Fansplaining: Mary Sue

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fansplaining: Mary Sue
Interviewer: Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel
Interviewee:
Date(s): July 29, 2015
Medium: podcast, online transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links:
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Mary Sue is a podcast interview conducted by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

This discussion has a companion essay called Mary Sue: From self-inserts to imagines, how young women write themselves into the narrative.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining.

Links

Topics Discussed

Excerpts

[Destination Toast]: I did also, reflecting on this somewhat and reflecting on one of your other questions Elizabeth, I looked at the relationship breakdown amongst the asexuality and aromantic tags, and then compared those to AO3 overall, and indeed the breakdowns are very similar of slash being the most—male/male slash being the most prevalent group in all of those tags, and then het and gen being sort of next most popular, and so on. And so only interesting differences that I saw that looked like they’re probably significant, asexuality was more likely to be dudeslash and aromantic was more likely to be gen, and both of them had more multi and other than just AO3 overall, though I wonder how much that’s like, if these tags are getting a lot more popular more recently maybe just multi and other are getting used more recently and so maybe that’s part of why that’s happening. I didn’t really go back and look at how much of that has just to do with the timing of the tags getting used versus older stuff on AO3 probably didn’t use multi and other as much.

[Elizabeth Minkel]: Right. So I mean, the rough working theory, which I think is a little reductive, and so I hesitate to say this is exactly what’s happening, but I think that there’s definitely a link between women being directly shamed or observing people being shamed for writing stand-ins for themselves, idealized versions of themselves, when they’re very young and entering fandom, and women disengaging from female characters altogether. And I have to wonder, I do think that’s very reductive to say it’s as simple as that. But it is interesting to think that, to take Harry Potter for an example, it speaks to the further…the idea that there’s a certain kind of character that is a default perspective.

So, and that in particular usually being a white man, right. So it’s a lot easier to inhabit that space, and it’s something that you’re trained by media to do, by media at large to do, obviously. But to add this layer on top of it, to the point where it’s shameful to try to engage with the perspective…I don’t know.

[Elizabeth Minkel]: And I think I would observe, and I wonder if other slash fans would feel the same way, over time, over the last 15 years, a decrease in the amount of engagement around sexuality within male/male stories. I think part of that reflects destig…I mean if you were writing a slash story in 2001 you were writing in a different climate I would say.

But it’s also sort of, when there are millions and millions of stories around and you’re just clicking from one Harry/Louis story to the next—to give you your example [FK lauhgs]—if you’re in that vast world where this is just a given fact, how often do characters struggle with that? And I think that I’ve seen people discuss this, there’s some blowback actually when you have characters struggling with it. Which is frustrating because not everyone just, you know, shows up at age 14 and is like “here’s my labels and I’m good!” That’s not how the world works.

[Flourish Klink]: I do know what you mean, and I feel that too. I guess I think that there’s two different things that both happen. One of them is enjoying the thing and enjoying that distance, and also being with the characters, and there’s also the desire to be in the story. And I, for some fandoms, I have the desire to be in the story, and for some I don’t. Some of that has changed. When I was very young I really wanted to be in the story of The X-files, but now when I read X-files fanfic or get involved in X-files stories, I don’t wanna be in that world. I very much want to write about that world, and read fanfic in that world, and read about characters in that world, but I don’t wanna be in it anymore. Whereas I still kind of, I still kind of want to be…I kinda wanna be at Hogwarts! Right? I wrote a video game, it’s not a video game, a text adventure about being. Called Muggle Studies. Where you play the first ever Muggle Muggle Studies teacher at Hogwarts.

... And that was the point of it, right. The idea was, let’s write about this, and use this as a way to look at what it means to be a Muggle and also to be, take a total self-insert trope and see what that would be like. So I mean I guess I’m really engaged with that trope and that question, of what does it look like to really write a self-insert. What does it look like to write a character who could be a self-insert but is in fact their own character? Right. So in Muggle Studies the character you’re playing is lesbian and her partner or ex-girlfriend really at the point that you’re playing was a witch, is a witch, and she’s dealing with the fact that now she knows that witches are real and exist and her ex-girlfriend had been lying to her for their entire relationship…but also, she’s stranded at Hogwarts and she doesn’t have magic, but everybody is magically gone, so she has to figure out how to get them back without magic.

References