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  1. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    In Favor of the Mary Sue

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by John Calligan, Mar 6, 2019.

    I think we writers do a disservice to ourselves by acting like we are too good to write a Mary Sue. Maybe you are. I'm not. I like Mary Sues, and judging by the amount of content that's out there staring them, other people do as well.

    I want to study the art of the Mary Sue, and figure out what makes them so great, and why so many people love to root for them.

    If you can think of any media you recently consumed staring a Mary Sue, post it here for scrutiny. No Star Wars please.

    Edit: Here is some of the TV Tropes entry for Mary Sue

     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
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  2. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    "Kagegurui"

    I always binge anime when I'm sick, and I've had the flu this week. This gambling anime stars a lead girl who is everything to everyone. She loves to gamble, for the risk and not the money, but always comes out on top because she has Sherlock Holmes style observations. One minute, she's a meek school girl. The next, a sadist. Then, a hyper-confident gambler. Everyone changes to accommodate her. They even say, "the whole school started to change when she showed up." If she has any weaknesses, I have no idea what they are after watching the whole season.

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. mfrankj3@gmail

    mfrankj3@gmail New Member

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    What's a Mary Sue? Other than a name.
     
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  4. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    How about you start with the Mary Sue definition you'd like to work with?
     
  5. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps you had first define what YOU mean by a Mary Sue. The original meaning is an indulgent self-insertion of a character who is a clone of the author, to vicariously experience the events.

    An example is Wesley Crusher, created by Eugene Wesley Roddenberry to live out a fantasy of becoming a Star Fleet cadet.
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I always took a Mary Sue to be a paper thin character without much if any real substance.
     
  7. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I posted a link to the T.V. Tropes page to help anyone who needs it and wants to find an example.
     
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  8. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Problem is, "Mary Sue" is often a lazy label applied when someone is criticizing a character without having anything to back up that judgement. It makes me grind my teeth when I see it.

    Shallow character? Not every character needs to be complicated or to evolve, even a prominent character.

    Weak character? Sometimes that's the whole point, that a character just lacks fortitude or courage.

    Author self- insertion? Who cares, as long as the character doesn't ruin the flow of the tale.

    It's important not only to identify what specific shortcoming the character has, but also why it's a problem for the story. Sometimes a character doesn't serve to grow, but only as a fixed point around whom events precipitate, like Rorke from Fantasy Island.

    I prefer characters with depth and growth, most of the time. But every story is different, and sometimes such a character is a distraction from the real purpose of the writing.
     
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  9. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    That page is a bit of a mess imo, but I managed to find this: "In other words, the term "Mary Sue" is generally slapped on a character who is important in the story, possesses unusual physical traits, and has an irrelevantly over-skilled or over-idealized nature."

    I largely agree with this definition, though I'd amend "unusual physical traits" to a more encompassing "unusual traits." Also, in my experience, Mary Sues tend to upstage the characters they come in contact with, no matter those characters' skill sets, talents, or virtues.

    With that in mind, I confess I don't like Mary Sues in my fiction.
     
  10. Quixotic

    Quixotic New Member

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    As someone who reads fanfics, and where the term originally came from, I don't think there's anything to argue in favor of the Mary Sue, in polite disagreement @John Calligan. While various writers can debate the definition of what a Mary Sue, it's clear there is one trait that sets the Mary Sue apart from other characters: the world revolves around the Mary Sue, the world is affected by the Mary Sue, and the world is defined by the Mary Sue.

    It's hard to root for the Mary Sue as a character, as everything goes according to their whim and will, rather than the opposite. The Mary Sue doesn't make a compelling character; sure, it's fun for a time, everyone loves a power fantasy, but it eventually gets boring. In fanfics, it especially becomes apparent when the plot, or rather the conflict, is resolved without any tension or high stakes all because the Mary Sue deems it so. The Mary Sue is a character problem, as their entire existence affects the plot and how it's resolved.
    I don't think we as writers do a disservice to ourselves by not wanting to write a Mary Sue. If anything, I think we writers do a disservice to ourselves by writing a Mary Sue instead of a compelling, rounded character, in fanfiction or in general fiction. There is definitely a lot to discuss about the Mary Sue, but those are my two cents.
     
  11. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    This is an all-to-common problem, where there's nothing going on in the world that isn't tied to the MC's arc. The antagonist has nothing else going on except opposing the MC. The side characters only take action when the MC's arc requires it. And so on. That the world of the story is a Potemkin Village becomes obvious pretty quickly, to me anyway. I would rather read a story set in a more 4-dimensional world.
     
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  12. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I get what you’re saying. From where I’m sitting though, it’s just another trope. Like “farm boy made fabulous by magic,” or whatever.

    You said “instead of a compelling” but judging by the positive reaction many of these characters get from their fans, a lot of people do find them compelling? Why?

    To read writing blogs on the sin of the Mary Sue, you’d think the character only appeals to a small number of unsophisticated people, but I doubt that is the case. They seem wildly popular.
     
  13. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Another favorite Mary Sue: Clark from “The 100”

    [​IMG]

    She is a random kid who stumbles into becoming the center of every major political and technological issue in the world. She’s awesome. Tragic. Flawed. But I think she still counts as a Sue. Everything revolves around her, season after season.
     
  14. Quixotic

    Quixotic New Member

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    True, the Mary Sue is a character trope, and a bad one at that (in my opinion), but I think I should clarify from where I'm standing on in terms of media. You seem to view the Mary Sue from a general fiction standpoint (movies, books, shows etc.) However, I view the Mary Sue from a fanfiction standpoint, which is the original place where the Mary Sue character came into light (and where it is still prominent.) I think there might be a difference between a general fiction Mary Sue and a fanfiction Mary Sue. Food for thought?
    Again, I think there is a Mary Sue character discrepancy when viewing general fiction vs fanfiction. In fanfiction, it's quite grating to see a Mary Sue main character. The audiences who root for one tend not to know any better.
    Well, you got the "unsophisticated people" right, at least in terms of a fanfic-reading audience. Sounding like a broken record here, but it's clear there's a difference between a general fiction Mary Sue and a fanfiction Mary Sue, unless someone else thinks otherwise. I read fanfiction and am currently writing for the genre, so I think I'll abstain from the discussion as my viewpoint isn't necessarily relevant. However, this is an interesting topic in terms of general fiction @John Calligan, so I'll keep an eye on it!
     
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  15. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    [​IMG]

    Has there ever been a more special, pure-hearted, tragic yet untroubled, heroic and true to herself character in an action movie?

    Could the world revolve around her anymore?



    For the record, this is my new favorite sf action movie 10/10.
     
  16. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    For the record, this one is mine.

     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
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  17. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    Considering anime was mentioned, the most obvious one is SAO (though I've watched the abridged series lately, which is much more solid in terms of character work and writing than the original). As for my definition of it, it's largely a character who warps the reality/logic of the story so they always come out on top. Chosen one narratives are often a part of it, but not always.

    While I don't enjoy Mary Sue's personally, I've softened on them lately. Every so often people need a cheap power fantasy. I mostly get mine through games, but if other people want to get it through books or films, who am I to judge.
     
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  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    IMO, the "flawed" part makes her not a Sue. She may be some other thing that I don't know the term for, but not a Sue.
     
  19. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I know about the "Gary Stu" label, but I think there IS an element of gender to Mary-Sue labeling. Male characters seem to be able to get away with being larger-than-life more easily than female characters do - James Bond, Indiana Jones, The Lone Ranger, etc. I mean, they're still not three-dimensional or realistic, but we seem more inclined to accept the lack of realism with these characters. Does that sound right?
     
  20. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    James Bond is a great example. I wanted to bring him up, but calling him a Sue is as divisive as bringing up Rey.

    He’s a sexist drunk psychopath. Some people think those “flaws” exempt him from being a Sue, even though the very thing being sold is the wish-fulfillment of being that awesome.

    I know I wish I could drive a 150000 dollar car on loan from the government to sleep with a Russian supermodel double agent I can kidnap for her own good while killing 12 people like I’m flipping burgers, but that wasn’t my lot in life.

    If a character’s flaws just make them more endearing or awesome, and they don’t advance the plot or have to be confronted, I feel like they don’t move you out of Sue territory.

    It’s not like the moon laser ever gets built because Bond was drunk at the wheel.
     
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  21. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    "Flaws with no consequences" - maybe that's the key to Sue-dom.
     
  22. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Or at least a factor, stacked with everything orbiting the character and the character being raised up high.
     
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  23. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    I know you said no Star Wars, but I'm bringing it up, Anakin is totally an in-universe Mary Sue. Virgin Birth kid who broke out of slavery. was let into space wizard training camp at the point when he shouldn't have been (mostly because everything about him seems a little too main character like), and then is meant to be the main character of a prophecy. And then the prequels are about him fucking everything up for everything around him. While obviously not a purposeful deconstruction, I still think you can at least take an interesting reading of it.
     
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  24. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    The Bond of old, certainly.
    But I think the Daniel Craig Bond in Casino Royale is cut from a different mold.
    He made mistakes that got people killed.
     
  25. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I have strong feelings on Anakin. I think the prequels were a deconstruction of the flawed Jedi stoic masculinity, and if Anakin had been guided to love and protect his family, he wouldn’t have been vulnerable to the dark side. Never forget the garbage Jedi that bought him left his mom in slavery.
     
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