greygirlbeast (greygirlbeast) wrote,
greygirlbeast
greygirlbeast

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"Mary Sue"

So, a while back, I came across a nitwit somewhere online who described Echo, a character I wrote in The Dreaming, as a "Mary Sue." Previous to seeing this particular comment, my familiarity with the phrase was extremely limited. Indeed, I only had some vague impression that it was used by writers of fan fic who wished to complain about characters written by other writers of fan fic. Last time Sonya (sovay) stayed over, we talked about this, and she was surprised (and annoyed) to see the term has apparently escaped the realm of fan fic and is being applied to non-fan fic characters. Myself, I thought it was a dubious concept to begin with, so, mostly, I was just baffled.

According to Wikipedia, a "Mary Sue" is defined thusly: "A Mary Sue (sometimes just Sue), in literary criticism and particularly in fan fiction, is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors or readers. Perhaps the single underlying feature of all characters described as 'Mary Sues' is that they are too ostentatious for the audience's taste, or that the author seems to favor the character too highly. The author may seem to push how exceptional and wonderful the 'Mary Sue' character is on his or her audience, sometimes leading the audience to dislike or even resent the character fairly quickly; such a character could be described as an "author's pet". (Note that Wikipedia has tagged this article for a lack of cited sources, verifiable claims, etc.)

Now, tonight I see that Poppy (docbrite) has come across this Mary Sue Litmus Test thingy and applied it to two of her characters. So, I thought it might be interesting to try it myself, using Sarah Crowe from The Red Tree.

Not surprisingly, the test is stupid as hell. No, really. Big-time, ginormous, Godzilla-sized stupid. But regardless, Sarah only scored an 18. The author of the Mary Sue Litmus Test writes, "11-20 points: The Non-Sue. Your character is a well-developed, balanced person, and is almost certainly not a Mary Sue. Congratulations!" So, I guess that's a relief. One thing I can stop losing sleep over. Keep in mind, by the way, I have repeatedly admitted that Sarah Crowe is my most autobiographical character to date, though I'm not precisely sure how that admission fits into this mess.

There are so very many things wrong with the basic concept of a "Mary Sue" character, I'm not about to undertake a point-by-point critique. It's just dumb. By this definition, Tom Sawyer is likely a Mary Sue. I could make a very long list of famed literary characters who would fall into the Mary Sue category. And why the hell should we accept that the person who fashioned this test is any sort of authority on anything?

Obviously, this all begs the question of whether or not Echo might be considered a Mary Sue (by the standards of the person who wrote this dumb test). Maybe some other time I'll take it again, for poor Echo, but first I'd have to read back over a bunch of issues of The Dreaming, none of which I've read since 2004.

Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling.
Tags: characterization, fan fic, idiots, poppy, sonya, the red tree, wikipedia, writing
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