I Love You, Mary Sue – History of Fanfic 6

Hi my name is Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and I have a video about why Mary Sues aren’t all that bad.

Even Ebony.

Ok, maybe not counting Ebony.

In this episode we discuss the history of the Mary Sue, that Star Trek parody fic, and why really, they aren’t all bad.

About Sursum Ursa

Ursa presents Stuff You Like, where fangirls + analysis + awesome examples of media = good times for all.

22 comments

  1. Crossover Princess

    In my early days I have written Mary Sue, my most embarrassing was called “My Life in Anime” which due to various reasons don’t exist on the net and the only remnant is the Magical Girl Mascot Kinky, I occasionally still write due to how crazy awesome she is (A talking, insane, immortal gun toting rabbit that no one in universe likes… yep!). In the years since I’ve written it I’ve gotten better at writing OCs and am now a rather popular writer…

    • 🙂 I feel like I didn’t really get the hang of original characters until I wrote a few Sue-esque fanfic characters first. But once you can do it, the world is your oyster!

  2. I always thought that a Mary Sue was just a bland character so that the reader or viewer could relate to them easier. However, I never thought of it as just a lady thing. Mary Sues (or Smith Does maybe?) don’t bother me. I know that when I used to write fan-fiction I never focused on my character’s personality but mostly on how she fit into a book or movie that was already established in a Lion King ½ kind of way.

    • Well.. there are two kind of bland characters.. Mery Sues and pieces of wood without personality. Both are usually result of inability to write proper character but only the second is protected by “made so that the reader or viewer could relate to them easier” (if they lack personality themselves because how can you relate to a plank?).

      And well.. technically it is not just a lady thing, just mostly. Either result of idealized version of female writer or perfect woman archetype if writer is male. Still in common use Mary Sue is used also to address similar issue with males what is rarer but still do exist.

  3. I’ve been writing self-insert stories since I was a little boy; I still do it today (I’m 50! 😛 ) It’s just something that’s fun to do, “meeting” your favorite characters. Curiously, never have my characters overshadowed the protagonists; I always respect the canon.

  4. Cursedbythedicegods

    Nice examination of this subject! It seems most everyone who has done any amount of writing or character building runs into this issue. It’s hard not to project at least a little of ourselves into our favorite creations when we write, and, like you said, the less experience one has in writing the more obvious the Mary Sue. I like what you said about not being afraid to be unrealistic as long as the character is INTERESTING. A character with no flaws that everyone just inexplicably adores (Bella from Twilight comes to mind) is usually either a blank slate the author intends for the read to project themselves on to, or just a side effect of a novice writer. I think this is usually why the main protagonist in most epic stories is usually the least interesting, at least at first. Anyways, this was a great episode! Keep up the good work!

  5. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve actually grown to like and cherish well-written self-insert fanfics like Silver Queen’s Dreaming of Sunshine. And less well-written ones.

    I’ve never written them, myself, but there is a kind of fun to imagining what would (semi-realistically) happen if one were to be thrown into one’s favorite fandom-canons.

    I think the only type of fic I really cannot stand is character bashing or ship bashing fics. I’m big into giving characters the benefit of the doubt, and the holier-than-thou hate mongering that spews clunkily from canon characters’ mouths in these types of fics always just makes my skin crawl.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I like reading dissertations on why someone didn’t like a character or why they killed that character when others let them live, but it always comes across as too jarring in fic itself. (now, to clarify for no reason, I can’t stand when people shame and belittle other people for liking a character or disliking a character. Fandom really shouldn’t be that serious, even if it is a big part of our lives.)

  6. My definition says that in addition to being a self-insert-y character, they must also face no real struggles. That is why Sailor Moon and One Punch Man don’t count, but but Sora (No Game No Life) does.

  7. I don’t really agree with your definition of Marry Sue.

    It’s not a subjective judgment on the viewer if the given skill set it “too-perfect” it’s if the skill set possessed by the character has a believable or plausible justification in-story or in the character background.

    Lets look at the most hotly debate Marry sue right now Rei. Many point to her fixing the Millennium Falcon in the middle of a flight as a Marry Sue moment, which isn’t true. Ir is established early on that she spend her whole life up to this point scavenging imperial starships for parts. Learning about the systems to harvest the most valuable parts is a plausible explanation on how she could have learned to repair the ship.

    What is a Mary Sue moment for Rei are her Force skills. Luke Skywalker was the son of the Chosen One Anakin, and albeit briefly was instructed by the greatest Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Him being able to use the Force to guide his shot destroying the Death Star is believable because it is build up to through out the film. Rei being able to pull a Mind Trick and being capable to fight what appears to be a Sith Apprentice with years of training on equal ground is a completely Mary Sue moment. Since there is no believable or plausible justification for her skills in this area.

    So the Mary Sue isn’t about a power wish fulfillment fantasy (since that is basically EVERY protagonist ever) but it is a sign of lazy writing. That the creator didn’t put enough time or forethought in to their story to set the foundation for the skills their protagonist will need.

  8. Luke is a normal guy really in Star Wars, there’s no Mary-Sue qualities to him whatsoever, His abilities – Flying, shooting womp rats are things we can assume are pretty common for kids on Tatooine, He learns about the force from Obi-Wan, goes on to make a one in a million shot thanks to listening to Obi-Wan’s voice in his head then we move forward 4 years and Luke’s a much different character in Empire and Jedi – first due to experience of 4 years in the rebellion and then due to his training under Yoda and his first battle with Vader.

    Rey however is about as blatant a Mary-Sue as you can get – She has abilities that come out of absolutely nowhere with no lead up, no training shown, She can even outdo Han Solo in the Falcon FFS!

    Let’s be fair, the original Mary-Sue was a female trope and there is a Gary-Stu or Marty-Stu male version but we all know what Mary-Sue means and it’s no longer a female only trope – In fact one of the most obvious Mary-Sue’s of the last decade {other than Rey} is Legolas from The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, He already has some pretty Mary-Sue qualities from previous films but in this one it goes up to 11!
    But the protagonist of those films is Bilbo Baggins, the protagonists of LotR are Frodo, Sam and possibly Aragorn, Legolas is a side character – You don’t have to be the protagonist to be a Mary-Sue and 99% of protagonists in A-Movies are not Mary-Sues!

    Batman is NOT a Mary-Sue – There are valid reasons for every one of his abilities {Mainly his access to billions of dollars :)}.

    Superman is NOT a Mary-Sue – Because the whole point of his character is that he has those abilities, that power.

    And here’s some female protagonists who aren’t Mary-Sue’s either:
    Wonder Woman, Ellen Ripley, Princess Leia, Sarah Connor, Carrie, Laurie Strode, Jyn Erso.

    A Mary Sue is a character {whether main or side character} who has completely out of nowhere abilities that pop up when needed! BUT this isn’t just a one-off Deus ex Machina where it’s obvious the writer painted themselves into a corner – This is when the writer gives that character those abilities purposely to make that character “better” but forgets to have them make sense or to provide background.

    Rey is very obviously a feminist’s power fantasy – There’s nothing wrong with having a strong female character but Rey goes way way way too far!

    • Snorgatch Pandalume

      Legolas was not a Mary Sue character in LOTR (I haven’t seen TH:BOFA, so I can’t comment on that). He’s a member of an immortal, magical race with superhuman abilities, and he’s got centuries of experience under his belt. You could argue that Tolkien elves are obnoxiously OP, and there is some validity to that, but that doesn’t make Legolas a Mary Sue–it just means he’s an elf, like Superman is a Kryptonian.

      • Except then you watch Two Towers, and while most of the elves are busy fighting and dying to arrows, swords and explosions, Legolas is busy surfing down stairs on a shield to get some sweet headshots.

    • Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true. This sort of “reasoning” typically has the following form.

      • Snorgatch Pandalume

        Plagiarism is copying something verbatim without attributing the source (in this case, nizkor.org). Seriously, you didn’t even include the diagram the last sentence references, making its inclusion nonsensical.
        How, exactly, is Fran’s comment in any way begging the question? What part of the premise contains a conclusion that is assumed to be true? He/she states his/her opinion and then presents facts to back it up. That is not begging the question, that is simply making a reasoned argument. You may not agree with it, but that doesn’t make it invalid, illogical, or unreasonable.

        • You don’t cite definitions. However I should have ended it with a “…” to indicate I was pointing to the comment I was replying to as an example of begging the question.

          This comment is begging the question because the things listed as making the character, Rey unbelieveable are the moments of the film meant to establish the skills the commentator, Fran claims are unbelievable.

          Rey can pilot a ship. You know how I know? Cause she did. Rey can do it well, you know why? The Force. You know how I know it is the Force? Because later on in the movie it is revealed she has been subconsciously using the Force to accomplish things beyond her typical understanding, probably her whole life. That is what the mind reading scene with Kylo was meant to reveal. She has abilities but she “needs a teacher” to unlock them.

          By pointing to the unbelievable thing and saying “that’s unbelievable” and then having the movie point at it too and say “I know right, it must mean she has abilities you wouldn’t expect”. You are supposed to realize that the unrealistic elements of her character are a result of her abilities. It is planting and payoff.

          Once you establish in a franchise that an 8 year old can win at a sport than no human has the skills to even compete in via the use of the Force, it becomes kind of insane to criticize “Force Awakens” for having a character do something unrealistic when that act is being used to establish the same thing.

          • Snorgatch Pandalume

            Fran’s objection was that there is no lead-up to Rey’s *conscious and deliberate* use of the Force, as opposed to Luke, who doesn’t start using it consciously until after he meets Obi-Wan. As for Anakin , he’s sort of a special case, being The Chosen One and having only one parent–somehow, but even he doesn’t start using it consciously until after being trained.

  9. Awesome, awesome, AWESOME. I loved this vid & found it fun, informational & entertaining. You’ve won a new viewer!

    *trots off to watch more of your vids & sub to your YT channel*

    You bring up the biggest point about Mary Sues that I’ve been harping on myself to my fellow writer friends — that Mary Sue is always, by definition, a canon invader, not a canon character in her own ‘verse. Rey is not a Mary Sue; she’s a canonical part of the SW ‘verse (and, consequentially, I *loved* Rey as much as I loved Luke from the original trilogy back in the day). Just because a female character is powerful doesn’t make her a Sue.

    Keep up the great work!

  10. Horrible and damaging promotion of writing plain bad. Thanks to this video we’ve quite possibly lost several fine writers. Disgusting.

  11. I would not call Rey a Mary Sue. If she was a nerdy guy with dark hair and glasses that liked to shake cameras and was a huge fan of oth the Blare Witch Project and Godzilla, AND, if she wasn’t so easily captured and nearly provolked a stormtrooper to *tighten* her binds, then yeah I’d say she was a Mary Sue. But she’s nothing like J.J. Abrams and she does fuck up here and there.

    Maybe that’s the wrong definition of Mary Sue (which seems pretty vague anyway) but that’s mine. A Mary Sue has to be a combination of 2 unrelated archetypes; Self-insert and Boring Invincible Hero.

  12. I never personally identified mary sues with just female characters. It’s probably because when I first heard the term gary stu the male equivalent was brought up as an interchangeable replacement for it. It’s more than just an unrealistic skill set for me. It’s when a character is just so great or so wonderful that they kill all (I don’t know the right word but the best I can think of is meaning) in the story robbing it of tension of any kind. It’s one thing if your character is talented but if they are so good that even the veterans seem irrelevant than it becomes a problem if what’s meant to keep us interested is seeing a character overcome personal challenges. The first character I can think of is Atticus from the Iron Druid series. I started getting bored with the series at the 3rd book or so when I realized despite his reservation he ultimately blew through his enemies with little difficulty. How was I supposed to take the threat of anything seriously when he’s blowing through pantheons on their home turf like it’s nothing? The excitement is meant to come from the menace of the and scope of the gods he has to fight but the instant I realized atticus’ gods were about as difficult to deal with as say a red vampire from the Dresden files I lost all interest. That wasn’t the best example I realize since the problems of that series comes from more than one character . The essence of what a mary sue is and why I think they’re a problem is a character that removes challenges from a story or so undercuts them by their very presence that hey may as well be nonexistent and that kills investment .

  13. The issue with the Mary Sue is that it often has very little to do with the character themselves, and rather the way the world reacts to them. Fiction has no shortage of oddly adept, beautiful young exemplars with little in the way of flaws, especially if we don’t get a chance to see into their thoughts. What makes a character transition from being that to a Mary Sue is that the world and secondary cast break to beat the audience over the head with the idea that the Mary Sue is just that much cooler.

    This is why My Immortal is such a good example of a Mary Sue. Characters do not act as humans, and the world seems to bend itself to ensure Ebony suffers as little as possible. Ebony could be the exact same character in a well written story, and the only difference would be that she’d suffer for her poor decisions and resented for her actions.

    This is also why Rei from Force Awakens is a Mary Sue. The world and characters break and bend to reinforce her and build her up, regardless of her skill, experience and relevance to the plot.

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