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  • I'm Jill Bearup, this is History of Fanfic, and gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky, there's

  • a joke going around Tumblr which reads 'What's the name for a male Mary Sue?

  • The protagonist.'

  • So today we're going to talk about this most maligned of character tropes, because

  • she's emblematic of a certain kind of writing, yes, but you know what?

  • I think she's just swell.

  • Also awful.

  • But also swell.

  • [music]

  • There are two pretty loose definitions of Mary Sue and we're going to need to disentangle

  • from each other before we start.

  • ONE: A Mary Sue is an idealised self-insert character who appears in fanfiction and proceeds

  • to warp the canon around her in ways which are detrimental to the quality of the story,

  • the internal consistency of the universe, or both.

  • TWO: A Mary Sue is a (usually female) character in any medium that the opinion-haver doesn't

  • like because of their perceived perfection.

  • By definition two, Rey could be a Mary Sue.

  • Or Luke Skywalker, or Batman

  • It doesn't actually matter, it's just a shorthand way of saying 'this character's

  • wide-ranging skill set and/or personal qualities are unrealistic TO ME'.

  • George Eliot was on record as hate hate HATING this kind of character, the product of LADY

  • AUTHORS.

  • And if you're thinking wait, yes, you're right, George Eliot was in fact, a lady herself.

  • But a middle-class one rather than a member of the landed gentry.

  • George Eliot felt that she couldn't publish under her own name because nobody took lady-fiction

  • seriously.

  • AND WHY WOULD THEY, she lamented in an 1856 essay entitled SILLY NOVELS BY LADY NOVELISTS,

  • when lady novelists all write such perfect simpering heroines who are Too Pure And Good

  • For This World?

  • That literary pedigree aside, we're mostly not going to be tackling that kind of Mary

  • Sue today, because at its worst it's basically a meaningless phrase.

  • ANY original character could feel unrealistic to ANY person and that's just too vague

  • a definition for me.

  • So, idealised author-insert style character, generally in fanfiction.

  • [music]

  • A TREKKIE'S TALE By Paula Smith was published in 1973 in the fanzine Menagerie.

  • The story itself is pretty short, but it's also immortal.

  • No, not MY Immortal.

  • We'll get there.

  • "Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky," thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise.

  • "Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the fleet - only fifteen and a half years old."

  • Captain Kirk came up to her.

  • "Oh, Lieutenant, I love you madly.

  • Will you come to bed with me?"

  • "Captain!

  • I'm not that kind of girl!"

  • "You're right, and I respect you for it.

  • Here, take over the ship for a minute while I go get some coffee for us."

  • Mr. Spock came onto the bridge.

  • "What are you doing in the command seat, Lieutenant?"

  • "The Captain told me to."

  • "Flawlessly logical.

  • I admire your mind."

  • I'm not going to read the whole thing, though it's not terribly long.

  • But it is, as you might just have noticed, a parody story about the kind of girl who

  • ended up in Star Trek fanfic.

  • Lieutenant Mary Sue combined most of the common character traits of such individuals:

  • very young, incredibly pretty,

  • all men instantly fall at her feet, and may die tragically at the end as she is

  • too good for this cruel world.

  • Mary Sue is a power fantasy.

  • Highly skilled, universally desired, brave, heroic and selfless.

  • We're all used to male power fantasies in media: men who are strong, brave, heroic,

  • suave, debonair and ruthless, or actually kind of nerdy and inept at things but it turns

  • out their ONE THING they're good at is going to save the world.

  • I mean to a lesser extent we're also used to female power fantasy characters in media.

  • Xena.

  • Buffy.

  • Kim Possible.

  • But since the original series of Star Trek wasn't exactly overburdened with an abundance

  • of female characters, if you're writing fanfic for it, creating your own original character...seems

  • like the logical thing to do.

  • And it is interesting to note that while the fandoms which are most Mary Sue-heavy do tend

  • to have a younger audience, they also tend to be...canonically somewhat dude-rich.

  • Rich in dudes.

  • After all, fanfiction is the usually young usually female id run riot, and what is more

  • empowering than writing yourself into your favourite media?

  • The Mary Sue disdain is then compounded by the fact that the younger you are, the less

  • experience you've had, so the worse you tend to be at writing, and so the more obvious

  • your Mary Sue becomes.

  • Mary Sues aren't great at having flaws, and all of the flaws that they do have (like

  • a bad temper is quite a common one) don't actually serve to cause consequences or require

  • them to learn anything, they're just kind of there to make them more badass and awesome.

  • But what really makes a Mary Sue for me is that feeling you get when you read a story

  • and realise that none of the other characters really feel real.

  • They're just cardboard props for you, Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way, to interact

  • with.

  • [sigh] OK, yes, I'm sorry, we DO have to talk about My Immortal, but I'm going to

  • need a moment to gird my loins.

  • [MY IMMORTAL]

  • My Immortal, presumably named after the Evanescence song, is a Harry Potter fanfic, which was

  • published between 2006 and 2007, and is EITHER the most perfectly unreadable satire of Mary

  • Sue ever, OR some poor teenage writer's fanfic-based

  • tantrum.

  • Really it's impossible to tell.

  • And I mean that about unreadability.

  • It's...hoo boy.

  • Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven/Tara Way is, in many ways, the epitome of Mary-Sueism.

  • The story in which she exists is incoherent, rambling, not really structured...at all,

  • and the Ebony show from start to finish.

  • The Harry Potter canon is nigh unrecognisable after the author is done with it: Harry Potter

  • is now Vampire Potter and a Satanist, sorry, STANIST.

  • Ebony has sex with Draco, who may also have had sex with Vampire...look, I DON'T KNOW.

  • ITRIED to read it but then my brain started leaking out my ears, I'm SORRY.

  • In fanfiction you don't have to set up the characters in the same way that you would

  • in original fiction, and that's part of the appeal, but nobody in this story really

  • exists in a fleshed-out way.

  • Vampire, I mean, Harry, has undergone some really dramatic transformation, but it's

  • never explained, or really talked about at all, it's just STATED.

  • Even Ebony is unreal In more ways than one, frankly.

  • We do get more information about her thoughts and feelings and interior life, such as it

  • is, than the rest of the characters, but really she's just an Amy Lee clone in a very vague

  • approximation of the Harry Potter universe doing whatever the author thinks would be

  • good to do in the Harry Potter universe.

  • Pun fully intended, yeah, you see what I did there.

  • But even with this obvious and terrible example of how bad Mary Sues can be

  • (though I would argue My Immortal is just all-around bad)

  • ...I still have a soft spot.

  • [I'M NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS]

  • I was once asked if 'you're not like other girls' was an insult, and i said No, but

  • it is the kind of compliment that explodes on closer examination.

  • That thought, I'M NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS is kinda similar.

  • I mean there's the surface level of 'I don't knowa lot of women who like the same things

  • that I like', but there's also that other level.

  • You know, that need to be a super special snowflake, and gratifying that need by subtly

  • hating on all other members of your sex because, you know, patriarchy and competition between

  • women and all that shiz.

  • Everyone wants to be special, and it's easy when we feel insecure and alienated from those

  • around us to defensively claim, “I'm JUST NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS”.

  • And that's where Mary Sue comes in.

  • She's there to satisfy this not-like-other-girls impulse.

  • I mean, a lot of mainstream heroines to do the same thing.

  • Belle, for example, is a book-reading weirdo who is looked at askance by the townsfolk

  • because she's just so...ODD.

  • But by the end of the movie she's got a massive library, and also a prince, I guess.

  • But while Mary Sues feed into this feeling, it doesn't take much for them to start to

  • deconstruct it.

  • I mean, if you stop and think about it for a second, if everyone who reads this fic empathises

  • with Mary Sue, who is just such a sooper speshul unique snowflake, maybe you're not as unique

  • as you think you are?

  • Maybe you're not as alone as you thought you were.

  • When I was a teenager I was very anti Mary Sue, being I was a really big fan of the canon

  • I was reading fanfic (I was reading fanfic to get more of that

  • kind of content, after all).

  • And so I read with great delight the PPC or Protectors of the Plot Continuum, where characters

  • go around hunting for Mary Sues in various canonical universes.

  • But I reread some of the PPC stuff recently though, and now I'm an old cranky person

  • it just seems...I dunno, some of it seems kinda mean.

  • some of it is still hilarious to me, but some of it just feels like...unnecessary dumping

  • on teenage girls.

  • Who are frankly looked down on enough.

  • [GO BE UNREALISTICALLY AWESOME]

  • To improve the quality of your writing you need to do a lot of writing, and to do a lot

  • of writing you have to be invested in the stories that you are telling, and that is

  • the reason that I like Mary Sue.

  • A character that you're really excited to write about in a universe that you really

  • love is the gateway drug to fanfic writing,

  • and fanfic itself is a gateway drug to a lot more reading and writing generally,

  • which is an excellent way to not be that person on Facebook who can't make themselves understood

  • because of their weird use of numbers instead of letters and their somewhat ballistic approach

  • to punctuation.

  • Sure, it's possible just to get stuck on writing Mary Sues forever, in universes where

  • everything warps around your protagonist and nothing else really seems real, but for the

  • most part, if you get past a certain stage, then you can write awesome female characters

  • in a world of similarly awesome characters.

  • Let's go back to original fiction for a second.

  • I've talked before about the Arenaverse novels by Ryk Spoor before, and their main

  • character is an olive-skinned, naturally blue-haired racing pilot who becomes the default leader

  • of humanity in a strange place.

  • In another story, Ariane might be a Mary Sue.

  • But in the Arenaverse novels, she's just a fantastical part of a fantastical universe,

  • and you just kinda...go with it.

  • [LET'S WRAP THIS UP]

  • Mary Sues in fanfiction are generally contraindicated when it comes to good storytelling because

  • they have a tendency to warp the canon around them, to the point that the entire universe

  • becomes All About Them.

  • Which annoys some people, and that's fair enough.

  • Mary Sue in terms of a character in original fiction, though?Given that one person's Mary

  • Sue is another person's Batman, I have a lot of sympathy for people who write unrealistically

  • awesome female characters.

  • Because who wouldn't want to be unrealistically awesome?

  • So if my choice is between no female characters who anyone could possibly maybe think of as

  • unrealistic, and masses of unrealistically awesome female characters, some of whom are

  • most definitely Mary Sues?

  • I'll take the latter.

  • Even if a large number of them are objectively rubbish, I'd rather have more awesome women

  • in fiction than not.

  • And that, in the end, is why I will always defend Mary Sue.

  • So that's all for this episode, thank you so much for watching, and be sure to subscribe

  • if you would like more media and fandom analysis from yours truly!

  • And if STEM is your thing you should click here to subscribe to my new channel BrightSci,

  • where my first video will be up soon, talking to Alex Bate from Raspberry Pi about what

  • they do!

  • See you next time!

I'm Jill Bearup, this is History of Fanfic, and gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky, there's

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I Love You, Mary (I Love You, Mary )

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    Amy.Lin に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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