be a short hand for young, white, and beautiful (though of course the character is unaware of her beauty –sigh) either. This is a fantasy that resonates with a wide swath of people across lines of gender, race, class, and age. Why shouldn’t they be reflected more in these stories that are truly all about fantasies?

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One response »

  1. While I will agree that not all characters who are considered Mary-Sues are bad, I would also like to point out that not all characters who are considered Mary-Sues are in fact Mary Sues.

    There are a few key elements to Mary-Sues.

    1) There is no character development. There can’t be because Mary-Sues start out as the “perfect” character. With no flaws, how can they develop into a better character? I would say they can develop into a worse character but Mary-Sues don’t do that.

    2) Everything goes Mary-Sue’s way. I mean, everything. That sentence where you said that Mary-Sue needs real stakes, if that happens, Mary-Sue is a little less Mary-Sueish and has more character development.

    3) Mary-Sues tend to be unrealistic because they are impossibly perfect. You mentioned limits on perfection but Mary-Sues have no limitations.

    Other than that, I do agree that Mary-Sues are useful. But I would use them more as a starting block for a character rather than the end all be all of a character. 🙂

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