Created By: LordTNK on December 12, 2008
Nuked

Cleaning Up Mary Sue

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
No Launching Please. Not until we actually work out what to do.

The thing is that most of the examples on the Mary Sue pages either show a poor understanding of sues, or are just an excuse to bash a character.

Of the first kind, God-Mode Sue has Achilles listed. That character is not a Sue. He's a paragon, based on themes that have been lost over the years. I was half tempted to put Jesus on that list, if he isn't already.

Of the second kind, loads of examples seem to be just selectively listing (or outright making up) bad attributes of characters to make them look like sues, which is basically trying to claim those characters suck.

Mary Sue is not any character you don't like (despite what Etherial Mutation thought). It's a very specific character type.

But part of the problem is that the descriptions for all the pages are too long. Too much clutter, leaving the core definitions buried, making it easy to abuse the examples.

These really need to be cleared of the clutter in the descriptions. So who wants to help?

Of course a solid definition is important.

EDIT: Fast Eddie pointed out in the Mary Sue Discussion page that one definition might not be enough. I personally think at least a core definition is important, to tie them all together, and I say that core is extreme Wish Fulfillment. It's just that the fulfillment can take many forms.

A God-Mode Sue would be taking mythological heroes without understanding the themes an purposes of those stories. NOT just any character you personally think is too powerful for the story, especially if the character actually isn't.

A Relationship Sue is the fulfillment of giving a character a "better" mate than the existing one. It isn't just a character in a new relationship. It has to be a character that is either too good to be true, or a character where the "better" traits are really dubious.

It may be possible to make a well done Sue, but the term has too negative an association to actually be anything less than a knock on a character, which is, again, why some instead just use the term as a form of character bashing.
Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • December 10, 2008
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Just making an index of YKTTW's still active on this topic, for our reference.

    EDIT: Added Anti Sue per Ethereal Mutation & alphabetized
  • December 11, 2008
    Wyvernil
    I think one thing that would be helpful in this regard is to separate the Escapist Character from the Mary Sue.

    The primary difference is that the escapist character is an audience surrogate who happens to be awesome. The Mary Sue's prime characteristic, besides her warping the plot and setting to revolve around her, is that she's usually a thinly-veiled surrogate for the author, with several fairly specific examples of Author Appeal in her background or hobbies.

    As such, she's infinitely easier to recognize in Fan Fiction, since the pre-Mary Sue world is available for comparison as to how much her presence warps the world.
  • December 11, 2008
    EtherealMutation
    Also AntiSue: Correction and split. Anyway, if there's one page that needs its examples killed (if not just have the page cut altogether, but I won't go into that), it's Relationship Sue. That page is pretty much just begging for people to list "examples" that basically boil down to "this character ruined my One True Pairing". Really, I don't think there are enough examples that don't majorly overlap with something else to have them on their own page.
  • December 11, 2008
    EtherealMutation
    Also, while I hate to turn this into more Ignoratio Elenchi, I would like to point out that describing something is not the same as endorsing it. I wrote that "interpretation" in a very negative (if neutral) light, even if it's apparently hard to see because there isn't an insult against some group with a potholed "Take That".
  • December 11, 2008
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Wyvernil wrote, 'separate the Escapist Character from the Mary Sue.'
  • December 11, 2008
    TheNifty
    There's a certain delicious irony when attempts to clean up an out of control, snowballing page begin to spiral out of control as well... Seven freakin' YKTTW threads on fixing Mary Sue?

    I don't envy whoever has to sort through this mess and work out a plan of action everyone can agree on.
  • December 11, 2008
    LordTNK
    Not really. Three of those are just proposing new Sub Tropes, and the other fixers are by Ethereal Mutation.

    So ethereal seems to be most of the problem with fixing this.
  • December 11, 2008
    Mouser
    And now we have to fix what he fixed. Where shall we begin?

    And do we really need Black Hole Sue? I tried cutlisting it, but it was taken off the cutlist within the hour.
  • December 11, 2008
    LordTNK
    Fast Eddie made that page. Take it up with him.
  • December 11, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    What the heck? The Black Hole Sue page just describes a standard Mary Sue. All Sues have the plot revolve around them, that's kinda the point.
  • December 11, 2008
    Mouser
    Exactly my point, Unknown. Making a separate page for that is saying that Mary Sue only means whatever one wants it to mean - which just isn't so.
  • December 11, 2008
    ccoa
    Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there is no possible way that these pages can be "fixed" while there is no consensus on what a Mary Sue even is. We seem to have at least two very vocal camps who see Mary Sue as two different things, and those two different views seem to be mutually exclusive.

    We have one point of view that says Mary Sue is purely bad writing.

    We have another that says it's a legitimate character type, albeit one that is difficult to do well.

    Both agree that a Sue has to have plot warping powers/author bias.

    For the record, I'm firmly in the second camp. I think, like a cliche, a Mary Sue can be done well if handled well. The idea that a character that is otherwise a textbook Sue is "exempted" from Sue status because she's written well seems to be WAAAAY to subjective a division to me, and I see nothing odd about people liking a Mary Sue.
  • December 11, 2008
    LordTNK
    I think if a Mary Sue is done well, it's often thought of as more of a Paragon character.
  • December 11, 2008
    LordTNK
    But I do agree somewhat. I actually would like to have seen more of the characters in that House Sparklypoo webcomic.

    So perhaps there could be a fully-fleshed out sue?

    I'll work on the description in a bit.
  • December 11, 2008
    ccoa
    You still have the problem of a very subjective division: "done well." When is a character done well enough to magically move out of Sue territory? Why not just call him or her a Sue, but note that he or she is also a very popular/well-written/interesting character?
  • December 11, 2008
    LordTNK
    I did note that. I just didn't note that well enough to make it clear.
  • December 11, 2008
    ccoa
    Sorry, I didn't see your second reply for some reason. Either a bug, I was too fast on the trigger, or I'm just blind. My apologies.
  • December 11, 2008
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    I have found an example of a well - written fanfic / webcomic which includes a Mary Sue. Several of them actually. It is, of course, Played For Laughs. Take from it what you will.
  • December 12, 2008
    ccoa
    A Relationship Sue can also be a character that has little to no characterization or purpose beyond being the ideal mate for character X. In that context, it doesn't have to replace any current love interest.
  • December 21, 2008
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    7 - day BUMP
  • December 21, 2008
    KJMackley
    All of the Sue pages have become "Complaining About Characters," and in fact, God Mode Sue seems to be the only type with any sort of reasonable basis to go by (while still has a lot of "complaining") All published fiction examples should be purged, just because we already have The Wesley, Canon Sue and The Scrappy to describe them, which are problematic already.

    When I first came across the term something like 7 years ago on a ReBoot site, they described it as being a Self Insert Fic where the character takes a major presence within the story. That's it. It is usually Wish Fulfillment of the "I'm interacting with my favorite characters" type. We have all of these sub-tropes to outline the many variations but each one has to be based around that basic type. One thing the site specified was that when a Mary Sue is done well, it is hard to identify as a Mary Sue. When it is Done Badly, it is glaringly obvious. We call this Sturgeons Law.
  • December 21, 2008
    FastEddie
    Nobody agrees on what the term means. Even if we were to hammer out a common definition -- and the chances of that seem small -- this will have no effect on the world at large. So, we need to cover all the definitions. For the record, not all Sues are Black Hole Sues or Author Avatars.

    It seems the only common attributes are "too many positives" and "negatives that don't matter." From there, opinions differ.
  • December 21, 2008
    slvstrChung
    I agree that we should have a separate page for Justified Mary Sue (or "Paragon" as Lord TNK put it, which is probably a better name). Some author--I forget who (to my despair, since I use this quotation a lot)--said to "earn your cliches," and a MS is no different. The best example I can point to right now is the hero character from The Name Of The Wind. He's prodigiously intelligent, loves to learn, and is quick-thinking enough to use his various disciplines (theatre, pickpocketry, Rule Magic, Words Can Break My Bones, music) to fight or bluff his way out of the various corners he finds himself trapped in. We believe that a man of such talent could indeed handle the challenges he does (though Your Mileage May Vary on whether a man of such talent could exist in the first place). And though his flaws are indeed minimal, they do exist, and in some cases they even set him back a little bit.

    I think we should have a line between a Done Bady Mary Sue and a Justified Trope Mary Sue, and I think the line is the level of character development. "Real" Mary Sues are, well, one-dimensional. Not even a Flat Character--one-dimensional. Zero-dimensional. They're already perfect, and (as mentioned in Black Hole Sue)the story is only concerned with the character's impact on the story, as opposed to how the character got that way, or where they're going now that they've done it. Really, a Black Hole Sue is more like a comet--but that's neither here nor there.

    So, I think that's the line. By the end of the story, has this character changed? Are they a different person than they were at the beginning? If so, they're a real character, and we need a category for them. If not, they're a Mary Sue.
  • December 22, 2008
    BeinSane
    "Nobody agrees on what the term means."

    I'd say that raises the question of why we're bothering with an article on it, then.
  • December 22, 2008
    arromdee
    Because while nobody can exactly agree on it, they're cloBecause not exactly agreeing on something isn't no agreement at all.

    We do have a general idea of what it means, even if not everyone thinks a specific type counts as one.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=oaj8tbfgce9me6ckgqer9pnu&trope=MarySue