"Mary Sue" Characters are a Cultural Issue and a Feminist Issue

"Mary Sue" Characters are a Cultural Issue and a Feminist Issue

We need powerful female (and male) characters who AREN'T obnoxiously perfect.
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According to Urban Dictionary (always a reliable source), a Mary Sue is “a female fanfiction character that is so perfect as to be annoying”. Many people that read fanfiction are well aware of this kind of character: she is as smart and cunning as she is beautiful, and she can do no wrong. But let’s be honest: this kind of character—the Mary Sue—exists in other forms of media as well.

The easiest way to spot a Mary Sue is looking at the character’s realism and flaws. Is she able to pick up skills with the drop of a hat? Is she soooo talented that she outshines everyone in almost anything she does? Is she so beautiful that she can land any person of her preferred gender without even trying? These are all hallmark symptoms of a Mary Sue.

But what really seals the deal is when you can’t name more than one or two flaws. Any good character, as most character-creators know, should have enough flaws to balance out their admirable traits. When the scale is tipped in favor of the good parts of a character, it does not automatically make for a Mary Sue. It is exactly how much thought was put into the flaws that are there, if any at all, that will tip the scale far enough to create the Ultimate Special Snowflake.

So why is this a problem? Why do we need to understand the Mary Sue and how unrealistic or even how offensive she can be?

Well, characters in the media shape our beliefs about what it acceptable in society and how we see ourselves. They become our heroes, our aspirations. Is it healthy to aspire to be someone who is completely unrealistic, flawless to an annoyingly perfect degree? You tell me.

Though the more outlandish Mary Sues (like Bella Swan of Twilight) are often easy to spot, sometimes borderline Mary Sues (like, I would argue, Emily from Pitch Perfect 2) are not. Realistic representation, as I’m sure you’d agree, matters greatly for any underrepresented group. We need less Mary Sue, more originality and individuality that stems from the real world and not the male (or female) fantasy of what the perfect women should be like.

But… a new question arises: if female characters are only “good” if they are realistic, what about the male characters? How many male characters are so perfect it’s annoying? A lot, actually. We just don’t talk about it or even notice it enough because it’s more acceptable for a man to be perfect than for a woman to be.

There is technically a term for the male Mary Sue: Gary Stu (doesn’t role off the tongue in quite the same way, but you get the point). However, though Mary Sues are criticized constantly in the realm of fan works AND mainstream media (think of all the Twilight backlash!), I don’t hear many complaints about too-perfect male characters.

Sexism can work in implicit ways, and one of the consequences of living in a male-dominated society is that female characters are under a scrutinizing lens while male characters can get away with much more. Though Mary Sue characters produce unrealistic expectations and are overall annoying to see produced over and over again, there are plenty of problematic Gary Stu characters in literature that we don’t ever talk about.

Superman is actually a complete Gary Stu when you think about it, as are many other superheroes in comic books and movies. Easily able to win any battle, gets “the girl” every time, and has few flaws overall. Which superhero did I just describe? A bunch of them, that’s who. I love superheroes as much as the next fangirl, but even I have to admit that there’s a serious lack of realism in those characters.

The next generation of writers and consumers (myself included) need to understand the Mary Sue and Gary Stu tropes in order to better understand our own selves. Often times, many people call Mary Sues “self-inserts” in fanfiction; the Mary Sue tends to be everything that the author wishes she were and ISN’T—hence the unrealism. It’s telling that imperfect and likable characters are hard to create, but it’s so important that they exist. The imperfect-but-likable characters are important because they are the people who we love in the real world. The Mary Sues and Gary Stus, on the other hand, don’t exist in the real world (and if they did I’m sure everyone would be extremely frustrated with them). I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather read and watch characters that are like my friends.

We can have powerful female AND male characters without making them unrealistic. Take them from the ones who live in a world we already know (it's called life).

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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10 Places From Movies And TV You Can Visit In Real Life

It's like stepping into Hollywood!

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I am constantly so enamored by the world of Hollywood and by going to visit places I have seen on screen. It's always such an unreal feeling to see where my favorite pieces of entertainment were shot. Here are 10 places from some of our favorite movies to see and visit in the real world!

The High School from "10 Things I Hate About You"

If you have ever wanted to dance on the same stairs as Heath Ledger or just stand in the same courtyard as Julia Stiles then you're in luck! Along the water in Tacoma, Washington, Stadium High School is located which was used both inside and out as the high school from one of the greatest teen movies of all time. This school is massive and so beautiful it's almost Hogwarts level stunning.

Pacific Coast Academy from  "Zoey 101"

Growing up I always dreamed about going to Pacific Coast Academy and being best friends with Jamie Lynn Spears and one of those things can (kinda) become a reality! Located in Malibu is a beautiful campus called Pepperdine University and it is the school they used to shoot scenes of Zoey and the gang at PCA. It is a christian based college and is prestigious in it's own right so if unlike me you are smart enough you can live out my dreams.

Central City Police Department from "The Flash"

Have you ever wanted to show up to Detective Joe West's place of work? Well head to the Vancouver City Hall in Vancouver, Canada and you will recognize your surroundings as the Central City Police Department! If you are lucky enough to show up on a filming day, you might even seen the man himself — Barry Allen.

Forks High School from The Twilight Saga

Personally, I am more invested in Bella and Jacob but for all my Team Edward ladies (and gentleman) you can visit the real-life school where Bella and Edward first met and their love blossomed into whatever obsessive weird thing it was. They also used the parking lot at this school to film the infamous scene where Edward saves Bella from getting crushed by a car. The school is called Kalama High School and is located in Kalama, Washington

Max And Dani's House from "Hocus Pocus"

Anyone with taste loves the movie Hocus Pocus — that's just facts! And I have some good news for fans of the film...you can visit the infamous Denison house! Located in none other than Salem, Massachusetts you will find this beautiful home where my favorite siblings once lived.

Silent Hill from "Silent Hill"

I will say before talking about this place that visiting it is EXTREMELY dangerous as just like in the movie the town as been burning from below for years and years. This small town is called Centralia and is located Pennsylvania and has a roaring population of about four people.

Hobbiton from "Lord Of The Rings"

I am personally not a fan of Lord of the Rings but I know a lot of people are so I wanted to include this super cool place on the list. If you ever find yourself in New Zealand you can visit Hobbinton from the movies and spend a day living like your favorite characters.

Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter Series

Now this place will unfortunately be packed with muggles of course but you can find it at King's Cross Station in London! If you are anything like me and are obsessed with these magical movies this is a dream destination just don't run too hard at the wall if you're a muggle it will probably end in a concussion.

East High from the High School Musical Saga

Located in Salt Lake City Utah is the real life East High that was used in the filming of all three High School Musical movies. It is my absolute dream to attend this high school and walk the halls of the greatest high school of all time. They used both the outside and inside and the school so every inch of the school will remind you of these great teen movies.

Gus and Hazel's Bench from "The Fault in Our Stars" 

If you ever wanted to visit the site of this kiss between star crossed lovers you're in luck! Located along a canal in Amsterdam is a bench that is clearly marked by all the fault in our stars graffiti. Recreate this cute picture with your significant other and use a quote from the movie — then you'll just win in life.

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