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Post Reply Mysteries in the Understanding of Contemporary Art: Who the HELL is Mary Sue?!
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Posted 5/5/14 , edited 5/5/14
She's like the third ugly stepsister between Cruella de Vil and Carmen Sandiego inside your animes and wrecking your plots, but who is she really? With so many theories trying to pin down her identity it's as though nobody really knows for sure. Some old beat cops we interviewed even claim her whole existence is a sham. But if she does exist, is she really a villain, or just misunderstood? This week, join us for an all new, exciting episode of



(Any resemblance to real fictional characters, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)

We all know the Sueisms, the overpowered and unique protagonist character who overcomes all obstacles despite their often woefully tragic past who is the center of their narrative world upon which all other characters rely, but wait. Did that sentence just describe every shounen protagonist ever known to manga, or Batman? This trail goes deeper, so to keep us in the air we've decided to pay a visit to a specialist, Dr. T.V. Tropes.

    Dr. Tropes, thank you for seeing us on such short notice.

    Mary Sue is a derogatory term primarily used in Fan Fic circles to describe a particular type of character. What that character type is, exactly, differs wildly from circle to circle, and often from person to person. Since there's no consensus on a precise definition, the best way to describe the phenomenon is by example of the kind of character pretty much everyone could agree to be a Mary Sue.

    It's like you read my mind, that's just what we're here to talk about today! Now-

    The term "Mary Sue" is generally slapped on a character who is important in the story, possesses unusual physical traits, and has an irrelevantly over-skilled or over-idealized nature. The prototypical Mary Sue is an original female character in a fanfic who obviously serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of wish fulfillment.

    Fascinating. What if-

    There are dozens upon dozens of essays that offer interpretations of what the term means, generally basing it off of some usages of it, but none of them are truly comprehensive or accepted. Using the term in most contexts isn't too far off from flame bait, generally provoking the defendant into rants. Much Internet backdraft has resulted, especially if the term is applied to a canon character on a popular show.

    I see. How about-

    As mentioned above, there are many interpretations of what does or doesn't constitute a Mary Sue. In this sense, Mary Sue isn't so much a trope as it is a brand name, with the usage being determined by both writer and reader. It is not limited in usage, getting applied to all characters regardless of gender, role, or species. Sometimes, even whole groups, organizations, and even societies are labeled as being Mary Sue.

    Wait, whole societies? You're not-

    Interpretations of Mary Sue include Mary Sue as a protagonist you don't like, Mary Sue as a poorly written character, Mary Sue as a cliched character, Mary Sue as an author avatar, Mary Sue as an idealized character, Mary Sue as a power fantasy, Mary Sue as an infallible character, Mary Sue as the center of attention, Mary Sue as alien element, Mary Sue as a character type, Mary Sue-

    YES WELL WE'D BETTER BE GOING NOW. THANKS AGAIN!

This development is troubling. Whole societies of Mary Sues? What could they be after, and why haven't we heard of any of this before? I asked my sandwich these questions, but there was no hard evidence in it, just a hard chicken bone. I contemplated this while thinking about the last thing Dr. Tropes yelled as we tore out of his driveway, that Sturgeon's Law might very well apply to Mary Sues.

"Could it be possible?" I wondered. "Might not all Mary Sues be bad?"

But first, we must confirm their very existence.


<Commercial Break>

(Transcribed Note in the Margin): My camerawoman just saved me from an alligator attack with a toothpick. She is quite a capable woman. I wonder where that alligator came from, there shouldn't be any around here. It must've wanted my notes.

<Programming Resumes>

You might not believe me, but in my lifetime I've met Mary Sue on two occasions. The first time she was incredibly normal, too normal. But somehow it was like the world itself went out of its way to make her life interesting and adventurous; everyone who knew her fantasized about being her. Some of them... I don't think they were ever seen again.

The second time was even more unbelievable. Not only was she a perfect person, she had everything anyone could ever possibly want. It was like she wrote her own life to be debonaire. She was able to do things impossible for mere humans, she could even defy the laws of science. I once saw her levitate through a back window when she bent her house key fighting off an alligator.

(Transcribed Note in the Margin): Alligators! Again! They're so pesky!

Anyway, where was I. Both times she disappeared without a trace, I must've betrayed my suspicions somehow. Maybe it's impossible to hide my suspicions from a Mary Sue. Maybe there's one reading my mind right now. Do all protagonists have these powers, and they just hide them better? Can't be, the protagonist profession is a rough job. There must be more clues. Some kind of hint.

Wait, what? No, hey! What's with the handcuffs? Oh what's the big deal about not wearing trousers?! Public indecency?! This is America!! How dare you policemen violate my right to self-expression!! TO HORSE, TILT THE WINDMILLS! AAAAHHHHHH!!




(Attached Note): I don't care how much this nutter is paying, I never want to work for him again. In the past six hours I've seen him hold conversations with his computer, his car, a stray cat two dandelions and his lunch sandwich. Now he's in the clink. The job was to be a cameraman but all he gave me was a block of wood. But he'd get angry if I wasn't "pointing" it at him correctly or something.

Anyway, do you realize how difficult it is to make fighting off an alligator with a toothpick not look easy? Grandma had me fighting twelve alligators at once at the dojo before I was five. I know why we're surveilling this guy but believe me, he's harmless. Just look at his exposé, if he took this to a network even FOX would laugh him out of the building. Make sure you're feeding my pet aliens.

- Mary Sue

PS: Tell Gary the alligator thing still isn't funny.



ANYWAY... THERE WAS A POINT TO THIS WHEN I STARTED. I SWEAR.

So what do you think about Mary Sues/Gary Stus? What kind of character do you think the name fits, if any? Do you think the witch hunt for them is objectively justifiable, or not? Do they even really exist? What is the relationship between this kind of character and their story world? Are there types of stories that require this type of protagonist, or even cause the protagonist to become one? Is their crime simply in being too unrealistic? Why IS there a chimp in my toilet?

Text us your answers at 1-800-DO-NOT-TEXT-THIS-NUMBER!
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Posted 5/5/14 , edited 5/5/14
mary sue/gary stu is just a myth, perpetuated by those who like to troll and bait beings they feel are lesser than themselves into long, drawn out arguments that most people who know better refer to as "feeding the trolls".

edit to add:
nice writing, by the way. quite humorous.
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Posted 5/5/14
This is just my opinion.

I always viewed Mary Sues and Gary Stus still as a flaw character type. They're only "flaw" is to be too perfect/unrealistic or not having any flaws to begin with.
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26 / M / Eden of the East
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Posted 5/5/14 , edited 5/5/14
I have nothing to contribute on the matter but I'd like to give a round of applause for the writing.

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Posted 5/5/14
Unnecessary term.
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28 / M / The Abyss of Time
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Posted 5/5/14 , edited 5/5/14
From my perspective its a term used by critics, or just dislikers of series, as an excuse (one of many) why to hate a series/work. Half of them probably have never sat down and tried to write a story (and therein designing characters) in their lives, or the few that have decide to turn back and look down on others trying to achieve the same. Personally I think that characters should be designed, written, and built up however the story says they should and if people want to call them a 'Mary Sue' or any variation of it they can gtfo. This is even more so in series where the reasons for it are reinforced by the -verse the character is in or the events that happened to the character.

People will always want to find a way to derogatorily refer to something they don't like so I try not to bother listening to others' 2cents.
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26 / M / NY
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Posted 5/5/14

aidenraine wrote:

mary sue/gary stu is just a myth, perpetuated by those who like to troll and bait beings they feel are lesser than themselves into long, drawn out arguments that most people who know better refer to as "feeding the trolls".

edit to add:
nice writing, by the way. quite humorous.


QFT

They simply don't exist and if they did then lot's of characters would qualify under the vague definition of what makes one. A "bad character" is only bad when the execution is lacking not when they seem too perfect or some other BS.
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52 / M / Vancouver, WA. (T...
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Posted 5/5/14
*SIGH*

For a minute I thought you were serious.

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Posted 5/5/14
Hmmm these sues and stus, well i don't really know. I guess if they are done right then it is entertaining to watch if not

Hmmm for example, two of the gary stu that i am enjoying right now is Tatsuya "OP As hell" Shiba from Irregular at Magic Highschool and Cadis Etrama " One hit kill every baddie" Di Raizel ( well, he finally found his rival in the latest arc but still ) from Noblesse.
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23 / M / This Dying World
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Posted 5/5/14
I might bump this in the future.
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25 / M / USA
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Posted 5/5/14
It's a term that definitely still describes a thing, though. Back in the 50s C.S. Lewis wrote about it, although he called it egoistic castle-building. It was the idea that people would read books as a form of wish fulfillment where the protagonist was a similarly "normal" individual to whom great and exciting things happened. For example, if you read Twilight, you might not project yourself onto Bella Swan. But the fantasy is "Oh my gosh, she's not any better than me!" At which point you can fantasize about some cute boy at your school actually being a vampire, and he suddenly takes an interest in you, and you have a whirlwind romance, and...

To Lewis that type of story encompassed a whole branch of literature, and he wasn't very kind to it.
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Posted 5/5/14 , edited 5/5/14
Because Nadeko is inferior to Chaika, I present you with another clapping gif:


You take anime way too seriously. Or maybe not seriously enough. Just like me.

I think it's why we get along so well.

Also, were you drunk when you wrote this?


I agree with your above post. It definitely describes something. The first time I encountered the term was in Guild Wars 2, when talking to a friend who was explaining the rules of RP to me. The first rule she told me was, "Don't make your character a Mary Sue," to which I replied, "A what?" So, in that context, Mary Sue meant a character without any real flaws (you know, a person who ACTUALLY CAN'T EXIST).

Since that was the first definition I encountered, it has always been the definition I have applied to the term. All the various interpretations offered up by TV Tropes in the final paragraph before we left the office seem to basically point to this definition from my view. Idealized=ideal=perfected=no flaws. Infallibility is a form of perfection too.

Now, whether or not a specific character is a Mary Sue type is up for debate. For my part, Medaka Kurkokami from Medaka Box is perhaps the only true Mary Sue type character I've ever encountered. She's beautiful, perfect, has the answer for everything, is always in control, doesn't make mistakes and is essentially invincible due to her power being that she can learn anyone else's power, perfect that power and then enhance it further.

But Medaka works in the story. She's humanized through other methods besides having flaws.

Like any trope, the Mary Sue trope IS NOT INHERENTLY BAD. Tropes are only become bad through the ways that they are used or abused. They are tools at the author's disposal, nothing more. The same goes for critics. It's not necessarily trolling to label a character as a Mary Sue, as long as the definition of the term is defined and the position is backed up by actual evidence from the text.

Btw, having no flaws is not a flaw. Having no flaws, by the fact that the phrase literally means "You have no flaws," means that you have no flaws, not even the flaw of having no flaws.

Also, in light of your style of writing, you should read this: http://wrongeverytime.com/2014/03/21/sword-art-online-episode-6/
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Posted 5/5/14 , edited 5/5/14

sonic720 wrote:


aidenraine wrote:

mary sue/gary stu is just a myth, perpetuated by those who like to troll and bait beings they feel are lesser than themselves into long, drawn out arguments that most people who know better refer to as "feeding the trolls".

edit to add:
nice writing, by the way. quite humorous.


QFT

They simply don't exist and if they did then lot's of characters would qualify under the vague definition of what makes one. A "bad character" is only bad when the execution is lacking not when they seem too perfect or some other BS.



Stupid question and I'm sorry.

What does QFT stand for?
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Posted 5/5/14
Lmao Kami: "I might bump this in the future."

I'll get through reading after i finish failing this final tomorrow.
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Posted 5/5/14
I only have two questions.
1) How do you fight off an alligator with a toothpick?
2) How do you intend to tilt a windmill?
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