Digging into the history of the “Mary Sue”

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/04/26/digging-into-the-history-of-th.html


Virgils Aeneid: Greatest fanfic ever.

Almost the only thing I remember about the 2004 movie “Troy” is Aeneas’ appearence at the end.


I think that various Greek tragedies have a claim to being better Iliad fanfic than the Aeneid.


The Oresteia, the two _Electra_s, the Trojan Women

The whole Mary Sue thing is pretty horrible to read, but at least in my case i don’t read fanfic so it doesn’t harm me any. Also wouldn’t we want people to be investing their time into writing and creative endeavors? Everyone has to start somewhere and no one starts off writing brilliant novels.


Let’s be a bit more succinct, shall we?

The original Mary Sue–written by a woman–was a parody of wildly unrealistically important characters that are obvious inserts for the author. I think the idea was to try to goad fanfic authors into being more creative.

Way too many people, mostly dudes of course, use Mary Sue as a way of saying, “waaaaah, the protagonist is a feeeeeeemale.” Waaah, Rey is too perfect! Oh? Luke goes from farmboy to hero of the Rebellion in a few hours’ time. Cry some more, idiots.

And yes, I get the appeal of trashing superheroes as mere male power fantasies, but let’s think about a couple of them for a second. The first is Superman. Or, more to the point, Kal-El. Created by Jerry Siegel. Kal-El can be translated to mean, “Voice of God,” based on interpretation from Hebrew. How about a Marvel character, Spider-Man? Peter Parker. Written by a guy named Stan Lieber that the world knows as Stan Lee. Parker’s from a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.

Things were different in Siegel and Lee’s young adulthood. Hell, even within my own lifetime, Jewish people haven’t always had white status. One of the most Mary Sue’est of story lines of Superman is surely Superman defeating the Nazis.

I can’t think of any reason why Jewish people would have wanted power fantasies back then, yeah?


Well, yeah. IMHO fanfic could be a decent way for people to work on their skills and get more eyeballs than, say, trying to invent a new universe right out of the gate. Constructive criticism would be nice.

And if some teenage kid wants to write a story with a Mary Sue character having sex with Harry Potter, so what? Where’s the harm?


That’s basically the point of the video. Especially the idea that writing for a author insert gives one a vested interest in the writing. Which I think is a pretty fair assessment.

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Yup, a wholly enjoyable video. I’ll have to check out the rest of the series. This was truly my “Wonderful Thing” from BoingBoing today.

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I think it’s pretty strange but then again i’m not reading that stuff, nor are i the target audience for fanfics so even if the content ruffled my feathers i don’t have a right to complain. I would say most people don’t either, but yes if anything useful criticism should be leveled at aspiring writers rather than mocking them for their skill.

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I had not known what Bearup was up to since the Chez Apocalypse site kind of imploded with Blip. I will need to check out her recent videos.

I’m not sure how reliable The Golden Bough is considered today- there’s a lot of unjustified speculation in there. But even if we do discount the Orestes story (and therefore also Iphigenia), there are also plays like Philoctetes or Ajax.

Sometimes I think I must be the only person that would prefer to read a nicely-written article on the subject than watch a talking head.


Here is an article by Elizabeth Minkel, a journalist who specializes in (esp. female dominated) fandom, about the Mary Sue.


Someone I know tangentially accused Asimov of using a “Mary Sue” in “Robots of Dawn,” referring to Gladia, the heroine of the story. First time I’d heard the phrase, and I have been puzzled ever since.

Coming at this from a roleplay perspective (though I admit I don’t do it much anymore) its maddening when you’re trying to create what is essentially collaborative fiction and one or more of the other authors are playing Mary Sue type characters. I’ve encountered all the usual tropes associated with this type of character (and additionally admit to falling into the hole on a couple myself) but the one that really stuck with me was one of the type that had the incredibly long name with titles thing going on. In casual out of character conversation we generally referred to this character by the abbreviation PAWTS.

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