A Mary Sue is not a perfect character, but a character that is perfect in the eye of the creator. The creator loves and idolizes that character and expects the reader to idolize them, too. Because of that, they come off as unrealistic, even if they have drama and flaws.
There is a great guide I found here on dA that sums up my thoughts on the issue to a T.
Is she Mary Sue? Clarifying Mary Sue
So, I realize that everyone has heard of Mary Sue characters, but the thing that bothers me is that Mary has never really been as clarified as she could be. Girls go around crying Mary Sue at every character with long pink hair, then go and create even worse Mary Sue characters in the false illusion that they're making nonMary Sue characters (or even anti-Sues) when in fact they're doing the opposite. Allow me to explain how this seems to happen.
First of all the term "Mary Sue" desperately needs to be clarified to these people, so this brings us to the very important question: What IS a
For those tl;dr, here is one paragraph that I feel summarizes the issue succinctly:
"It matters not whether they have long, flowing pink hair, special abilities, or even who they fall in love with. It doesn't even matter if they're a tomboy full of flaws. A Mary Sue is a character who is plainly, mercilessly and unfairly worshiped by the author (directly or indirectly, usually indirectly or even unintentionally so watch out). It's in the portrayal. What could be a Mary Sue in one author's hands could be a perfectly reasonable character in another's."
I will go so far as to say that not only does the author worship the character, but they want the reader to worship them. Because they are perfection in their mind, they can't understand why everyone else doesn't love them as much.
Anyhow, I wanted this stamp to be visual as well as text. You have the plain brown-haired girl who is normal and has some quirks, but nothing overt. Just because that character scores low on a test doesn't mean she isn't a Sue. On the flip side you have an angelic character with fair skin, pink hair, purple eyes and wings. Boy, talk about scoring through the roof (especially if her parents died and she has a dark secret even she doesn't know about). However, that character may not be a Sue at all, depending on how the author handles her.
Oh, and it should be a given, but all of this applies to Gary Stus as well.
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And now I wonder from where this all Mry Sue stuff started anyway ?
There was a Star Trek fan-fic YEARS ago, where there was an obvious self-insert character named "Mary Sue." The problem wasn't just that the character was unbelievable, but the writing so poor. From then on, all characters like that were called Mary Sue. A funny thing, though. Years before that, a character was often called "a Pauline" after "The Perils of Pauline." But the difference there was that the character was mostly a victim, always having to be rescued. IN fact, that is why the character in the first Donkey Kong (that Mario has to save) was named Pauline.
Thanks for clarifying that, I really see it very unfear to do that just because someone thinks it has similarities to it. And that's how all the characters that had to be saved all the time we're called, quite funny indeed.
The tests are just too vague. Sometimes a character with many powers is a mary sue, sometimes not.
Actually some Mary Sue trades are even sometimes neccessary....whatever you could count as a Mary Sue trade.
You know I once saw a picture here on dA with an example for a Mary Sue and.....a not Mary Sue. Even the backgroundstories were there.
The irony was that the mary sue was way more interesting and the other one was SO bland and boring, that it made it also into some kind of Sue. The best thing would actually be, if the people would just sit down and start really thinking about there characters.
Take Son Goku from DBZ:
Super strong and can destroy planets without trying.
Is he a mary sue?
In his franchise: no
because his enemys are much worse.
In another franchise he would be a mary sue.
To me a Sue is a (nearly) perfect character with an INAPPROPRIATELY important role in the story. That's how I interpreted the original story.
Inappropriately important does not mean a "chosen one" but it is an element that must be handled carefully.
The Problems with tests:
They fail to highlight the problem area. Disparate character types can score the same.
- Positive, negative, and neutral qualities are lumped into one score, there are no checks for mutually exclusive qualities. Unless someone designed one really well.
- Excessive focus on character traits, cliches and plot points rather than execution of the aforementioned things.
- Not all stories are written to be serious or to match a specific setting.
- Tests can have questions that are unrelated to the character's role in the story
- Tests can have bias in them.
Going invincible in roleplaying is properly called god-moding. (not modding)
Flaws are not a ticket out of Suedom despite the importance people put on them. Something like clumsiness can be a valid flaw if your character does precision work and becomes injured or ill that results in clumsiness. Flaws need not to result in tragic results if you are afraid of ruining your character. Downsides would be a better term if you think flaw is too strong/pejorative.
Character making isn't as simple as some RPG character sheet where you must check X amount of advantages and Y amount of disadvantages.
Anti-Sues are worse IMO because of how contrived they are.
There's a fine line between a favored character and Sue. Nothing wrong with having a favorite but don't let that brush other characters to the sidelines or give the character all the "goodies".
Visual art with no narrative, by definition can not be Mary Sue. But they can be incongruous with canon or just plain old plagiarism.
I might make a long rant later, there's so much I could go on about. But I'm tired right now and I have my thoughts in other comments on this stamp.
tl;dr A balanced, believable character is not Sue and people should use more precise language.
Here's a few better terms:
I still stand by my feeling that a Sue character is worshipped. Not the "this character is close to my heart" but to the point where there is true adoration. One person in the lit forums mentioned "identity confusion" and I think that hits it on the head. The Sue is a fictional version of the author/player, so much that they project everything that happens to the character into themselves. That is also why they take even the slightest of criticism so poorly, because they view it as a personal attack. They simply want to be the star of the show, and they can't see why someone wouldn't want them to be. Any character, good, bad, well-balanced or not, that is so utterly worshipped, and projects the fact that YOU should worship them, too, it gonna get on your nerves. So, that is often why balanced characters are accused of being Sues. The author is so in your face with them that you can't stand it. It's sometimes hard to disconnect the character from the writer.
Case in point. I had one guy come to me and say, "OMG, you HAVE to read my story, my character is so interesting, he is the best character in the world. I swear he is so cool, you're gonna love him." Right off the bat, there is a feeling this OC is a Gary Stu, and I have to admit, I had no desire to read the character. This guy worshipped him--definitely a self-insert. I was very turned-off by his attitude. Turns out, the character *was* kinda cool. Not the coolest in the world, but balanced enough that I felt he was fine. But I could see where the character had enough Sue-ish qualities, along with the author's in-your-face worship, that people would write him off as a Stu.
One gal I knew told me her character was more real to her than herself. In her stories, she was a total Black Hole Mary Sue, engulfed everything. It was sad though, because I realize that the character she had created was an escape from her life of abuse. So, even in the case of a Chimera or Special Snowflake, there can sometimes be more to the backstory to the OC's existence, and reason not to outright attack them.
Of course, I'm not saying all Sues are like that. As you mentioned, this issue is very complex and multi-leveled. It's why you can't have across-the-board ratings.
All of that said, strictly looking at it from a literature/role-play POV, I do agree. I find is so frustrating when people create these characters and brag "But the test says she's okay" or "I made him look not so pretty, so that's okay." It's not about that at all.
Now, sorry for my wall of text. I, too, feel strongly on the issue. Nice to rant and get it off your chest every now and then. LOL
Thanks again for your comment.
It's all so frustrating.
having a deviantart account
It's because they concent more about character's looks, race, powers and background, not on their personalities.
Another problem with these tests is that positive (being talented), negative (tragic pasts, which I don't find Sueish at all) and, neutral (hair colors) traits are lumped into one score.
People need to take a very important thing called context in to account. Someone can have a universe where having "fair skin, pink hair, purple eyes and wings" is commonplace.
Things would be a lot simpler if people just stopped focusing on the traits which are tangential to the story and making a balanced and reasonable character.
And I can kinda understand the "tragic past" thing. It's like all your character's familly was butchered, they are last survivor but they are atill a special snowflake with no worries and natural talent for everything.
I could make a better type of test "Balanced/Reasonable character" but there are so many variables involved. Nesting a bunch of IFs can be confusing.
According to these tests having a happy past works as a passive -10 or so. I don't think a character like that would be called an Anti-Sue.
Could you send me a link to these test in a note please?
Using these tests in fantasy settings is like using one of those 500 questions to ask your character on a child character when 75% of the answers will be N/A.
By logic of those tests, Superman is a sue, Sonic the Hedgehog is a sue, Luke Skywalker is a sue, and the list goes on.
And no one calls them a sue, while other good characters from their franchises (particularly females) are labeled as sues. Double standards at their finest.
Due to my writing for the marvel fandom my characters usually red flag during the first five "do you have powers?" questions going down hill from there.