Fanlore:Plural Point of View/Example

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This is an example developed by the Wiki Committee to demonstrate the Fanlore:Plural Point of View policy. You can find the real article at Mary Sue.

It's pretty clear to see where the article provides various interpretations; we've italicised the use of inclusive language, which both positions the various interpretations provided as equal, as well as inferring that there may be more interpretations out there. Citations help to place the inclusive terms into a specific fannish context.

Mary Sue

A Mary Sue is usually described as an original character in a fan work, most often female, who seems a bit too good to be true[1]. Some common identifying characteristics of Mary Sues include:

  • Exceptional physical beauty (e.g. long, flowing, never-mussed or artfully mussed (often red) hair; lavender, gold or other unusually colored eyes), so much so that other male and female characters alike feel compelled to comment on her attractiveness[2]. In the case of other female characters, they may mysteriously exhibit no animosity or jealously towards the Mary Sue;
  • Exceptional physical talents, such as mastering martial arts at a young age, incredible battle skills, etc[3];
  • Exceptional magical or mental talents, such as a very high IQ[4], or 'whiz kid' abilities in math and science[5], or magical[6] or psychic skills that are unusual for the world she inhabits;
  • Characteristics (e.g. eye color, height, hair color) that she co-incidentally shares with the author of the story;
  • A character flaw that is generally found to be endearing rather than annoying;
  • The strong likelihood that the protagonist of the fan text will fall for her[7] or that she will take on a yenta role and facilitate two main canonical characters (especially in a slash pairing) to finally admit their love for one another[8].

A related character type is the anti-Mary Sue who is usually the antithesis of the Mary Sue. She will often be clumsy, unattractive or nondescript, or otherwise aggressively ordinary. One of the protagonists from the fan text might mentor her or even find her ordinariness attractive and/or compelling enough to begin a relationship with her. She might also play a yenta role in the story.

The male version of the Mary Sue is often called the Marty Stu[9]. It is unusual to encounter an anti-Marty Stu in fanfiction, however[10].

Some fans have argued[11] that in the science fiction and fantasy genres, protagonists often fit the definition of Mary Sue or Marty Stu. For instance, characters such as Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Samantha Carter (Stargate: SG1), and Rodney McKay (Stargate: Atlantis) exhibit many of the characteristics of the Mary Sue, such as exceptional physical attractiveness, martial arts skills, extreme intelligence, or a combination of the three.

However, the qualities that are acceptable to fans in the original source material are not always greeted with enthusiasm in original characters. Additionally, many fans treat original characters in fanfic with wariness anyway[11], preferring to read about the canonical characters instead. As a result, the term Mary Sue has taken on pejorative connotations in some circles[12].

As a genre, the Mary Sue is closely related to, but not necessarily identical to self-insert fiction. Although non-fannish readers often assume[13] a certain wish-fulfillment in the creation and insertion of such an loveable character into a world adored by the author, many fans consider self-insertion to be a characteristic of Mary Sue stories, as opposed to a separate but occasionally related genre[14].

Many fanfiction writers first dabble with writing Mary Sue stories as their first forays into creating fan works[14].

[1] Fan, Jane Q. Parody or its own category?: the great Mary Sue debate, posted on 12 June, 2004 at Fanfic Archivists, (Accessed 15 July 2008).
[2] Royal Ferret. Royal Ferret's Official Mary Sue Spotter's Guide, published on 23 November, 2000 at Chez Ferret, (Accessed 04 August 2008).
[3] Royal Ferret 2000.
[4] Royal Ferret 2000.
[5] Royal Ferret 2000.
[6] Royal Ferret 2000.
[7] Royal Ferret 2000.
[8] MarcieM. Yet Another Yenta: Was Parody or its own category?, posted on 03 August, 2004 at Fanfic Archivists, (Accessed 04 August 2008).
[9] L'ilRed. Guide to Sues and Stus, published on 09 July, 2003 at L'il Red's Lair, (Accessed 04 August 2008).
[10] It could be argued that Hiro Nakamura from the television show Heroes is very nearly a Marty Stu in that, with the exception of his super hero ability to teleport through time and space, he is in many other ways, especially physically, quite ordinary.
[11] Royal Ferret. Parody or its own category?: the great Mary Sue debate, posted on 18 June, 2004 at Fanfic Archivists, (Accessed 04 August 2008).
[12] Readers Against Bad Sues, created on 12 February 2006, (Accessed 04 August 2008)
[13] Doe, J. Fan fiction: What happens when fans get into the act, New York Times, 14 January 2004, (requires registration), (Accessed 04 August 2008).
[14] Fan, Jane Q. Canonical Mary Sues, Was: Parody or its own category?, posted on 12 June, 2004 at Fanfic Archivists, (Accessed 15 July 2008).