thedeadparrot: (crouching tiger)
thedeadparrot ([personal profile] thedeadparrot) wrote2010-04-11 09:43 am
Entry tags:

My Problem With Mary Sues

So there's a few new conversations about Mary Sues that have come up lately:

on mary sue policing and why i cannot abide it by [personal profile] niqaeli
Such stuff as dreams are made on by [personal profile] staranise

I just wanted to make a point that hasn't really come up yet about how deeply problematic Mary Sues often are.

First off, I do have to say that a lot of gut-level hatred for Mary Sues tends to be overblown, and I will say that I did tend to experience such hatred when I was younger and more judgmental. I really don't believe that we should police anyone's desire to write Mary Sues, and I don't agree that we should shame people who write them.

But seriously, I am getting sick of hearing about how awesome and feminist Mary Sues are, because 90% of the ones I have read are predicated on the idea that the canon female characters are not good enough for the hero, and, of course, Mary Sue is there to give the hero someone he could ~*really love*~. One of my first fannish experiences with Mary Sues was in the Legend of Zelda fandom, where Link fell in love with a new girlfriend who was awesome because she could shoot arrows on horseback and because she was so much better than Zelda, that lame, prissy, jealous harpy. This was even in Ocarina of Time canon, where SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER happened, and I remember the gut-level anger I felt at the way the author dismissed Zelda that way. Because I like Zelda, and I really hated seeing her treated as if she were less than nothing, insignificant, in comparison to this new character who I had never met before, who I didn't even know.

Recently, I read a Jed/Abbey story where the two of them sort of got Stued/Sued, and everyone wanted to fuck one or the other of them, and all the other female character were so mean and also jealous of Abbey (except CJ, I think). Look, I love Abbey like crazy, which is why I was reading the story in the first place, but all the women except her were treated as if they were flawed for not being her, for not being beautiful and sexy and loved by everyone and having the perfect husband and having wonderful children. If this is our idea of empowerment, tearing down other women for not fitting into some perceived feminine ideal, I don't want into it.

And if you don't think that this fantasy is not harmful in any way, imagine being a WOC who identifies heavily with Uhura and then running into Spock/Mary Sue with long descriptions of how much more beautiful and amazing and better for Spock the white Mary Sue is than Uhura. Imagine that you're a WOC and once again, you're reading fic that reminds you that the ideal woman is not you and will never be you. Fantasies are not inherently unproblematic, not inherently unharmful. There's a reason why feminists are always calling out porn that's made for men, and a reason we're always calling out story lines/images/characters in our canons that are meant to titillate men. Yeah, fanfic does not have that same cultural power that our canons do, but to think that white women in fandom cannot harm WOC in fandom through their fantasies is something we've gone over before. And race is just one axis along which this true. There are many, many more.

I am not exempt from having my own Mary Sues in my head, and I'm sure a lot of us do, but you know what? I've had a few different ones since forever and at least half of them were white (while I am not). Some of them were even male. None of them were disabled, fat, transgendered, or lower class. Mary Sues will always be a power fantasy, and they're also a power fantasy that uses the kyriarchy's standards of power and importance. It's one thing to let these fantasies live in our heads. It's another to actually have them contributed to the fannish conversation.

I found this quote off of TigerBeatdown, and I think it hits on something important:
We seem to be special women here, we have liked to think of ourselves as special, and we have known that men would tolerate, even romanticize us as special, as long as our words and actions didn’t threaten their privilege of tolerating or rejecting us and our work according to their ideas of what a special woman ought to be. An important insight of the radical women’s movement has been how divisive and how ultimately destructive is this myth of the special woman, who is also the token woman.

- Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken”

Mary Sue the ultimate special woman, the ultimate token woman, and the ultimate celebration of her existence as a cultural construct. I can't embrace her, and I don't know why I would even want to. Yeah, it is true that the amount of vitriol directed at Mary Sue tends to be greatly disproportionate to the dangers of her existence. But don't tell me she is not problematic in other ways besides offending our sense of taste.
roga: (fnl: jess ♥)

[personal profile] roga 2010-04-11 05:09 pm (UTC)(link)
I can't remember reading read any fics with Mary Sues for really long time, but I love your thoughts on this. Also thank you for the reminder that Mary Sues aren't just original characters, but that fictional characters can be Mary Sued as well, and that it has an impact.
sophinisba: Gwen looking sexy from Merlin season 2 promo pics (gwen by infinitesunrise)

[personal profile] sophinisba 2010-04-11 05:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for this! I've tended to see Mary Sue condemnation as misogynist and really hadn't given much thought to the way these special characters get used to put down other female characters, including women of color. I think that's partly to do with me starting out in a fandom where OFCs were pretty much the only way to get any female characters at all, but you make great points here.
torachan: (Default)

[personal profile] torachan 2010-04-12 02:30 am (UTC)(link)
I have a whole other post brewing in my head about how both Mary Sue supporters and detractors are really horrible at defining what makes a Mary Sue so annoying

Oh man, I would so read the hell out of that post, because both sides seem to have embraced the spread of the term to mean not just every OFC, but most canon characters as well, and I'm left going, but wait, that's not it!

I do think Sues are a very specific type of writing, and it's not just that the character is an obvious self-insert or good at everything or whatever. I really like this old essay by [livejournal.com profile] almostnever about why Sues feel "off".
elspethdixon: (Default)

[personal profile] elspethdixon 2010-04-13 04:52 am (UTC)(link)
I think that poster is spot on with this:

To me, the real key to what makes a Mary Sue is: the Mary Sue is always right. The narrative will always contrive to make it clear that no matter how smart or brave or caring the other characters are, if they disagree with Mary Sue, Sue is right and they are wrong. Even when the Sue's advice or choices seem outlandish or absurd, by sheer virtue of her Sueishness, Mary Sue is right.

Another definition I've seen is that Sues warp canon (or, if they're in an original work, objective reality) around them such that they become the center not only of their own story, but of everyone else's as well. All the other character are just there to prop up or tear down the Sue, rather than having character arcs of their own. Which is true to some extant of all protagonists, but for Sues, it's dialled up to eleven.

Which can make reasonably well-executed Sues (i.e. those that come in a story that also contains a coherent and well-paced plot and decent prose) a very effective fantasy for adolescent readers, or for the thirteen-year-old girl/boy in all of us. To a teenager, you *are* the center of the universe, and your pain *is* worse than anyone else's pain ever. And adolescent fantasies can be valuable and vital, but they can also be harmful. Ender of Ender's Game, for example, is reasonably well-written, but has both the center-of-the-universe and never-ever-wrong qualities in spades, and is a perfect and perfectly poisonous adolescent fantasy about being so special, martyred, and Right that any relatiation dealt out to others, even murdering one's classmates and committing genocide, is not only justified, but blameless and good.

I would have loved that story above all things had I read it as a middle schooler (and before I knew that OSC was a creepy bigot), but not for any remotely healthy reasons.
goodbyebird: Text: At this point 'Mary Sue' is applied to any character under the age of seventy who make it home without drowning. (failsauce)

[personal profile] goodbyebird 2010-04-13 05:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Another definition I've seen is that Sues warp canon (or, if they're in an original work, objective reality) around them such that they become the center not only of their own story, but of everyone else's as well. All the other character are just there to prop up or tear down the Sue, rather than having character arcs of their own.

This is pretty much my definition of a Mary Sue.
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (Chloe grin (smallville))

[personal profile] lady_ganesh 2010-04-14 12:51 pm (UTC)(link)
Mine too. And I think one of the reasons I'm agreeing with a lot of the defenders and those wanting to retire the term is that hardly anyone I see actually using the term uses that fairly strict definition.
goodbyebird: Sarah Connor Chronicles: Sarah looking serious. (SCC Sarah no fate)

[personal profile] goodbyebird 2010-04-14 01:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Any other definition really enforces the notion that there is no way a woman would be that awesome/capable/accomplished, and I am so not down with that. Makes me want to make Hatshepsut/Cleopatra/Catherine the Great/Elizabeth I/Joan of Arc/Annie Oakley/Marie Curie/Coco Chanel/Amelia Earhart/etc graphics that say "Hi, I'm a Mary Sue."
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (Default)

[personal profile] lady_ganesh 2010-04-14 01:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Add in Sojourner Truth and the Trung sisters and I think you've got the best icon ever.
zulu: (sga - teyla/sora)

[personal profile] zulu 2010-04-11 07:21 pm (UTC)(link)
*nods* Well said. That's an excellent quote, too. I'll be very interested in your meta on what makes a Mary Sue annoying, at some point in the future when you don't have deformed surfaces breathing down your neck!
minoanmiss: (La Parisienne)

[personal profile] minoanmiss 2010-04-11 07:35 pm (UTC)(link)
I came here from agreeing with the essays you linked to, and I... am of two minds.

I agree that the problems you describe are problems -- I am a woman of color and I've *seen* the story where Spock falls in love with someone who is So Much More Awesome Than Uhura and it was all I could do not to vomit, not to flame the author. I hate OFCs that are there to say that the canon female characters are lacking, and I agree with you that they're awful.

BUT. I hate slash like that too (the kind of slash where the male characters get together because the canon female love interest is depicted as a horrible person -- for example, I've also seen the Kirk/Spock stories where Kirk is so much better for Spock and Uhura can't love Spock like Kirk does, and I find them equally as disgusting) and I still disagree vehemently with the people who say that its existence is a reason no one should write or read slash. I don't think all these problematic fantasies, terrible as they can be, are a reason to stop writing OFCs, which is the most common suggested solution I've seen to the problem of Mary Sues.

I don't think every OFC has to do what you've described. For example, I created a LOTR hobbit character once to be the betrothed of a minor canon hobbit character, so I could write about the effect of the Ruffians' occupation of the Shire on the hobbits' lives. To do so, I had to deal with my own fears of being labeled a "Mary Sue writer and thus not worth reading" and had to fence with a couple of people who cast that label at me. There were no canon love interests for her to push aside, and every reason for her to exist, and I still think years later that the concept of Mary Sue did me no good service in creating that character and her stories.

If this is our idea of empowerment, tearing down other women for not fitting into some perceived feminine ideal, I don't want into it.

I certainly don't want that either. Not at ALL. But I respectfully submit that avoiding creating OFCs may be one way to avoid doing that but it is not the only nor, in the end, the most productive.
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)

[personal profile] cesy 2010-04-13 07:57 am (UTC)(link)
I think part of the problem is that people were starting to use Mary Sue to mean any OFC, and criticising any OFC at all. It got to the point where a lot of people avoided writing any OFCs, because you couldn't do it without someone sporking it for being Mary Sue-ish.

But yes, it's a good point that we should have more OFCs and more writing about female characters of all kinds, not just the kinds that the kyriarchy approves of.
marina: (Default)

[personal profile] marina 2010-04-11 07:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Mary Sue the ultimate special woman, the ultimate token woman, and the ultimate celebration of her existence as a cultural construct. I can't embrace her, and I don't know why I would even want to.

YES, THIS. I'm generally sick of the meme that shows that have That One Token Woman and make her a Mary Sue are totes giving us this great gift we just haven't learned to appreciate. No thank you, I'd rather have a few flawed characters than one stupidly "special" one.
marina: (Default)

[personal profile] marina 2010-04-11 08:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeeah you're totally right actually, I wrote an entry about it (and linked to your entry) and realized halfway through we were talking about slightly different things. Sorry! I just got back from classes and it's been a long day. I do still totally see your point and agree with it though.
rabidsamfan: samwise gamgee, I must see it through (quest)

[personal profile] rabidsamfan 2010-04-12 01:35 am (UTC)(link)
Wonderful food for thought. (This whole discussion has been!) I haven't quite made up my mind quite yet, although I have found two cents to throw into the pot.

I have read stories with characters who are clearly "Mary Sues" of the authorial insert variety, and those characters are black, or handicapped, or fat, too. Not always and not often, but it has happened. And some of them were there to fall in love with, and be loved by, male characters, regardless of who that male character might love canonically. So does that kind of story empower a woman/girl who is not "perfect"? Or is it possible that that kind of story might empower a girl or woman who is bold enough to make her authorial insert a more accurate avatar of her own person? And does casting stones at all authorial insert type characters make it less likely that a writer will put a character who reflects her own situation into her stories?

Perhaps a better way of critiquing the phenomenon "perfect woman who pushes out the WOC" kind of story is to phrase it in that way, instead of using the "Mary Sue" term which clearly has spawned definitions now that some of us who have been in fandom for a while never meant to attach to it.
rabidsamfan: samwise gamgee, I must see it through (Default)

[personal profile] rabidsamfan 2010-04-12 03:39 am (UTC)(link)
Now that's interesting, because I have never felt shut out by a "Mary Sue" -- not even the really blatant self-inserts. I've empathized with some of them, cheered others on, been annoyed by some, amused by others, felt patronizing about many, and felt the urge to smile and say, "oh, I remember writing like this" by quite a few. But I've never felt shut out.

And I think the difference may lie in how I'm defining MS and how you are. (And quite possibly in the fact that I am not a person of color, and am well known for being clueless about subtleties of social interactions.)

And now I'm going to have to think harder.
torachan: (Default)

[personal profile] torachan 2010-04-12 02:40 am (UTC)(link)
This is a really important point. Thanks for writing about it.
softestbullet: Aeryn cupping Pilot's cheek. He has his big eyes closed. (Foto/ when the truth goes BANG)

[personal profile] softestbullet 2010-04-12 01:18 pm (UTC)(link)
This post is awesome. Thank you.

Mary Sues will always be a power fantasy, and they're also a power fantasy that uses the kyriarchy's standards of power and importance. It's one thing to let these fantasies live in our heads. It's another to actually have them contributed to the fannish conversation.

Wow, yeah.
dagas_isa: Kanzaki Nao from Liar Game (Default)

[personal profile] dagas_isa 2010-04-13 03:01 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for writing about this.

While not all Mary Sue fantasies are problematic, a lot of them can be especially if they're empowering the author (or those like the author) at the expense of others.
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)

[personal profile] dharma_slut 2010-04-13 11:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Ooh, good way to put it!

I think you could as accurately say that Mary Sue sporking can be problematic especially if it's empowering the critic(and her friends) at the expense of others.

There has to be a balance.
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)

[personal profile] staranise 2010-04-13 07:14 am (UTC)(link)
I actually really agree with you. This is kind of complicated to explain.

To me, Mary Sues in the way everybody "really" means them (as the terrible overpowered insert of a juvenile author) aren't all that great; they don't contribute much to the fannish discussion, to fandom's body of work. Their essential purpose is as training pieces, to teach new authors how to do a whole bunch of different things. The problem with smacking Sue-authors down is because we teach them a lot of bad habits that restrict their writing.

Your points have been kind of hanging around this discussion for a year but never really coming out There have been criticisms made about Sues in the discussions I've been having over the past year, which is, most Sues do conform to kyriarchal standards. One of the really good differences I've seen pointed out between Sues and Stus is that Sues have attributes, like beauty and talent; Stus get possessions, like magic swords and laser rockets. Because the basic assumption is, you could pick a regular twelve-year-old boy off the street and he could be a hero; but no girl could ever succeed as just her. She's always too flawed, and needs to be pumped up beyond recognition before she can take on the enemy.

And you're right, that is really fucking problematic. In the middle of female empowerment, it says, "No girl could actually do this."

My argument, which I guess I felt I had to make really strenuously because there are so many people saying, "But I HAVE to be able to rip a thirteen-year-old to shreds! It's GOOD for her!" is that by shutting down authors, by mocking them and flaming them, which is acceptable behaviour in fandom, we are hurting all of us. What inspired me was not actually the plight of thirteen-year-old Suethors; it's women I know now in their early twenties who came into fandom, took one look at Deleterius, and said, "See if they ever catch ME writing a woman in public."

I think we need to find a way to catch Suethors and teach them how to build realistic female characters who can achieve things without being superpowered; while being fat or disabled or an ethnic minority or just plain normal. Which involves something different than what we've been doing for years, and needs people saying, "Okay, why are they all perfect and white?"

(Edited because my original comment sounded like I was saying, "Oh, nice points, but they've already been made before" when you're actually saying really intelligent and interesting things that I haven't heard before, and I don't want to diminish that.)
Edited 2010-04-13 07:24 (UTC)
majoline: picture of Majoline, mother of Bon Mucho in Loco Roco 2 (Default)

[personal profile] majoline 2010-04-14 01:28 am (UTC)(link)
I think the difference here is not to not leave good constructive criticism and 'help' the author out or ask to beta a story with potential, but rather that I think fandom is tired of putting up with people who will line-by-line mock a teenage girl's story, thus telling her that until she can write just like a 'real' author she has no place on the Internet.

it's women I know now in their early twenties who came into fandom, took one look at Deleterius, and said, "See if they ever catch ME writing a woman in public."

This is me. I have just had a major epiphany in the last couple of days: I too can try my hand at writing even if my first try is bad. I've spent the last ten years telling myself I had no place writing because my first collaborative effort was labeled sue-fic and I watched for four solid months while people who I had thought were friends (who didn't know I had a hand in the writing) tore our work to shreds.

I just don't know where the balance is. I'm leery of writing anything. What if I make a mistake? What if I insult someone? What if a woman I write is the center of a story? What happens if she practices femininity? What if I use a label or an adjective that hurts someone?

All I can see is that it's easier not to write anything at all.

YthFtelgolsPUcnJZeG

(Anonymous) 2011-08-06 09:17 am (UTC)(link)
Didn't know the forum rules aloewld such brilliant posts.
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-13 12:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Following a link from [personal profile] staranise.

What I find problematic with Sue bashing is that people who decide to go be Mary Sue police decide to do so because its a fun way to beat up on someone 'weaker' than they are. Not that I'm saying you are condoning this, but I do think you give it a pass. At least in your post. Because the harm done by a Mary Sue is greater than the harm done by the bullying done by Fandom Wank, the Sue Police, and deleterious--or whatever those FYAD wannabees call themselves. And I'm not cool with that.

While there are decided issues with certain types of 'Mary Sues'--and this is a term which could use some definitional work because it can mean pretty much anything these days--it's not just that "the level of vitriol directed a Mary Sue tends to be greatly disproportionate to the dangers of her existence" its that bashing on Mary Sue obscures any sort of more nuanced criticism of her or Marty or just fandom's issues in general.

Because the sort of internalized misogyny that you are describing pops up in slash on a routine and rather worrying basis. How many times have you read a Kirk/Spock fic where Uhuru is pushed to the side as not worth even discussing? And there women are so tainted, so imperfect that there is no way that even the canonical love interest could really be the love interest, it has to be the other guy.

Also, how often does this sort of self-loathing lead to people calling a well-written, ass-kicking canon female character as a Mary Sue? Rinoa being a Sorceress in control of her power is a Mary Sue, but Squall commanding an entire country at 17 is just normal. Um, What?

The thing that I keep circling back around to is this idea that we shouldn't do harm to each other through our writing. What you are describing certainly does harm, however the fannish 'antidote' to this harm--which doesn't even address the harm in the first place, just hides it--causes harm itself. Because how many of the writers writing these types of Sues have any idea what the kyriarchy is? I think there are ways of engaging immature writers without shredding their egos the way FW does.

But then I'm a goon and I write femmeslash pretty exclusively so the ways of the fen are often boggling to me.
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-13 04:21 pm (UTC)(link)
I think you are painting with a really large brush when you say 'Mary Sues hurt people.' I think it would be better to say that unexamed power fantasies--often expressed via Mary Sue or Marty Stu--are hurtful and we need to study our power fantasies for troubling elements. Not all Mary Sues', given the wide brush we're working with, have the issues that you identified. Some do, some don't.

What you are currently saying can easily be translated into "it's okay for me to flame the crap out of this new, immature writer--who is probably a teenager or tween--because of what they write." Which is not okay, even if the writer may have privilege that their readers do not. Expected a young writer, which most Mary Sue authors are, to be able to be anti-racist when most of fandom isn't and can't seem to get its collective heads around is putting a lot of burden on someone who is probably in the 13-20 year old range.

Hand-holding, there needs to be willingness to do that sort of hand-holding with younger writers. Not just flame them for being misogynistic, or racist--which is how a lot of Mary Sue authors would take your criticism if it was leveled at them. I don't think these issues give someone the right to bully another person, even if the author has privilege.

I get your post and I get your point. I even agree with it. However you seem to be offering it as a rejection to [personal profile] staranise's point. If that was not your intent, no harm no foul. But handwaving away bullying because the author may or may not have privilege is not cool.
la_vie_noire: (Default)

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-13 08:16 pm (UTC)(link)
But handwaving away bullying because the author may or may not have privilege is not cool.

Which was something the OP didn't do, by the way.
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-13 10:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Set in the context of the larger debate, which the OTP does, it can be seen that way.
la_vie_noire: (Default)

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-14 12:37 am (UTC)(link)
Well, fine, a woman of color is expressing how tired she is of being ignored by the white women. Who are talking about their power fantasies.

You know how what you are doing right now can be also interpreted, right? Unless I'm missing something very big here, but I don't see how talking about the isms going on in a discussion about power fantasies for (white) women in fandom is equal to... bullying women who write Mary Sues and aren't, you know, getting into racist tropes. She never, ever once even implied that it was okay to "bash Mary Sues." (And, for once, let me get this out of my system, bashing racist tropes in Mary Sues =/= racism.)
la_vie_noire: (Default)

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-14 12:51 am (UTC)(link)
bashing racist tropes in Mary Sues =/= racism.

And with that I was talking about your comment saying, "And one set of privilege doesn't excuse the expression of another." Because then I don't know which kind of privilege are you saying she could have over the OP.
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 01:04 am (UTC)(link)
I ... at this point I'm getting confused about pronouns. Which she are we talking about?

[personal profile] thedeadparrot clearly has some privileges. She's an established fan and she's well educated. These are privileges that one could hold over a younger author. Who may or may not have white privilege, or just the desire to have white privilege. If she, hypothetically, engaged in the sort of Mary Sue author bashing that [personal profile] staranise was decrying, then she would be expressing privilege against a Mary Sue author.

Unless you think that only race holds privilege. Because I'm not sure I can go there with you. I think we all have privilege and expresses itself in a variety of ways. And none of it is acceptable.
la_vie_noire: (Default)

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-14 01:14 am (UTC)(link)
thedeadparrot clearly has some privileges. She's an established fan and she's well educated. These are privileges that one could hold over a younger author. Who may or may not have white privilege, or just the desire to have white privilege. If she, hypothetically, engaged in the sort of Mary Sue author bashing that [personal profile] goldjadeocean was decrying, then she would be expressing privilege against a Mary Sue author.

What..? I don't see the relevance of that in this particular discussion. Like, not even from the beginning.
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 01:41 am (UTC)(link)
Agh. You asked what sort of privilege thedeadparrot could hold over a mary sue author. I answered. It is relevant to the discussion if you see the conversation within the larger framework of conversation regarding mary sues. Not just deadparrots' post. I was responding to her comment from within that conversation.

Now, I misinterpreted her point which has since been cleared up, but you seem to want to go after me for defending racism like I wanted to go after her for defending mary sue author bashing/bullying. When in truth neither of us were engaging in that behavior.

I think at this point the conversation has gotten so confused it needs a reset button so we can all be clear what we're talking about and responding to.

IjFRcSdHLni

(Anonymous) 2011-08-06 06:12 am (UTC)(link)
It's about time somoene wrote about this.
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 01:00 am (UTC)(link)
I think you are missing something very big, probably because I misinterpreted the context in which the OP was supposed to work. I saw it as a direct refutation of [personal profile] staranise's original point, which was that the method in which fandom engages (bullying) Mary Sue authors is deeply problematic. I read her as giving a point in direct refutation of that.

I am not saying that her experience of certain Mary Sue's is not genuine and that they aren't deeply problematic and hurtful.

Unless you are suggesting that racism trumps any other sort of harm that is done and that racist behavior condones other harmful behavior. I was not suggesting that bashing racist tropes in Mary Sues is racism. Or something. I'm not sure where you are going with that, but I have a worrying idea.

The way I interpreted this post was within the context of the larger dialogue regarding how we treat young authors, particularly young authors who write Mary Sues. Which then devolved into a discussion of Mary Sues. I saw [personal profile] thedeadparrot's post as a direct refutation of [personal profile] staranise's post because she set her post within that dialogue. That is not what she intended, but at the time I read it, that wasn't entirely clear.
la_vie_noire: (Default)

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-14 01:04 am (UTC)(link)
Unless you are suggesting that racism trumps any other sort of harm that is done and that racist behavior condones other harmful behavior.

Dude, I'm saying that "Mary Sue bullying" is really, really not comparable to racism. At all. And specially if you just assumed she was bashing and didn't read her post about white women power fantasies.
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 01:09 am (UTC)(link)
I did not assume she was bashing. I took the post within a larger dialogue and saw it as defending the bashing.

And I do think that bashing Mary Sue authors the way that deleterious and FandomWank do are as bad as Mary Sue expressions of problematic power fantasies in terms of harm within the fannish community. They are both not acceptable and using one to justify the other--which is how the OP came off within the larger dialogue--is not okay.
la_vie_noire: (Default)

I'm going to take a shower. Just that.

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-14 01:16 am (UTC)(link)
Well, then you didn't read her post which was about white privilege.

I don't even know how to respond to this. Racism isn't a problem of some privileged kid's expressions, you know.
chronolith: (Default)

Re: I'm going to take a shower. Just that.

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 01:33 am (UTC)(link)
I read her post. I took it as part of a larger dialogue. One that I do not think you aren't aware of.

And I know that racism isn't a problem of some privileged kid's expression. But in the context of fandom, we are just talking about privileged kid's expressions.

Unless you are calling me some privileged kid. In which case I'm just going to point out that the American genocide of indigenous peoples was not quite as thorough as they like to proclaim it as.
torachan: (Default)

Re: I'm going to take a shower. Just that.

[personal profile] torachan 2010-04-14 06:47 am (UTC)(link)
I read her post. I took it as part of a larger dialogue.

No. What you did is assume a lot of things about the post due instead of engaging with what the post actually said.

This post is part of a larger dialogue. That's why the OP linked to other posts. But I don't know where in her post you got the idea that because she's saying Mary Sues are not unproblematic, everyone should go out and flame people who write them. That is just nowhere in this post at all. And saying over and over again that it is part of a larger discussion is not going to make that true.

In the context of the larger dialogue, the OP is pointing out something she had not seen touched on yet. She did not conclude her post with "therefore flaming is totes okay".
chronolith: (Default)

Re: I'm going to take a shower. Just that.

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 10:46 am (UTC)(link)
Right. She doesn't. I was wrong.

And I don't think I ever said that I thought deadparrot found Mary Sue's a-okay. Though I did completely lose the fundamental point somewhere in the discussion last night of the fact are harmful to readers, particularly of fen, and thus we shouldn't completely embrace them. The answer to that is yes.

And I didn't even say that she said flaming is a-okay, only that her post could be used as a defense of it on the grounds that the only way young authors will learn to not to be racist is through the Sue shaming mechanisms we have in place.

But I botched that and then just got confused.
chronolith: (utena)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-13 10:59 pm (UTC)(link)
I think when I first read the OP you seemed to be setting yourself squarely in the 'well if we don't smack her nose, all this awfulness will happen.' And one set of privilege doesn't excuse the expression of another.

And now I'm just sort of rambling, prompted by various discussions:

I've been talking on [personal profile] boosette's journal about the need to educate young writers about what they are doing wrong in a way that doesn't shred their egos.

I think Mary Sue is this massive sprawling term. On the one end it's used a catch-all to bash on anyone who writes competent, interesting female character. And under that definition even someone who is writing the canon characters get accused of writing Mary Sues. Just because the female characters are kicking ass. ESPECIALLY if any of the male characters notice female character kicking said ass. Which, sup misogyny?

Then there are Mary Sues which exist to be super special perfect expressions of power. Often times those expressions of power are problematic for a lot of reasons. For the reason you described, because often Mary Sue's perfectness is predicated on really anti-feminist ideals of female perfection. Because they tend to be age-ist, ableist, and classist. And probably a lot of other -ists.

And some Mary Sue's aren't really problematic except that they are poorly written and hurt to read.

I think a lot of teens & tweens have no clue that what they are doing is racist or problematic. Jumping on them the way that fandom gleefully loves to jump on them is a problem. Because fandom isn't hating on Mary Sue because she's racist or perpetuating power structures that are damaging to readers. They are jumping on her for generally completely misogynistic terms. She's good at something, she takes away from a slash ship, etc etc. It's also a problem because it is never okay to bully someone.

I think what worries me is that a lot of fandom doesn't realize that by the simple fact that they are well established, interconnected, and involved in long discussions with each other they have privilege over a new author who is just starting to get involved. When a young author does something that is hurtful or problematic jumping on them via FW isn't even addressing the problem. And whipping out terminology from our various advanced degrees (because fandom is awesome in its education) is just using our educational privilege to pound on them.

The current kinda sink or swim response we have to young authors teaches them a couple of things: 1) don't write women, and 2) it's peachy keen to trash on someone writing something different. We never get to 'don't write racist things' We never engage with them on the they actually did that was hurtful.

My take away from [personal profile] staranise's point was not go celebrate Mary Sue as a feminist ideal, or even to give Suethors a pass, but to re-think how we engage them. Rather than shredding them for being bad writers (which they are) we need to explain to them what they are doing wrong.

And at this point I'm repeating myself and may have been doing so for a while.
la_vie_noire: (Default)

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-14 12:12 am (UTC)(link)
And one set of privilege doesn't excuse the expression of another.

What kind of privilege are you exactly talking about here?
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 12:52 am (UTC)(link)
In the case of bashing Mary Sue authors, the privilege of an established fan against a new author. And potentially educational privilege. As well as age.

But I think at this point it has been cleared up by the OP that she was not setting herself in directly contradiction with the idea that bashing Sue authors was okay because they may be engaging in racist or problematic behavior.
la_vie_noire: (Default)

thedeadparrot, tell me if you don't want this discussion here, I will move on to my journal

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-14 01:02 am (UTC)(link)
In the case of bashing Mary Sue authors, the privilege of an established fan against a new author. And potentially educational privilege. As well as age.

Why? And how are those comparable to racism? "Potential educational privilege"? Because she is educated to recognize privilege?

(The age thing, I can see it. But you weren't even talking about how she was ageist -because she said she once was young and judgmental?-, you were saying she was doing harm to Suethors. I don't see how age has an important role to play in addressing that power fantasies glorify white, able-bodied, cis, etc., bodies.)
chronolith: (Default)

Re: thedeadparrot, tell me if you don't want this discussion here, I will move on to my journal

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 01:07 am (UTC)(link)
At this point we are getting beyond the specifics of [personal profile] thedeadparrot to the actions of fandom potentially bashing on mary sue authors, which is what I thought she was defending on the grounds that some Mary Sue authors are racist in the expression of their power fantasies.

I mean, power fantasies are almost always going to be problematic.

Why? And how are those comparable to racism? "Potential educational privilege"? Because she is educated to recognize privilege?

I... woah.

So are you really saying that racism trumps any other sort of -ism? That once someone expresses racist, or potentially racist behavior they are fair game to anything else? Or that no other expression of privilege can compare to racism? Because I am definitely not willing to go there with you.
the_future_modernes: (Default)

Re: thedeadparrot, tell me if you don't want this discussion here, I will move on to my journal

[personal profile] the_future_modernes 2010-04-14 01:19 am (UTC)(link)
Racism does not trump any ism. The point that deadparrot was making was that the Mary Sue convo, as per usual for a hell of a lot of fandom convos, focused on white women and left out the experiences of not-white people. Which experiences are problematic. And Whereupon you started to accuse her of ...educational privilege. And ageism. And, being on the internet longer than goldjadeocean.

I am still blinking at your thought processes.


I mean, power fantasies are almost always going to be problematic.

Not if they are critiqued enough.
Edited 2010-04-14 01:22 (UTC)
chronolith: (Default)

Re: thedeadparrot, tell me if you don't want this discussion here, I will move on to my journal

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 01:37 am (UTC)(link)
I ... I wasn't accusing of her of educational privilege or ageism or being on the internet longer than goldjadeocean. I was, putting it an hypothetical, saying if she engaged in the sort of behavior that [personal profile] staranise was decrying that she could potentially be exhibiting those forms privilege against the Mary Sue author. Within that hypothetical.

I think that this point we're playing a game of telephone which started off with me responding to something that deadparrot didn't quite say. Which I did not and I think apologize for.

Not if they are critiqued enough.

Depends on your definition of 'power' I suppose. I'm a little too wedded to Foucault's definition of power which is almost always going to be problematic.
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)

[personal profile] staranise 2010-04-14 06:51 am (UTC)(link)
I... kind of don't appreciate you using my name every other comment when you don't really know me, and you're not exactly being the most sensitive person to PoC issues while you do it, like you're defending me from those angry anti-racist types?

I linked to this post because I thought it made a lot of good points, not because I was like, "Somebody criticized me! Ohnoes!"
Edited (well THAT was a typo) 2010-04-14 06:57 (UTC)
chronolith: (Default)

[personal profile] chronolith 2010-04-14 10:40 am (UTC)(link)
I wasn't? Or I didn't think I was.

I was trying to explain where my jumping off point was and where I got confused, and heard an undertone that wasn't there. I definitely didn't mean for anything I said to be a defense of you. (or even a defense, just an explanation)

I started off in point A. Read this, thought it was interesting, but felt like it could be used as a defense for bad behavior, as people do like to take a good reason to defend bad behavior. So I pointed out that the way it was originally written, in the context of the larger discussion, could have that undercurrent. That was not what she meant, and she didn't even mean all Sues and we have some definitional work. And then the conversation went way beyond even this particular OP to whether or not a fen of color could have privilege over someone who had expressed a hurtful power fantasy.

Or at least that's where I took it. Though at this point I'm not sure that's where the conversation even went. Confused and on the internet, that's what I am.

In the process of vomiting forth words to explain what was going on in my head while this was going I lost track of the OP's original point and thus was being insensitive the harm done by dangerous power fantasies potentially expressed by Mary Sues. That is my fault and my failure. For which I am sorry.
merisunshine36: white rose floating candle (Default)

[personal profile] merisunshine36 2010-04-13 04:24 pm (UTC)(link)
I just wanted to cruise by and say YES and YES and maybe some more YES. We act like teens are too young and stupid to be taught that their words have meaning and power. Eff that noise, we should be correcting prejudices from day one. It is never too early to point out to someone the ways in which what they do is hurtful, and to steer them down a better path.
la_vie_noire: (Default)

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2010-04-13 08:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this.
scrollgirl: carolyn lam close-up (sg-1 carolyn)

[personal profile] scrollgirl 2010-04-13 10:11 pm (UTC)(link)
I agree with your general point, especially this: I am not exempt from having my own Mary Sues in my head, and I'm sure a lot of us do, but you know what? I've had a few different ones since forever and at least half of them were white (while I am not).

In high school I wrote a lot of drawer!fic, stories set in a high fantasy world populated mostly by white people. I had an ensemble of characters, 6 or 7 women and 4 men, and they were all my avatars in one way or another. I gave them beauty and intelligence and destiny and fantastical magic powers.

All of them where white.

It's kind of amazing that it took me getting into fandom to start thinking about characters, female and male, who weren't white.

OTOH, now that I'm more aware of how thoroughly I've been indoctrinated to believe white = normal, I can try to undermine that and create OCs in my fanfic who reflect minority experiences.
eyrane: (Default)

[personal profile] eyrane 2010-04-13 11:26 pm (UTC)(link)
So now I have to rethink how I feel about the issue.

Mary Sues, especially when used unironically in full rampant glory, are annoying as fuck. I've never had any argument with that. My problem was with readers who couldn't use the back button, or went looking for these things, in order to use it to entertain others. Because that's what Sue reports usually are: entertainment. They aren't often meant to say This is racist or This is internalized misogyny and they aren't limited to Sues that are problematic in that way; at least, I didn't see any such that I can remember, back when I was reading deleterious. I may be wrong.

But this horrified me:

One of my first fannish experiences with Mary Sues was in the Legend of Zelda fandom, where Link fell in love with a new girlfriend who was awesome because she could shoot arrows on horseback and because she was so much better than Zelda, that lame, prissy, jealous harpy.

I like Mary Sue conceptually because she's often empowering. She's not exactly fun for other people to read - she's someone else's wish fulfillment, and I don't really have a pressing desire to see every author's id (which is part of why I got uncomfortable reading the Anita Blake books, but my problems with that series are legion and immaterial to this discussion, so I won't go on) - but, well: empowering. It's why I can be irritated at people who try to police Mary Sues, but have no desire to read them myself.

But that is not empowering. And your scenario with the Spock/Uhura/Sue triangle is not empowering. It makes me want to puke. These scenarios are about slapping women down, and I really really hate that, which is where I was coming from when I was thinking "write what makes you happy no matter what!"

So. I guess what I meant by my tl;dr here is that I hadn't seen all sides of the argument, and I am pleased to be informed when I might be doing something problematic, so thank you for this post.

I still think it's dangerous to wholly deride Mary Sue, just as it would be to fully embrace her. The term is just too loaded for it to be any one thing.

But you know, actually, I think the other place that this is all coming from might be because Mary Sue and Original Female Character often seem to read as synonymous. Nothing in this round of "Why I Love Mary Sue" has seemed to me to be saying "Because I Like to Hate Canonical Women." I think it's just an attempt to claim and transform a term that can be unfairly applied and keeps getting increasingly derogatory.

[identity profile] sodzilla.livejournal.com 2010-04-14 04:00 am (UTC)(link)
*nods* This is a point that bears making. I've read my share of "sporkings" in the past and I've never seen *one* that brought up race/creed/ability issues. I *have* seen gay issues, but solely in the "OMG u broke up a ghei ship U HOMOPHOBE" variety.
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)

[personal profile] starlady 2010-04-13 11:26 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, what a great post. Thank you.
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)

here from metafandom

[personal profile] dharma_slut 2010-04-13 11:37 pm (UTC)(link)
and I am one of the people who have been castigating the anti-sue crowd bullies -- for quite a while, now, at that.

And you bring up a really important point, and one that I am going to remind myself and other people about in this debate because yeah-- Bashing the female love interest in favor of one's preferred pairing is totally sucks and makes my head blow up. In my defense of the self-insertion instinct, I did forget about that part of it and how often it can happen.


mutecornett: (Default)

[personal profile] mutecornett 2010-04-14 12:00 am (UTC)(link)
THANK YOU. Yes!
michelel72: (DW-Donna-Spooky)

[personal profile] michelel72 2010-04-14 12:29 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you.
mikes_grrl: (Pervert's Corner)

[personal profile] mikes_grrl 2010-04-14 12:31 am (UTC)(link)
I really feel like you are confounding several ideas here:

1. That Mary-Sue "supporters" (such as myself) love all Mary Sue fic and champion it. I don't; bad writing is bad writing, I don't care how canon OR how mary sue your story is. My support is in the right of the author to write what she wants to write.

2. That everyone agrees on a definition of mary sue. If you've found a fandom-wide accepted definition of mary sue, let me know, because I haven't, and I've been looking.

3. That all Mary Sues are constructs of the culturally privileged; that WOC mary sues don't exist, or if they do, they are defacto not mary sues.

Comments such as this:
Mary Sues will always be a power fantasy, and they're also a power fantasy that uses the kyriarchy's standards of power and importance.
Assumes that your definition of mary sue as "the ultimate special woman, the ultimate token woman, and the ultimate celebration of her existence as a cultural construct" is the only or the only correct one. Which it isn't.

I'm not saying that given your definition of mary-sue fic, that your points are not good and valid. They are. I thought this was the most important point you made:
If this is our idea of empowerment, tearing down other women for not fitting into some perceived feminine ideal, I don't want into it.
Yes, I agree, completely. But wielding the sledge-hammer of "You wrote mary-sue fic! Be ashamed, be very ashamed!" only encourages a writer stop writing, not adjust her perceptions nor attempt to improve her skills. It convinces a new, uncertain writer that her fantasies are something to be ashamed of, not that there are social and cultural constructs to her story that she has perhaps never realized existed before.

I guess to me, the idea of being a "mary sue supporter" is more about offering a nurturing, supportive environment for writers to learn from their mistakes, as opposed to an oppressive environment that punishes for sins/faults that the writer may not even be aware of.
mikes_grrl: (Default)

[personal profile] mikes_grrl 2010-04-15 12:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Okay, I understand where our opinions differ more clearly now. Thank you.

...but please don't imply that I am advocating shaming.

No no no, I should hope that you wouldn't. What I was trying to say is that vilifying mary-sue stories - for whatever reasons, even if, like your comments, they are truly valid - leads to a culture of shaming. I'm pointing out that just saying, "well, this is bad, we should discourage people from doing it" (however that discouragement is doled out) doesn't actually solve the problem, because it doesn't educate the writer at all. The writer will never get the chance to move from mary-sues to fully realized OFCs because she will just stop writing about women as main characters completely. (I think there is enough anecdotal evidence to state that this DOES happen, even if there is no way to gauge how pervasive a phenomenon it is.) My issue with all of this -- and it is my issue, I don't mean to suggest it is yours or anyone else's -- is that I don't see a middle ground: either support mary-sue writers and encourage them to grow and change as writers and as people, or discourage mary-sue writers at the cost of shaming them like naughty puppies.

I do want to add that it is impossible to engage with mary-sue as a construct if the definition is "fuzzy". I don't believe that makes you right and me wrong or vice-versa, or that it in any way invalidates your conclusions, which are valuable and insightful and add a lot to main issue. It just means we are not really talking about the same thing.
lilacsigil: Japanese girl writing (Write)

[personal profile] lilacsigil 2010-04-14 01:25 am (UTC)(link)
Speaking solely of fandom Mary Sues, I would go the other way - it's not the existence or plotlines of Mary Sues that is feminist or empowering, but the fact that girls and women are writing them. Girls are not putting off awesome onto male characters (as I often did as a teenager, when there were few geeky girl characters, and most of them were in Doctor Who) but going straight to "a girl is awesome!!1111!!!" It makes me happy.

Canon Mary Sues (the more prevalent male versions in particular) certainly do need analysis, and Mary Sue is a really good term for a character so fantastic that zie deforms the universe around the black hole of their amazingness. That character is problematic in exactly the way you define above, but, as we all might expect, most of the vitriol is thrown at the female versions, especially the fan-versions. This is why I'm not ready to say that the "token woman" is worse than no woman - Mary Sue is one step forward, but only one step.
mikes_grrl: (Default)

[personal profile] mikes_grrl 2010-04-15 12:59 pm (UTC)(link)

Privileging the author entirely over the reader is not something I believe in, and the overall conversation seems to be geared only at examining the authors' POV without ever considering the readers'.


Ooooo, you know what? I kind of missed this point. Doh.

The fact is, though, that readers need to learn to be responsible for themselves too. It is impossible to shield readers from anything and everything that might upset them (as which should be evidenced from the whole "warnings wank" thing), so it is more valuable to educate readers AND writers together as to why something is upsetting and how that problem can be addressed.

I understand the underlying issues you are addressing about power and cultural privilege and the reinforcement thereof. They are important issues. To me that's not even a question; the question is, "how to solve the problem?" And that solution is with the writers, moreso than the readers. Readers need to feel safe in explaining why they don't like something, but shaming the author is not a valid way to do it, which is what I believe the culture of "anti-mary-sue" does.

If, to everyone everywhere, "mary sue" meant "poorly realized self insert that supports negative stereotypes and cultural appropriation" I might feel differently, but it doesn't mean that universally. Then a reader could say, "dude, mary sue!" and a writer might learn from it. But as it is? No, that is not how it happens. The accusation of mary-sue comes laden with the burden of embarrassment and shame and mockery, and until we change that (or, ideally, stop using the term altogether) then we will be defeating our own purpose by allowing female writers to be shamed into NOT writing about female characters at all. How does that help, empower, or entertain the readers? I don't think it does.

Hopefully I'm making sense, I haven't had my coffee yet....

here from my lj flist

[personal profile] ex_lucidity482 2010-04-14 03:02 am (UTC)(link)
This is an excellent post. I've been reading (and responding to) the recent discussion about Mary Sues and while I heartily agree with the idea that the underlying misogyny of the sporking culture and the way it makes women terrified to write women being awesome is extremely problematic, you bring up a great bit of intersectionality that wasn't being directly addressed. And one that is done great disservice by the takeaway that all Mary Sues are harmless and empowering. Empowering one person at the expense of another isn't actually empowering at all.

For me, reading the discussions of sporking culture's lasting effects was automatically framed through my own experience and involvement in it. Namely, that I ended up so, so, so afraid of becoming one of those people who I was, at that time, participating in mocking that I didn't want to invent characters like me (even in original fiction) or focus on canon characters like me. This was because I'd internalized the idea that if it could be seen as representative of me then it was a self-insert (or in the case of canon characters being used as a self-insert) and if it was a self-insert it was a Mary Sue. And I only fully turned away from that neurosis (or started to because, honestly, I'm not going to pretend I don't still worry whenever I'm writing a female character) after I accepted that my belief in the importance of illuminating and representing marginalized bodies in fiction meant that I couldn't sit around and not write black women just because I happened to be one.

As already acknowledged, there are so many clarity issues in the conversation due to the fact that Mary Sue as a term has essentially lost all meaning.

In the common vernacular, a Mary Sue is a power fantasy that reinforces racist/misogynist/ableist/etc. standards and usually warps the entire narrative around it to make itself superlative to the detriment of the other characters who might have been bucking those harmful standards. But in an equally common vernacular, a Mary Sue is also any random female character that the fanculture, under the influence of those same racist/misogynistic/ableist/etc. standards, decides is too awesome/intelligent/desirable/powerful/what have you.

Basically, you know that shit is fucked when both Uhura and the OFC invented for the sole purpose of humiliating and replacing her have been called the same thing.
beccadg: (Default)

Also Here From My LJ Flist

[personal profile] beccadg 2010-04-14 04:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Basically, you know that shit is fucked when both Uhura and the OFC invented for the sole purpose of humiliating and replacing her have been called the same thing.

Amen to that!
liopleurodon: (Default)

Re: here from my lj flist

[personal profile] liopleurodon 2010-04-15 12:56 am (UTC)(link)
In the common vernacular, a Mary Sue is a power fantasy that reinforces racist/misogynist/ableist/etc. standards and usually warps the entire narrative around it to make itself superlative to the detriment of the other characters who might have been bucking those harmful standards. But in an equally common vernacular, a Mary Sue is also any random female character that the fanculture, under the influence of those same racist/misogynistic/ableist/etc. standards, decides is too awesome/intelligent/desirable/powerful/what have you.

I love this distinction. Thank you. <3

[identity profile] sodzilla.livejournal.com 2010-04-14 03:54 am (UTC)(link)
Insofar as I've interpreted the discussion correctly, the people who wrote the linked essays and the people who agree with them don't seem to be arguing that a Sue - or a regular old OFC - can never be problematic. They're arguing that the dilation of the term "Mary Sue" until it encompasses every female character and half the real women in fandom is harmful, and that automatic knee-jerk rejection of EVERY Sue - even the ones who really are Sues according to sane definitions of the term - is harmful.

Besides, in your example above, it strikes me that the theoretical WOC might be just as upset to see Spock paired with Kirk, or T'Pring, or Christine Chapel. Those characters may be canonical, but isn't it still just as much of a value judgment being made, *if* the person in question is being presented as being sooo much better for Spock?

As for power fantasies... very few people out there fantasize about being disempowered. There are of course different ways to empower oneself in fantasy - sometimes I fantasize about not being fat, sometimes about a world in which being fat wouldn't automatically code me as unattractive, undisciplined and unworthy. And the thing I'm most against regarding the whole "Mary Sue police" thing is that if I wrote a character who was fat and yet still considered respectable and desirable, she'd be "unrealistic", and if I wrote a character who was fit or, god forbid, even slender but who could otherwise be said to resemble me, it'd be "wish-fulfillment" and either way, I'd be screwed.
liopleurodon: (Default)

[personal profile] liopleurodon 2010-04-14 03:56 am (UTC)(link)
God, thank you. I have been frustrated with the "feminism of Mary Sue" posts that are going around because most Mary Sues are so inherently sexist in their construction that I cannot understand this rampant defense of them. It seems to me that many of the pro-Mary Sue posts are completely misinterpreting the concept of a "Mary Sue." An original female character, even one who is completely self-insert, or vaguely self-insert, or a love interest for the male lead, is not inherently a Mary Sue. There is a lot more to Mary Sue-dom than that, and it has everything to do with the exaggeration of idealized and fetishized traits that society demands in a female. The traits that she is given that ostensibly undermine sexist hierarchies (her "power" traits) are equally fetishized by token of making her sexy via that very power. If she is a "strong woman" at all (a strength that is often undermined by a sexualized vulnerability), she is strong not for the virtue of being a strong woman, but for the purpose of being a strong woman who is therefore attractive to the male lead(s) (and everyone else).
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)

[personal profile] dharma_slut 2010-04-14 04:50 am (UTC)(link)
It seems to me that many of the pro-Mary Sue posts are completely misinterpreting the concept of a "Mary Sue."

Yes, the term has been warped out of recognition. That's the problem.

And the fact that Mary Sue is a girl's name makes it even easier to misuse the concept. Our language is very fond of perjoratives that relate to the female sex, and can only describe men by way of a modifier. Mary Sue is one of those.
liopleurodon: (Default)

[personal profile] liopleurodon 2010-04-14 07:45 pm (UTC)(link)
While I appreciate the amorphous nature of fandom-originated or fandom-oriented vocabulary, I don't understand the value of conflating "Mary Sue" to be synonymous with "original female character." It completely defeats the purpose of having a term for the concept of a Mary Sue in the first place. As you say about pejoratives, I can understand wanting to "reclaim" the term "Mary Sue" from the pejorative meaning, but like I said above, I think that is completely missing the point of what the term Mary Sue actually refers to: a fetishized and anti-feminist construction.
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)

[personal profile] dharma_slut 2010-04-14 08:19 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't understand the value of conflating "Mary Sue" to be synonymous with "original female character."

Hey, I didn't do it-- but it's happened all over fandom. And it pisses me the hell off.

What purpose does that conflation serve? Well, the more amorphous a term becomes, the more it can be turned into whatever ad hoc tool a group deems necessary. And this one has been used as a tool to establish and maintain status. That's always a good enough motive for a lot of people.

I think that is completely missing the point of what the term Mary Sue actually refers to: a fetishized and anti-feminist construction.

Which is, if I may say, a definition I have never seen before.

One could very easily have a feminist character that overtakes and warps canon anyway.

Referring back to your originl post, you said;

It seems to me that many of the pro-Mary Sue posts are completely misinterpreting the concept of a "Mary Sue."

My response is that you are mistaking who, exactly, is misunderstanding the concept. The "pro mary sue" posters are not advocating mary sue charaacters per se. They are advocating the right of young women to make mistakes without being bullied by older women.
mary Sue" as it is being used in this debate is a metonym, a container for the thing contained, in james Thurber's lovely words.

An original female character, even one who is completely self-insert, or vaguely self-insert, or a love interest for the male lead, is not inherently a Mary Sue.

Yes, that is the other thing that the "pro mary sue posters" are saying.
liopleurodon: (Default)

[personal profile] liopleurodon 2010-04-15 12:54 am (UTC)(link)
Sorry, I should have been more clear about the "fetishized and anti-feminist" comment--I was in a bit of a rush. I didn't mean it as a definition, but rather something that I see as inherent in the composition of a true Mary Sue character, in that she plays into the sexist tropes of the feminine ideal. The Mary Sue's author doesn't do this consciously or at all realize how very, very heavily her character is playing into and reinforcing the patriarchy; it's simply a reflection of the societal values that she's internalized. So I don't critique the Sue's author for doing this. It's not her fault and Sues are, to be honest, a nearly inevitable and ubiquitous aspect of a writer's trajectory. But I do take issue with the claim that Sues themselves are feminist.

My response is that you are mistaking who, exactly, is misunderstanding the concept. The "pro mary sue" posters are not advocating mary sue charaacters per se. They are advocating the right of young women to make mistakes without being bullied by older women.

Not to repeat what I just typed, but I definitely agree with those posters that young authors should be allowed to make mistakes/write Sues/write anything they want without being bullied. Absolutely. But that's not the only claim I've been seeing in these pro-Sue threads, and I have definitely seen the Sue defended as a feminist construct.

An original female character, even one who is completely self-insert, or vaguely self-insert, or a love interest for the male lead, is not inherently a Mary Sue.

Yes, that is the other thing that the "pro mary sue posters" are saying.


That seems counter-intuitive to their argument?
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)

[personal profile] dharma_slut 2010-04-15 01:38 am (UTC)(link)
well, the bullet points might be;

1) Girls need space to fuck up in. They should not be bullied in their creative endeavors. It really does less harm to a young girl to write a barbie doll version of her identity once or twice, than it does for her to be told that her MARY SUE IS AN ABOMINATION AND SHE WILL BE A SUETHOR FOREVERMORE.

2) The term "Mary Sue" has been applied to nearly every female character that shows agency and ability, including canon characters. As you, and so many other people point out, that is pushing the definition far past its proper bounds, and is also anti-feminist at the least. The term should not be used in such a manner if at all, and perhaps (definitely,in my opinion) has become too sullied by usage to be useful for any use, including the original one.

3) That (and this is side issue perhaps) one of the reasons the term has become so egregious is because it is gendered.
liopleurodon: (Default)

[personal profile] liopleurodon 2010-04-15 01:55 am (UTC)(link)
1) trufax

2) You raise a good point about the waters being so muddied that the term "Mary Sue" is no longer effective. But I think the physical aspect of the [original] Sue is still one that merits recognition and critique, and to that end it helps significantly for it to have a name. Perhaps a new vocabulary is in order?

3) I think part of the gendering of Mary Sue is that:
a) in fandom works, which are mostly written by women, the vast majority of OCs and Mary Sues are female. You do see Gary Stus, but they are rarer.
b) in canon works, there are a hell of a lot of Gary Stus who simply don't get recognized as Gary Stus because the patriarchy accepts that playing into all of the stereotypes of the ultra-masculine is a good thing. The Mary Sue is in a much more difficult position because she is trying to pander to the patriarchy and to the desire for female autonomy at the same time.
misstopia: (wtf)

[personal profile] misstopia 2010-04-14 08:13 am (UTC)(link)
I have never yet heard this idea that Mary Sues are feminist O_O Feminism means a lot of things, including the right to be imperfect because it's, you know, human and normal. Being a Mary Sue is not the only way to be badass or attractive or successful or whatever else, it just means you can't lie outside the realm of plausibility. Sometimes people demand a character that absolutely cannot be criticized in any way to identify with, and that isn't about feminism IMHO.

Page 1 of 2

<< [1] [2] >>