Double standards about Mary Sues

Most people nowadays are familiar with the concept of the "Mary Sue"–broadly, an unrealistically perfect or beloved character whose wants and needs are given an unrealistic level of focus and attention in the context of their story. It seems like there’s a double standard regarding male and female Mary Sues, both from people who write them and who critique them. Although both male and female Mary Sues exist, the female Mary Sues like Bella Swan seem to receive nearly all the attention and scorn from the wider fan community, as do the (usually female) authors who write them. Some people will go so far as to imply that any female character of any worldly significance whatsoever is a Mary Sue, like Rey from the latest generation of Star Wars. Why do you think this double standard exists? What are some examples of male Mary Sues, and do you see them getting away with things that a female Mary Sue would be called out for?

  • I've had this thought for some time & it's nice to know I'm not the only one. hoping this topic gets written one day soon! – ees 3 years ago
  • I've also had this thought too! After a little research, I found that a male Mary Sue is sometimes called a Mary Stu (which I find quite clever and funny). Examples include Superman and James Bond, but I also might throw out the male protagonist in a harem anime, as well. – EJSmall 3 years ago
  • Love this! I would definitely be interested in reading an article that touches on this concept across genres. I would recommend looking into specific examples (Bella Swan, Rey), and then the broad reasons that may apply to why they are perceived this way, i.e. systemic issues that affect how we perceive women and our expectations of the roles they perform in society. – Eden 3 years ago
  • I think it obviously exists due to the unfortunate misogynist climate experienced within much of nerd/geek culture. There are lots of men out there who default to auto gate-keeping such realms of interest by making baseless accusations, see the seething rage over the latest Star Wars film that has apparently been *overrun* by SJWs etc.. Star Wars is a good example of that double standard and its hypocrisy, as so many of the male protagonists within the franchise are examples of this very behavior. So, to not be a Mary Sue, I guess by definition the character in question has to really *work* to achieve the level of attention/power level/plot significance they receive. How does young Anakin in the Phantom Menace put in any effort beyond being the chosen one? He wins a pod race, wow! Conveniently, his skills at pod racing are sufficient to allow him to deftly pilot a N-1 Starfighter with no prior experience. "Let's try spinning, that's a good trick." Apparently his midi-chlorian is extremely high, despite NEVER (significantly) being mentioned again! Totally male Mary Sue-ism at work. – blissaidan 3 years ago
  • This is a great topic. It would be cool to see a comparison between mary sues and Gary stu. – anniesaurus 3 years ago
  • This would be a fantastic article. Personally I'd love to see one of The Shining – danielemilioamato 3 years ago
  • I think it points back to the misogyny and sexism we have in our society. Women are forced to fit inside a small box and even then they are constantly criticized. A "strong" female character is a boring Mary Sue; a "weak" female character is a terrible, boring character. This rarely applies to males, and I believe that's because male characters are allowed to be more dynamic. Female characters have to fit inside a certain category or they risk getting lumped as a "Mary Sue" or just a "bad" character in general – fhlloyd 3 years ago
  • This seems like a really interesting and worthwhile topic. If you're going to get into what actually defines a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu (the male equivalent), I think it might be beneficial to distinguish between a Mary Sue character (who consciously doesn't do any wrong) and a character who is just incredibly lucky (who accomplishes things unconsciously through chance). Whether she actually is or not, Rey comes across as a Mary Sue for many because she decides "I'm going to accomplish this goal" and does it with seemingly no problem or pushback that she can't overcome with minimal effort (typical of a Mary Sue). Compare this to another Star Wars character, Anakin Skywalker, who even in The Phantom Menace (arguably at his most Gary Stu-est) mostly accomplishes things by being lucky; even with a midichlorian count higher than Yoda (presumably making him extremely powerful), he wins a very difficult race after not even finishing three times previously and he blows up a space station by randomly pushing buttons and saying "Oops" alot. It's not the same as Han Solo having trouble activating lightspeed on his ship he's flown for 30+ years and Rey stepping into the cockpit and immediately locating and fixing the problem, not due to luck but expertise.They're similar characterizations, but different enough to be distinct from each other, and it might factor into whether or not there is a double standard. – CulturallyOpinionated 3 years ago

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