Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Working Title: Anti Sue: From YKTTW
Nate The Great: Does Anne Shirley count as Suetiful All Along? I mean, by the time of her third book she's beautiful (not in an obvious way, but still bewitching), a genius (in the top three in a school of hundreds at all times), absolutely modest (despite everybody and their brother telling her she's perfect), on and on and on. I might argue that she's not, for two important reasons. One, her imagination can and does run away with her. Two, she does have quite a bit of a temper (Beware the Nice Ones, anybody?). I'm just not sure.

You don't imply Scarlett is a Sue in disguise, don't you? I always thought Mitchell hated her.... or, at least, wasn't quite fond of her as a person.

Clerval: Well, she has the "Not beautiful BUT...," introduction, (flashing green eyes and all) and I think even with her flaws she's definitely a wish-fulfilment figure. Ludicrously sexy, capable of achieving nearly anything - limitations of the time be damned, is a figure of awe to almost everyone and has lots of hot sex.

Does anyone mind if I take out the long imaginary example? I think the trope is fairly well explained and there are some good real examples accumulating, I don't think "Jacklyn" adds very much. I'll remove it later if there are no objections here...

Clerval, later: Okay, if anyone thinks it must go back in, here it is, but it should probably be at least pared down somewhat (see below).

DieHard: As the person that wrote the first draft of that allegorical example (it was actually about twice as long as this before it got mercifully pared down by somebody else), I should mention that I created it because Mary Sue is one of those things that is a lot better shown than described in general terms (and this particular aspect of Sue-dom is even harder to define than the normal kind). "Jacklyn" (even the spelling of her name was made more "mundane" compared to Jacqueline) was meant to show the character type at its purest. Sadly, I don't think it can be pared down much more without having to sacrifice much of the meaning.

Also, a problem with many of the examples is that they seem to suggest that it's just physical beauty that implies Mary Sue status. While it doesn't help a character's case against it a whole lot to lampshade the appearance right off the bat, some of these examples don't say a whole lot else about the character besides that they're described as beautiful. Some time should probably be taken to explain other facets of these characters that place them in this category.

Clerval: I've tried to do as you suggest with the characters that I know about (Scarlett, Anne, Zuleika and I've added Gregory House) - does that help? I understand why you wrote up the imaginary example for the YKTTW but it did seem a bit long and a bit confusing as part of an actual entry. Of course, it hasn't gone far if people really feel it's necessary.
To illustrate, examine this James Bond story synopsis.
James Bond is investigating something, perhaps an elite counterfeiting racket. The only clue is that a lot of this currency is used to book flights in O'Hare airport, so Bond is sent to Chicago in the guise of a tourist, where he hires a tour guide. Enter "Jacklyn Rodgers," a boring girl in her early thirties. She has dull brown eyes and hair, with a lot of split ends. She is about 5'2", 140 pounds, and not very athletic. She always wanted to be a writer, but never got too far. Her love of Chicago led her to become a tour guide, et cetera ad nauseum.

Anyway, the Big Bad figures out that Bond is on the case and sends some mooks to deal with him. They get a picture of Jacklyn, and their boss orders that her apartment be set with explosives. However, her roommate gets blown up instead, and Bond takes Jacklyn under his protection, both for her safety and as a lever against the baddies.

Eventually, Bond runs out of leads and asks her opinion of the fake currency. She notices a pattern in the serial numbers, which all follow this mathematic model that her ex-boyfriend from high school bragged about. There will be at least two paragraphs explaining how this isn't an asspull. The investigation continues with her filling in the Plot Coupons, all of it with excessive detail to explain how it isn't implausible. Finally, at the story's climax, the lovesick Big Bad will explain how the whole thing was planned from the start to ensure that Jacklyn would accompany Bond, so he could kill her while taking care of his business.

He throws the two heroes in an elaborate death trap, but because he bragged about this flawless design to Jacklyn years ago, they escape, confront him, and defeat him. After they flee his crumbling lair, they end up in a raft in the Chicago river, and Bond decides that maybe Jacklyn isn't so ugly after all (If You Know What I Mean).
Just from this synopsis, it's clear that "Jacklyn" is a Mary Sue. However, the author attempts to disguise this fact with arbitrarily mundane elements imposed on her in the first paragraph and lots of explanations about her less plausible moments. Nonetheless:

  1. She turned Bond into a secondary character in his own canon. He just serves as an adventure enabler and as the person to do all the fantastic things for her.
  2. She's shallow and has little personality, instead having all her character development come from the heavily handwaved details and her "boring" backstory.
  3. She's a self-insert, only instead of idealizing the character, changes are made to make her even more "mundane".
  4. The whole thing plays out more like a personal story against a former boyfriend instead of an attempt to be a James Bond story.

Even though she's boring and mediocre looking, and has an unexceptional past, a dull job, and so many other boring elements shoved upon her, it turns out Jacklyn was Suetiful All Along.

Nornagest: House and Harry Potter don't seem to qualify to me. They're both protagonists of series which revolve entirely around them, which makes the call more difficult in the first place (incidentally, it seems to me that many of the examples could be summed up as "protagonists of eponymous series"), but they both have more or less good in-story justifications for their specialness, and they both lack most of the common personal traits of Sues; Potter qualifies only in terms of his Special Destiny, House only for his skills. They both have glaring personality flaws and make serious mistakes, and they both experience the consequences of their actions.

I haven't watched the third season of House, though; it's possible that he gets worse there.

Seven Of Diamonds: I like House, but he does seem a little Suish to, one of the rare well written ones. I've never got this impression from Potter, though, at least in the books. Despite the specialness, he doesn't really overshadow the other characters.

Clerval: Well, to me the elements were always there, but it was the third season in which it really reached "Oh come ON" levels. It's not so much his skills (although he does practically get New Powers as the Plot Demands) but that gravitational-warp effect we were talking about in YKTTW. It's like...a normal protagonist is the star around which the other, lesser, characters orbit like planets. This is when the star acquires so much mass it becomes a black hole and everything is helplessly falling into it. As for House, of course it's reasonable for a protagonist to dominate his or her story, but EVERYTHING is always. about. him. No one can meet him without being fascinated by the mystery of him, even if they decide they hate him and want to destroy him in the process.

I would add that as far as I'm concerned falling into this trope doesn't necessarily mean a character is ruined. I love Anne of Green Gables; I used to love House. It can be a just a recurring annoyance, or more of a Fridge Logic thing, where you go away and think... "Is anyone really that universally interesting?/Is there anything actually IMPORTANT that s/he can't do? ...Huh."

Danel: Okay, I'm cutting the Harry Potter example and saving it here. If people still want to do the same to the House example...

  • Harry Potter is a skinny kid with a bad haircut. However he also possesses a tragic past, repeatedly described bright green eyes, a mysterious cursed scar, is the chosen one in a mystical prophecy, comes to school with a pre-existing celebrity status and the headmaster shows distinct favoritism towards him.

Clerval: A lot of stuff seems to have been cut from the description. Maybe it needed to go, but I honestly find it harder to understand now.
That Other 1 Dude: I moved that thing about Shinji to Anti-Sue.

Why was the Sam Manson example cut? What was shoe-horned about it? Have you seen her by Season Three? Her self-righteous attitude turns into a "I'm always right and you're wrong" situation that almost always prove true, relegating the main hero's Character Development mute and the other main character practically non-existent so to push this aspect of her character (and her romance with Danny) while keeping her flawed by being bossy and forceful. Any actual personality she did have was given a Character Derailment by that point, creating an almost shallow know-it-all persona with barely any arguments or complaints from the other characters.
Rebochan:L Whoa, whoa, whoa. News to me that Mary Sues are not a bad thing to be called. Isn't a Mary Sue, by definition, the worst thing your character can be by the admission that is a thinly disguised wish fulfillment and defined by their unreasonable perfection and poor writing?

Oh, and I'm pulling Hitomi because the entry doesn't seem to describe anything that would get her put on this page. It just reads like someone whining about not liking her.
Vampire Buddha: I cut the House example because House isn't really sueish. He has these things called flaws which make up for the insane medical knowledge.
* The titular lead of House similarly is miserable, manipulative and self-obsessed... and brilliant, multi-talented, almost always right and apparently fascinating to everybody he encounters. Even his patients line up to deliver insights into his psychology, and the largely inexplicable vendettas of which he is often the target suggest that even the bad guys of the House-verse recognize that this is someone Very Important. And a surprising number of beautiful women seem to be attracted to him. Of course that he's played by the luminous-eyed Hugh Laurie doesn't hurt.
  • The fact that the writers seem to play up his dysfunctional personality in later seasons not only doesn't help, it actually makes him come off as even more idealized and implausible. House simply must have universe-warping Mary Sue powers, one feels, if he can be that horrible and still not get fired (or have patients and coworkers flee in terror from him).
  • On the other hand, millions of actual people every week sit in front of the idiot box and stare slack jawed at his antics for an hour... So clearly he has a lot of some kind of genuine charisma.
    • It's the "Oh my gosh he did not just say/do that" factor. His snide commentary is perversely amusing.
    • Exactly. He's fun to watch, as long as he's happening to someone who's not you.
    • I believe the word you're looking for is "charisn'tma."
  • I don't mean to devolve the page into natter, but I can't say that I've noticed that much sueness in House. Taking your complaints: 1. There's been one largely inexplicable vendetta, Tritter. The guy from the first season had a very believable reason for vendettaing against House. 2. There's been six beautiful women attracted to him (in text) over the course of the series, one was "the one", one was Cuddy, one was brain damaged, one had that weird pollen thing going on, and one thought that he was offering her a job. Two(what'shername and Cuddy) are from years before the show started. Is it unrealistic that a guy who meets new people every day as a part of his job would come across three (four, counting the brain damaged mature lady) attractive women who are also attracted to him? 3. House is brilliant, yes. He's multitalented, yes. He's always right? No. He's always eventually right, sure, but if you count up the number of times he's wrong in any given episode it far outweighs the other times. And fascinating to everyone he meets? Are we watching the same show? 4. "Even his patients line up to deliver insights into his psychology" Seriously, what? 5. He can't be fired. He has tenure. He's a douchebag, but that just means that he's the kind of guy who doesn't have any friends... and guess how many friends he has as of recent developments on the show?
  • One word; Lupus.
  • Two words: Wilson returning.
    • For those of us who don't watch House... can someone explain?

Smokie: It's not about his "flaws", it's about how he seems to control the entire universe in the show (and the characters). The most recent episode with the hostage-taker was such a blatant example that it broke my Willing Suspension of Disbelief and turned into a Wallbanger for me. Then again, that's just my opinion and I don't want to complaing about things I don't like now.
Momonga: Another thing I've noticed in fantasy or sci-fi examples of Suetiful All Along is that an author will sometimes invent a culture where some trait the audience is likely to consider attractive or neutral is regarded as horribly ugly, bad luck, etcetera. The most common of these tend to be a certain eye or hair colour (and if I recall correctly, red hair was/is considered unlucky in certain cultural superstitions in Real Life), or perhaps something like pointy ears indicating partially elven ancestry in a culture prejudiced against elves. Is this point worthy of being on the main page or is it too minor?

Ethereal Mutation: Main page is probably going to get an overhaul soon, but go ahead.

Stavrogin: Elizabeth Bennet is a very poor example of this trope. She is constantly described as good looking, even her biased (against her) mother says she's the "second" after Jane, in both age and beauty, of the "famously pretty Bennet sisters" (as they have been described to Bingley), of whom Mary is "the only plain one". Most of the men in the book think her beautiful and very interesting, and the only one who keeps dissing her till the end is the understandably sour and jealous Miss Bingley.

Whatever: Cut the Justifying Edit on Twilight's Bella, because firstly "Oh, she's only beautiful in a crowd of 80!" still sounds pretty Suetiful All Along, and secondly because that explanation doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Assuming that the people of Bella's new town aren't just unusually ugly [Brother–Sister Incest, maybe?] she should be average there, if she was average back in Phoenix.
  • It's a question of sample-size. Bella came from Phoenix, with a population of several hundred thousand to Forks with a population of a few hundred. Statistics will show that a girl considered to be "average" in a high school of probably a few thousand will likely be beautiful in a high school of what, 80?
  • Perhaps you should use psychology instead of statistics to back up your argument. In my experience the "new meat" tends to get more attention—especially from males, extra-especially in a small pool of people who have grown up together and are quite sick dating the same people in rotation.