epaulettes:

schampusmitlachsfisch submitted: Only now saw that you reblogged this post so I wanted to say something.

I don’t think everyone calling a character Mary Sue is sexist. It feels to easy to say “Well yeah that character is badly written…BUT WE NEED THAT” because no. We don’t. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a male or female character. Also, the comparison to Batman is poorly chosen because he is the main character and a super hero. He is supposed to be the best. Give me a female super hero and it’s fine. But any poorly written character will be mocked because it’s just all kinds of lazy to accuse critics of sexism. You know what I mean? When I tell someone that a character reeks of an overly flawless characterisation and is therefore a Mary Sue (going with the female name here because - at least in most fanfictions I’ve read - all original characters are female*), they call me sexist and are done with it. They don’t even need to examine the character again because “what’s wrong with a little power fantasy”? And that just encourages books like Twilight. They are badly written but it’s just a fantasy, right?

(I’ve read again what I wrote and I sound tetchy and aggressive and I just wanted to let you know that this is not my intent.)

I’m not entirely sure you wanted to make this public, but I—on the understanding that I’m responding publicly for the purposes of discussion and don’t feel hurt or, I dunno, ~aggressed upon~, and still think we’re cool—am just gonna put this out there.

The point of the original post was that calling a character a Mary Sue is in and of itself a gendered insult, and one that specifically targets the creation of female power narratives by, yes, usually young/inexperienced/bad writers.

But the point that I took away is (and this relates back to your criticism of the Batman reference) that young fangirls who enter fandom are told right off the boat that creating an indulgent power narrative for yourself is stupid and worthy of shame, while at the same time young fanboys are basically sold it as a career path, no shame anywhere to be seen.

Personally, I agree with you that we should call a badly written character what it is, which is badly written. I believe that criticism of characters which fit the stereotypical Mary Sue/Gary Stu mold (where the character is just so goddamned perfect that everything magically works in their favor) is fair because we live in a world that I personally feel overvalidates our desire for everyone in the entire world to care about our personal narrative, and powertripping on your own ego is the sort of thing I’d encourage young writers to realize is uninteresting no matter what a few kind and/or deluded souls tell you when you first start posting. I sincerely hope that they learn from other writers who are doing better work that what they’re creating is not anywhere near as cool to their audience and as useful to their self-growth as other stuff they could be writing.

But I don’t think we should continue to support a gendered way of looking at this kind of criticism. It’s a convenient shorthand, but like many terms popularized due to convenience (“genderswap,” anyone?) , there are problematics to it that make a strong argument for its retirement.

Also, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is no actual harm inherent in writing a Mary Sue. As the OP points out, Bella Swan is a Mary Sue, but that’s not actually her damage. The problem with Bella Swan is that she’s totally fine with her creepy, codependent relationship, disdainful of her sense of personal agency, and generally a wet blanket of a human being who encourages young girls to also be wet blankets because it will land them an inhumanly perfect man who will transform their entire life for them without ever requiring them to think or struggle for themselves. Twilight is a a wish fulfillment narrative that is also an extremely flawed and problematic power narrative. All of Bella’s power gets siphoned off into Edward*, and that’s all kinds of not okay.

And moreover, I really believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to create a smarter/better/faster/stronger (WORK IT HARDER MAKE IT BETTER~) version of yourself when you write something**. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wish fulfillment. That’s how we got Batman, after all. It’s also, I’d be the first to point out, how we got Elizabeth Bennet. There’s just a learning curve involved in knowing how much writers can indulge themselves before it’s just serving them and no longer serving their characters.

So yes, continue to call out badly written self-insert power fantasy/wish fulfillment OCs if that’s a writing thing that bothers you (and honestly, why wouldn’t it). But consider calling them self-insert power fantasy/wish fulfillment OCs. Or think up a cooler name that’s not quite so gender specific…

Anyway, that’s what I took away from that post.

*Until, I’d argue, the last half of the last book, after Bella becomes a vampire—which has some pretty interesting implications regarding what is and isn’t an equal partnership dynamic in the series, and if (and if so, where/when) Bella actually strives for/succeeds in getting such a dynamic.

**I think it’s especially unexceptional that this desire manifests itself so much in fandom because I believe there’s an intense LACK of characters young girls can identify as aspirational versions of themselves in the male-centered hero/fantasy narratives that dominate fandom as a whole.

So the OP actually messaged to let me know about this, which was very nice, and wow, what a thoughtful post! Very well-done. Basically all these words are how I feel and my intention.

I especially liked this part:

**I think it’s especially unexceptional that this desire manifests itself so much in fandom because I believe there’s an intense LACK of characters young girls can identify as aspirational versions of themselves in the male-centered hero/fantasy narratives that dominate fandom as a whole.

because I never quite realized that, but yes, I think that’s exactly it, wow.

Also this:

Personally, I agree with you that we should call a badly written character what it is, which is badly written. I believe that criticism of characters which fit the stereotypical Mary Sue/Gary Stu mold (where the character is just so goddamned perfect that everything magically works in their favor) is fair because we live in a world that I personally feel overvalidates our desire for everyone in the entire world to care about our personal narrative, and powertripping on your own ego is the sort of thing I’d encourage young writers to realize is uninteresting no matter what a few kind and/or deluded souls tell you when you first start posting. I sincerely hope that they learn from other writers who are doing better work that what they’re creating is not anywhere near as cool to their audience and as useful to their self-growth as other stuff they could be writing.

But I don’t think we should continue to support a gendered way of looking at this kind of criticism. It’s a convenient shorthand, but like many terms popularized due to convenience (“genderswap,” anyone?) , there are problematics to it that make a strong argument for its retirement.

Very good stuff.