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Thread: Rethinking the Mary Sue

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  1. #27
    What? Thomas Vail's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Chicago 'round
    Quote Originally Posted by katfireblade View Post
    Except that's not true. Some amazingly well written characters have been accused of being Mary Sues, such as:

    • Felicity Smoak from Arrow
    • Katara from The Last Airbender
    • Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel from the movie of the same name
    • Rey from Star Wars
    • Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
    • Jean Grey from X-Men
    • Nancy Drew from those mystery novels little girls like
    • Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind
    • Squirrel Girl from the comic of the same name
    • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
    • Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz
    • Frances Goldsmith from The Stand
    • Amanda Carter from Stargate

    ...and so on. That's just a sampling.
    Not a particularly useful one, truth be told. Have I fallen into an alternate dimension where Gone with the Wind is a fanfic of... ? It doesn't really illustrate anything beyond the fact that people misusing a term because they can't actually come up with valid criticisms for a character sound ridiculous. You even linked the Tvtropes definition for 'canon sue' which just shows how empty and vapid the whole thing is - no examples allowed because it's just going to lead to fighting on entry pages because not liking a character in a story with militaries, scientists, and military scientists, she's just too military sciencey is inane.
    But when it comes to characterization, we seem incapable of saying specific things like-
    Speak for yourself. That there are beta readers out there who can't give a useful critique to save their .doc file isn't news, but I've certainly never been incapable of saying, 'the power/skillset you've given your character means that there's no significance or challenge to any of the obstacles presented in the narration, no doubt of their overcoming them. What are the stakes supposed to be? What is the development arc and growth for a character like this? The only flaws they exhibit are the informed flaws that they take on too much responsibility and are too hard on themselves for not succeeding, which can be very interesting, but in this case, they always succeed, rendering them moot.'

    I agree wholeheartedly with efforts to retire the whole term. Even within fanfiction, it's always been of very limited use, being only applicable to the very narrow range of 'displaces the canon characters and warps the entirety of the narrative around them well beyond the conventions and standards of the particular setting,' and only then as a kind of summation of a critical problem with the writing, and not a valid criticism in and of itself. That's probably why I'm just dismissive of the whole thing, since even in fanfiction, it's mostly just a throwaway for 'I don't like X, but I can't give any real reasons, so Mary Sue. Bleah!' And outside of fanfiction, it's utterly useless. To go back to Gone with the Wind calling a determined, manipulative, brilliant (but also stunted by the conventions of her time) emotionally obtuse (so strengths, flaws, goals, y'know, a fully realized character) woman a Mary-sue, it's about as useful as trying to argue you didn't like the book because it didn't taste salty enough.
    Last edited by Thomas Vail; 08-14-2019 at 10:03 AM.

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