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Mary Sues and why we hate them.


TicTacKitKat
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Ah yes, the Mary Sue. Ever powerful, ever perfect, ever obnoxious. But what makes a Mary Sue? The power? The perfection? The lack of perfection? Why are there so many?

Why are they so bad?

Hi, I'm Kat and I can say with relative confidence that I am have made my fair share of Mary Sues, even if I don't consider them that.. My self inserts stand on wobbling towers of head canons and are surrounded by main characters. They've always got a hidden destiny, a secret, something leading to them save the day with power no one else can match. So with my bias out of the way, here's what I think of Mary Sues and how we treat them.

Mary Sues are important. End of story. If you look, a lot of them are from younger people and that not some immaturity thing. A lot of kids, especially young girls, can feel like they have no power. I know I've definitely felt like a background character in my own life at some point. Goodness sake, I felt it last week. That's where they come from, they're a way to cope, to escape or express. Every 'bad' Mary Sue I've seen to this day, can be explained if you just think about why they made them. A powerful MS that's pretty and perfect and rich and omg everybody just loves her? Well, I'll bet her creator feels a least a little bit ugly, a bit like a failure, maybe doesn't have the best financial situation, could feel unloved. The bad MSs you see? They're projections, all of them. The emo MS who hates everything and is super mean but it's justified? I'd say her maker is probably bullied to some extent. Neglect is also possible. Heck maybe they just really want to have a cool unique character that's beautiful and has the power to change the world. I know I do. 

There are gonna be exceptions, there will always be exceptions, but a MSs can say more about a person than anything else. That's why we need to stop demonizing them, stop making fun of them, stop telling people to throw them out because whether you mean it or not when you tell someone to throw out a Mary Sue you are telling them to throw out themselves. It's why their makers always get so defensive when they're critiqued, because it's not critiquing a character. Mary Sues aren't characters, they're people, dreams, projections, there is not disconnecting, no breaking that link. So what do we do? 

I mean, even i'll admit a Mary Sue in a role play SUCKS, but how are we supposed to handle this? Be kind, understanding. Show them how to change a Mary Sue, into a power OC. Not a normal oc, not a roleplay oc. A Power OC. A functional character with growth, and flaws, but still fulfills they're needs. A Perfect Mary Sue? Show them how to take a flawed character and build an arc where she becomes that 'perfection'. Fantasy shouldn't have to be realistic, it shouldn't have to fit canon. In fact, powerful OCs can have some of the most creative backstories.

There's a lot I haven't said here. But I think this is a good start. We need to rethink what a Mary Sue is, and realize why they exist, because they don't come from nowhere, and with a few tweaks, the worst Mary Sue can become a source of joy, relief or even inspiration. 

 

So what do you guys think? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know, I came here for a discussion, after all! 

Note: Be civil, and actually read before responding. If something wasn't clear, ask for clarification.

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For me, what Mary Sue means is when instead of a character being conditioned by the environment, but the environment is being conditioned by the character. It doesn't mean that anyone with great powers or strong influences are Mary Sues. When a world bends and breaks their own logic and it's pre-established rules for the sake of the character, that character is a Mary Sue. And all Mary Sues are bad characters and no good stories are written with bad characters. And that's where all the commotion comes from. If it's good writing, nobody would have been bothered in the first place. But there are no such thing as a good story with an actual Mary Sue in it.

Writing is the writer's journey and they should enjoy and be immersed in their own work in a certain degree. But as soon as it gets published and someone reads it, if it sucks for the reader, then it sucks for the reader. Being right or being powerful feels great. But that satisfactory fantasy should be handled properly with good writing skills and good stories. People can make immersive satisfying stories with them feeling powerful and great and all. But writing good stories are really hard, and Mary Sue is both a symptom and and a cause of a bad story.

A self-projected ego creation is mostly not good for art. That the Mary Sues are not a character but it's the writers themselves is the exact reason why they are detested. People would also not hate it that much only if it wasn't so obvious.

That there is a term called 'Mary Sue' means it is an identifiable common feature among literature. People wrote those characters thinking as if they are the most special thing ever, but for the reader, it's laughable how they are all so similar. The term itself is a mockery.

Edited by Sepul-Coloratura
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I am not going to vomit tldr paragraphs I am just going to say that Mary Sues are a somewhat idealistic representation of a character in any given genre. It's not so much as hatred they are just too boring by being too perfect.

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A Mary Sue character is boring because they are perfect at everything, they have no real problems, and they are liked by everyone. Look at at some of the worst animes with Mary Sues like Sword Art Online. The main character is the poster child of how not to write a good character. He’s better than everyone at the game, he has no flaws, and he has a harem. This is not to that there can’t be good Mary Sues. Some of the best are parody Sues which make fun of Mary Sues. Some examples are Fry’s brother and Zapp Brannigan from Futurama.

Edited by Twilight Luna
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If you want to have Mary Sues in you head cannon, then that’s fine. It’s fun to pretend. However, the issue arises when you are writing something for others to consume. While the Mary Sue may seem like the ultimate bad add and be super fun for its creator, it’s kinda boring for the random reader. Without character flaws and power limits to hold the character back, there is no meaningful conflict. 

One shouldn’t be an asshole in critique as you described, but Mary Sues should be called out and altered for a more enjoyable story. 

 

And neat. I finally have a reason to post this. 

436D4566-2EB5-40E2-A9AE-43FA235B189E.jpeg.7a30f763b7afdb1e900a14cfb2c334f9.jpeg

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There's no excuse for bad writing...no matter your intention, bad art is bad. It doesn't help the writer to make bland self-inserts any more than it helps the reader. It would benefit a writer more to try and write a better character (even a self-insert) than it would to continue writing MS type ones. 

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I’ve seen people bringing out this “Mary sue” almost everywhere, and I have no frickin idea what it is. So.. yeah in other words, I’m feel no effect by it.

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A mary sue has its own place and time. You can make one work. They're excellent when used in a satire or a parody story. The issue is, they're just that: parodies, even if they're not intended to be. They're unrealistic and they open up a slew of bad writing techniques. This type of character has little to no depth and the reader feels cheated or uninvested. 

In a serious story they're signs of amateur or lazy writing. Trust me, I've written my fair share of them. It's not the end of the world if you make a few; a mary sue does not by any mean make you a bad writer or person. It's just something to improve upon. Writing a character that the readers are invested in is difficult unless made easy. It's all in your state of mind.

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11 minutes ago, Stone Cold Steve Tuna said:

A mary sue has its own place and time. You can make one work. They're excellent when used in a satire or a parody story.

As I've said before, the only good kind of Sue... is the Parody Sue.

E.g., the Team Four Star version of Mr. Popo.

Edited by A.V.
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Mary Sues and Gary Stus do annoy me. Although, I don’t see them as often as I used to. I remember seeing tons of them when I was more involved with the Sonic fandom as a child. That makes sense, though because there are a lot of children in that fandom. Even when I was involved, my Sonic OC was not a Mary Sue. She had a solid set of flaws and other problems. When someone creates a Mary Sue, it is basically a way of saying that their character is the best character and no other can compare. That character is perfect; as good as it is possible to be. In my opinion, it’s a little immature. 

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Yellowstar is a good example of a good MLP Mary Sue. For those of you who don’t know, she’s from a fanfic called “The Star in Yellow.” Basically, she’s somewhat aware that she’s a Mary Sue but the reason she has and wants unlimited power is that she wants to erase pain from the world, even if it isn’t possible.

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Anime is the king of having a massive Mary Sue/Gary Stu problem. It seems like almost no show in the genre can go without having one. It is one of the many reasons why tons of different anime shows lose my interest almost immediately. Even one of my favorite shows of all time, Attack on Titan, is not immune from this problem thanks to characters like Mikasa. Death Note is probably the worst anime I have ever seen in terms of this issue as well. Light or L is such a massive tool, being absolutely perfect at literally everything and eventually I just became bored and stopped watching it altogether. This is why I love the movie Ninja Scroll, it shows weakness in the main characters on numerous occasions and actually makes them get stronger realistically, for the most part. That movie is great.

Usually, I just see these types of perfect characters as signs of boring as hell writing, especially in anime. Very rarely is one actually written effectively within their world.

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It would make sense to create a character that follows rule of cool more often than the character that would actually be believable, I guess. :dash:

I think the character Mary Sue is impossible by itself because the perfection by itself is impossible

Edited by R.D.Dash
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14 hours ago, Kyoshi said:

Death Note is probably the worst anime I have ever seen in terms of this issue as well. Light or L is such a massive tool, being absolutely perfect at literally everything and eventually I just became bored and stopped watching it altogether.

I don't really see how anyone could argue that either L or Light is a mary sue. Both make mistakes, have flaws and get bested by other characters.

Yes, both of them are extremely talented and intelligent people but that doesn't have to mean that they're mary sues. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

My point is that it doesn't matter if it's bad writing or even if it annoys you, heck I've seen some mary sue ocs that give me an actual headache, but I was saying that we need to put that aside and recognize that people make mary sues as an escape, and unless they're trying to take over a role play or something, it's an escape we shouldn't take away from them or make fun of.

edit: just to clarify I'm talking about Ocs only, I agree completely when it comes to an actual show or book that mary sues/gray stus are harmful to the narrative, but that's not the issue i'm bringing up here. 

Edited by TicTacKitKat
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@TicTacKitKat

In the context of fanfiction Mary Sue's, I don't really have too much of a problem with them, honestly. People write fanfiction for fun. And if your version of fun is watching some hyper-idealized version of yourself win the day and get all the stunningly beautiful specimens of your choice of gender, then... well, that's your way of having fun, buddy. Nothing really wrong with that, just let the people have fun.

That's not to say that it isn't a real writing problem, of course. Mary Sues create inherently terrible stories, because the author warps the way the established world works in order to glorify the Sue. They might change character motivations, or change the established laws of the universe, or even basic physics and thermodynamics, all to justify the actions, love, hate, and glory the Sue is getting. And it's going to be bland, no matter how much you try to not make it. However, again, if it's just an author having fun, then you should probably leave them be.

Yes, it is bad writing, and yes, it's annoying to read, but there's always an X in the top of your screen that you can click on if you don't like what you're reading.

In the context of roleplay Mary Sue's, this is where I take issue, because it's not just your story that you're ruining. It's the story of the other authors that you're also ruining, and it can take the fun out of a really good roleplay. I can give examples if you want, but here's a really short, sweet, and to-the-point example of a Sue from a roleplay I was involved in.

Setting, zombie apocalypse. Our brave band of heroes was barely surviving, trying to murder their way through the hordes and stay live, while balancing getting enough sleep, scavenging for ammo and food, and watching their own in case one of them turned. Enter the Sue, who I'll just call DJ for simplicity, who's a being of infinite power, with infinite stamina, an overpowered God-rifle that has infinite ammunition... you get the point. DJ starts wrecking even the toughest of zombie hordes, and all the rest of the characters are basically bored with nothing to do but follow him because he's the only one keeping them alive.

Then, in an "amazing" twist that "nobody" saw coming, DJ dies. But a vial of his blood was saved, and is used to cure the entire zombie horde and resurrect the dead zombies into their former selves (ok, that last part didn't happen, but it probably would've if our mods didn't stop it).

DJ makes the story not fun, and so do most Mary Sues, so... yeah.

Don't really have a point to make here, just... don't write Mary Sues, people. Especially in roleplay. Please?

Danke.

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  • 3 months later...

@Meson Bolt

That's what I'm trying to say. I have no issue with people kicking a MS or GS out of a role play or being hesitant to add one in. I also have no problem with people helping a young author who made one and wants help to fix it. I mean it's just like you said, OP characters ruin a role play for everyone and I didn't make this to say we should let them run wild. I realize my post was pretty scatterbrained and I admit I didn't make my point very clearly. What I essentially meant to say is that not everyone wants to make realistic characters. Not everyone wants a character that could fit into the canon universe. Some of us want to make a new main character, some of us want to make characters of myth or legend, and a lot of times the people who do want to share it. They want to say "Hey! look at these headcanons I used to make a new god!" or "Look at this character I made to explain some lore!"  and instead of people looking at the character for what they're meant to be, they always take a writer's perspective. People need to stop assuming everyone wants to make a character to fit perfectly into the current mlp canon and start look at them for what they are, just good fun. 

To use a personal and quite recent example: Chima, my current OC. I will be the first to say that I do not want to see her in the show. Like, at all. She doesn't belong there and that's not what her purpose is. What is her purpose you might ask? It's that there were too many species and I couldn't decide who I liked best so I decided to use them all. From there I asked myself how to to work her into my personal version of the show and what headcanons I would need to do so. And when I showed her to the community (not necessarily this specific website) I faced the exact same criticism I faced 3 years ago for other similarly powerful characters. That she's too powerful and doesn't fit the show. Which is useless criticism because she's not meant to. I share these characters to show my own creative side, to show the headcanons I created, how I worked within the shows rules and got around them in some places. I want to talk about Chima and those head canons and it frustrates me to no end that I can't because no one can get past the fact that she's not meant to be able to fit into the show. 

And since I feel like I definitely strayed from the point again, I do agree with you 

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The reason why Mary Sues get slagged off so quickly is that they're a product of lazy character design. When the power balance is entirely out of whack and there's no element of humanization that makes us want to feel empathy or pathos for someone, that's a bad character. This is as true for writing fan fiction as it is for professional game designers or novel authors. A character without human flaws or human experiences, even outside Earth, is poorly written. If the author/designer/whatever can't give a good reason to get behind the character, they failed. That's generally why they're so hated.

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To be honest, one of the reasons I never got around to fully writing any potential fan fiction is because I'm afraid I made my OC Ponysona, Will Guide too much of a Gary Sue. I mean, being able to use Pixie Dust from the World of Disney to temporarily fly seems a bit OP. Plus although I use the Beast's Magic Mirror so that both Will Guides can talk to the others. (One Will physically outside the mirror, the other whose face appears inside the mirror), I'm tempted to have it break the story and spy on the villians right away. I try to handwave why I couldn't just use my abilities to solve all the episodes' conflicts so quickly by saying I'm magically restrained from using my Disney Magic to its full potential since it comes from another world and so its function work differently. But I don't know; it sounds like a lame excuse when I say it like that. 

As for Character Flaws, well, Changeling Will Guide starts off feeling he needs me as Unicorn Will Guide to even exist, but learns to stand more on his own. To the point, we could part ways for a while without him feeling too insecure. Also, there's a part of Changeling Will Guide that wants Chrysalis to accept him, but she never did and never will.

As for myself as Unicorn Will Guide, I feel there's not much change to my character after my "big intro episode". I remain more or less the same person. The only big things I've done since then is successfully get Spike's Egg from his doomed parents to Celestia during the S5 finale Time-Traveling Trip and rediscover my Changeling Soulmate. I would spend parts of the rest of the show after Season 6 as a Big Brother Mentor to C. Will. Other than all that, I feel Unicorn Will Guide is just me making wish fulfillment.

So in short, I'm not sure if my OCs avoid falling in the Mary Sue Traps. Other than me, who would want to read about my characters' experiences in Equestria and maybe even the Equestria Girls World? Maybe even C. Will's experience in our reality if I decided to go that far?

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@Will Guide

I think the use of Disney magic and stories is really creative! I don't do so well with reading because of ADHD but I don't think the concept is screaming Gary Stu.

That said, never feel bad about wish fulfillment, even if others may not read it, writing down and reading your own stories is a lot more fun than people let you believe. 

but uh... be careful... don't wanna get sued by the Didney mouse lol

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1 hour ago, TicTacKitKat said:

@Will Guide

I think the use of Disney magic and stories is really creative! I don't do so well with reading because of ADHD but I don't think the concept is screaming Gary Stu.

That said, never feel bad about wish fulfillment, even if others may not read it, writing down and reading your own stories is a lot more fun than people let you believe. 

but uh... be careful... don't wanna get sued by the Didney mouse lol

Thanks for the vote of confidence

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  • 2 years later...

I do believe there shouldn't be that many Mary sues... But most Mary Sues are made by children, and I hate going to deviantart and seeing people commenting on kids' OCs and saying "You suck, your OCs a Mary Sue, go kill yourself LOL!!!!11111!1!!" I don't condone that and think it's absolutely f***ing stupid to pick on a CHILD for having a Mary Sue OC, if anything help them fix the OC instead of giving them your "Criticism"... Like seriously, telling someone to kill themselves over a fictional character is f***ing delusional. 

 

 

 

thanks for reading!

here's my two cents in this one drawing:  

Aaron-Clash, Mary Sues are ok!.jpg

 

and s**t I wrote my name on the drawing wrong... 

Edited by Stellar Heights
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