Mary Sue

A New concept (for me)

Never come across this characterisation before.

A Mary Sue is a female character type, introduced into a series, who comes from a lowly or unusual background and is essentially perfect at everything no matter how unlikely it seems. It spins from fan-fiction, in particular serving as an author’s avatar within the story, but is now used as a criticism in fiction in general of any female protagonist who appears to be perfect (and, of course, it’s typically women who receive this criticism, not men – that would be the lesser used Gary or Marty Stu).

“A character who is an idealised and seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities. Often this character is recognised as an author or wish fulfilment” (Segall, 2008 p.26).

The term appears to have originated from the character, 15 year old Lt Mary Sue, created by Paula Smith in 1973 for her parody story “A Trekkie’s Tale”  (Walker, 2011)

In chapter four of her book ‘

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 08.59.42.png

An illustration of the original Mary Sue from Walker’s “A Trekkie Tale”

Enterprising Women’, Camille Bacon-Smith states that fear of creating a “Mary Sue” may be restricting and even silencing some writers (Bacon-Smith and Hall, 1991).

 

Orr dismisses these characters  as an “ludicrously empowered author proxy”(Orr, 2004)

There seems to be much debate about wish fulfilment of the author and the problems of inserting a confident, knowledgable and successful female character into any story for fear of the “Mary Sue ” label.

In an amusing twist “The December 10, 1986 casting call, the first for the proposed series, lists “Leslie Crusher—An appealing 15 year old caucasian girl…[with a] remarkable mind and photographic memory” (Gardner, 2004).

Of course the character took the screen as Wesley Crusher.

Reflection

An intriguing discovery my eyes are open now. However, Mary Sue will not be making an entry into my stories just yet. Gary Stu would might be which is an irony! I am wondering if he might be he an of my ‘large man’ in my lifeboat narrative.

Reference

Bacon-Smith, C. and Hall, S.A. (1991) Enterprising women: Television fandom and the creation of popular myth. 2nd edn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Gardner, D. (2004) Mary Sue gives birth, baby undergoes sex change. Available at: http://irosf.com/q/zine/article/10034 (Accessed: 3 May 2016).
Hunt, J. (2016) Star Wars: The force awakens – 10 moments everyone misunderstands. Available at: http://whatculture.com/film/star-wars-the-force-awakens-10-moments-everyone-misunderstands.php/10 (Accessed: 9 January 2016).
Orr, D. (2004) The New York times > books > Sunday Book review > essay: The widening web of digital lit. Available at: http://donswaim.com/nytimes.digital.lit.html (Accessed: 3 May 2016).
Segall, M. (2008) Fan fiction writing: New work based on favorite fiction. United States: Rosen Publishing Group.
Walker, C.W. (2011) A conversation with Paula Smith. Available at: http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/243/205 (Accessed: 3 May 2016).(Walker, 2011)

 

 

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