Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Mary Sue

A few times in class I've used the term Mary Sue to describe a superheroine that just rubbed me the wrong way. For those of you that are not familiar with FanFiction terminology, a Mary Sue is a female character that is just too perfect. She is beautiful and popular and smart and powerful get the point. Basically these characters have no flaws that aren't considered "endearing". For example she may have a sassy streak, or she may cry too much, but usually these either aren't recognized as flaws in universe, or all the other characters just find it adorable. That being said, how many superheroines can you think of that fit this trope? *cough*Buffy*cough*. I think that many valiant attempts at creating good heroines often go this way because people will inevitably pick up on every small weakness and shortcoming and write a scholarly essay about why it should be fixed and why the creator is sexist/misogynistic/evil. In trying to appease everyone, the creator makes a fantastically perfect, god-on-earth character who is just too good to live among mere mortals. This is often fixed with another messianic trope of self sacrifice. Nothing is more bittersweet than giving up your life to save your friends. Something to do with the power of love and whatnot.
But in reality, all these overly perfect characters do is create more unrealistic goals for girls. If someone wanted to be a true radical feminist, they would create a character with all the strength, brains, and ability of someone like Buffy, but with none of the physical attractiveness. Think about how empowering that would be. To know that, as a woman, it is possibly to be powerful and successful without being the prettiest girl out there. Joss Whedon, and many other writers often set out to subvert gender stereotypes and create well rounded characters for their audiences enjoyment, yet none has been radical enough to subvert the one stereotype that has been plaguing womanhood since the first man hit puberty. A woman's worth has always been tied up in her sexuality, but to truly move beyond this point of contention, someone has to create a a Mary Sue, who just happens to be ugly. Then maybe, just maybe, the feminist writers would have nothing negative to say.

Article about Mary Sues on TV See how many of our heroines fit these traits.

1 comment:

  1. Ugly Betty comes to mind as a heroine who is portrayed as physically unattractive. Many people loved that show, so I agree that there could be the birth of "normal-looking" superheroines that would make it easier for viewers to relate to them.


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