Mary Monday: Thoughts on the broad, herself

So instead of going for the lowest common denominator for once, I want to take a post to actually talk about the Mary Sue phenomenon. I get that usually self-insertion is obnoxious and not done very well, but I do think there’s actually something to be said for Mary Sue.

Like so many others I have (a very long time ago) written fanfic. I do think that people should be careful to disclaim, but I’m not necessarily against it. Think of it like this: in nerd culture the boys have got D&D and other role-playing/world-building games to do their escapism/self-insertion thing. I’m not saying girls can’t get into that but a lot of the time they don’t (the same with boys and fanfic). I see fanfiction like training wheels for writers – you have a chance to develop stories in a situation where the pressure is pretty much off. You don’t have to world-build, the characters are also established, etc. In a perfect world this is a chance for budding writers to focus on developing plotlines, developing well-rounded people, and learning how to use grammar and spelling effectively. Yeah – it doesn’t usually happen that way but I have known the few and far between who have gone on to write for different franchises or become authors of their own original creations.

Let’s be fair, though. Girls need to have an outlet to explore the things that are happening to them and the pressures and emotions that they feel. this is true if you’re five or if you’re fifty. If you’re a woman, you need a place to vent or an outlet through which to escape. Again – in a perfect world Mary Sue becomes the ultimate tool to develop yourself; an emotional stepping-stone between playing pretend with your friends and having to tackle the day to day of the mundane world. I can see the draw for many teens (and women who are not teens) to want to write stories that involve their favorite characters and someone just like them. We all want to believe we’re special. Think of it: if the wallflower in highschool is beaten down because she can’t catch the eye of the guy in the school halls, she can build her confidence via Mary Sue by catching the eye of Edward Cullen or Harry Potter or something. For those really, truly invested in writing this character can lead them to learn to tackle challenging situations  and is a safe way to explore relationships.

Unfortunately people tend to get very possessive of their fandoms and a lot of Mary Sues don’t take advantage of the stories they inhabit. It becomes all about snaring the guy (nevermind if there’s a legitimate reason for him to fall in love with her or not) or making herself the hero (I’ve seen this done believably and not so believably). I’ve also seen a lot of stories where Mary Sue is a put-upon, traumatized girl and the love of whatever dude is in fashion is the only thing that saves her. These sorts of stories are where the joke of Mary Sue comes in. And it’s a shame. Why SHOULDN’T we girls have an archetype who can do anything and come out ahead? If there can be a way to use her while still keeping the integrity of the characters around her, she’d be an incredibly powerful device.

I can’t help but think that the self-insertion thing gets made fun of because it’s usually women who do it. It’s looked upon as a weak ploy by bad writers, when it’s just human. We all want to be the best. We all want to be surrounded by people we know we’re never going to meet, let alone look at us a certain way. And how many guys do you know lose themselves in things like WoW where they can be something more than they already are? It’s human, but because Mary Sue is usually seen as a cheap excuse for a badly executed love story women usually get the butt of the jokes on self insertion.

It’s a double-edged sword and I don’t know if there’s a right answer. I would say that those only interested in the fandoms, themselves, will move onto other things while those that are truly into writing will move on to writing their own fiction and develop a strong sense of self. And in the meantime I can hope that there will be some awesome self-insertion fics and Mary Sue stories that don’t take themselves so seriously. I hope among the zillion stories that the few that are really, truly awesome and those that let characters like our gal Mary can do their part to show that yeah, fandoms are cool,but stories that are well-crafted and feature really amazing women characters are even better.





~ by admin on April 15, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: