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Suetiful All Along

"I glanced in the rearview mirror and scrunched my forehead in dismay as I realized for the millionth time that I do not consider myself at all attractive, although roughly 85 percent of the male characters I encounter either fall in love with me or want to kill me, or both, and in the movie version I am portrayed by a total babe."
— "Fangs of Endearment: A Vampire Novel" by Dave Barry

Mary Sue is a constant issue for writers. She frustrates the reader with her flawless appearance, outrages them with her inability to do any wrong, and bores them with how perfect everybody seems to think she is. It's a trap that most amateur writers fall into, but surely, just removing all those possibly offensive traits would make her a regular character, right?

Wrong.

Mary Sue is not always about how she has radiant purple hair, a perfect seven octave singing voice, and can slice Superman with her katanas with one arm tied around her back. It's about what she does to the story. There's a fine line between a well developed character and Mary Sue, and it's certainly not defined by her appearance, justification (or lack thereof) for her abilities, or how fantastically improbable her backstory is. It's about how the character is defined exclusively by external traits and her actions to the point of shallowness, and about how all other characters are defined by their attitude to her (or him; as examples will show, this trope applies to both sexes). It's about how, in Fan Fiction, she completely overtakes the canon characters in importance. It's about how people act wildly out of character around her and elevate her to a status well above what she should realistically be able to obtain.

In original fiction it's a character who can get away with almost anything, about whom no one can shut up, or a character who is flawed, sure... but seems to live in a topsy-turvy world where flaws function like virtues and are fetishized accordingly. Above all, it is about wish-fulfillment, and wish-fulfillment comes in many forms. There's nothing wrong with a little or even a lot, but when the wish-fulfillment a character embodies starts to warp the narrative and characterization around it, then you may be looking at a Mary Sue, even if she's in disguise.

In the most blatant cases a writer will try to disguise a character's Sue-ness by claiming that she's "not beautiful" before launching into a description of a goddess just without using the word 'beautiful', or by sprinkling her with physical traits such as thinness or a "wide mouth" that have been considered imperfections in the past but are rather more fashionable today. In fantasy or sci-fi examples, 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 color, or perhaps something like Pointy Ears indicating partially elven ancestry in a culture prejudiced against elves. But looks aren't the half of it. It is other qualities - abilities, personality (or lack of) and the way that not just the story, but the WORLD revolves around a character, even though it logically wouldn't - that make a character Suetiful All Along. In addition, he or she never wants for attractive admirers.

Note that a lot of this trope is in the tone. For something like historical fiction, even assuming a third person narrator, we would expect that the story is related by someone familiar with cultural mores of the time. So, let's say we're in a time period where fat people are considered the hawtness, and our lead is a thin person who is attractive by modern standards. Averting this trope would mean defining our lead, not in terms of positive exploration (willowy frame, slender legs, delicate arms), but a more negatively tinted one (stick-like frame, spindly legs, stiff arms). It's all a matter of language.

Before you spot your favorite character on the list and rush to perform a Justifying Edit, consider that in rare cases even full-blown Purity Sue doesn't necessarily mean a ruined character, and the character who's Suetiful All Along is often more sophisticated than that. Sometimes it's just one eye-rolling event too many that leads you to think back over your hero or heroine's career and wonder "Is she ever wrong about anything that's important?" or "Is there anyone in the story who isn't completely obsessed with him?" Sometimes Sue-ness is occasionally annoying, but livable-with.

Will often appear hand-in-hand with Hollywood Homely in visual media. Also consider Anti-Sue, a more deliberate attempt to avoid making a character into a Mary Sue.

Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Light Yagami of Death Note, though the viewer might not notice, does score a 45 (that's really high) on the Mary Sue Litmus Test - being extremely attractive, intelligent, righteous and powerful will do that. However, he is ultimately a deconstruction more than a Marty Stu; his charming personality, innate intelligence, sense of justice, and supernatural powers are precisely the things that contribute to his downfall. Also, you know, the whole Villain Protagonist / Serial Killer thing.
  • Kirito from Sword Art Online is a perfect example of this. While not being particularly special in real life, he is one of the 1,000 beta testers of Sword Art Online, and he is able to face any challenge with ease, Brutal and powerful in combat to the point where he disguises his power in fear of being persecuted, he is also seen as attractive by both males and females in the series. He possesses amazing power (although, being able to play the game before anyone else definitely helped), and he is calm and collected in every situation, even when he finds out that Sword Art Online is lethal, and kills the players IRL if they die in-game. His closest female companion and love interest, Asuna is powerful, but she does not [[actually contribute to the plot]] other than to be an amazing cook, failing her as an Action girl.
  • May's Squirtle from Pokémon. Introduced as an untrained baby, May's Squirtle was able to pull off moves that it shouldn't have known, as well as win battles that a normal baby Pokemon never would've been able to. Also from Pokemon, Cilan is viewed by fans as this as he has almost more talents than there are Pokemon identified, coupled with "flaws" that are nearly always played only for laughs.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Johan/Jesse Anderson was the first undisputed Creator's Pet (not to mention Marty Stu) of the franchise, stealing the spotlight from Judai's friends and becoming the secondary protagonist during the third season. It was hinted that Johan may have known Judai before, however neither point was elaborated on. Thus in essence, Johan became Jaden's best friend in only a few episodes, but there was no real reason given why he was so important. A major part of the season revolved around the protagonists getting sent to an alternate dimension and trying to find a way home. And they did...by having Johan get his ultimate monster Rainbow Dragon. Oh yes, and when he and Jaden dueled the Big Bad, Johan performed a Heroic Sacrifice to send him home. From there on the series focused on Jaden and his friends getting back to the alternate dimension to save Johan who had been left behind. He would return in the 4th season, where once again teamed up with Jaden to duel the main villain again. (Incidentally, this made him unique among the surviving characters introduced in the third season; Austin was severely Demoted to Extra and Jim was Put on a Bus despite both of them being far less hated.)
  • Amu Hinamori from Shugo Chara! is presented as a shy and awkward girl who puts on a 'cool girl' facade because she's not brave enough to be herself... however what the story shows us is something completely different. Amu's 'cool girl' act prompts her entire class, and by extension her entire school to fawn and gush about how awesome she is... and when she confesses her love to Tadase, courtesy of Ran, you'd expect her to be mercilessly teased about it, right? Nope. Her classmates still gush over her! Then she gets accepted into an absurdly powerful student council which has its own building and a tea room, and becomes chummy with the most popular kids in school. She is also shown to have a total of FIVE guardian characters and no less than EIGHT transformations, when it is explicitly stated that one can only have two characters at most, and gains said transformations at an absurdly fast rate. She has a total of four boys in love with her (one of which is an eighteen year old man) despite being eleven years old! She also spouts pseudo-philosophical/pretentious quotes in an attempt to sound 'mature'. Oh, and she also has impossibly cool clothes.

    Comic Books 
  • Wolverine of the X-Men is constantly described and depicted as physically ugly (or at least depicted as having a rugged unconventional face), has a distinct aversion to bathing, and is shorter than most teenage girls. He's also got a personality so abrasive it's a miracle he ever lasted as part of a team in the first place. Unfortunately, he speaks 17 languages, his powers make him functionally immortal (he's 112 years old—which might actually help explain some of the languages), he has two adopted daughters, he's been married twice, and he's had more romantic relationships than any other X-Man, in spite of the negative qualities listed above.
    • A lot of this depends on the creators, though, for instance in his own title Wolverine is said to have become Progressively Prettier and taller (this is often blamed on Mark Millar). On the other hand, it was averted in Secret Wars (though still distinctly Bad Ass, he spent a good bit of the story being a drunken pain in the ass, with realistic reactions from the other heroes).
    • The fact that the makers of the live-action movies chose to disregard the above description and cast Hugh Jackman as Wolverine probably did not help...
    • It should be noted that the character who usually brings up how short and ugly and abrasive he is is Wolverine himself, so this may not be truly an example - other characters might bring that stuff up too, but usually only in anger or just to joke around with him. In the main, it more like Wolverine has something of an inferiority complex.
    • The phenomenon also largely is due to the way Wolverine, his popularity and superhero genre in general has evolved over the years; a lot of the criticism levelled at him is seen through the lens of the current state and based on a Flanderized version. During the first decade of his fictional existence, he stuck out among superheroes as an extremely unusual, edgy character; indeed, his hairtrigger temper, his uncouth manners, his readiness to use lethal force, and his grey morality made many unsure as to whether to consider him a hero or a villain. Nowadays these traits have become mainstream, to a large extent because of Wolverine's success. One should also not lose sight of the fact that he had to wait for creators who allowed him to shine. His first appearance was as a minor antagonist to the Hulk, and on the X-Men he only began to take centre stage after writer Len Wein (who wanted to make Colossus the star character) left and after Dave Cockrum (who favoured his avatar Nightcrawler) was replaced by John Byrne. Logan having lots of romantic relationships is also mostly due to the trifecta of his popularity with readers and creators (because of which he will be featured in more stories than his teammates), his longevity (many of his romantic entanglements were retconnned into his past before joining the X-Men) and the violence surrounding him (many of his love interests ended up dead). It also helps that apart from his engagement to the late Mariko Yashida he practically never was part of a lasting Official Couple in the present of the series.
  • Carlie Cooper of Spider-Man infamy. More than once she's been described as "perfect." And any complaints she has against any of the main cast are instantly regarded as totally justified, including getting on Spider-Man's case for not revealing his identity to her. The fact that she is named after Joe Quesada's daughter and came in right after the One More Day debacle specifically to replace Peter Parker's love interest (and wife) for decades doesn't help her reputation with the fans. At all. After getting handed to another author and breaking up with Peter some readers find her more bearable.
  • Alunÿs from the French comic book Les légendes de Troy - L'expédition d'Alunÿs is this full stop. She starts out as one of the very first female students in a magic school, in which she often gets lots of insults from her collegues for the obvious reasons. Then all of a sudden she wants to take part in an expedition that is for more respected students (which she naturally can not take part of) only to manipulate and force the members to take her as part of the membership. As the story progresses the crew is taken hostage by a pirate ship and she gets to talk with every member of the ship crew that took them hostage, after which every pirate regrets that they took them hostage (even though it only lasted like one conversation per pirate) and sets the expedition crew freely on a new and improved ship. She also ends up being the force needed to not screw up the expedition before reaching the goal (which by the end gets screwed up by the incopetence of the other people of the ship) and at the end of the story it is revealed that she became a pirate, despite never showing competence in pirating. Considering that the comic book has Fanservice shots about her she is probably written as she is due to Author Appeal.

    Fan Works 
  • La'Ana Shaddem from the Star Wars fanfiction A Broken Circle. The author starts by describing her "forest-green eyes" that occasionally have "flecks of gold", and has "short, curly, ebony black hair". Almost every chapter in the story describes her in the most exquisite terms possible, then hastily adds that she "couldn't win a beauty contest- she was far too thin and small". Despite this constant reminder, every single male in the story mentions her attractiveness. La'Ana thinks...
    ... she knew she was not pretty, but for some reason they seemed to like her appearance.
    • It also says "La'Ana... was thin, with wide cheeks and a too-full bottom lip, clearly not a great beauty." Clearly.
    • When she is dressed to go to a fancy dinner, Qui-Gon internally monologues for a paragraph on how "gorgeous in its simplicity" her outfit is. La'Ana says...
      La'Ana: I think it makes me look fat.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • It was already such a trope by 1911 that it's parodied in Zuleika Dobson: "Zuleika was not strictly beautiful. Her eyes were a trifle large, and their lashes longer than they need have been... She had no waist to speak of." (Zuleika is a hilariously exaggerated Femme Fatale, whose allure drives so many men to suicide that she depopulates an entire town).
  • Before the third book, Harry Potter was almost the poster boy for this trope. Sometimes acting rashly and with limited understanding of the consequences of his actions, which is hardly a real flaw in the eyes of the readers, since he does it out of idealism. There is no end to how the other characters will praise his unlimited potential and heroic destiny. The few boys who oppose him are carefully designed to serve as an emphasis of Harry's status as a cinderella-knight in the making. The series then starts to rapidly deconstruct this trope. Harry's flaws start to show themselves in book 3, when, while hunting for Sirius he almost kills Sirius, even though it turns out he was innocent the entire time, and his parents' real betrayer was Wormtail. The real kicker, Wormtail gets away because of Harry insisting that Lupin and Sirius don't kill him. This indirectly leads to many more people dying in the series. In Book 4, Harry's wide-eyed optimism to try and Take a Third Option in the Tri-Wizard Tournament by sharing the win with Cedric Diggory ends up springing a trap meant for him on both of them and leads to Cedric dying almost instantly. By book 5, Harry's heroism (which has always, always been in direct violation of rules and rationality) sets him up for a Batman Gambit which kills Sirius and severely injures and almost kills several of his friends.
    • To put it very simply, the traits of Harry's that initially marked him as a Marty Stu - his heroism, his willingness to take action, his idealism - ultimately become his flaws - unwillingness to Shoot the Dog when it's needed, inability to stand back when he must, and a childish worldview that makes him blind to the harsh realities of a world torn by war and hatred. Which is why the last few books are pretty brutal. Even the fact that he is at first presented to the reader as The Chosen One is eventually revealed to be largely a matter of Voldemort having decided to kill him instead of Neville Longbottom. Right around this point is when Neville has gone from being a simple loser to a more rounded out character, and by the end of the series he's even able to do things that Harry can't.
  • Scarlett O'Hara of Gone with the Wind is introduced as "not beautiful" (but with flashing green eyes and magnolia skin), and she's self-centered, mercenary and amoral. But she's so extraordinarily successful, so resilient, so significant in the lives of everyone around her and so magnetic to men that it's hard not to see her as a wish-fulfillment figure - rather like a female James Bond. Then again, by the end of the story most of these people actually hate her for those very reasons.
  • Some characters start out as genuinely plain or flawed characters, but develop into Mary Sue characters as they age. For example, Frederica Potter in the Virgin in the Garden tetralogy by A.S Byatt. She starts off as a brainy, skinny, red-haired teenager who's not pretty but attractive as an acquired taste. Lots of people don't like her. Fine. But as the series goes on, she acquires an angsty past, her thinness (and her "wide mouth") become ever more aestheticised and harder to explain as she eats a lot of delicious, sophisticated food, she gets through a never-ending stream of attractive men, she becomes famous without having to lift a finger to work for it. When she's occasionally still described as not being pretty it seems ridiculous when she's just been described, at thirty-something, as looking like Alice in Wonderland. Oddly, lots of people STILL don't like her, for no particular reason but that comes to seem as an obvious marker of specialness as if everyone liked her for no particular reason.
  • Actually subverted in Atlas Shrugged, where the author is able to show that Dagny's features (thin, leggy, cheekbones) are beautiful—and that the reason people dislike her is her cold and abrasive personality. The people who do come to find her sexy are those who share her Conveniently Common Kink of "making a profit from running my business."
  • Anita Blake. According to Laurell K. Hamilton, her Sue is supposedly not attractive because instead of being a tall willowy blonde, she's a short (actually average height) curvy brunette with enormous boobs, collagen lips and a superslim body. Oh, and her gasps invisible Hispanicness also obviously detracts from her allure as well. Not to mention the "Is there anyone in the story who isn't completely obsessed with her?" factor.
  • Christopher Pike (the teen horror writer, not Kirk's predecessor as the captain of the Starship Enterprise) invariably describes his heroines as not being especially attractive. The fact that he then goes on, invariably, to elaborate that this unattractiveness takes the form of having breasts far too large for their waifish frames may raise some suspicions about the integrity of the narrator.
  • The heroine of Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess is convinced that she's unattractive ("I am one of the ugliest children I ever saw") because she doesn't have dimples and golden curls. The narrative voice subverts this trope when it assures us that she is "a slim, supple little creature" with "an intense, attractive little face" and "big, wonderful eyes with long black lashes".
    • The key word in her introductory description is "interesting;" she doesn't believe herself to be pretty, and she isn't, by usual standards. She's not rosy or cheery, she's bony, with plain coloration, and rather quiet and pale. Adults find her a trifle unsettling. However, the narrative points out that she is unaware that there is something else about her that compels people to attend to her — not beauty, but not ugliness, either.
  • At the beginning of the first Twilight book, Bella Swan goes on at length on how plain-looking, unremarkable, and clumsy she is. The first sign that Sueness is lurking around the corner is her name, which means "beautiful swan". The second sign is her attracting no less than three male admirers at her new school, despite claiming to be a nobody in her former hometown. The rest of the series consists of Bella being in a Love Triangle with Edward the vampire whose absolute perfection and beauty are constantly described and Jacob the werewolf, and getting her Happily Ever After with Edward by becoming a vampire, which coincidentally makes her stunningly beautiful and graceful in the process. Note that these are two more boys vying for her love, totaling five altogether. The only flaw remaining for Bella is her boring narrative voice, and that's unfortunately not one that the in-story characters can see. Only that turns out to be what makes her special to Edward — that he can't read her thoughts.
    • Let us not fail to mention that the werewolf in question is a six-foot plus boy who looks about eight years older than his seventeen years, with "inky" black hair, rippling muscles, superhuman strength, a posse of nearly equally hawt Quiluete beefcake, a motorcycle and an obsessive need to meet all of Bella's emotional and physical needs. God, her life SUCKS.
    • Inverted, though, with Edward Cullen. The books constantly go on about how good-looking he is, but when actually describing him, he sounds fairly plain, or even a bit below average.
    • Bella's first description of herself in Chapter 1 of the first book is an example of this. Bella does her best to give the impression that she's ordinary in appareance—while using very flattering terms to describe herself ("ivory-skinned," "slender" and having a clear complexion) AND to establish that instead of being a typical ex-resident of Phoenix, Arizona ("tan, sporty, blond"), she's unique (a pale, un-athletic brunette).
    • And there's the fact that despite this supposedly unattractive girl having all the personality of a wet dishrag, everything that happens in the series is because of/happens to her. Black Hole Sue in its purest form.
    • Bella Swan's narrative is generally apathetic and dry, yet she instantly befriends the entire school despite her obvious lack of effort, and she maintains these friendships despite the fact that she sits with the social elites- the vampires that are generally disliked by her acquaintances and classmates. She is also generally seen as innocent, and is only disliked by the beautiful, jealous, and blonde. She also unlocks magical, never-seen abilities that protect her from every other vampiric power in existence, including mind reading, future seeing, and pain inflicting abilities of much older and stronger vampires BEFORE she is bitten by Edward Cullen.
  • Rhapsody from the Symphony of Ages series. Despite being magically transformed into the embodiment of Hello, Nurse!, she constantly puts herself down (especially when feeling Wangsty), calling herself lowborn and ugly (which was still an exaggeration from her previous life and wouldn't have been true anyway for centuries)
    • Achmed arguably inverts this trope, as well. He has a long list of traits that traditionally would make him a Sue type character (half breed, unstoppable assassin, succeeds at anything he does, strong willed enough to resist a full blown demon, etc). It's inverted because despite all of his skills and all the important things he does in the plot (like forming one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world), the plot places almost no emphasis on him unless what he is doing directly involves Rhapsody. He has almost everything needed to become a Sue, yet the narrative just doesn't seem to find him interesting enough to focus on.
  • Robert Langdon from Angels and Demons is described this way at the opening of one of the books. "He was not classically handsome" followed shortly by "tall", "dark hair", "piercing eyes", "voice was like chocolate for the ears" and "swims thirty laps of the pool every day". And he gets the stunningly hot love interest at the end of it.
    • If you read through his other books, a lot of Dan Brown's leading men seem to share this trait.
  • Ayla of the Earth's Children series is the epitome of this trope. Ayla believes she is ugly because she grew up among Neanderthals, whose beauty standards are different. However, she's described in ways that would look pretty to a modern reader, and once she meets other modern humans they find her not just normal-looking but a stunning beauty. Beside looks, most of her other "flaws" are things only the Neanderthals disapprove of.
  • In "Being of the Field" by Traci Harding, the author mentions repeatedly that the main character Taren is supposed to be shunned by society as a loony madwoman. But from the first moment the story begins, praise is lavished on her nonstop by every other character in the book, everyone comes to her for advice, and everyone clamours to be her friend and/or romantic partner. A shocking case of Sue.
    • This is only 'cause the other main characters are also seen as a bunch of weirdos by the rest of society, too.
  • Crime and Punishment: most (if not all) female characters are introduced as strikingly beautiful, but filthy, but sickly, but actually quite homely, and really not pretty at all, but very desirable, and so determined and strong, one might even say - beautiful.
  • Heinlein's later protagonists show fall headfirst into this, culminating in Lazarus Long. Lazarus calls himself ugly often, but every character he interacts with either wants to be BFFs forever or at least sleep with him on a long-term basis. Their descriptions of him dance around describing him as glowingly as one can without using the word "handsome".
  • Merry Gentry, Laurell K. Hamilton's other major protagonist (see above), looks like Anita Blake with fewer scars, scarlet hair, Kaleidoscope Eyes, and (probably) even bigger breasts. Growing up surrounded by tall willowy blond elves, and with Hispanic human blood, she also has the exact same issues with her appearance. Unlike Anita (when Anita isn't being forced to seduce various gorgeous menmales people), Meredith is a politician who uses sex appeal as a tool, and has on occasion displayed her insecurities to manipulate.
  • Jean Muir of Louisa May Alcott's Behind a Mask is a plain, demure, mousy governess with no money or title, yet the rich sons of the households she works in always seem to fall for her, all while she proclaims that she just wants to be left alone and it's her great misfortune that every man she meets falls in love with her. Turns out that's because she's a con artist of sorts who's manipulating all of these men in an elaborate plan to snare the richest and most high-ranking of them. Her looks matter less than the fact that she's a good actress who can read people well.
  • Honor Harrington is effectively a half-Asian, half-white woman. While real life gives us such lovelies as Maggie Q and Michaela Conlin, everyone around Honor knows she's attractive, but her own serious self-esteem issues prevent her from seeing it. This would not be this trope if not for the fact that the narration says her friend thinks of her as "not pretty, but beautiful". This could be the Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic prevalent in the series, or it could be Weber trying to have his cake and eat it too.
  • Odile in The Black Swan has high cheekbones, knee-length silver hair, wide eyes, and a willowy figure and the best she can say of herself is "not unattractive." Justified since she has no one but the swan maidens to compare herself to, particularly Odette who is more of a classic beauty.
  • September, the protagonist of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, has a formulaic background and nothing really endearing about her, and yet everyone loves her, the only people who don't are the villains, and she's so utterly selfless and brave that she does absolutely everything that no one else would dare to do (to the point of stepping up to save a child when the child's own mother wouldn't). The problem is, to make sure there's enough brave and selfless stuff for her to do, the author has to make it so that no one else in the book does anything for themselves, even when there's no real reason why they can't. After the dozenth time someone calls her amazing and wonderful, you start to suspect the only reason she's described as such is because no one else in Fairyland is capable of solving their own problems.
  • Similar to Bella Swan above, Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey is often complaining about how plain-looking she is next to her gorgeous best friend Kate while everyone tell her she's beautiful and at least three guys are fond of her.
    • Which makes sense as Fifty Shades of Grey was originally a fan-fiction of Twilight, so Anastasia is Bella Swan with extra Sue-ness
  • Mia from The Princess Diaries views and describes herself as rather plain and awkward looking with wide mouth and unmanageable hair, while other characters see her as quite conventionally beautiful: tall, thin and blonde. Justified, considering she's a very self-aware teenager at the start of the story and actually grows to be more confident and comfortable with herself over the series run. Puberty and taking more interest in fashion have something to do with it as well.
  • Deliberately toyed with in the Discworld novel, 'The Truth', in the form of Sacharissa Cripslock. She is described as being eclectically pretty; the individual features of her face are absolutely perfect... albeit, from the point of view of different time periods and their associated fashions. 100 years ago, her eyes would have launched a dozen ships; 200 years ago her nose would have made a famous artist bite his paintbrush in half; 300 years ago her chin would have had sculptures weeping in joy. Add it all together, though, and she is just 'reasonably pretty' by modern Ankh-Morpork standards.
  • Very transparently done in the second Old Kingdom book, where Lirael has goth-girl coloring that officially makes her ugly in a land of Dark Skinned Blondes but is likely to be more attractive to the demographic.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager novel Mosaic, about the origins of Capt. Janeway written by Voyager creator Jeri Taylor herself, young Janeway constantly frets about how everyone else seems to have better hair, but she has no trouble landing a few men, including the young William Riker. But unlike other Mary Sues, she is portrayed as having a few actual flaws, like being shallow, reckless, argumentative, and insensitive to others (her breakup with her first boyfriend was the result of her dragging him along on a dangerous underwater diving trip.) Of course, none of these flaws are supposedly present in the grown-up Kathryn Janeway...
  • Anne of Green Gables is an example of the "not conventionally pretty" type whose looks are used as a litmus test for the person judging them — narrow-minded people think she's plain (which is often Played for Laughs) and more sensitive people think she's attractive. Her very introduction contrasts what an "ordinary" and an "extraordinary" observer would see in her appearance. She starts off as a prepubescent, skinny, freckled redhead with greenish-gray eyes (both considered negative traits at the time), but as she grows up she develops an elegant figure, her freckles disappear, her hair darkens (unsympathetic people continue to call it red, while her friends agree that it's auburn), and her eyes settle on gray, making her the period equivalent of the hottie who used to be a nerd in school. After these developments we're given frequent and deliberate reminders that she doesn't resemble the curvy, vivacious standard of the period and that she is nonetheless pretty to people with real taste. Even Mrs. Lynde, who represents conventionality in every way, has to admit she has a certain something:
    "It's nothing short of wonderful how she's improved these three years, but especially in looks. She's a real pretty girl got to be, though I can't say I'm overly partial to that pale, big-eyed style myself. I like more snap and color, like Diana Barry has or Ruby Gillis. Ruby Gillis's looks are real showy. But somehow—I don't know how it is, but when Anne and them are together, though she ain't half as handsome, she makes them look kind of common and overdone—something like them white June lilies she calls narcissus alongside of the big, red peonies, that's what."

    Live Action TV 
  • Skye from Agents Of SHIELD: Cool and exotic name. Check! Exceptionally talented in a wide variety of skills. Check! In fact, Skye is probably the best hacker ever. She breaks into S.H.I.E.L.D., an agency which probably out-techs both the C.I.A. and N.S.A. for breakfast from the back of her van with a laptop that she won in a bet. She also never picked up these skills as she says she never even really learned code. It "just comes naturally".
    • She also manages to get away with doing some rather dubious things such as influencing others around her. In the episode “The Asset,” she tries her first real world secret agent experience and, during this outing, is able to talk her way out of being captured during a dangerous situation. In addition to being a genius hacker, she is able to psychologically outmaneuver people who do this for a living. Her "flaws" are only ever endearing. For example, one of Skye’s supposed flaws is her relentless questioning. She’s supposed to represent those who go against “the Man” (in this case S.H.I.E.L.D.) because she wants a better world. The issue is that while she does question authority and power, she does it in a way that is self-congratulatory and snotty. She also has the flaw of “caring too much.” In the pilot episode, she is the one who tracks down Mike Peterson and puts the idea in his head about being a superhero. Skye starts the chain of events that leads to Mike nearly blowing up at the end of the episode.
      • Meanwhile, she calls everyone else out on not being good at dealing with the human element. In “Repairs,” she repeatedly demands access to the girl that they’re protecting with claims that she is the only one who can reach her despite the fact that Coulson is trained to deal quite well with “gifted” people]]. When Skye does something wrong, the other characters are very quick to forgive her for it. In “The Hub,” for example, she blatantly manipulates Simmons into risking her own job and security clearance in order to hack into the database. She uses Simmons’ own feelings of camaraderie toward Fitz against her. She has her so-called friend risk her job so that she can get into the network. Then she selfishly attends to her own problem first. Yet, for uncovering certain information, she is still considered a “hero” for her actions.
      • The Mary-Sueness is even lampshaded in one episode when it's revealed the orphanage named her Mary Sue Poots.
  • Peter Petrelli from Heroes is constantly made to carry the Idiot Ball, since he's so supremely powerful that if he just acted sensibly, it would be all but impossible for the writers to create any drama for him. However, no one ever seems to hold his plentiful mistakes against him or suggest that the world might not need quite so much rescuing if Peter could just get his act together for once. The worst he's been accused of (and invariably by a villain - any Heel-Face Turn seems to be automatically followed by a sudden appreciation of Peter's awesomeness) is being too self-sacrificing and idealistic.
    • Mama Petrelli does get in a small What the Hell, Hero? scene, but it's with a version of Peter from the future (which just goes to show how tightly Peter hugs that Idiot Ball).
    • Peter seems to have ditched the Idiot Ball in later seasons. Well, not so much 'ditched' as 'tossed to his brother', who ran with it.
      • He uses the limited version of his power to good effect, which is a lot more fun to watch than when he always had the ability to resolve any situation in five seconds flat, but was too much of an idiot to do so. In addition, as of Volume Five, we actually get to see him being self-sacrificing and idealistic (even to such a downright self-destructive extent that it might be considered a genuine character flaw) instead of just hearing about it all the time. In fact, the Peter of later seasons has had so much Character Development that he can be said to have finally escaped this trope, despite starting out as the poster boy for it.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor! Though he is usually excused by both writers and fans on account of 1) being a Badass, 2) this being his show, 3) occasionally being called out on his more darker actions, and 4) the various flaws and growth the character experiences over and over again thanks to regeneration.
    • Rose Tyler started out as an awesome, down to earth shop girl with no formal training or education in anything, though she still managed to be perfect in every way. She’s something of a combination between a Jerk-Sue, Canon Sue and an Anti-Sue with numerous negative character traits like jealously, clinginess and selfishness. Neither the Doctor, nor anybody else that matters in the narrative ever comments or even notices. These traits also seem to only ever work in her favor and never against her and they never go away, simply fulfilled. Rose manages to attract the attention of not one, not two, not three, but FOUR male love interests including the Doctor himself. After her departure as a companion in series three, everyone else (most notably the Doctor) goes on about how much he misses her, sometimes making off-the-cuff comparisons between her and Martha. In Series Four, Rose even then ends up with her own life-sized, living, breathing half-human Doctor. If she has any kind of flaw, it’s that she loves and cares TOO MUCH!
    • River Song is thought of by many fans as one, and indeed many of her traits do seem like the kind of thing you'd find in a fanfiction character. She's half time lord, she's in love with The Doctor (who reciprocates), she can use guns around The Doctor without him complaining, she can intimidate a dalek by reputation alone, she knows the TARDIS better than The Doctor although that's because the TARDIS directly implanted her with knowledge of its functions, and many would say she was Easily Forgiven for nearly destroying the universe so she wouldn't have to kill The Doctor. It's a small wonder that she's so controversial.
  • Max of Dark Angel is not only the only one of the transgenics to have had a mother who loved her, the one Lydecker based off of his dead wife... Was anyone surprised in the second season when it turned out she was the Chosen One destined to save humanity?
  • Chuck from Pushing Daisies is definitely this. The main protagonist Ned is defined by his adoration for Chuck after he brings her back in the first episode. She also can do NO wrong, as evidenced by the many times she defies common sense and Ned's directions and yet is always immediately forgiven (for a perfect example see "The Legend of Merle McQuoddy"). And many times, through some convoluted series of events, her behavior that at the time was ignorant and risky actually ends up being beneficial in the end, just to prove how awesome she is. The rest of the cast are also completely defined by her existence and love her despite the trouble she causes them. Admittedly, it can be argued that it's because of the complications she brings to the group that she so seems to affect their lives - however closer scrutiny simply shows that Chuck can do no wrong and is the most completely lovable beautiful person that ever lived (twice).
  • Prue from Charmed fits this trope to a T. She often made a ton of rash decisions and often jeopardised her own sisters' safety for the sake of vanquishing demon or saving a random innocent. One aggravating season 3 episode saw her set a trap with a circle of crystals that would set off an electric charge when anyone walked through it. Cole did and was nearly killed. Phoebe made a justifiable argument, calling Prue out on the fact that she'd nearly killed a district attorney but Cole was actually a demon so Prue was right all along.
    • The same episode also had Prue get a stalker. Prue insisted her life wasn't perfect and wondered why the stalker would want to be her. Riiiight, except she's got a high paying job, is excellent at photography, is somehow able to wear as little as possible to work at an auction house, has men practically begging for a glance from her and oh yeah, is a superpowerful witch with telekinesis and astral projection powers. And the stalker didn't even know about the powers.
  • Zoey Brooks from Zoey 101. When misfortune strikes, it never hits her, but it does seem to have a laser-guided aim for Logan, Stacy, Chase and Michael. Zoey is the first and only person capable of fixing things though, often with little to no difficulty.

     Professional Wrestling 

    Webcomics 
  • Makoto Yosue of Red String is supposedly insecure, has cold and distant parents, and has trouble with girls because he's too feminine and too self-sacrificing. In the real world, Makoto is drop-dead gorgeous, is fabulously rich, is constantly either in a relationship or having girls begging to date him, and is always winning people over to his side without actually doing anything to earn their constant praise. Oh yea, and he's never shown to actually make anything close to a sacrifice for another person - despite even the author claiming this is his character flaw, Makoto is never depicted in a situation where he holds back on his own personal needs or happiness for the sake of another person. He is shown to actively cheat on his engagement to Miharu's cousin Karen because he fell in love at first sight with Miharu's photograph. In spite of Miharu telling him to leave her alone, he is constantly forcing himself on her until events that have nothing to do with him actually winning her over essentially award her to him. Everyone in the story, including people who should hate him, constantly tell Miharu what a great person he is or encourage him further. While he theoretically was trying to help Miharu with Kazuo after their break up, even he admitted (though only to himself) that in reality he wasn't with her to help them out, he was with her to pick her up on the rebound. The closest he ever got was at the end of the comic, quitting his job because his relationship with Miharu was causing her problems... except that he states plainly in front of Miharu and her parents that he's quitting his job explicitly to continue dating her. So he just quit his job to date his girlfriend full time, which is actually more advantageous to him. And those supposedly uncaring and emotionally distant parents of his? He calls them up off-panel and they apparently, with no complaints, go along with his plan and apparently financially support him to make it viable. In fact, despite the story trying to tell us how sad Makoto was growing up with them, the only times we see them they are constantly doting on him. And that engagement he's in with Karen? Oh, they set it up because they knew Makoto had a dream to be a sushi chef and expressed trouble with girls. So they offered a marriage arrangement to the heiress of a sushi restaurant to help him solve both problems - and he happily accepted!
    • For reference, the comic treated Makoto's life story as equivalently as bad as characters who had physically and/or emotionally abusive homes (Kazuo and Hanae), neglectful homes (Eiji), genuinely impoverished homes (Tomi), broken homes (Reika), or homes where a child was helping to care for a terminally ill parent (Fuuko.)
  • George in The Wrong House became this as early as the second issue. Originally drawn as husky, but still plausibly built football player that was simply part of a Comic Trio, that got lucky with a slut, but by issue 2, he's redrawn with an egg-shaped figure and his gamerness turned up so high that he looks too overweight/out-of-shape to walk a flight of stairs without getting winded yet runs and fucks even more energetically than Jason, supposedly so pathetic he used to call his hand his girlfriend, yet every following issue reveals a New Old Flame meaning he's been getting some since he was an underage Kid-anova that his babysitter considered worth the sex offender status, raped a virgin at a party and only lucked out because it eventually felt good to her and already professed undyling love to him and considered him a Knight in Shining Armor because he "didn't pass her around," earns a threesome with another virgin for such "compassion" even though he virtually traumatized the second girl in how rough he got with her, constantly praised by said New Old Flames as a messiah-like paragon even though they know he's chasing Mystery Girl and try to "talk him out of it" by doing him and when the other two guys try to do a Kim Possible Expy he hasn't touched by recreating how they did Mystery Girl in Issue 1, the other girls cock-block them from a consensual threesome by claiming "She's George's girl," treating it like a Moral Event Horizon and rather than point out George did the exact same thing with them last time, George never called dibs like they claimed, George has literally done every woman he's come across except her, or that the girl's only buzzed rather than nearly date-raped, Philip shills George even further by claiming he doesn't want to be like Jason. The whole story tells us that George is supposed to be this lucky loser finally getting a bone, but he hasn't gone one issue without having sex and his whole hunt for his new girlfriend who didn't even ask her name after she agreed to go out with him is hyped as an epic quest for love despite both parties casually humping their way across town, but we're told to hate Jason, who while a dick for the sake of being a dick, is the only one who sees it all as nothing more than excuse after excuse to do as many women as possible.

    Western Animation 
  • Kim Possible: Deliberately invoked and played with as the show drew it's inspiration from popular live action like Alias and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (with a little bit of Austin Powers) and is meant to be a parody of those shows combined. However, in the first season Kim can literally "do anything" and looks good while doing it without breaking a sweat. "I can do anything" is a self-admitted braggy motto. Kim can't cook, can't sing high notes, can't drive (immediately - this one makes less sense, as she's been driving bikes and aircraft already), can't sit at the Senior table, can't say "no" to someone in need, can't say anything to her crush, can't resist a challenge. Ron points this out when Kim fails the driving test.
    Kim: "I'm Kim Possible, I can do anything!"
    Ron: "That includes FAIL, see the logic?"
    • Ron would acquire some new skill and Kim would gain some sort of character flaw or just stay the same. When he says Let's Get Dangerous he gets as suish as Kim was at the start of the series. Usually this is when Kim is incapacitated, which is far more often than a standard Mary Sue.
      • Kim is a more rounded, 3-dimensional character in later seasons. In fact, in a number of scripts, she isn't the one to defeat the bad guy. In later seasons, Kim has been a little more relaxed in sharing the spotlight with others.