We are going to talk about The Mary Sue. Officially named and found inside fan fictions, the Mary Sue is lazy writing at its finest. If you remove the fan-writing aspect, the base core of the Mary Sue is simply this: A protagonist who is awesome and beloved for NO DAMN GOOD REASON! From the second the character emerges, it is a love-fest from every other good aligned person (and half the bad guys.)
In fan fiction, The Mary Sue phenomenon is easy to spot. An Original Character who drives the story, and he/she is complimented by the other canon heroes as being so much better than them. In legit literature, The Mary Sue is harder to find because you don’t have an established vibe to compare this writing to. Example: If The Doctor gets saved by Normal McBlandFace who isn’t anyone special. However, they can totally save the world, and is super pretty to The Doctor and his partner-sidekick-paramour. To boot, the villain dies with putting over how incredible his defeat was.
In a story where it’s all original, how do you spot a Mary Sue? Well, let’s give the most likely and controversial examples:
Luke Skywalker in Episode IV: A New Hope. Farm Boy who just happens to have the shooting skills to make the self-destruct shot. This was a shot that super-talented experienced pilots not only couldn’t do. Luke had never flown in space. He has never been in a fight with experienced warriors, but HE MADE THE SHOT! No, it’s not The Force. The Force doesn’t give someone with remedial training (and only a fraction of that) that kind of luck. Everything went Luke’s way once he left his world behind because Lucas needed it to happen. Luke got better over time, but his story in A New Hope? Mary Sue.
Harry Potter. This is a major reason I think J.K. Rowling is a vastly over-hyped writer. Even in the last book, Harry is one of the most useless students in the school. Things always go Harry’s way when it comes to someone trying to kill him because reasons. Seriously, Harry got more Deus Ex Machina wins than a video game character backed by Game Genie. Multiple female students desire him even though he’s a loser throughout the books.
Even when he gets a skill it’s considered genetic? He goes from barely able to move his broom to best Snitch grabber overnight. Dark Arts Defender? Harry whines and complains and looks like the guy that even nerds want to swirly, but he gets all the friends, women, and penis-envy that an entire frat would be jealous of. Mary Sue, everyone. If based on skill level, Hermoine Granger should have been the Great Hero. Albus Dumbledore could have done it himself instead of trusting prophecies.
Kevin McCallister, the Home Alone kid. In the opening moments of the movie, he’s portrayed as having no ability to achieve even the simple victory of getting dinner without causing problems. This gives no credence to Kevin to be highly creative at all. He doesn’t look like he had studied any Rube Goldberg references, either. Yet, the second everyone leaves he not only finds out how to take care of himself for multiple days without any expected child-like emotional breakdowns (observe any child when shit goes south and they can’t find an adult straight away), but he beats back established serial burglars who had been avoiding the police.
Yes, Professional Law Enforcement. Dumb kid beats them with traps that would put any survivalist to shame without a single reference book from the library. Author’s note: I swear to god if you have to Google “Library” and “Reference Book”. I’m tasing you. Nothing in the opening minutes says this drunken midget had any chance of cooking his own dinner. Much less, him befriending the scary old dude in the neighborhood. (At least Monster Squad had Scary German Guy that turned out to also be a fan of Classic Monsters.)
All three examples made bank. They made like five Home Alone sequels. A depressing fact: only one with the same cast. That’s fucked up on another level (and a future rant about Hollywood.) Mary Sue can be overlooked with the right wrapping paper. So, why induct this? Why use them as examples?
Time to recap the above: Most fans in the original Star Wars generation prefer Han Solo. Some polls rank Chewbacca higher than Luke. Fans of HP are larger fans of the World that Rowling built. The average fans are more concerned with which House they belong to and practicing their feather floating. It’s better than writing lurid lusty tales about Harry. Protip: Most of those involve him hooking up with Draco because Tumblr, man.
Home Alone dogged Macaulay Culkin enough that it still defines his life even now. He’s old enough to play the Dad in a Home Alone Remake, for the love of God. The sequels without the same actor proved it really was the Rube Goldberg/Looney Tunes traps that were the real star. Some of us dofind Catherine O’Hara to have made a nice little MILF. Stifler’s Mom has competition. That is all I’m saying.
A final overall thought: Be better, Mr. and Mrs. Writer. Peter Parker struggles and suffers for his world-saving. He’s often so poor, that he can’t even afford to pay attention. Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (NCIS) has buried so many loved ones and co-workers in his life. He’d never consider himself heroic, but he’s just a man trying to do a job that needs doing. Indiana Jones has infamous phobias, and the bastard has lost as many artifacts as he has protected.
Follow those trends, fellow writers and aspiring writers, or you can tell me to “Piss Off, Mate.” Up to you.