Johnny sniffs his ex-fiancée's red dress.

Defining a Mary Sue

Now, I think people have a tendency to apply the term “Mary-Sue” to just about any character they dislike or find irritating.  A common summary of what constitutes a “Mary-Sue” is simply that a character is perfect, idealized, has no faults, or always does the right thing; I fervently believe this definition to be quite inaccurate.

For me, whether one is a Mary-Sue is not a question of perfection but one of accountability.  Sex also plays a substantial role in the equation.  To put it most simply, a Mary-Sue is a character who acts merely as a vessel through whom the author may live out their—often sexual—fantasies.

Examples

What exactly qualifies as a Mary-Sue is a subject of dissent, and there is no one definition; this, therefore, is merely the definition I have drawn from various well-known Mary-Sues.  There are, however, some characters whom people widely agree fit the bill.  These characters are Bella Swan from The Twilight Saga, Johnny from The Room, and of course Enoby Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way—considered the very essence of a Mary-Sue—from My Immortal.

The Perfect Sociopath

Evony isn’t a Marie Sue ok she isn’t perfect SHES A SATANITS! n she has problemz shes depressed 4 godz sake!

In case you were unable to decipher the terrible spelling of My Immortal, I will translate.  What she said was “Ebony isn’t a Mary-Sue, okay!  She isn’t perfect; she’s a satanist!  And she has problems—she’s depressed, for god’s sake!”  The most widely used definition of a Mary-Sue is simply that the character has no flaws, but if that were the case, Tara Gilesbie’s argument would exempt Enoby.  This would, of course, be ludicrous; Enoby is the definition of a Mary-Sue so how should we interpret the term?

In addition to being a depressed satanist and self-proclaimed sadist, Enoby, over the course of the story, constantly murders, tortures, blackmails, and humiliates others on what usually seems no more than a whim.  She also enjoys a great many perverse affairs, all the while cheating on her boyfriend.  The paranoid Enoby even goes so far as to accuse the bisexual Draco of cheating on her with his ex-boyfriend Vampire, only to realize the falseness of her suspicions shortly before she herself does just that.  Bella Swan, as I’ve already discussed, is a sociopath who takes pleasure in manipulating those around her.  Neither character has a surplus of redeeming qualities, but both are widely agreed to be Mary-Sues.

Accountability?  What’s that?

This returns us to my point concerning Mary-Sues being devices for the author to live out fantasies.  Far from being selfless and kind as many assume them to be, many Mary-Sue characters are horribly selfish, living only to further their own pleasures.  This can make them all the more irritating and unlikeable.  If you are familiar with the exploits of Bella or Enoby, you’ll know that neither one suffers any consequences for their actions.  In fact they are beloved by nearly everyone around them to the point where they could have whatever—or more often whomever—they want.  The attraction of numerous suitors is irritating to readers precisely because the Mary-Sue is such an unpleasant, spiteful person that it’s hard to imagine how anyone could stand to look upon them.  In The Twilight Saga, the character of Mike is one of countless boys who fawn over the sociopathic Bella, and Enoby is apparently so stunning that every guy who sees her wants a shag.

WARNING: SUM OF DIS CHAPTA IS XTREMLY SCRAY. VIOWER EXCRETION ADVISD.

We ran to where Volcemort was. It turned out that Voldemort wasn’t there. Instead the fat guy who killed Cedric was. Draco was there crying tears of blood. Snaketail was torturing him. Vampire and I ran in front of Snaketail.

“Rid my sight you despicable preps!” he shouted as we started shooting him with the gun he Then suddenly he looked at me and he fell down with a lovey-dovey look in his eyes. “EbonyIloveyouwiluhavesexwithme.” he said. (in dis he is sixteen yrs old so hes not a pedofile ok)

“Huh?” I asked.

”Enoby I love you will you have sex with me?” asked Snaketail. I started laughing crudely. “What the fuck? You torture my bf and then you expect me to fuck you? God, you are so fucked up you fucking bastard.” I said angrily. Then I stabbed him in the heart. Blood pored out of it like a fountain.

“Nooooooooooooo!” he screamed. He started screaming and running around. Then he fell down and died. I brust into tears sadly.

Snaketail’s attraction to Enoby comes out of nowhere, as is the case with most attractions to a Mary-Sue.  You may also have noticed Enoby’s erratic (even psychotic) behaviour; she laughs cruelly as she kills Snaketail, only to burst into tears after he dies.

Sex and the Mary-Sue

Bella Swan manipulates a naïve teenager.Bella is at least made to choose between her two main love interests—Enoby gets both of them, and they engage in a menage-a-tois.  My point here is that these fantasies that Mary-Sues live out are most often the perverse sexual fantasies of their authors, such as having a harem of possible partners at one’s beck and call.  Being Mary-Sues, the world revolves around them, so they need not be nice people.  If a character were in the position of being “popular,” it might not be a stretch for a high school to contain many possible suitors.  Bella, however, is the new girl in addition to being extremely unpleasant, and yet she instantly accumulates a group of friends and becomes the obsession of every boy in her school.  She doesn’t even like her new friends, but they flock to her despite her treating them poorly.

A Mary-Sue doesn’t need to do anything to make things happen; the story is about all the (often perverse) things that happen to them.  They exist to soak up affection and admiration, whether or not the character deserves it, and they very rarely show real remorse.  And then there’s Johnny…

“You Are Tearing Me Apart, Lisa!”

Johnny is the main character in Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic The Room.  It didn’t become a cult classic by appealing to a select audience with good storytelling.  Rather, The Room is just so gob-smackingly terrible in almost every way that it becomes entertaining in a similar fashion to My Immortal or the 1966 The Hobbit Cartoon.  Johnny, although a Mary-Sue, isn’t a sociopath like Enoby or Bella.  This makes him somewhat more deserving of the received admiration than the others I’ve discussed, but apart from playing football in a tuxedo, Johnny doesn’t really do much.

The Author’s Self-Insert

The mary-sue Johnny comforts his ward Denny.Johnny is portrayed by the director/writer/producer, making it easy to see him inserting himself into the role of a muscular young man surrounded by young friends who love him and happily engaged to a young woman.  Denny, an orphaned teenager, looks to Johnny for guidance and loves him as a father.  Unarmed, Johnny easily subdues a gun-wielding drug-dealer and wastes no time in supposedly taking him to the police.

As is the case with most Mary-Sues, the only character who doesn’t adore Johnny is shown as loathsome, his sociopathic fiancée Lisa.  The plot of the movie revolves around Lisa’s affair with Johnny’s best friend Mark.  Amidst the countless sub-plots that go nowhere, Lisa engages in several overlong shag-scenes with both Mark and Johnny (scenes that Wiseau is said to have enjoyed too much).  Lisa, for no reason whatsoever, tells Johnny that she’s pregnant, explaining to her friends that she “told him that to make it interesting.”  After suspecting her infidelity for some time, Johnny finally discovers that it is Mark with whom she’s been cheating.

Johnny, at least in Tommy’s eyes, never did anything wrong; all his misfortunes were caused by an evil seductress.  This is the most important thing about a Mary-Sue; they can do no wrong in the story’s eyes.  This is the case with Enoby and Bella; regardless of what the character actually does, they are seen as being in the right.  They suffer no ills for their own actions—only for the spiteful actions of others.

“God…  Forgive Me…”

Johnny sniffs his ex-fiancée's red dress.Now we come to a strangely common occurrence: the death of a Mary-Sue.  After everyone in his life betrays him, Johnny throws a tantrum and destroys everything in his flat.  Lastly he pulls drawers from a dresser and finds a small box (containing the gun he took from Chris-R the drug-dealer) and the red dress he’d bought for Lisa at the beginning of the movie.  In one of the most perverse scenes ever filmed, Johnny masturbates with Lisa’s dress, smells it, tears it, and proceeds to open the box.  He takes the gun, lamenting his fate, and with his asinine last words,

“God…  Forgive me,”

Johnny kills himself.  The following morning, Lisa, Mark, and Denny find the body and weep over Johnny’s corpse.

Martyrdom for Nothing—Chicks for Free!

The main point here is that a Mary-Sue exists for gratification, whether sexual or part of a martyrdom complex.  Unlike in a tragedy where the hero reaches their own demise through their decisions, a “tragic” Mary-Sue is depicted as having met this fate due to the spitefulness of those around them.  This is highlighted when, in the final scene in The Room, Mark says to Lisa;

“You tramp!  You killed him; you’re the cause of all of this.  I don’t love you.”

He then breaks it off with Lisa…

“Get out of my life, you bitch!”

And finally…

“As far as I’m concerned, you can drop off the earth!  That’s a promise.”

The Hilarity of Narcissism

In case you haven’t noticed the trend among the three examples, all their respective stories are—to varying degrees—so bad they’re good.  I think this is because a Mary-Sue exposes its creator at his or her most narcissistic.  At their scariest, they show us what their authors would do if they were freed from the morals and limitations of real life—if they inhabited a world where only their—and no one else’s—happiness held any importance.  Mary-Sues, far from always doing the right thing, need worry only about their own needs, because nobody else in the world matters unless they personally assign importance to that person.

On top of the general freedom to think of oneself, a Mary-Sue tends—if not to enjoy as much sex as they might desire—to at least have their pick of any potential partner they wish.  One need look no further than Enoby and Draco’s infamous shag in the Forbidden Forest; Dumbledore catches them, but Professor Snape responds thusly to the news;

“Fine. Very well. You may go up to your rooms.”

It is likely this freedom, and the way these writers’ representations of themselves behave when given such freedom, that makes these awful stories either unbearable or hilarious.

In Conclusion…

A Mary-Sue is, in most cases, a character who exists to live out the author’s most perverse sexual fantasies in a world where there are no consequences.  Conflict in the story exists only to glorify the Mary-Sue, even if it succeeds only in the eyes of a narcissistic fan-fiction writer.  It represents what the author wishes they could do if the world would only allow them to be uncompromisingly selfish.  Others in the story’s world consistently pander to the Mary-Sue’s every whim—just as the story itself panders to its writer’s most narcissistic fantasies.

Yes, they are idealized, but not by the standards of a real society; they are shown as selfless no matter their actions, which are often quite selfish.  Needless to say, it’s not a good idea to write characters like this, but the rest of the world will be there to laugh at it if you do.

2 thoughts on “Defining a Mary Sue

  1. Martyrdom for Nothing—Chicks for Free! – brilliant synopsis as usual, and my all time fave subheading!

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