What rankles for me is that the term "Mary Sue" was coined by writer Paula K. Smith back in the mid-70's to describe a very specific sort of fan character found in 'zines of that era, and it has been culturally appropriated by the backwards anti-diversity crowd as an epithet to hurl at any and all female leads, as if any strong, capable heroine is, perforce, unrealistic and cliched.
|Posted: 04 February 2019 at 11:26pm | IP Logged | 2
It's complicated, but by the original definition, Rey and Michael Burnham are Mary Sues, in that they are shoehorned into the lives of existing characters and possess qualities which set them apart and often above the existing canon characters. The female Ghostbusters, however, are not Mary Sues in that they are not distilled bundles of wonderfulness who can do no wrong. No one on Ron Moore's BSG was a Mary Sue. Everyone was too immediately flawed coming out of the gate for that.
As she appears in the comics, Captain Marvel is not a Mary Sue. She also cannot be one in the film since the film is correctly adapting her place in the super-hero canon, albeit altering her place in the timeline. Lt. Uhura also cannot be a Mary Sue. She is not newly created to serve the author's personal fantasies as a Mary Sue must be to earn that charge. "But this version of her is..." as some argue regarding the Abrams films doesn't wash.
A Spock/Uhura romance is amateurish fan fiction, no doubt, but of a different variety. Uhura's off-the-charts "aural capabilities" would be Mary Sue-ish in a new character, but in Uhura, they're existing canon. Uhura is extremely good at her job. It isn't some sort of cliched ego-trip or blind spot for the writer to continue having her be so in a new venture.
Michael Burnham is only a Mary Sue by virtue of her being retconned into Spock's personal history as his lil' sister. Put her in any other Vulcan family, she wouldn't be. She makes too many mistakes and fails to save the day too often to be a Mary Sue. No one aboard ship loves her for her supposedly superior capabilities. She doesn't seem to have any, in fact. She wasn't right about the qualities of the "Vulcan Hello," and didn't get to implement that tactic anyway.
Her E.V. spacewalk doesn't make her a Mary Sue. Riker or Spock doing E.V. reconnaissance would simply have been cool. Same with Burnham. Sending the first officer out to explore an unknown is just Star Trek 101. It's triggering for those who desperately need her to be white in order to be a lead, but it does not make her a Mary Sue. Her wide-ranging fame throughout the Federation as a traitor is vaguely Mary Sue-ish, but it doesn't make the whole world love her in-story as that level of fame or infamy would do for a true Mary Sue.
Unfortunately, the actual definition of the term "Mary Sue" has been lost to time. Hate groups and reactionary whackadoodles have turned it into an epithet to use against any female character who expresses positive qualities or appears somewhere in a story they don't want her to appear. It's cultural appropriation used as a device against diversity rather than for it. My nephew tells me the same thing has happened to a meme character called Pepe the Frog. Any use of that character is now seen by those in the know as tacit and subversive support for their ugly, small-minded little causes.
Recently, I've tried to veer away from the use of "Mary Sue" in favor of the term "writer's pet" instead when describing new characters too precious to the creators to suffer the indignity of a character flaw or an imperfect decision. I find it regrettable, however, that an artfully observed, humorously satirical phrase coined by the women of fandom of an earlier time has been stolen by the bigots and trolls of today to use as a political grenade to hurl at women.
If they truly had any respect for the history of these franchises and the place of women within them, they'd knock it off. They are clearly incapable, however, of that level of reflection or self-awareness. Talk about being second-rate, one-dimensional cliches...
(Edited to add: While I was blithering on and on, revising and rewriting, Steve went ahead and made the points I was trying to make and did so more succinctly. My hat is off to you, sir. We disagree on the status of Rey, but otherwise, I agree with what you've said here and thank you for it. )
Edited by Brian Hague on 05 February 2019 at 1:25am