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  1. #1
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    Default Mary Sues and Gary Stus-Legit complaints or misplaced insults?

    Every once in a while, there are characters that people have a lot of complaints about, which fans refer to as either Mary Sues or Gary Stus (or Marty Stus). Usually, those terms are for characters that are supposedly perfect and probably the wish fulfillment of whoever is writing them. Lately, it looks as though those terms are now being used to reference anyone people just don't like.

    Case in point: Poor Rey from the latest Star Wars trilogy. She has been called a Mary Sue because she got control of the Force really fast, and is also a good fighter and pilot. I agreed with these complaints at first. Then, someone pointed out to me that Rey hasn't done anything that Luke himself didn't do in the first trilogy. Also, Rey spent years on Jakku, so she probably picked up her fighting and piloting skills there.

    Another example: Mon-El from Supergirl. Now, a lot of people don't like the character at all. However, some have even taken to call him a Marty Stu. This makes no sense, as the show has gone out of its way to not only show his imperfections, but to also have all of the other characters call him out on them. If Mon-El is a wish fulfillment character for the writers, then they apparently wish they were frat-boy screw-up characters that get yelled at for every mistake they make, do absolutely nothing right and piss people off come from a slave-owning kingdom that almost took over Earth, lose basically every fight they get into until recently, and face racism from their love interests of all people.

    Finally, there is Skye/Daisy from Agents of SHIELD. She may or may not be an inversion, as she was called a Mary Sue in the first season when she was just annoying everyone (the writing for her back then may be a big reason the show lost so many viewers after a few episodes). Afterwards she was a seasoned agent who gained powers in season two, the leader of her Secret Warriors in season three, and was even the leader of the agency in season five. However, the show made it clear that she wasn't ready and now Mack is leading.

    In the end, it all comes down to personal opinion. There are some characters who are Mary Sues, but there is a difference between a Mary Sue and a character that just bugs people.

  2. #2
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    These days Mary Sue and Gray Stu are most often just replacement insults people use to "describe" characters they don't like. And the people using those terms often forget that there needs to be a self-insertion wish fullfillmet aspect of the character for them to be Mary Sue/Gray Stu.

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member AndrewCrossett's Avatar
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    Many people misuse the term as a synonym for "author insert"... which is a perfectly valid literary tool that goes back millennia.

    I don't think the use of a "Mary Sue" character always makes for a bad story, unless it's pathetically obvious. A badly written story is a badly written story no matter the motivation for the characters.

  4. #4
    Spectacular Member Indian Ink's Avatar
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    Pure, undiluted, Mary Sue is hard to find in live action TV/film. It's a collaborative medium and someone in the chain of production is liable call them out or just add their own addition which goes against a straight example of the trope.

    There are however examples of sailing very close to the surface of planet Mary Sue though. And I think, that although I mostly like the character, Rey is one of them.
    No one example of these traits makes for a Mary Sue. But when they start to all be ticked off....

    Is he/she a late insert into an established mythos? Yes.
    Does he/she already have the abilities of a paragon character? Mostly yes. She discovers that she has them when they are required with little/no training or growth arc.
    Do his/her abilities exceed those in the wide field of the established mythos? Mostly Yes.
    Do the established characters love him/her without reservation, even though they barely know them? Yes.
    Do established characters fail at what they're normally good at so he/she can show how much better he/she is? Yes.
    Is he/she young and beautiful? Yes
    Is her beauty in someway unique? (example; violet eyes with powder blue hair) No
    Does she have a tragic but noble back story with her parentage? Unknown

    I haven't seen The Last Jedi so I don't know how or if this status is changed. But that's the thing, Another writer can come along and start to de-Mary Sue a character. Give reason for abilities. Not everyone loves them. They don't succeed at everything and so the plot and other characters don't revolve around him or her like a strange black hole.
    Last edited by Indian Ink; 06-03-2018 at 03:34 PM.

  5. #5
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    Legit complaint that's thrown around way too often. When I watched NCIS, Gibbs was a mary sue, one of the reasons why I stopped watching.

  6. #6
    Extraordinary Member Gray Lensman's Avatar
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    The term has some legitimate usage, but all too often just means 'Protagonist I don't like.'

  7. #7
    Mighty Member Jackalope89's Avatar
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    Fan fictions tend to provide the most blatant examples of both male and female forms. Generally in the form of original characters, or self-inserts. Thus making more and more readers hesitant to read them.

    Rey from Star Wars is one of the few examples of mainstream cinema creating a Mary Sue, as Indian Ink pointed out. I wanted to like her, but the tropes of being a Mary Sue just turned me off from her (and thus, most of the film).

    But hey, if you like her character, more power to you. But I don't.

  8. #8
    Astonishing Member Powerboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QuinnFillory View Post
    Every once in a while, there are characters that people have a lot of complaints about, which fans refer to as either Mary Sues or Gary Stus (or Marty Stus). Usually, those terms are for characters that are supposedly perfect and probably the wish fulfillment of whoever is writing them. Lately, it looks as though those terms are now being used to reference anyone people just don't like.

    Case in point: Poor Rey from the latest Star Wars trilogy. She has been called a Mary Sue because she got control of the Force really fast, and is also a good fighter and pilot. I agreed with these complaints at first. Then, someone pointed out to me that Rey hasn't done anything that Luke himself didn't do in the first trilogy. Also, Rey spent years on Jakku, so she probably picked up her fighting and piloting skills there.

    Another example: Mon-El from Supergirl. Now, a lot of people don't like the character at all. However, some have even taken to call him a Marty Stu. This makes no sense, as the show has gone out of its way to not only show his imperfections, but to also have all of the other characters call him out on them. If Mon-El is a wish fulfillment character for the writers, then they apparently wish they were frat-boy screw-up characters that get yelled at for every mistake they make, do absolutely nothing right and piss people off come from a slave-owning kingdom that almost took over Earth, lose basically every fight they get into until recently, and face racism from their love interests of all people.

    Finally, there is Skye/Daisy from Agents of SHIELD. She may or may not be an inversion, as she was called a Mary Sue in the first season when she was just annoying everyone (the writing for her back then may be a big reason the show lost so many viewers after a few episodes). Afterwards she was a seasoned agent who gained powers in season two, the leader of her Secret Warriors in season three, and was even the leader of the agency in season five. However, the show made it clear that she wasn't ready and now Mack is leading.

    In the end, it all comes down to personal opinion. There are some characters who are Mary Sues, but there is a difference between a Mary Sue and a character that just bugs people.
    Can't see it with Mon-El or Skye. I just read an article written in Mon-El's season on Supergirl. Apparently, he's a Mary Sue because he's good-looking (unlike the rest of the cast?), Supergirl falls instantly in love with him (except for the fact that she doesn't and it's on and off and this couldn't possibly be because there's a visceral reaction of males not wanting to see another male with Supergirl), because he has super strength and super speed (because hey that's crazy for a Daxamite), because he's always right (in one whole episode where everyone else was too close to the problem) and because everyone trusts him (except when he's treated as an outsider).

    There are Mary Sue characters although they are usually fan fiction characters and stand-ins for the writer. But I think Mary Sue has gone the way of "trope". It's just become "Anything a particular reader/ viewer doesn't like".
    Superman was a beacon to the world.

  9. #9
    "Emma is STILL right! Vegeta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QuinnFillory View Post
    Case in point: Poor Rey from the latest Star Wars trilogy. She has been called a Mary Sue because she got control of the Force really fast, and is also a good fighter and pilot. I agreed with these complaints at first. Then, someone pointed out to me that Rey hasn't done anything that Luke himself didn't do in the first trilogy. Also, Rey spent years on Jakku, so she probably picked up her fighting and piloting skills there.
    Luke develops his skills over a period of 3 films though. In the first film he gets his ass handed to him by the Sandpeople, then Panda Baba in the cantina, his rescue attempt in the detention block goes all wrong (And it's the captive Princess who ends up getting him out of that jam!) He's almost eaten by a trash compactor monster, etc. He does only ONE amazing feat with the Force in that film, and it is at the climax of the movie. The culmination of events throughout the film where his mentor tells him to "trust the Force."

    In the second film Luke still hasn't mastered the Force, struggling with a simple Force grab at the beginning. Luke fails his test at the cave on Dagobah and still foolishly rushes off against his Master's advice to confront Vader. He not only loses to Vader, but also loses his hand in the process. His friends once again have to come to his rescue.

    Finally, by Return of the Jedi, Luke has completed his hero journey and now is a competent Jedi.

    Rey on the otherhand, performs quite a few Force abilities with zero training or even a Jedi mentor in her very first film. She only loses one fight in that film and even then she quickly turns the table on her captor and frees herself. She also shows Han Solo up when it comes to repairing the Falcon and he immediately likes her and offers her a job. when Han dies, Leia, who at that point had never even laid eyes on the girl pushes past a grieving Chewbacca to give Rey (a complete stranger) a hug. (Being instantly liked by all the other heroes is a very "Mary Sueish" quality.)

    In her second outing, Luke (now a broken down old man) stubbornly refuses to train her. Despite this, her powers continue to magnify. There are a few moments of comedy where she accidentally breaks some Jedi temple stuff, but it's meant to be "cute." Luke finally offers to train her and is scared by her power. Luke mentions that Rey "went straight to the dark," but nothing is done with this interesting plot twist. (In fact, when Kylo tries to convert her to the dark side, Rey isn't tempted in the slightest.) Luke warns Rey against rushing off to confront Kylo, but she ignores him and actually comes out quite well (she escapes the First Order, Snoke is now dead, and she successfully rescues the incompetent Resistance on Crait). Rey also retains all her limbs, unlike other Jedi protagonists.
    "The White Queen welcomes you, TO DIE!"

  10. #10
    Peter Scott/Scott Peter SpiderClops's Avatar
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    Yes, most of the time it's targeted to a protagonist someone doesn't like. However, that doesn't mean all of their complaints are invalid.

    A perfect Mary Sue is hard to find in any professional fiction. But there are a lot of characters that really teeters on the edge. Batman is probably the most famous example of that. I hope I don't have to explain that one. Actually, scratch that, a lot of times Batman is total Mary Sue.

    Regarding Rey. I don't think she's a Mary Sue, but she does play close to that in The Force Awakens. As Vegeta pointed out, Rey does things with pretty much zero training or guidance that Luke honed in the course of three movies. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Luke wasn't able to use the Jedi mind trick until Return of the Jedi, was he? Rey does that in what, hours after learning she can use the Force? She knows more about the Millennium Falcon than Han Solo(even though she couldn't even recognize it was the Millennium Falcon). People do instantly take a like to her even though most of them don't have any reason to.

    To be fair, The Last Jedi fixes most of Rey's character for me. I don't think she's anywhere near Mary Sue in that movie.

    Blatant example of Mary Sue in a movie: Adam Sandler's character in The Ridiculous 6.
    “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”
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  11. #11
    Poor Doomed Thing Panic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QuinnFillory View Post
    Every once in a while, there are characters that people have a lot of complaints about, which fans refer to as either Mary Sues or Gary Stus (or Marty Stus). Usually, those terms are for characters that are supposedly perfect and probably the wish fulfillment of whoever is writing them. Lately, it looks as though those terms are now being used to reference anyone people just don't like.

    Case in point: Poor Rey from the latest Star Wars trilogy. She has been called a Mary Sue because she got control of the Force really fast, and is also a good fighter and pilot. I agreed with these complaints at first. Then, someone pointed out to me that Rey hasn't done anything that Luke himself didn't do in the first trilogy. Also, Rey spent years on Jakku, so she probably picked up her fighting and piloting skills there.

    Another example: Mon-El from Supergirl. Now, a lot of people don't like the character at all. However, some have even taken to call him a Marty Stu. This makes no sense, as the show has gone out of its way to not only show his imperfections, but to also have all of the other characters call him out on them. If Mon-El is a wish fulfillment character for the writers, then they apparently wish they were frat-boy screw-up characters that get yelled at for every mistake they make, do absolutely nothing right and piss people off come from a slave-owning kingdom that almost took over Earth, lose basically every fight they get into until recently, and face racism from their love interests of all people.

    Finally, there is Skye/Daisy from Agents of SHIELD. She may or may not be an inversion, as she was called a Mary Sue in the first season when she was just annoying everyone (the writing for her back then may be a big reason the show lost so many viewers after a few episodes). Afterwards she was a seasoned agent who gained powers in season two, the leader of her Secret Warriors in season three, and was even the leader of the agency in season five. However, the show made it clear that she wasn't ready and now Mack is leading.

    In the end, it all comes down to personal opinion. There are some characters who are Mary Sues, but there is a difference between a Mary Sue and a character that just bugs people.
    "Mary Sue" has gradually changed in usage from its original meaning to become a catch-all term for a bunch of potential writing problems that are in the same ball-park but that don't have a name of their own. Saying Mary Sue is just being used for characters that bug people isn't right either, though. Normally the crux of the issue is that the said character is getting a level of preferential treatment over other characters which causes the viewer/reader to reject the reality being depicted. For example:

    Rey starts off really well in TFA, the script makes her downtrodden and likeable, and that is enough for most people (including me) to become won over by her; however... as TFA was sold as having two leads, it slowly becomes obvious after getting half-way through TFA that the makers are favouring Rey over Finn to an increasing degree, giving most of the cool stuff to Rey and leaving Finn as the comedy side-kick who can't win a fight. She also shows up virtually every Jedi we've ever seen by gaining her vast powers in an incredibly short space of time without any training. There are explanations for this if you watch the film closely, but the film doesn't really sell them as well as it might. Basically, she's very empowering if you are a fan, but it comes at the expense of other characters.


    Mon-El in his first season is a really crippled version of himself from the comics, mainly being there to give Kara a hot love-interest who won't overshadow her and who she can teach to be a better man whilst he fawns over her; in the following season we get a role-reversal where he's grown offscreen to become something of a mentor to Supergirl, not only having developed his full powers and skills, but also now being morally upstanding and calm and reasonable, whilst Kara is shown being petty and mistrustful on occasions. I think this spoils things for Supergirl fans who liked the fact that Supergirl had no equal, as Mon-El's new improved version is now portrayed favourably to this season's slightly less admirable Kara. Raising one character seemingly at the expense of another will get under the skin of fans of the less-favoured character, especially when the character is a wish-fulfilment power-fantasy. I was pissed that the show made Mon-El in his first season a shadow of the hero he was in the comics, so I was pleased when they brought him back more like the hero I remember, but I can totally see why Supergirl fans might be resentful at the role-reversal this season.


    Skye, I have to say, really bugs me. The show has given us the hard-sell on this character and never misses a chance to talk her up, and I have a pretty low tolerance for that kind of thing. I actually used to like her in the first season, but I now find her overpraised and one-note. I'm not sure I'd label her a Mary Sue as I don't think any of this comes at the expense of the other characters, I just think they're overselling the character, and if you don't buy into what they're selling, it becomes like fingernails on a blackboard.

  12. #12
    Astonishing Member AndrewCrossett's Avatar
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    Strictly speaking, the protagonist of an original story can't be a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is an author-insert character who takes agency away from the proper protagonist.

    Just being an author-insert, or even just being a power fantasy character, doesn't qualify as a Mary Sue. Dashing, handsome, two-fisted hero James T. Kirk is not a Mary Sue, but the beautiful ensign who saves his life, saves the galaxy, and marries him is.

  13. #13
    Astonishing Member Powerboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panic View Post
    Skye, I have to say, really bugs me. The show has given us the hard-sell on this character and never misses a chance to talk her up, and I have a pretty low tolerance for that kind of thing. I actually used to like her in the first season, but I now find her overpraised and one-note. I'm not sure I'd label her a Mary Sue as I don't think any of this comes at the expense of the other characters, I just think they're overselling the character, and if you don't buy into what they're selling, it becomes like fingernails on a blackboard.
    The only thing I found highly noticeable with Skye was that, to the best of my memory, she had no combat training in the first season. Then she gets some self-defense training and, suddenly, within months, the computer geek is a super martial artist capable of defeating multiple opponents who are themselves highly trained assassins and agents. Not Mary Sue and pretty much the standard in stories but noticeable.

    While not Mary Sue, I consider the standard story where a character goes from zero to mastery of a skill in days or weeks if not instantly to be a step in that direction.

    There are definitely Mary Sue or Marty Sue or whatever elements to James Bond. In "Never Say Never Again", to give one example, he plays a video game against the guy who invented the game and has the highest score ever in the game and beats him, Bond having himself never actually played that or any video game before and not even playing a practice round which would show him how the controls work (which he would undoubtedly learn instantly). But, as a friend of mine put it, "Well, of course. It's easy to master something instantly when you're perfect."
    Superman was a beacon to the world.

  14. #14
    Formerly Blackdragon6 Emperor-of-Dragons's Avatar
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    Definitely apt for Alice from Resident Evil, Wolverine, and Bruce Wayne.

  15. #15
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    Skye felt more like a "writer's pet" than a traditional Mary Sue, but it was very close and she was *extremely* annoying in the early seasons.

    Some of the complaints are legit, but I would also argue that there are times when having a Mary Sue serves the story as well. It all depends what they are trying to tell.

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