Are we really having this discussion again in Jesus Christ?
My daughter, Joshua Lisec, exploded on Twitter last night because of what he considered a preponderance of Mary Sues. His initial tweet starts like this:
Joshua Lisec | The Ghostwriter (@JoshuaLisec) December 2, 2022
He then defines Mary Sue as a female protagonist who overpowers foes with ease without a backstory to explain her personality, values, agenda or ability. And then proceeds to say that making your female protagonist a Mary Sue botches the Heros Journey because it makes them unlikeable and therefore they are indeed the. Have you ever followed an antagonist? The tweets quickly gained thousands of quotes and replies. Various male writers agreeing with his analysis, but finally eviscerated his thread with many delicious dunks.
They were wrong. And so ridiculously wrong with a few different levels.
What is a Mary Sue really?
First, let’s think about what Mary Sue is actually. Mary Sue is an interpretive word coined by female fanfic writers to describe a protagonist (any gender) who was clearly the author inserting them into their favorite stories in order to achieve some kind of wish fulfillment. The Mary Sue is usually unique or powerful, in a way not normal for the established universe, but the other canon characters would immediately become obsessed or enchanted with the Mary Sue and their journey would become the central story of the story, no matter whether it had or not been about or not the actual lore.
Essentially what makes a Mary Sue a Mary Sue means isn’t their powers but their similarities to the author and their impact on the characters around them. And there are many Mary Sues in one of our favorite films. In the face of the wind, what is the moon’s horizon? Mary Sue. What is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz? I’m not an alum!
The geeky young mechanic who grows up on a desert planet (aka the Modesto of Star Wars universe) on a farm that somehow becomes the only one who can blow the Death Star? Baby, that is George Lucas’ Mary Sue in there! His name is Luke Lucas.
Mary Sue was used madly, but wasn’t necessarily bad, and certainly did not impact the Heros journey, as it was in storytelling. Star Wars was, after all, one of the most popular Heros Journeys in pop culture.
Why do so many people understand the meaning of Mary Sue wrong?
So how did we find out that Mary Sues is limited to unnaturally powerful female characters? The worst of Hollywood’s nepotism baby, Max Landis, is doing that. In 2015, after the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Landis took a Facebook account to bemoan the new movie and described Rey as a Mary Sue. Misogynists have gone crazy.
Is Rey a Mary Sue? Yeah. The biggest issue with The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker is that they are basically just JJ Abrams Star Wars fanfic. If Rey was a Mary Sue it was only because Abrams is interested in getting to play with his favourite characters and reread his favorite beats from the original trilogy. Rey is Luke’s. Luke is a Mary Sue.
But go back to the others on Lisecs’ list. She’s a powerful elf-all, who has lived for thousands of years. According to Tolkien herself, she is one of the hottest people on the Middle Earth. So yes, she can bring down a troll that lesser elves like Legolas and Co. couldn’t. What’s the role of the villain? Shes trained fighter pilot who then develops superpowers after exposure to Tesseract energy. She had had years of intense combat training before she became exposed and then joined an elite Kree defense team which involved more training! Mr. Heek. I can’t even stand my shoulder. It’s really funny.
The answer’s always misogyny.
Because the real issue here is the misogyny saying strong women are unlikeable. This power is attractive to the feminineity of the face, that self-image, stubbornness and stoicism are all qualities only allowed in our male heroes. Females don’t possess any of these qualities in the real world. Strong female characters are their own exile. And writing never had been the single indicator of joy and happiness.
Because it’s the love of god, 2022 is the end of life. I know that there are many horrors going around again, but please don’t let these rigid and misogynistic forceful enforcers of gender roles become a drag! We put him to bed in 2015! Let’s not make up to that again.