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Looks like this essay was needed, so I went ahead and did it. Not sure I said everything I wanted to say, but I tried.

So, there’s this girl. She’s tragically orphaned and richer than anyone on the planet. Every guy she meets falls in love with her, but in…

Okay, there are some valid points made here regarding the origins of the term.

HOWEVER, I think there is a very real reason to be critical of the “Mary sue” trope when it is used in literature, film, etc., namely, that it is one of the only ways women are represented.

Male characters are not only heroic, idealized “Gary stu” types. We are given flawed male characters, imperfect male characters. Characters that represent the diversity of REAL MEN in the actual world. We don’t get anywhere close to that range of women.

Female characters are too often either two dimensional window dressing, or “Mary sues”. More recently, we have seen more and more “Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl” type women, which is arguably a type of “Mary sue” (I could write pages about that, but I’ll refrain because it just makes me mad). But these aren’t anything like real women.

So maybe, instead of writing another “Mary sue”, write a real woman. Write a woman who is imperfect, who has a temper, who fucks things up, who doesn’t always get the guy. Write someone that actual women can relate to. Write a woman, instead of how you think a woman should be.

The thing is, those are not what people call “Mary Sues” . It’s typically characters written by women that get stuck with those labels and flawed female characters are just as likely to be stuck with that label if they experience any range of success.

"Manic Pixie Dream Girl" and "Magical Girlfriend" are tropes that already have names. You don’t need to call them "Mary Sue". What’s problematic about these women is they are defined by male characters and how they benefit male characters, not that they are successful. Men are still central in those stories, women are accessories or sexual fantasies.

It is very possible to criticize the lack of range of women in fiction without demeaning female writers and characters by sticking them with a dismissive, HIGHLY GENDERED, broad label that can essentially mean anything, but really means “too powerful and important” or “female power fantasy” or “eh i don’t like her”. It helps the dialogue about representation of women in fiction to be more specific in our criticism. Terms like “Magical Girlfriend” and “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” are valuable because they DO focus on specific narrative trends, and these trends happen to be perpetuated by men far more often than women, while people lean more heavily on female works for the mary sue characterization.

Honestly, female authors, write whatever women you want. If you feel like you want to write a power fantasy, fucking go for it. You deserve it. Everyone’s always tearing us down, let us fucking conquer. Just be aware of problematic, sexist tropes you could fall into that have nothing to do with being too powerful. And try to be interesting, or people won’t be interested!

If you want to write a character that’s a pile of flaws, GO FOR IT. 

Don’t fool yourself thinking “mary sue” was started, and is largely used, to criticize lack of range of women in fiction. It is absolutely not. It’s just an easy, gendered method to blanket dismiss female characters and writers without engaging in real critical analysis.

(right now, i, the author of this essay, am writing a clinically depressed protagonist who has alienated all of the people around her, is distrustful and self-hating, afraid of touching, has underlying rage issues,feels like she’s never in control…and well, no getting the guy cuz she likes girls but she has a very rocky relationship with the one she does like but…what i’m saying is everyone reading this essay assumes just because i said i’m not going to be bothered by the accusations of writing a mary sue or that i advocate women having power fantasies like men do I must clearly not know how to write ~real women~ despite being one. (100 percent for realsies! complete with certificate of authentication) but you know, actually i love writing heavily flawed characters who screw up every five seconds. I just notice even those characters get called mary sues.And women should get to be powerful and successful and central too.)

Any author write whatever character of whatever you want I would say. I hate the idea that people might sacrifice good storytelling for the sake of representation or political correctness.

oh the horror of people wanting to see stories about something other than straight white cis dudes. Do they not know good storytelling is only about them? Why should we have stories about a range of experiences?? why should we let girls, minorities and queer peeps see people like them i stories instead of the hundredth “this speshul white dude is a chosen one will he get the girl” by the numbers fantasy? THIS IS THE DEATH OF STORYTELLING1!!!

this is not about “everyone”, meaning it’s not about you, dude. everything is not about you. deal with it.

What? That’s not what I was saying at all. I wad saying that as someone who writes ultimately my desire to tell the story comes first. So for instance something I’m currently working on is set in ancient scotland (pre roman invasion of britain), so everyone is scottish and white, because that what suits the setting. Now I could go ooh equal representation I better shoehorn in a character of a different ethnicity but I won’t, because it would be ridiculously out of place for a transgender african to shoe up in ancient scotland. The point I was making is that there should be no pressure to write a particular character of any sort, simply write the characters that form in your mind, okay yes make an effort to develop them etc. But just write what is the best for the story, if that’s a white cis guy great there’s nothing wrong with that, if, as in my book, it’s a flawed redheaded white cis girl with some serious issues, fantastic, if it’s a transgendered gay person with an asian mother an african father downs syndrome and schizophrenia then equally brilliant, just do what’s best for the story. Ultimately if you can’t read the books you want to read I suggest you follow Tolkien’s example and write them yourself. Have a nice day :)

 shit you are like a bingo card

1. there were always poc in scotland. Always. do some research, there’s a tumblr called medievalpoc that can give you info. also transgender people always existed. It’s not shoehorning them in.

2.  the characters that form in your mind do not appear magically. we are trained to default to straight white cis dudes and  tell those stories. We are trained to see poc, girls, etc as “other”. Esp if you are cis white straight male.That’s why there’s so few stories that deviate from the standard, especially popular ones.  representation is important. It’s easy to include. It does not require changing much. It just means you have to do some research and think a little. You could learn some things! If you are not one of the group your representing, it’s important to consult people to make sure you don’t use stereotypes or lazy storytelling. But in the end, it’s worth it. Because it’s a greater range of storytelling.

3. representation is important because it affects people in real life. i never saw a bisexual or asexual character in fiction. i’m biromantic ace, but I assumed i was broken, because fiction was my whole life. I was only presented with stereotyped representation of gay people so i assumed i couldn’t possibly like girls because i wasn’t “like that”. Also as a girl, i found myself hating femininity bc it was represented as a weakness in fiction.

it’s important. everyone needs heroes or other characters like them. everyone needs to know they’re not alone. And you, the author, will learn a lot writing a wider range of backgrounds and have more storytelling oppurtunities. It’s not shoehorning. It’s expanding your story.

(Also “redhead” is not a representation of anything, especially in a story set in scotland. saying this as a redheaded girl too, for what it’s worth)

i want to punch “write your own” in the face. I AM. I FUCKING SAID THAT, READ WHAT I WROTE. That doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t tell a wider range of stories. I’m gonna have to fight to publish my book likely, and who knows if it will be successful. In the meantime, other writers need to step it up too. no one can do it alone. And no, i won’t take a leaf from tolkien, he’s a total example of straight white cis dude fantasy sausagefest why would i do that.

this is basic stuff, so if you want to know more, there’s tons of resources. it’s up to you whether to listen and to use the power of google to your advantage. I hope you do.

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ijustlurkhere asked: I think the thing that bothers me most about that argument regarding Riza is that the other person was right about one thing. Female characters being competent and having agency IS a really low bar for feminist representation! But the fact is that it is somewhere between very infrequent and RARE that any work meets it. Which is why in spite of being a distressingly low bar to judge things by, it's actually really important to note when something does or does not meet it!

Honestly what bothers me most was how rude they were to me. Going back and reading, it actually makes my blood boil, that they could be so condescending on the basis that what…I was enthusiastic and hyperbolic in post on my personal blog not particularly directed at anyone? That I was…gasp…enthusiastic about what I found well done and inspiring about a female character? How dare I, I am misapplying feminism doing that and that makes them soooo angry! And who the fuck made them arbiter of feminism. I think there are probably more important things to be concerned re: feminism than whether someone uses it as a perspective through which to discuss subversive aspects of female characters and defend them from things they wouldn’t get hated on for if they were male.

If you get so fucking angry at someone celebrating a female character, you need to check your priorities. And I hate how people think because they’ve decided I qualify as a “BNF” or whatever the fuck, that I somehow “owe” them, that they can treat me like I don’t have feelings and reblog stuff I post and be an ass to me over it just because I like something they don’t.

okay, that rant over, yes that is a low bar, and it was met, but that also wasn’t even my point- it was just a way for me to illustrate what “agency in fictional characters” means since they refused to freaking get it. I’m not saying it’s a feminist victory just if a woman is competent and isn’t reduced to a motivation/obstacle/prop ever, even if that’s sadly infrequent. I’m saying that it says something if a woman is written as directly refusing to be reduced to that or if the author purposefully confronts these tropes and makes a point of subverting them.

FMA is flawed, but what I was trying to show in my analysis was Arakawa deliberately went out of her way to confront, address and subvert several sexist tropes commonly found in her genre and fiction in general through her female characters- and considering she is woman working in a male-dominated genre, who is so underestimated within that genre she even felt the need to use a  masculine pen name so as not to put people off (her real name is Hiromi)- it is incredibly significant that she purposefully confronts and defies these tropes. 

She has bad guys hold Riza hostage and consider her an extension of Roy, tricks the reader into even going along with that, and then has Riza assert her opinion, power and influence and make it heard, using her autonomy to save herself and Roy. There is a deliberate statement made here and it is incredibly condescending to the intelligence Arakawa shows as a storyteller to say she wasn’t trying to get her readers (young boys) to rethink their assumptions and showing how women shouldn’t be reduced to motivations for men, or make them realize that women can be treated like this in real life but they are also powerful people with their own feelings and motivations.So much of Riza’s story is about struggling against people trying to underestimate and use her.

Arakawa is deliberately challenging the idea that non-action girl ladies don’t get to contribute, have character arcs or are automatically helpless in a action genre with Winry. She deliberately makes it look like Winry has been made a helpless damsel, playing into expectations, but then reveals that Winry was in control of the situation and cleverly used the military’s disregard for her autonomy against them- do you seriously think Arakawa is not deliberately trying to be subversive with that? What about the narrative that pushed that shutting women out  and not discussing things that are important for them to know with them has consequences, and you need to respect their right to know and not “protect them”? Also that boys just make things harder on everyone when they refuse to openly discuss their feelings and are “burdening” women more by refusing to ask for help? How is that not a deliberately subversive statement to make in this day and age?

But you decide this is all worthless because what, these women have significant men in their lives? And the fact they influence and impact and mentor these men who actively look up to them and  need them to survive is somehow not a good thing because it’s still “supporting men”? And ultimately what you’re saying is their agency is only used to support men, so it’s being said that’s all a woman can be?

Except, if you’re viewing it like that, it’s a very deliberate point of view to take?

It’s more that women have goals and like, three of them have men that are part of these goals? Because they tend to share the same goal for individual reasons?

Winry’s goal is to be the best possible mechanic to her several customers and she doesn’t want to lose her family. Ed is her family and one of those customers. But she has others and her own business! And they need her and she needs them too! She needs Ed to be happy for her goal to be completely achieved and will do anything to protect him. She also needs help sometimes.  Oh, but hey, vice versa, . Ed makes it clear his entire fucking goal is to keep his family intact, save peeps and get Al’s body back. He absolutely needs Winry’s help to do that and she is a significant part of his goal and without her the whole thing is dead. Does Winry support Ed? Yeah. Is that the only thing she ever does? No, she also attends to her other customers, start a career, delivers a baby, etc.  Does Ed act as support to her and her goals (whether the baby thing, her career, her confrontation with Scar) several times? Hell yes.

Riza’s goal is to use Flame Alchemy for good and save the country. She’s decided she needs to protect Roy to do that. Roy has the same goal. He needs Riza to do that and will protect her. Does he pretty much get the spotlight and take the lead. Yes. Is that problematic? I did say so. But it doesn’t change the fact they’re a partnership with a larger goal and both need each other.

Lan Fan has the goal of protecting her clan and getting the philosopher’s stone. Ling has that exact same goal. Everything they do is towards that, including their devotion to protecting and supporting each other. Lan Fan is actually simply more successful at it, since she actually manages to get a stone and doesn’t fail to protect Ling as Ling kinda fails to completely protect her and save Fu (sorry Ling, u tried honey).Lan Fan supports Ling, but also her clan, and Ling does the same towards her and his clan. Also Lan Fan goes out of her way to get May help. Is it problematic Ling gets the spotlight? Yeah, but it doesn’t make her character not subversive and valuable.

Then we have May, who’s goals actually has jack-all to do with Al or any dude except Al and Scar end up being part of the country she decides she needed to help (but what motivated her to put saving Amestris over getting the philosopher’s stone was NEVER on Al or Scar’s behalf- they encouraged her the OPPOSITE. First it was the people she saved in her very first appearance that made her stay in Amestris, then it was the distress of Riza, a person she didn’t even know, that kept her from grabbing the stone). And she saved the country by saving several different people who needed her. She supported a country.

Izumi and Olivier, nuff said. They did their own thing.

It just upsets me female characters deliberately tend to be viewed in the lens that’s most diminishing to their goals and accomplishments, while male characters are not viewed in the same way. I was trying to combat that and point out what is deliberately subversive, inspiring, complex, valuable, empowering about these ladies, to really explore their character arcs. I wanted to call attention to what Arakawa was doing here and what other writers need to take note of. Arakawa inspires me. She is a woman who writes some incredible female characters that have a lot of complexity and agency and are deliberately subversive. I wanted to call attention to that and say, yeah, that’s very positive and feminist friendly. And it does deliberately seem to push a pro-woman message at times. As I’ve said, I laid off of calling manga “feminist”, but I wouldn’t hestiate to call it not only feminist friendly, but inspiring and subversive from a feminist perspective.

Is Fullmetal Alchemist playing some tropes straight though? Yes. It’s not entirely subversive. There is an extremely heavy male presence and drive to the narrative. There could and should have been more female characters as well as more screentime and plot importance given to female relationships. I would have appreciated more screen time and development for all the ladies of course- and it’s not like the narrative  wouldn’t be vastly improved if Ed or Roy or both or every dude was a girl (or nonbinary). Fullmetal Alchemist isn’t perfect at all, no. Nothing is.  But does it have great female characters and deliberately challenge some thing re: gender in a way that can inspire feminists? Yes. And I want credit to be given to that, because it’s one of the reasons the story resonates with me so deeply.

And if you have a problem with me deciding these lady characters are good or enthusiastically defending them, celebrating them, analyzing their arcs- you don’t have to follow my blogs. You can block me. I don’t give a shit. But look at yourself in the mirror when you decide it’s an affront to feminism to celebrate  and positively analyze the female characters authored by a lady who fought her way into a male-dominated genre and decided to challenge things.

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sirarchibaldmapsalot asked: In your incredibly accurate review of Risa Hawkeye, you used the word "Agency" a lot. As I am a not native english speaker, some things still fly over my head. Could you, please, explain what you mean by "Agency"? Thanks!

agency, i guess, can be defined as power over one’s self and the ability to make your own choices about yourself. The power to influence your own circumstances.

In real life, people often have their agency restricted by people taking rights away from them, especially if they are in a oppressed group. For instance, not giving a pregnant woman the right to have an abortion interferes with her agency, because now she is not allowed to choose what to do with her own body. People often disregard female agency. Often a woman has to fight for her own agency and reclaim it.

In fiction, writers will often present their female characters as having no agency as a matter of course. Male characters will make decisions for them, treat them as objects, and they will be forced to go along with it. Female characters will not be given any focus or written as having much input over the circumstances within the narrative. Often they will be treated as props and motivations and male characters.

So, writing a story where male characters try to take away a female character’s agency and she struggles with that  but defies, outsmarts and defeats them- subverting their expectations and those of the reader-is still a big deal and is a powerful statement in the world we live in. Writing a female character who is empathetic about her right to choose and has control over her own life and her ability to influence others, who does not allow anyone to control her…it’s still hard to find. Focusing on a female character and having her ability to make choices be central to the narrative is still very rare.

Put it simply- a woman who dies protecting someone is written as someone who has agency in her death. A woman  who is kidnapped by her boyfriends enemy and murdered is written as having no agency in her death. Guess which is written more often.

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The Great Feminist Manga and Anime Review: Dennou Coil

These reviews are to examine the feminist-friendly elements of each series as well as the problematic elements. 

In other words,this is simply meant to be a guide to recommend anime feminists like me might enjoy and also give warning of any elements that might disturb or affect someone. I am also aware I am limited by my white, Western feminist context in these reviews and thus, can’t really give anything other than the perspective of a Western feminist fan on various themes. I can only say what these series mean to me and what I take away from them as an outsider who is not the primary audience. If I get something wrong or if you are aware something has an entirely different connotation in Japanese culture that I am not privy to, I would love to hear about it so please feel free to tell me about it.

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Dennou Coil (Commonly translated as either Cyber Coil or Coil: A Circle of Childrencould probably be best described as a 26 episode sci-fi coming-of-age story focused around two sixth-grade girls and their mysterious connection. This alone would make it a good pick for this review, but it also boasts a nicely varied and interesting cast of ladies as the majority of the main characters, including an older woman, has some empowering themes that include women overcoming exploitation and that which is holding them back as well as dealing with mental illness and it has relatively few problematic/alienating elements.

In addition to this, it’s just an extremely high quality series overall. The animation is great, taking clear inspiration from Studio Ghibli in it’s style and generally being very fluid and interesting to watch. The soundtrack is simply beautiful, particularly the violin-centered piece that plays during tragic or tense moments, the world building is thorough and complex and just wow. Your mileage may vary on how deeply it resonates with you, but objectively, I can call this anime a masterpiece, just because of the incredible production values and clear amount of effort and thought put into everything.

If the show has any flaws, I’d say it’s that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the technical terms and that the first half of the story is somewhat slow. But stick around if you find that to be the case, because the second half really kicks into high gear, with constant twists and turns. Also, some of the revelations/explanations of character motivation and happenings come pretty late in the game sometimes in the form of exposition (once, egregiously, it was “as you know, Bob” exposition) but it’s true being confused does keep you hooked and watching to find out what the heck is going on. But these flaws are pretty minor compared to most shows, and they don’t detract much from this being an incredibly high quality and well done anime!

Sadly the series is not licensed except for an dramatically overpriced low quality ipad thing, so you can find a torrent here.

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The basic premise of Dennou Coil- It’s 2026, and cyber-glasses are incredibly popular among children. These glasses allow you to see a virtual world overlaid with the real world wherever you go (also you can email, call each other, and bring up music pretty instantly). The perks of this include virtual pets- the protagonist has a virtual dog- and other virtual objects, like currency. When you put on the virtual glasses, you also get a “cyberbody” overlaid with your real one. You can damage someone’s virtual body and they won’t be physically harmed, but the person has to pay to restore their virtual self. The main way to damage virtual objects and bodies is using a beam you shoot out of your forehead, or stuff similar to ofuda (paper talismans, they can also be used to track stuff). You can also conjure shields and things.

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Gender and representation of trauma/mental illness in media using only anime-ish examples because i say so

I think I’ve hit on something that’s bothered me for a long, long time

and that’s how rare it is to see a thoughtful exploration of female trauma compared to the many, many explorations of male trauma. 

When women suffer from trauma or anxiety or tragedy usually two things happen: 

1) It is completely glossed over. The woman/girl snaps back to her old self like nothing ever happened, with very little reflection. That’s because the narrative does not care to explore her perspective and deal with her pain, a girl’s emotions, how dull, but they DO want to victimize/brutalize her in some way (usually so a male character can save her). So they have their cake and eat it too: they brutalize the female character, then have her get over it in a split second and continue to be cheerful and supportive- they don’t have to show her working through what happened to her and recovering, instead it’s just an instant thing and they can move on.

2) She is irreparably broken, unable to ever accomplish things on her own again. Her perspective will not be explored, rather her tragic state will just cause angst for the male characters and their feelings about it will be explored. If she does make any improvement, it is because she is inspired by the strength of a male character.

Meanwhile, we have sooooo much exploration of men’s trauma and journey in overcoming it that it’s ridic. There are tons of traumatized male heroes/protags you can read as mentally ill and sympathize with (Harry Potter, Iron Man, Batman,actually fuck it any gritty male superhero) who have fully fleshed out narratives exploring their perspective where they struggle with their trauma in some way. Women? Not as much, usually it’s 1 or 2 above

So let’s talk about a couple narratives, most extensively FMA 2003 and how it gives a perfect example of both tropes and thus some of the many reasons why I prefer the manga.

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I’m still, eternally writing my lesbian romance scifi thriller coming of age story (over 50000 wrds now!)

but I think in my next book the mc is def gonna be panromantic ace or whatevs like me. whatever that book is about I’m going incorporate that into it because i was and am stlll so fucking confused about my lack of sexual urges and thought i was the only one. there needs to be more of that in media to let kids know it’s perfectly fine and other people experience stuff like that you’re not the only one.

because you never ever see that and it would have been really good for me to know that, so we need as much representation as possible.

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seriously media representation is so important!!! it helps people feel comfortable with themselves, it gives them confidence, it motivates them, it even makes them realize things they had suppressed or just not had a name for!!!!

that why i will never think the shit i talk about in not important. it may seem trivial but it’s really really not

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fairymascot:

when you hear ‘queerness in sailor moon’ the first thing that pops into your mind is probably haruka and michiru, but really, to count it properly, we have:

2 canonical gay couples, one of which simply cannot shut up about all the sex they are constantly having for an entire season
1 canonical gay crossdressing man, easily reads as trans*
1 canonical gay man

1 (to 3) character(s) who can be either read as as a straight trans man, a cis lesbian, or somewhere on the gq spectrum

on the subtextual plane, we have just about every single girl in the main cast express attraction towards haruka (as well as countless nameless ones) as well as numerous other hints at queerness for every main cast member, even if they’re often passed off as jokes

don’t get me wrong, sailor moon can also have some very old-fashioned heteronormative aspects, especially in the earlier seasons. it also has an entire arc devoted to a 9 yo falling in love with a horse. but that doesn’t change the fact that it is still hugely, unmissably queer, and that just makes me wonder… why in the holy name of FUCK have we not seen a single textual queer character in a magical girl (or any kids’) show for the last, i don’t know, decade and some. 'but think of the kids! we'll upset the parents! it won't do well!'

LOOK AT SAILOR MOON, TWENTY YEARS LATER, STILL HEMORRHAGING MONEY FROM EVERY PORE AND CONSIDERED A TIMELESS CLASSIC AMONG CHILDREN AND ADULTS ALIKE. DID THAT NOT DO WELL?????

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fabricati-diem-pvnc:

imafraidicantdothatdave:

macklemorrigan:

plot twist: two male characters are platonic friends and the fandom appreciates them as such

further plot twist: two characters of opposite gender are platonic friends and the fandom appreciates them as such

bigger plot twist: two female characters are platonic friends and aren’t hyper sexualized together by the male half of the fandom and thus, by the merchandizing team

even bigger plot twist: two male characters aren’t automatically assumed straight until proven otherwise

biggest plot twist: when a fandom with no/few canonically queer characters ships two close characters of the same gender in order to feel a little more normal, less ignored by media in general and/or just connected to the characters they love, straight people have the decency and understanding not to fucking whine about it

ultimate plot twist: fandom acknowledges asexuals exist as a queer minority who have no canon representation in mainstream media at all and allows them to interpret character relationships in a non-romantic and/or non-sexual way without accusing them of being “straight people who hate teh gays!!11!”

(Source: daftlypunk, via misandryad)