What/Who is a Mary Sue to you?

Ryallen

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A Mary Sue is a character that is so strong that it removes any investment or tension that might have existed in the story otherwise. In this, authors often write these characters as self insertion characters in an attempt to vicariously live through their far too perfect personas. No one can deny this: All Mary Sues are terrible and often drag the story down in terms of quality to such depths that it's offensive to be experiencing such a story as this. But, according to this forum right here [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.932593-Ooooookay-Why-is-the-term-Mary-Sue-being-thrown-around-like-paint], people seem to have a different idea of what constitutes a Mary Sue. Some people said that a Mary Sue is someone who is able to do things that they have no right of doing. Others say that what they define as a Mary Sue requires more to it than just knowing how to do things very easily and impressively.

For me, A Mary Sue is someone who is usually well-liked by most or all people, excluding one or two for enemies and fake tension, is very popular with their preferred partners of the opposite sex, is able to do things easily that most can't or struggle to do so otherwise, and always ends up on top, despite the odds that they have faced. They are also familiar with several people of great influence by chance or by reputation. One of these can be omitted if the other qualities of the character are exaggerated to an even more irritating effect, but you get the general idea.

As for who is a Mary Sue to me, well, that's a different question altogether. For the longest time, it has been Batman.
I have never liked this character. He is far too smart, strong, skilled, and rich than any character has any right to be. People claim that this character is relatable, and I don't think I've ever heard a louder pile of bullshit than that. Yes, he's a tragic character, but that tragedy left him with infinite money and even more time on his hands. Any sort of flaw that he may have had is either ignored by his friends and family, such as his obsession with his job, or justified, as in whenever he suspects something is going to happen, he always has a contingency plan.

That is, until today. Today, between my classes, I decided to read some more of a book that a friend of mine happened to recommend to me, The Name of the Wind. It's beautifully written, with each paragraph painting a picture in my head more vivid than most physical pictures could give me. Which makes it all the more tragic when the main character, Kvothe, is the worst Mary Sue I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. I'm gonna spare you most of the details, but the moment that cinched it for me was about 2/3 of the way through the book when he managed to do something that he had no right to be able to do.
Basically, he went to go perform at a bar where amazing talent goes to perform in hopes of obtaining a set of tiny silver pipes, which signify that they are some of the greatest musical talents in the land. The pipes basically guarantee permanent funding for any performer, as these are incredibly rare and people who can afford their abilities often pay out the nose for them to continue. Not even actual payment, they are given donations, but whatever. After seeing about 4 people perform onstage that he considers to be quite fantastic overall, he gets up onstage with a self-admitted second rate lute with about 6 months of practice under his belt after not playing the thing or even thinking about music for about 3 years beforehand when his parents were murdered by forces summoned by the song and manages to reduce the entire crowd to sobbing fits with an incredibly complicated song that his dad had played once unfinished and a final part that he wrote himself while studying mercilessly at the most prestigious university in the entire country. It doesn't stop there, oh no. The song also requires a duet to be sung by a woman or someone with a very high voice in harmony and rhythm played literally against the two separate and simultaneous parts the instrument plays at the same time, and the woman that just happened to know the parts of the song that needed to be sung without any prior knowledge that this was going to be played and thus no preparation beforehand. And, when the performance is over, he goes to meet the mystery woman, and lo and behold, it's literally some random girl that he met about 2 years prior on a carriage that he talked to about twice. But probably the biggest blow against him is that during the final part of his performance, one of his strings on his lute broke, and after faltering from surprise, he carried on, playing the instrument with the missing string flawlessly on the spot. That's right, he went from a shitty lute to a broken one, playing the most complex and difficult songs in the entire world and he managed to drive the entire populace of the bar to tears, including the part at the end where he himself wrote the ending of the song.
Basically, he's one contrivance after another, and that's the worst Mary Sue character that I have ever seen. But that's not why I'm here. (Alright, it is a little bit) I want to know how you define a Mary Sue and to give an example of one.
 

Gengisgame

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It's really simply, Mary Sue or a Whedon are negatives, a Mary Sue or a Whedon can be viewed positively and becomes badasses or any other number of positive terms used to describe a hyper competent hero in a positive way, no different than how one persons confident is anothers arrogant.

Normally a character will be considered a Mary Sue because they lack enough character or are just generally unlikable so we focus on the negatives, this Mary Sue thread is over Rey I'm safely guessing, I consider her a Mary Sue instead of a badass because she was very bland outside of being good at so many things.

Now some may like the idea of her being that way as it makes projection easier, why so many like silent protagonists, nothing wrong with that either, different people like different things.

Remember me saying she is bland is my opinion, not a fact.
 

JoJo

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To me, a Mary Sue is a character with no significant flaws who breezes through everything they attempt, often while being feted as such an awesome person by every non-villainous character they encounter. Usually there's a strong element of the character being a stand-in for the author too, but then that can be hard to judge without knowing the author themselves, and author avatars can be done well if the writer is realistic about their own shortcomings.

The clearest example in my mind comes from a comedy film a friend showed me last year, Van Wilder. The protagonist is a popular, handsome and rich college student who spends most of his time throwing parties. He's also good-natured to the point where he hooks awkward geeks up with hot girls, because he's just that awesome. The only people who dislike him are coded as obvious arseholes.

At-least initially, you might be able to claim that he does have a flaw in that he never does any actual studying and has been in the same partying rut for about six years. But then after almost getting expelled (not for any mistake he made mind, he was framed by the antagonist), he is forced to complete an entire semester's work in just six days and of course passes with flying colours because he's just that smart. To top it all off, there are support characters who literally comment on what a "great guy" he is. So yeah, that's the number one Mary Sue I've seen or read, to date.
 

Thaluikhain

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Best description I've seen is that it's a character who wraps their entire world around how awesome they are. Other characters are good or bad depending on whether or not the Mary Sue happens to like them, for example.
 

WhiteFangofWhoa

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WinterWyvern said:
Really now, it's simple.... Mary Sue characters are a self-insert of the author, are usually invented by 13 years old girls, and are absolutely idealized, and every single thing in the universe revolves around them.
Seconded. In fact this very topic was probably inspired by the previous thread complaining how the term is thrown around like paint hoping it will stick. I'm sure there are some Justice League books where Batman, like his evil counterpart Deathstroke, is written as one and ends up looking more capable than his entire godly team put together, but in his own series' he's hardly ever that perfect.

I remember there was a season 1 episode in the JL animated series where the main character development was where Bats was trying (ineffectively) to handle a major crisis all on his own, and J'onn suggests he's trying to prove to everyone that he belongs on the team by over-performing, but it doesn't make him weak to ask for help. More than once he demonstrates acute self-awareness that his way of fighting crime is not the only way, and he is highly competent but far from perfect.

Some protagonists, naturally being gifted in various fields to make the story diverse, get this accusation levelled at them, but so long as they have flaws and less-apt skills and not every character fawns all over them all the time (the Relationship Sue being the most obvious one to spot), they're still worth watching. Daisy Johnson/Skye from Agents of SHIELD even made an in-universe admission of partial Suedom, but her surrogate mother May never went easy on her and has shown no hesitation in pointing out when she is behaving like a spoiled brat.
 

Thyunda

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inu-kun said:
Korra on the other hand is able to learn 3 elements by the old age of 6 (despite canon) and become the "true avatar" in end of season 2 (killing all previous avatars in the progress), the world changes for her sake.

I would argue with you here to say that Korra's rapid learning of the elements was more typical of the Avatar's ability than Aang. Korra's upbringing was a bit more modern, and her emotions were left entirely unchecked and so she was never confined to a single way of thinking. Accidentally triggering her elemental abilities is perfectly normal in those circumstances - Aang struggled so much with it because he was raised an airbender, and the monks didn't test for Avatar-ness until a particular age. Because the airbenders are taught in such a religious, austere manner, there was no way Aang was ever going to experiment with the elements that went against his nature.
I would also like to say that most of Korra's storyline seemed to be that the world needed the Avatar, and so no matter how hard she fucked up, the world would fight to maintain its own status quo.

And then there's the whole narrative point - The Last Airbender was brilliant. It gave us a tour of its world, introduced us to its separate cultures, and taught us how each of the bending styles worked.
Legend of Korra would have been a bit dull if it went through the same motions except with airships and cars. It needed to skip past the training part and get on with the real plot.
 

Creator002

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I always thought it was a character inserted into an already established universe where it's as if the character was always there. Usually the main protagonist and often an author avatar. Like My Immortal (so-bad-it's-good Harry Potter fanfic).
 

Asclepion

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At the risk of calling a mob upon myself, Motoko Kusanagi.

She's more or less perfect in every way.

- She's a beautiful fanservice cyberpunk dream woman.
- She surpasses the rest of her team in their own specializations (a better hacker than the specialized hacker guy, a better fighter than the specialized fighter guy, a better sniper than the specialized sniper guy, etc.)
- She's clearly the writers' favorite character.
- If she ever disagrees with another character, that character is wrong.
- The movie is about her being singled out as the perfect example of humanity by an AI with which to merge with and become a digital goddess.

I still like her, but this character is a black hole.
 

Thaluikhain

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WinterWyvern said:
It can't be Batman.
Batman is far from perfect. In many comics I own, he is depicted as potentially insane. In others, he is a secluded individual who can't ever socialize with others but puts on a mask of politeness.
Good Batman comics make you feel as if you would never want to be him.

A Mary Sue is bland (Batman isn't bland), is perfect in everything (Batman isn't), has no flaws (Batman has plenty of flaws).

Batman might surely be considered a power fantasy, but not a Mary Sue.
Depends on the writer, though. Sometimes he's very bland, IMHO (and he's generally less interesting than the rest of the bat family anyway).
 

wizzy555

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To me a Mary Sue is a character that the writers appear to be using as a self or audience insert but written to an annoyingly narcissistic degree, no flaws and everyone has to like or eventually appreciate them. Or possibly a paragon hero that is just too far up it's own arse. I think Wesley Crusher is probably the prime example in my mind.

Granted this definition is somewhat subjective.

Batman is arguably overpowered to absurdity (ironically to compensate for lack of actual powers), so maybe slightly Mary Sueish.
Some incarnations of superman maybe more Mary Sueish to me, but it depends on the version.

Don't get me started on "Marty Stew" they are the same thing, there isn't need to have different gender names.

I don't really consider it a heinous writing crime, just somewhat irritating.

Modern Doctor Who also can't see to decide if the doctor is a complex character or a great time god. Perhaps I could coin the term quantum Mary Sue superstate.
 

Synigma

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Well I'll start by saying that a Mary Sue is ALWAYS dependent on the writers. It's part of the very definition, whether you go with self-insert or just favourite character. That being said I think a lot of super heroes get this treatment at some point and I think DC is especially bad for it.

I mean Batman can have a lot of depth but in the hands of a horrible writer he can certainly be a huge Mary Sue. But I think there is a much worse one: Superman. He's just so perfect that it's sickening.

There have been SOOOOO many Superman comics that anything I say about him you could probably find something somewhere to refute it... but that's part of the problem. He can do anything, everything, and he's exceptional at all of it. He's as fast as the flash (depending on the writer), strong as... ummm... I don't know but I'm sure DC has someone who is suppose to be the living incarnation of strength and superman has probably been as strong as him at some point. When he was killed by Doomsday he... went into a healing coma? So besides being neigh invulnerable he can ALSO regenerate?!

He's the ULTIMATE "I wrote myself into a corner and now I need a way out" Mary Sue.
 

sonicneedslovetoo

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A Mary Sue character for me is one that removes dramatic tension from the story by being too good. For example in the 1960's batman movie he has to fight a shark that latched onto his leg. Nowadays it would be a fight scene, a bit of a... well a shark jumpy one(pun intended but I feel bad about it) but back then he just grabbed a can of "shark repellent" that he had laying around, I wish I was kidding about that.
I call Mary Sue when interesting things in the story are dodged in favor of simple and lazy solutions from one character. Bad guy doesn't like you? Well Mary Sue is so diplomatic they repaired our ship for free. Bullies come and attack the main hero? Mary Sue to the rescue taking all 5 of them down at once to save the protagonist.
Basically they're too good and they'll never have an arc, they're flat because they're too above the world have problems or learn anything themselves.

Also from a fanfiction writer's perspective the easiest way to spot them is the hidden thing. Like the "secret vault" from Fallout Brotherhood of Steel(yes that does count as fanfiction I don't care what you say). Or the Phantom movie where *Spoilers for a crappy movie* at the end he has the most powerful and never mentioned before FOURTH magical artifact and defeats the antagonist with one shot.
 

DementedSheep

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I was under the impression that Mary Sue was suppose to be an obvious author wish fulfilment. It doesn't mean they are OP to the point of being boring, that's a different issue. Bela is a Mary Sue and she's a waste of space. Without context from the author it's more down to how other characters react to them, when the world revolves around them for no apparent reason and anyone who dislikes them is "jealous", especially if they are inserted into someone else's IP.
 

K12

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While I agree that Batman suffers as a character because the annoying instinct to make him win and be brilliant all the bloody time, he isn't a Mary Sue.

For me I only consider a character to be a Mary Sue if they are all of:

Implausibly the center of attention (including the morality of the plot, good guys all like him/her and bad guys all hate him/her)
Idealised (personality or powers)
Author avatar
Near infallible/ near flawless (i.e. ultimately proved right and all injustices are avenged)

There are plenty of lesser criticisms that can be applied to characters who are only one or two of the above. Mary Sue is overkill.

I might consider the Frank Miller Batman to border on Mary Sue territory since he uses him as a chance to prove all his own views are right and make himself feel like a badass in the process.
 

maninahat

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A deliberate one would be Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.

One who kinda-is would be Donny Darko, from the film...Donny Darko. He's an anxious, tortured teenager who simultaneously is much maligned, troubled and disrespected by everyone else, and yet at the same time he has unique insights, he gains the ability to time travel, he is way smarter than all the adults, teachers and authority figures in his life, he manages to prove they are evil criminals, manages to get the prettiest girl in school, he rescues his family through heroic (and tragic) self-sacrifice, and quite literally has the universe revolve around his monumental decisions. He's the ultimate teenage self-insert character, and yet it doesn't necessarily ruin the film for it.
 

BloatedGuppy

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As stated in the previous thread, going by its original, proper definition, Mary Sues in popular fiction are exceedingly rare. To the point where they generally do not exist at all. They're primarily found in (bad) fan fiction. And not of the "Hurr Hurr Game of Thrones is technically fan fiction" brand. The kind you read on breathless forums.

However, I know there are people who find adherence to the proper definition to be pedantic, and prefer to acknowledge that the word has taken on colloquial usage. Also as stated in the previous thread, in colloquial application "Mary Sue" is a hopeless ambiguity. Virtually everyone and no one can be labelled with it, depending on how far you're prepared to relax the definition to make your case. Which is why we're now on something like thread #5 and we still don't have anything remotely approaching a consensus on how to apply it. That should be clue #1 in the case against "Mary Sues" for those keeping track.
 

halisme

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To me a Mary Sue is a character who is omnicompetent, or even their failures end up doing good, and morally infallible. The best example off the top of my head is Legolas. Not only is he so great with a bow so as to defy gravity, during the battle of Helm's Deep, when he thinks all is doomed, he fights on anyway. To me, they are a character who is incapable of having positive growth as they're just perfect already. The self insert element, while common, is optional.
 

chikusho

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Asclepion said:
At the risk of calling a mob upon myself, Motoko Kusanagi.

She's more or less perfect in every way.

- She's a beautiful fanservice cyberpunk dream woman.
- She surpasses the rest of her team in their own specializations (a better hacker than the specialized hacker guy, a better fighter than the specialized fighter guy, a better sniper than the specialized sniper guy, etc.)
- She's clearly the writers' favorite character.
- If she ever disagrees with another character, that character is wrong.
- The movie is about her being singled out as the perfect example of humanity by an AI with which to merge with and become a digital goddess.

I still like her, but this character is a black hole.
It's different for Motoko I think. In my opinion she's supposed to be this perfect hybrid of man and machine because the universe as a whole exists to tackle the practical and philosophical implications of humanity combining with advanced cybernetics. In many ways, I think she represents the ultimate potential of such a future. And having her fight against misuse of technology both by corrupt governments as well as criminals, terrorists and the general public, is necessary for caring about that universe. The difference is also that GITS is not a story about Motoko or her team. It's a story about the world they live in.