Title: A Few Words about the term Mary Sue.
I have been seeing the term ‘Mary Sue’ quite a bit in recent years, and I can’t say that I like it much. It is a term that, I feel, has been used too much and too lightly.
For those of you who do not know, ‘Mary Sue’ describes a character, particularly in fan fiction but not limited to it, that is ‘too good to be true.’ These characters are always physically attractive, are smart, capable, and have ‘their shit together,’ for the most part. It is usually applied to a female character, but has been applied to male characters as well.
Now, I’m not entirely unsympathetic with the sentiment behind the term because I have read books and seen movies, television and theatre pieces where a character was certainly so perfect, so flawless, so over-capable that they were exasperating.
A sterling example of such a character was Dr. Evan Wilson, the pixie-like irritant from the TOS Star Trek novel Uhura’s Song. Not only did this woman out-perform everyone, and I mean everyone at their jobs and talents-like Scotty, Kirk, McCoy, everyone- she was also loved by the whole crew, and the aliens of the planet that they were on. This woman didn’t seem to have a character flaw at all, and she was highly full of herself.
And the worst part of it was, this woman completely upstaged Lt.Uhura, whose story this was supposed to be.
Now, the book was a bit long and slow to begin with. But, with Little Ms. Perfect in tow, I found the story a bit tiresome and I ended up putting the book down, but with the intention of finishing it.
I never did.
Dr. Evan Wilson is certainly a good example of a ‘Mary Sue.’ I get that. However, I’ve read comments from people all over the internet where people leveled that term on certain characters in a way that I can only describe as questionable.
The character of Alya from the book Clan of the Cave Bear comes to mind. There were so many comments by readers that labeled this woman as a ‘Mary Sue’ that it was quite alarming. Now, I’ve read this book. Alya was supposed to be a representative of the dawn of man, its collective coming of age. She was able to figure out things, invent tools, learn about herself and others in a way that represented the ways in which our ancestors had.
Jean M. Auel couldn’t write about every single prehistoric man, woman and child, now could she? So, her main character was the embodiment of the human race in ascension.
How is a character such as Alya a ‘Mary Sue?’ Is it because she’s beautiful and smart?
I don’t get it. I really don’t.
Another mention of a character described as a ‘Mary Sue’ was Claire Randall, the main character of the Outlander series. A particular commenter on Amazon had referred to Claire as such because she was a strong female character who was a talented healer, and who was also beautiful and desired by many men.
Let’s get something straight here. Claire Randall is a heroine to a ROMANCE novel, okay? The last time I checked, heroines in romance novels usually were beautiful and desired by many men. Also, she is far from being perfect. There is one incident where she puts her foot in her mouth while she is a dinner guest of the garrison commander of the invading English army, effectively putting her allegiance in question, and therefore her safety. Claire Randall also marries another man in another time, and does end up fighting against the army of her compatriots.
Let me see, now. Claire Randall is by all accounts a bigamist and a traitor to her country. Does that sound like a ‘Mary Sue’ to you?
But the most galling of insults for me was when the creator of the term ‘Mary Sue,’ whose name I don’t know nor want to, had actually stated that Captain Kirk fit the mold of a ‘Mary Sue.’
What in the HELL?!
What on earth makes Captain Kirk a ‘Mary Sue?’ It is that he’s an attractive, assertive man who is a brilliant star ship commander? A man who is desired by women and admired by his peers and underlings?
I suppose that would make George Washington a ‘Mary Sue,’ right?
I guess you can also throw in the roman emperor Hadrian in that silly mix.
Let me tell you something. I’ve must have watched every episode of Star Trek TOS, and I can tell you that Captain Kirk was no ‘Mary Sue.’ There were times when he barked orders and berated his crewmen in such a way that he came off as a downright jerk! And frankly, there were times when he used women in order to meet an objective, even if a couple of these women were androids. Watch all three seasons of the show, and you’ll see what I mean.
Captain Kirk a ‘Mary Sue?’ Ha!
See what I mean when I say that the term ‘Mary Sue’ is an irresponsible term?
It would be nice if the term would disappear from the face of the earth, never to be heard of ever, ever, EVER again!! The woman who created the term ‘Mary Sue’ did a real disservice to writers everywhere- fan fiction writers and otherwise.
Does this individual believe that all characters have to be like Archie Bunker, Commander Willard, Hal Carter, Scarlet O’Hara or Bella Swan ( before her transformation, of course )?
Maybe she thinks all characters should be like her.
I shutter at the mere thought of that.
What’s wrong with a character who has his/her act together? There’s a huge difference between that, and a character who is so perfect that they are impervious to believability…
…like Dr. Evan Wilson.
I think that people who have a love affair with the ‘Mary Sue’ term are clearly people who can’t tell the difference between such characters, and might be better served limiting their reading to coloring books or comic books.
Oh, maybe not.
They might think that Wonder Woman is a ‘Mary Sue’ as well.
You can’t win ‘em all.
Written and finished on March 24, 2015.