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Superman: A major Marty Stu

Idealised characters and Mary Sues

We’ve all encountered them – characters who can do anything. They have physical and mental abilities beyond every other character in that world, perhaps even abilities that no one else in the world has in any capacity. They are so good-looking there are no words to properly capture their beauty. Everyone one they meet instantly falls in love with them. And despite their beauty and incredible abilities, they are modest, kind, and selfless. These characters can do no wrong.

Except that their very existence is wrong. When we stop to think about these characters, we realise they don’t make sense. No one is that perfect. Worse, no one that perfect can ever be interesting.
The term ‘Mary Sue’ is used a lot these days but rarely do people know where the term originated. A lot of fanfiction suffers from naïve author insertion of themselves into the story, a trend that fans have been aware of since the 60s. That’s right, like all great things, Star Trek was crucial to the term’s genesis!
While there are male versions of the term, such as Gary Stu or Marty Stu, but women are the ones at the brunt of the negativity. There are plenty of popular male characters who fall into the trap of being idealised characters, but they rarely receive as much condescension. Then again, we all agreed that James Bond, possibly the biggest Marty Stu of all time, actually works.
Bonus: This episode features the vocal stylings of miss Lucy Hounsom. Be prepared to be amazed!
Texts/authors mentioned in this episode:
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
  • JK Rowling
  • Stephanie Meyer
  • The Copper Cat Trilogy by Jen Williams
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • Vampire: The Masquerade
  • Superman
  • Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • Age of Assassins by RJ Barker
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Avengers: Infinity War
  • Green Wing
  • James Bond
  • Resident Evil
  • The Bel Dame Apocrypha by Kameron Hurley
  • The Ancient Magus’ Bride
  • The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
  • Charlie Parker series by John Connelly
Further reading:
  • https://fanlore.org/wiki/Mary_Sue
  • http://www.sfnovelists.com/2010/05/16/who-mary-sue-is-and-who-she-isnt/
  • https://www.tckpublishing.com/what-is-a-mary-sue/
  • http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue

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