字幕表 動画を再生する 英語字幕をプリント 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!