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Lord Iames Osari
2007-09-22, 02:26 AM
I recently came across this article (http://www.aestheticism.com/visitors/editor/jeanne/shameless/index.htm), and I want to see what other people think about it and the points it makes.


OK. I won't say how old I was before I twigged to the fact that not everyone tells themselves stories in bed at night before falling asleep. I mean, I just naturally figured that people do, right? because otherwise what else is there to do after you go to bed except- well, fall asleep? No, don't bother telling me what you do in bed before falling asleep. I'm talking from a kid's point of view.

I've been making up stories and acting them out in my head for as long as I can remember, which takes me at least back to age five. The settei at that point was that I was one of three red-haired identical triplets (and I won't say how old I was before I realized identical triplets aren't possible either) and our mother was the Queen of the Universe. Five years later I was one of a dozen girls living in a big old house with no adults in sight and a horse for each of us. We spent more time quarrelling and carrying on sentimental rivalries than riding, but the horses were important. At thirteen I started on what turned into a multi-generational saga of two families, one a line of kings and the other a line of magician-priests, whose fates intertwined over the course of three or four hundred years, as seen by the apparently immortal young girl- me- who kept showing up one way and another every generation. By fifteen the focus had shifted to the love-hate relationships, especially the love, between the various kings and magicians involved. I had the spiritus naturaliter yaoi that Thomas Aquinas would have talked about if he'd ever heard of yaoi

Of course I always knew enough to keep these stories to myself. I figured other people told themselves *normal* stories, about dating neat guys and winning debating tournaments. For sure, I never read anything that even remotely echoed the stuff I watched each night except- in an odd way- a 19th century children's series called Elsie Dinsmore. That was a many-volumed strongly moral fundamentalist Christian work containing the most blatantly incestuous and masochistic subtexts I've ever come across. Fascinating in an icky kind of way. But what Elsie did was make it clear to me that head stories should be kept in the head. (Just as Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers demonstrates to my perfect satisfaction that jerk-off fantasies, however much fun they are for the person jerking off, do not constitute literature.) Out in the light of day head stories look embarrassingly childish and self-indulgent. Besides, they're just too personal. There's a high and unrestrained id content contained in them, as in one's more disturbing dreams, and like certain bathroom functions they're nothing a civilized person talks about in public. So I didn't talk about them.

Consequently you can imagine how I felt when I got to Japan and started reading Japanese manga. Couldn't believe it. There everyone was, having the same fantasies as me and putting them in print as if they were the most normal Cherry Ames stuff in the world. Queen of the Universe? Check out Meiteru's Mom from Galaxy Express 999. Schoolgirl affairs and cabals? Swing on by O-nii-sama e. Kings and magicians- even, as mine were, Egyptian kings and magicians? Thick as autumn leaves in Vallambrosa. Can't go near an Asuka or Bonita series without tripping over them in piles. And as for yaoi kings and magicians-- well, after I first fell into fandom I went cruising the local bookstore desperate to find something that had the same erotic energy as my Servis-sama, and discovered what looked by its cover to be the very thing. Mamahara Elli's Tower of Transience. I mean, how much more QED can you get?

It's not really amazing that shoujo manga and its sub-category, shounen ai, should contain the whole gamut of adolescent female fantasies. They're aimed at adolescent girls, after all. But what does amaze me is just how cheerfully and unrepentently upfront Japanese manga is about showing them. Our 'young adult' books would never dare be so openly, innocently, and dangerously self-indulgent. Everyone here took Psych 100 and knows what a cigar really signifies- and has a strong puritan interest in keeping it out of the text. It wasn't always thus in the west, is why you've got oodles of homoerotic subtext in Huckleberry Finn and Classic Trek, and wallows of masochism in Elsie Dinsmore. Not any more. These days the id never gets a look-in except under carefully controlled circumstances. No hot-eyed suggestions of girl/girl attachments here. No, we have positive novels about proud young lesbians putting out rainbow flags, God help us all. I'll bet even the lives of the saints, on which my generation of Catholic kids cut their s/m teeth, has been quietly suppressed. No more Rose of Lima sleeping on broken potshards or St. Lawrence being fried over a fire or Whatserface having her breasts cut off. (sigh) Much less are we allowed good self-pitying 'ohh the pooor thing' literature any more. Anderson's Little Match Girl got to die of cold in the street, Bronte's Jane Eyre got to be abused by her horrible family, you the reader got to cry your eyes out. Does anyone do that any more over here?

They do in Japan. The Japanese, let's say it now, have no shame in these matters. Ohh the poor sweeetie is a regular feature of shoujo, shounen, and even of yaoi occasionally. 'Poor boy out !alone! in the !cold! night on his !birthday! for the !fourth! year in a row so his roommate can !have sex! with his !girlfriend!'-- god, pile on the angst why don't you? You start school and people hate you for no reason and tell nasty stories about you, and your best friend stops speaking to you and you want to die. (A lot like 14 year old life, O-nii-sama e.) Poor little rich boy with no-one to love him has a birthday party alone (again) with only his teddy bear as the guest of honour. To make it more poignant, teddy bear was the casual contemptuous gift of the guy who perennially raped him, whom rich boy loves because the rapist once said 'I love you' even if he didn't mean it. I mean, it just goes on and on.

And what about adolescent power fantasies? The Japanese invented them. Take all those anime where the ordinary teenagers are *really* super-warriors or sailor senshis or witches or shape-shifters or divine priestesses, and possessed of super-powers and/or psychic ability. It's practically the default mode of anime. So much so that a series where the guys don't pilot a gundam or wield a weapon must be countable on the fingers of a mutilated right hand.

Now I'll admit I find a lot of manga setteis embarrassing, but there's no blinking the fact that they're embarrassing to me precisely because they remind me of stories I've told myself before falling asleep. The Japanese don't find it embarrassing at all. There's no sense there that a mangaka is walking around revealing areas of her psyche that she ought to keep to herself. We feel uncomfortable when an writer like Dorothy Sayers falls in love with one of her characters and starts turning him into an avatar of perfection. When Aoike Yasuko does it, she thinks she should burble about it to the world, and her fans think it's perfectly natural because after all gee, they're in love with Klaus' ur-personality too.

So what have we joyless gaijin got to oppose to the unbridled self-indulgence of the Japanese? Nothing nearly as official- or as popular- as a published manga where everyone loves the heroine/ mangaka/ reader, including the cross-dressing gay character. Oh, you the fanwriter can do something similar; you the fanwriter can do whatever you please, if you're prepared to take the consequences. Because there'll always be someone ready to lecture you on the point--to tell you at length in a webpage rant or a ML flame why having designated sex roles or showing twelve year olds screwing or making your guys cry copiously is a Bad Thing and you shouldn't do it.

But I take heart from the apparently undying figure of the Mary Sue. Slashers can rant as much as they like, people are still writing out-and-out shameless Mary Sues as if they'd never even heard of the term, let alone registered that MSs are a Bad Thing. Incidentally, it doesn't matter how you define a MS. Evidence suggests there are in fact two kinds- the idealized Self and the idealized Female- but both, bless them, still make their appearances. All-competent or all-wise, spunky ensign or serene survivor of hideous happenings, we still got 'em, and everyone in the story loves them unreservedly. And more power to them, say I.

The MS, as someone said, is the highest form of fannish devotion to a series. You like it so much you want to come play in it yourself. Most fan writers are content to do this by sneaking in under cover of one of the canon characters. Slipping on my Hakkai mask, I jump in the jeep and set out for the west with Sanzou and the guyz, pretending all along that it's Hakkai telling the story I'm writing and not me at all. Havers. *Of course* it's me and not Hakkai. Mary Suers simply have the honesty to appear as themselves. And if there's no room for a girl in that jeep, by god they make room- like the Japanese fan who writes stories where Gokuu is a teenaged girl is Guess Who, who thus gets to hang out with that kewell monk Sanzou.

People who dislike Mary Sues say that the MS makes them feel embarrassed for the author. I strongly suspect that they're embarrassed for themselves, recognizing a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God character from their own head stories. Besides, the criticism ignores the rather obvious point that the author herself isn't embarrassed. She doesn't care if aspects of her psyche are showing, so why should we? People who argue that MS writers don't know that their psyches are showing are, I believe, deluded. Everyone here has taken Psych 100 and knows what a silver-haired lavender-eyed High Priestess is. Some people still want to read about her in a story- an English story, not a Japanese manga, where you'll find a lot of her too. If they really don't suspect at all that their psychic healer is an idealized version of themselves, well, god bless the child who's got her own. Such imperviousness to surrounding pop psychology should be cherished, not admonished.

The other commonly levelled criticism is that the Mary Sue takes attention away from the series characters to focus it on the author. Yes. So? Fanfiction is a process whereby fans interact with the series and its characters to do any number of things-- recreate things they liked about the original, alter things they didn't like, and most famously, have sexual fantasies about the characters. The process of inserting the authorial pov into the story is a little more obvious in a Mary Sue than ordinary, but I'd argue that it's the same process. Instead of a judicious choice of adjectives and events to show what I think of these guys, I the author walk into the story and actually talk to them. Or screw them. Whichever. But I see little qualitative difference between me-pretending-to-be-Hakkai having sex with Gojou, and me-appearing-as-a-purple-haired-youkai-queen having sex with Gojou. In the first Gojou will react to Hakkai. In the second he'll react to the youkai queen. In both cases, you'll be seeing some aspect of Gojou that isn't in the canon but which, we may hope, recalls the canon Gojou. And no guarantee that the former is more likely to do that than the latter.

Anti-MS is the reader's problem, not the writer's. It's like any squick, including an aversion to representations of m/m. If people don't like them, they shouldn't read them. If they find themselves reading one by chance, the solution is simple: stop reading. And, obviously, it's a good idea not to rant on about how So-and-so made you read a Mary Sue when you hate Mary Sues. A writer is a writer, not a nursemaid. And I personally find it far more embarrassing to hear people being outraged that their ever so delicate sensibilities have been injured, than I do to read about silver-haired psychic healers and lavender-eyed high priestesses.

Hell Puppi
2007-09-22, 02:41 AM
Honestly all I got out of it is that I feel a little bit better about the weird crap that goes on in my head....

'Sept for the one comic I'm trying to write. That stills scares the hell out of me...

Brickwall
2007-09-22, 08:49 AM
Well, what do you think about it and the points it makes? I'm not tellin' until you do. Just because.

Green Bean
2007-09-22, 09:15 AM
Well, the article makes some interesting points, but I'm not sure if I agree with the part about the problem with MS being the reader's problem. If you watch a movie and it's badly written and terribly acted, you don't say, "I didn't like it, but I'm sure that's my fault, not the writers'/actors'." You say, "Man, what an awful movie," and maybe even post about it on a message board/review site.

That being said, I do think some of the anti-MSers take it too far, but a large portion of them are legitimately trying to improve the author's writing. Yes, they're based on the author's fantasies, but if they want to keep writing in the future, their work is going to have to improve. It's like being a newborn. Sure, there's no shame in crawling; everyone does it, but ultimately, people are going to try to teach you how to walk.

Winterwind
2007-09-22, 09:59 AM
I think the author makes wrong assumptions considering why people dislike Mary Sue characters. Neither the point about people being embarassed by a self-insertion character (which I did not even understand - what is embarassing about that?) nor the point about Mary Sues taking away time from the "main characters" has anything to do with what I would critique about a Mary Sue.

What I would critique about a Mary Sue is that the character tends to be one-dimensional (that dimension being perfection - there are no flaws), that the character generally is a shining beacon of morality (which is bad if the morality itself is right, because it destroys the possibility of an interesting , two-sided evaluation of the moral issues in question, and much worse if the morality is questionable), and that the character is often a walking Deus-Ex-Machina, able to pull out solutions to any problem out of nowhere without any struggle, which makes for boring stories. These three points seemingly didn't even occur to the author.

bosssmiley
2007-09-22, 10:45 AM
Winterwind said it better than I ever could. I don't hate authorial wish fulfillment or narrative self-insertion (heck, I enjoy Bernard Cornwell and I like Dickens and Thackery too): what I hate is poor technical execution.

Quoted article makes the point "it's normal, coz the Japanese do it."
Normal? The Japanese? One of the most infantilised, openly fetishistic cultures on the planet is normal in her head? Did I miss something here? :smallconfused:

PhallicWarrior
2007-09-22, 11:05 AM
Hurray! I'm not wierd, I'm Japanese!

Seriously, I've come up with about ten different versions of myself to fit into different fiction universes (And even a few of my own design.) For example:

A cyborg that was supposed to be the Navy SEAL to Robocop's police officer.
(For the Robocop universe)

A werewolf ( for a hombrewed modern fantasy game of round robin, though the concept existed long before that.)

A super hero with the power to control thermal energy, dubbed Heat Wave.
(Originally for the Static Shock/DC universe, later broke off into its own universe.)

Lemur
2007-09-22, 11:30 AM
Winterwind has summed up my thoughts on Mary Sue type characters fairly well. Also in my case, I can't stand fanfiction in general, Mary Sues or not, because the characters act in a manner skewed by the perceptions of a different writer. It's like watching a friend get murdered, then having his corpse forced to dance around on puppet strings. But I have no objection to people writing fanfiction, I just object to me reading any of it. If you have fun with it, more power to you, but don't be offended if people gag when reading it.

A few other thoughts on the subject of gratiutous content. While there are certainly many good examples of "adolescent power fantasies" in manga, the Japanese hardly hold exclusive rights to it. The superhero genre predates japanese cartoons as such a source, even if the superheroes nowdays serve different functions. Pre-CCA American comics had their fair share of gratuitous content, although not so much by today's standards, and certainly not if you're going to compare it with some of the Japanese comics made today.

I think that saying the reader is at fault for not liking what he's reading is a gross oversimplification, and is mostly a way for the writer to avoid admitting that the content is either only has personal significance, or really is flat out bad writing. There's nothing wrong with writing for yourself, but if you also want a receptive audience, you also need to think about the feelings of the readers when you write.

Semidi
2007-09-22, 11:47 AM
When I was 9 I was a wizard closely resembling Belgarion.


If people don't like them, they shouldn't read them.

Thanks, I wont.

All powerful characters are boring.
I'm not against the character changing and self-actualizing towards his own potential, but I expect him to suffer for it (See: Count of Monte Cristo)

Another point I disagree with is the placing of blame on the reader rather than the author if the reader doesn't like the work. This just stinks of bleeding-heartism and the trend of putting on kid-gloves when dealing with art. (See: Most high-school creative writing classes)

Look at this poem I wrote, it came right from my inner-soul.

I gave my love dead roses,
B'cause they stunketh like herses.
I gave my love ten bruises,
b'cause thar blue like her muses.

This is my form of art, if you don't like it. It's your fault, not mine... Despite the fact that I put no effort into it and made it up on the spot. I'm the Pollock of poetry. I throw down random words that feel right.

In conclusion: If you write fan fiction with a MS and I donít like it. Itís your fault for not writing for an audience who respects ďhigher formsĒ (Iím such an elitist ***-**** I know) of art. I would have probably liked your MS character when I was 9 and still a wizard.

rubakhin
2007-09-22, 12:29 PM
(Just as Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers demonstrates to my perfect satisfaction that jerk-off fantasies, however much fun they are for the person jerking off, do not constitute literature.)


Excuse me. Our Lady of the Flowers is not literature? What?

Okay. That just completely invalidates any point she ever could have made about literature, right there. Bitch don't know what she's talking about.

Artemician
2007-09-22, 12:30 PM
Right from the start, I took particular offense at the tone s/he adopts. It's such a holier-than-thou tone, as if talking down to ignorant children from an ivory pedestal. Nonetheless, I persevered through the article, and.. suffice to say the content was not much better than the style.

I have no damn idea what the author is trying to say. In his/her youth, s/he wrote a something which was campy. Then she goes on to say that it seems childish. And then she goes to Japan and finds shoujo manga. And wow! It's campy!

After 4 long paragraphs of description, she finally starts on the meat.

"People say Mary Sues are author-avatars. I do not care."
"People say Mary Sues detract from the orginal series characters. I do not care."
"If people don't like Mary Sues, that's their problem."

...

The kind of stuff this author writes is reminiscent of the slashers that she herself criticized.

I personally read a fair amount of fanfiction, and find it interesting. I have nothing personal against Sue-like characters, unless they're badly written. I've seen awesome fanfics featuring an obvious Mary Sue, but they were still awesome because the Sue was a well-developed character in her own right. Whether I like or not like a character has NOTHING to do with any of the reasons the author cited. It has instead to do with the simple expedience of whether the character is a good character. You can have Bob McNub, supernoob of noobness, a complete and total simpleton, and he still can be a badly written character. You can have Buffy McSuSue, insanely beautiful, powerful and popular half-fey vampire, but she still can be a well-written character.

I like well-written characters, just as I detest badly written characters. Sue status is immaterial.

Arameus
2007-09-22, 12:57 PM
I remember criticizing some poorly-written, terribly-executed movie some years back, and explaining to my friend, a fan of it, why it wasn't any good. To which he, of course, replied, "It's art, man. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's bad.

No. I know what art is and what it isn't. Immersing myself in all the centuries' greatest literature and cinema (Just finished Heart of Darkness... My God...) has, if nothing else, given me a pretty keen eye for things, and the 'it's art, man' is pretty much a criticially flawed, but totally unassailable cop-out for someone who knows in their heart that your criticism is otherwise irrefutable.

To say that we actually feel embarrassed for ourselves when we feel embarassed for someone who unleashed a Mary Sue is like saying we pity ourselves when we see someone touch a hot stovelid. Indeed, we probably feel a little embarrassed if we, as a child, touched a hot stovelid. But the fact that we probably haven't done so in a while makes it pretty moot, and if that person habitually touches hot stovelids, then do we really feel sorry for ourselves due to our one instance of doing it quite by accident? Or do we feel pity (and more than a little contempt) for this misled idiot, who clearly gleans enjoyment from something he knows to be a pointless, destructive act?

Likewise, if you, as a young author, created a Mary Sue, and later realized that to do so is not conducive to good storytelling, you would stop doing so. And if you saw someone who wrote lots of fanfiction (a sad occurence on its own) continually and purposefully using Mary Sues, admittedly for self-indulgent purposes, is that still really pity and embarrasment for yourself that you're feeling?

I began writing a Mary Sue into a story once. I didn't realize I was. I caught it, trashed her, and rewrote her to be something good. Turned out to be one of my best. Which is not to say that a Mary Sue cannot be a good literary device; it's dependent upon the purpose. Think back into Heart of Darkness: Remember the native girl in Part III? The one who was simply above everything? She's a superlative Mary Sue, but she isn't a self-indulgence or anything of the traditional Mary Sue sort; she's far, far more important. But why the dichotomy? Because Joseph Conrad is a genius, and HOD is, truly and rightfully, art. The Natural, in which a Mary Sue takes the role of embodied Good along the path of Roy's internal struggle, is art. The fanfic in which you put yourelf into the story to have sex with Ichido is not.

Showing your psyche is much different from letting your psyche run wild. If I were to write a story in which a character must come to terms with his inner bloodlust, that's showing my psyche. If i write a story where I, with a different name and about 100 lbs more muscle, run arounf with a Buster Sword and kill all the people I don't like from work, that's letting my psyche run wild. It's shameful. It isn't a defensible action, and wasting your time defending it is not out of any greater understanding of its purpose, but perhaps from a need to defend it for yourself, since you have a thar-but-fer-the-glaze-of-Cod moment when you see it, and can't handle the fact that you may be wrong; therefore, changing the wrongous nature of the action is much easier for you than changing your opinion, which might lead to admitting a fault. (Doesn't feel so great to have that done, eh?)

Saying that the reader simply doesn't get, or is not worthy of, the work presented to him is tantamount to saying that all writing is inherently perfect, and your opinion of it is derived solely from how perfectly you interpret it. In other words, 'It's art, man.' You seem like someone who knows slightly more about psychology than you do about literature, about which you don't know the first damned thing. Your cocksureness speaks volumes. I would advise you to, instead of psychoanalyzing the author, to merely read the damned story. Learning the author's purposed through a meaningful reading of his literature is not the same as figuring out that his symbolism might be his subconscious homosexuality coming out.

But if you can't bring yourself to do this (as this might acknowledge a failure in yourself that needs correction), by all means keep doing what you're doing. After all, literature is art, man; it's not for every reader.

Sir_Norbert
2007-09-22, 02:03 PM
*can't think of anything to add to what everyone else has already said*

Tengu
2007-09-22, 02:44 PM
stuff

I agree with most of what you said, except that I personally didn't like Heart of Darkness - to me, it will forever remain a rare example of a case when a movie based on a book (Apocalypse Now in this case) is better than the book itself.

J_Muller
2007-09-22, 02:47 PM
Identical triplets aren't possible?

Winterwind
2007-09-22, 02:52 PM
Identical triplets aren't possible?Wikipedia (I know, not the most safe source, but still) states otherwise (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_birth), and actually has a picture of identical triplets as illustration attached to the article in question.
It is supposedly very rare, though.

Scorpina
2007-09-22, 03:02 PM
She makes some interesting points, but she gets to them from some pretty weird, fairly questionable assumptions. "Everyone here has taken Psych 100"? Not if here for her is here for me, they haven't and, in any case, taking Psych 100 does not equate to understanding the human psyche as relates to authorial self-insertion. "It's normal because the Japanese do it?" You can't take the social norms of one culture and attemt to apply them to anothers.

Personally, I like some Mary Sues, even some of the ones who come across as being the be all and end all of the world's they inhabit. I don't tend to read fan-fiction, so I'm not sure how I'd react to seeing a fan writer insert themselves into a fictional universe, but lord knows I used to do that when we'd play Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles or whatever when we were kids (usually in the form of the 'mask' version she discusses, but still). Seems perfectly natural to me, and I don't think the presence or absence of such a character will make or break a story - unless it's really badly executed or really well executed.

Generally, a lot of the best writer's in the world have used 'Mary Sue's to some degree or another. Sure, everyone knows that Drizzt is Bob Salvatore in black make up and purple contacts, but a lot of those same people seem reluctant to accept that Tolkein used Gandalf in a similar way (or maybe it was Aragorn, or Frodo...). Same goes for Conan Doyle with Holmes, Kane with Batman, Alcott with Amy, Orwell with Winston, Plath with Esther... the difference between all these, and that crappy fanfiction you read last week? Good writing.

Crow
2007-09-22, 03:21 PM
Sure, everyone knows that Drizzt is Bob Salvatore in black make up and purple contacts, but a lot of those same people seem reluctant to accept that Tolkein used Gandalf in a similar way (or maybe it was Aragorn, or Frodo...).

I for some reason always wonder that about Tom Bombadil.

sktarq
2007-09-22, 03:34 PM
Right. First off, if this is how the author concieves of good writing I may as well call her rant "art" and say it's not for me. It took me several minutes to figure out what in the world she is trying to say at all and who her target audience is. Now I've never been a fan of Manga, Anime, Fantasy Lit, etc so I'm sure many of the references she made slipped right by me. I'm not even sure I know what she ment by fanfic for instance. Racking my brain for any refference to a "Mary Sue" in any of my Litriture or English classes came up totally blank but I think I eventually got it.....I'll give the beni and just assume I had a hangover or was reading Tropic of Capricorn that day. As for what I think she means I'd say the character type is widly used in many forms of lit but generally in most well regarded lit. it is used with vastly more subtlety than in her prefered Manga style. Apparently the idea of character self insertion seems to be new to her or at least the idea that this is used in Western Lit. The story that when asked who of the many women claiming to have inspired Madame Bovary was correct Flaubert simply said "C'est Moi". Also the idea that if you (the reader-or more generally the consumer of art) don't like the product she touts the wonders of then it's your own fault could well be applied to her as well. I almost wish I had a mirror to hold up to her as she ranted this in my face.


EDIT: and shouldn't this be in Media not FB?

Timberwolf
2007-09-22, 04:16 PM
Generally, a lot of the best writer's in the world have used 'Mary Sue's to some degree or another. Sure, everyone knows that Drizzt is Bob Salvatore in black make up and purple contacts, but a lot of those same people seem reluctant to accept that Tolkein used Gandalf in a similar way (or maybe it was Aragorn, or Frodo...). Same goes for Conan Doyle with Holmes, Kane with Batman, Alcott with Amy, Orwell with Winston, Plath with Esther... the difference between all these, and that crappy fanfiction you read last week? Good writing.

And Anita Blake is Laurell K Hamilton. She even used her own description. All I can say is that I used to like those books, back when the character wasn't sleeping with most of the vampires and werecreatures in St Louis. I didn't care about the irredeemable Sueness of the characters, They were fun and light enough to give me what I wanted (which was a quick read when taking a break from essays) but now, if I have to hear about that frickin' wereleopard's (and anyone who's read the later books knows who I mean) *ahem* vital statistics, I swear I'll scream. I've already stopped reading them because of the descent from passable Mary Sue adventure into bodice ripper.

Lord Iames Osari
2007-09-22, 04:21 PM
I remember criticizing some poorly-written, terribly-executed movie some years back, and explaining to my friend, a fan of it, why it wasn't any good. To which he, of course, replied, "It's art, man. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's bad.

No. I know what art is and what it isn't. Immersing myself in all the centuries' greatest literature and cinema (Just finished Heart of Darkness... My God...) has, if nothing else, given me a pretty keen eye for things, and the 'it's art, man' is pretty much a criticially flawed, but totally unassailable cop-out for someone who knows in their heart that your criticism is otherwise irrefutable.

So True Art has certain objectively measurable qualities, and one can determine how close to True Art any given work is by measuring it against the hypothetical Perfect Example of True Art? 'Cause it sound to me like that's what you're saying there, and I can't disagree more. Art, like Beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.


Likewise, if you, as a young author, created a Mary Sue, and later realized that to do so is not conducive to good storytelling, you would stop doing so. And if you saw someone who wrote lots of fanfiction (a sad occurence on its own) continually and purposefully using Mary Sues, admittedly for self-indulgent purposes, is that still really pity and embarrasment for yourself that you're feeling?

As an aside from the discussion of Mary Sues, what about fanfiction is inherently bad? What is wrong with it? I really don't understand the mindset that it is somehow morally wrong to enjoy a work of fiction to the point where one is driven to create one's own sequel to it.


I began writing a Mary Sue into a story once. I didn't realize I was. I caught it, trashed her, and rewrote her to be something good. Turned out to be one of my best. Which is not to say that a Mary Sue cannot be a good literary device; it's dependent upon the purpose. Think back into Heart of Darkness: Remember the native girl in Part III? The one who was simply above everything? She's a superlative Mary Sue, but she isn't a self-indulgence or anything of the traditional Mary Sue sort; she's far, far more important. But why the dichotomy? Because Joseph Conrad is a genius, and HOD is, truly and rightfully, art. The Natural, in which a Mary Sue takes the role of embodied Good along the path of Roy's internal struggle, is art. The fanfic in which you put yourelf into the story to have sex with Ichido is not.

We're getting back to True Art being objective again. I'll say that there is no reason that a "fanfic in which you put yourelf into the story to have sex with Ichido" must perforce be badly written, although I do grant that it is likely.


Showing your psyche is much different from letting your psyche run wild. If I were to write a story in which a character must come to terms with his inner bloodlust, that's showing my psyche. If i write a story where I, with a different name and about 100 lbs more muscle, run arounf with a Buster Sword and kill all the people I don't like from work, that's letting my psyche run wild. It's shameful.

Why? What is shameful about using the creative process as a release for pent-up emotions (and it sound like that's what your talking about here)? It might very badly written, but that's a separate issue, in my mind.


It isn't a defensible action, and wasting your time defending it is not out of any greater understanding of its purpose, but perhaps from a need to defend it for yourself, since you have a thar-but-fer-the-glaze-of-Cod moment when you see it, and can't handle the fact that you may be wrong; therefore, changing the wrongous nature of the action is much easier for you than changing your opinion, which might lead to admitting a fault. (Doesn't feel so great to have that done, eh?)

But opinions, being subjective, are exempt from being wrong, at least in the sense you seem to be using. You can disagree with someone's opinion, but that doesn't make their opinion wrong. Or didn't you get that memo? Are we back to True Art again?


Saying that the reader simply doesn't get, or is not worthy of, the work presented to him is tantamount to saying that all writing is inherently perfect, and your opinion of it is derived solely from how perfectly you interpret it. In other words, 'It's art, man.' You seem like someone who knows slightly more about psychology than you do about literature, about which you don't know the first damned thing. Your cocksureness speaks volumes. I would advise you to, instead of psychoanalyzing the author, to merely read the damned story. Learning the author's purposed through a meaningful reading of his literature is not the same as figuring out that his symbolism might be his subconscious homosexuality coming out.

I'd like to reiterate that I am not the author of the article. Your arguments above seem directed at me; in fact they verge on ad hominem attacks: "about which you don't know the first damned thing," "Your cocksureness speaks volumes".

Perfection can only exist in regards to an objective standard. In the absence of such a standard, perfection becomes meaningless.

Since in the real world people have differing tastes in entertainment, I will maintain my stance that there is no objective measure of artistic perfection until it has been proven otherwise to my satisfaction.


But if you can't bring yourself to do this (as this might acknowledge a failure in yourself that needs correction), by all means keep doing what you're doing. After all, literature is art, man; it's not for every reader.

Given the great differences in taste between me and someone who enjoys, say, romance novels, I have to say that your sarcasm is misplaced.

Winterwind
2007-09-22, 04:38 PM
So what are your thoughts about this article, Lord Iames Osari?

You have addressed, from all the replies you got, only the one from Arameus; partially, I can see why you did so, since his post was the one which stuck the closest to the original article, but still I would be interested in hearing your opinion concerning the different points raised by the other people in this thread.

I have just checked on both Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue) and TVTropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main.MarySue). Neither states "self insertion character" as the exclusive definining element of the term Mary Sue; especially the latter source neglects this aspect almost completely and defines a Mary Sue rather by the character's ridiculous perfection, power and flawlessness. By this definition, I find the author of the article you presented completely missed what people actually loathe about Mary Sues, which pretty much reduces the entire article into one large straw man's argument.

Rowanomicon
2007-09-22, 05:15 PM
OK, I persevered though that article and I feel not only obligated to write something, but that if don't I'm almost being robbed of something I deserve.

So I'm writing a comment.
I'm not totally sure what so say though.

Just because someone (or a bunch of people) do something doesn't mean it's good.
Just because it captures a certain part of someone's imagination doesn't mean that it's good, or mature.
If it captures a juvenile aspect of someone's imagination and you enjoy it that's fine, but it doesn't make it sophisticated art.

I myself enjoy some things that I know are less that that refined sophisticated art; the difference is that I know those things aren't refined sophisticated art.

People are free to have fun reading and writing terrible anime and stupid fan-fics; I wont stop them.
I would appreciate it, however, if they don't preach to me how ignorant and jaded I am because I can recognise the fact that those things are less that refined sophisticated art.

Oh, gods, I'm starting to rant.

I'll finish off my telling you all what I finally realised this article reminds me of: Chris Crocker's "Leave Brittany Alone" rant.
(I'm sorry for bringing it up, anyone who hasn't seen it, do yourself a favour: keep it that way.)

Winterwind
2007-09-22, 05:25 PM
I'll finish off my telling you all what I finally realised this article reminds me of: Chris Crocker's "Leave Brittany Alone" rant.
(I'm sorry for bringing it up, anyone who hasn't seen it, do yourself a favour: keep it that way.)Dude, that's so much the wrong way to keep me from doing something. :smallbiggrin:

BlackStaticWolf
2007-09-22, 05:32 PM
And Anita Blake is Laurell K Hamilton. She even used her own description. All I can say is that I used to like those books, back when the character wasn't sleeping with most of the vampires and werecreatures in St Louis. I didn't care about the irredeemable Sueness of the characters, They were fun and light enough to give me what I wanted (which was a quick read when taking a break from essays) but now, if I have to hear about that frickin' wereleopard's (and anyone who's read the later books knows who I mean) *ahem* vital statistics, I swear I'll scream. I've already stopped reading them because of the descent from passable Mary Sue adventure into bodice ripper.

A-friggen-men. There hasn't been a good Anita Blake book since Obsidian Butterfly. The books after that show one thing and one thing only: Hamilton isn't getting enough.

Lord Iames Osari
2007-09-22, 05:33 PM
So what are your thoughts about this article, Lord Iames Osari?

You have addressed, from all the replies you got, only the one from Arameus; partially, I can see why you did so, since his post was the one which stuck the closest to the original article, but still I would be interested in hearing your opinion concerning the different points raised by the other people in this thread.

I have just checked on both Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue) and TVTropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main.MarySue). Neither states "self insertion character" as the exclusive definining element of the term Mary Sue; especially the latter source neglects this aspect almost completely and defines a Mary Sue rather by the character's ridiculous perfection, power and flawlessness. By this definition, I find the author of the article you presented completely missed what people actually loathe about Mary Sues, which pretty much reduces the entire article into one large straw man's argument.

It may well be, but I think that the article does a good job defending against the criticisms of the self-insertion aspect of Mary Suedom (which I have seen). The accusations that Mary Sue characters are too perfect to be interesting is not always true (though it may be often true, in which cases it's a valid criticism), nor is it always true (as I have seen many claim) that a Mary Sue character automatically makes a story a badly written one. I'm looking at you, Rowanomicon.

Winterwind
2007-09-22, 05:38 PM
It may well be, but I think that the article does a good job defending against the criticisms of the self-insertion aspect of Mary Suedom (which I have seen). The accusations that Mary Sue characters are too perfect to be interesting is, IMO, not always true (though it may be often true, in which cases it's a valid criticism), nor is it always true (as I have seen many claim) that a Mary Sue character automatically makes a story a badly written one. I'm looking at you, Rowanomicon.All right. Thank you for answering.
In that respect, I guess this specific part of the article I could agree with, though not necessarily with the overly aggressive tone chosen by the author.
The part I will disagree though is that part about "if you don't like it, don't read it.". That's just plainly arrogant. While tastes may differ, not everything that is creative work is, just by being that, immediately flawless. There is next to nothing made by humans where constructive criticism could not serve to improve the work in question.

Timberwolf
2007-09-22, 05:49 PM
A-friggen-men. There hasn't been a good Anita Blake book since Obsidian Butterfly. The books after that show one thing and one thing only: Hamilton isn't getting enough.

Thank you sir, for showing me I am not alone in this world.

That was coincidently my first thought upon reading Cerulean Sins.

I was in a bookshop today (Waterstones which is the major bookstore chain here in the UK) and I read a sign saying that LKH and a couple of others had been given a whole new section all to themselves entitled "Erotic Horror". (The only horror is how bad they've become). Seriously, it's in the old Ottakars in Coventry. It's gone so sex mad that they've had to move it.

FdL
2007-09-22, 06:19 PM
Also in my case, I can't stand fanfiction in general, Mary Sues or not, because the characters act in a manner skewed by the perceptions of a different writer.


Totally agree. I tend to dislike fan-fiction because I can't help to perceive it as an exercise in self-indulgence.

Regarding Mary Sues, I think any character which is too idealized and has no flaws tends to be boring. In japanese media you often get this type of character as the main one, but it's often balanced from a better secondary character cast, from which it benefits. In any case, a more fleshed, three-dimensional character is always preferrable.

Oh, the empowered school teenager thing is not exclusive to japanese stuff, but boy, do they take it too far. I just can't buy it. You are introduced to any sort of crazy characters, from mecha pilots to assasins, to people with awesome powers and who lead lives fraught with danger and face death and world-affecting mature issues. And then you learn that they are school pupils on their regular time? Come on!

A little of that can be cute, but they overdo it IMHO. Let's not even mention those which describe student councils who are omnipotent even outside the institution, or when both female and male students look like they're well into their 20s (that's kinda freaky).

BlackStaticWolf
2007-09-22, 06:23 PM
Thank you sir, for showing me I am not alone in this world.

That was coincidently my first thought upon reading Cerulean Sins.

I was in a bookshop today (Waterstones which is the major bookstore chain here in the UK) and I read a sign saying that LKH and a couple of others had been given a whole new section all to themselves entitled "Erotic Horror". (The only horror is how bad they've become). Seriously, it's in the old Ottakars in Coventry. It's gone so sex mad that they've had to move it.

Haha... that's great... and utterly warranted. Her recent books need to be kept away from the rest of the fantasy, horrow, and sci-fi.... I mean... they probably have STDs. You know... from all the banging.

It really is a sad degeneration. Anita Blake was always a blatant author self-insert and Mary Sue, but it was more than tolerable precisely because she was very entertaining. Now...

It's like staring at a trainwreck. You know you should turn away and go about your business... but there's the macabre curiousity that demands you see just how bad it's going to get.

Hell Puppi
2007-09-22, 07:40 PM
I can't stand Anita Blake...then again most vampire-related fiction bores me to tears. We get it, your sexy.

I have to say the only 'god-mode character', ( who oddly enough is a vampire) that I can stand is Alucard from Hellsing, mostly because he's just horribly bored that he can't seem to find a good fight.

Artemician
2007-09-23, 12:05 AM
Totally agree. I tend to dislike fan-fiction because I can't help to perceive it as an exercise in self-indulgence.


Is there anything wrong with self-indulgence, after all? Everyone basically writes for his/her own enjoyment, not for the enjoyment of other people. It's like those.. whatchamacallems.. Sportsmen. Yea. They compete to test themselves not to prove a point to their peers.


Regarding Mary Sues, I think any character which is too idealized and has no flaws tends to be boring. In japanese media you often get this type of character as the main one, but it's often balanced from a better secondary character cast, from which it benefits. In any case, a more fleshed, three-dimensional character is always preferrable.

Oh, the empowered school teenager thing is not exclusive to japanese stuff, but boy, do they take it too far. I just can't buy it. You are introduced to any sort of crazy characters, from mecha pilots to assasins, to people with awesome powers and who lead lives fraught with danger and face death and world-affecting mature issues. And then you learn that they are school pupils on their regular time? Come on!

A little of that can be cute, but they overdo it IMHO. Let's not even mention those which describe student councils who are omnipotent even outside the institution, or when both female and male students look like they're well into their 20s (that's kinda freaky).

Oh.. you never know. Sagara Sosuke, the main character of Full Metal Panic! is one of the most talented mecha pilots in the entire world, the member of a mercenary army's Special Response Team, one of the few people who can operate a Psionic amplifier, grew up in wartorn Afghanistan, and above all is darkly handsome and popular with the ladies. And.. wait for it.. he's assigned on to a covert mission in a High School where he meets his love interest, a scarily smart savant who knows things that haven't even been invented yet.

Doesn't stop him from being an extremely deep and interesting character in his own right.

Hmm.. now that you think about it, FMP! has just about everything you described in the post. Elite young mecha pilots, Assassins, Immensely overpowered Student Councils.. freakishly old-looking High-Schoolers.. etcetra.

But I still feel that the series is a !very! good one, because it has a very nice plot and three-dimensional characters.

In contrast.. I can cite many examples of main characters which are so horribly pathetic that they're basically the avatar of the author's excrement, and they still have the capacity to piss me off to no end. Emiya Shirou from F/SN springs to mind, as does Tsukasa of .hack//sign.

Arameus
2007-09-23, 10:40 PM
I agree with most of what you said, except that I personally didn't like Heart of Darkness - to me, it will forever remain a rare example of a case when a movie based on a book (Apocalypse Now in this case) is better than the book itself.

Conrad is extremely difficult reading, and its quality is very, very much affected by that. Unless it comes perfectly natural to you first off, the effect is ruined; the labrynthine prose and constant repetition of a few selected descriptors can make you angrily realize you've blown past pages not knowing anything that's happened. That's how I read Lord Jim, my first Conrad; it was not very enjoyable, and although I knew I had read something fantastic, I gained very little from it and should probably reread it. On the other hand, even a few short years made all the difference for HOD, and I was able to go through with ease that surprised me, since I remembered Lord Jim being so aggravating.

Ah, yes: Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece. A legend. But better than the book? Certainly not: Marlon Brando's miserable overacting deflates the experience irrepairably, and both he and the director looking back on it can not explain just why his performance was so uncharacteristically obtuse and histrionic. Oh well; still a far cry from the vapid 'war is Hell' themes of most Vietnam flicks, eh?


So True Art has certain objectively measurable qualities, and one can determine how close to True Art any given work is by measuring it against the hypothetical Perfect Example of True Art? 'Cause it sound to me like that's what you're saying there, and I can't disagree more. Art, like Beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.



As an aside from the discussion of Mary Sues, what about fanfiction is inherently bad? What is wrong with it? I really don't understand the mindset that it is somehow morally wrong to enjoy a work of fiction to the point where one is driven to create one's own sequel to it.



We're getting back to True Art being objective again. I'll say that there is no reason that a "fanfic in which you put yourelf into the story to have sex with Ichido" must perforce be badly written, although I do grant that it is likely.



Why? What is shameful about using the creative process as a release for pent-up emotions (and it sound like that's what your talking about here)? It might very badly written, but that's a separate issue, in my mind.



But opinions, being subjective, are exempt from being wrong, at least in the sense you seem to be using. You can disagree with someone's opinion, but that doesn't make their opinion wrong. Or didn't you get that memo? Are we back to True Art again?



I'd like to reiterate that I am not the author of the article. Your arguments above seem directed at me; in fact they verge on ad hominem attacks: "about which you don't know the first damned thing," "Your cocksureness speaks volumes".

Perfection can only exist in regards to an objective standard. In the absence of such a standard, perfection becomes meaningless.

Since in the real world people have differing tastes in entertainment, I will maintain my stance that there is no objective measure of artistic perfection until it has been proven otherwise to my satisfaction.



Given the great differences in taste between me and someone who enjoys, say, romance novels, I have to say that your sarcasm is misplaced.

I know good and well the article's author isn't you. However, a rebuttal seems to be the only way to reply to this, since it's all it is really worthy of.

It's odd I should say that and immediately turn on you. Quality may not be quantifiable, but there are certainly concrete things that make all the world's difference in the quality of a work. This isn't an argument I can win, and even saying it is admittedly ipsedixitistic. But even if something is art, it is not totally subjective.

I shove my shoe up Charlie's nose,
And far away the rooster crows.

Behold! Art! Marvel in its presence! It's crap. It's poetry, but it's crap. No one can really say otherwise in good conscience, unless they are some sort of mental patient who hallucinated a life-altering experience after reading it. No, there is no perfect art against which to judge something, but that is why the reader, most hopefully a skilled, experienced reader, draws on his experience and uses that to judge a work. this does, indeed, make art subjective, but not solely so; two sufficiently-experienced readers will invariably come to similar, if not duplicate, conclusions of the work; the proper literary world is not like a third-grade english poetry study where the teacher must nod his head and say "That's one way of looking at it," regardless of what is said.

I remember I saw a scene in a movie depicting an English class discussing some of John Donne's poetry. Their discussion of it came to the exact same conclusions I had on my own. I have the idea it's more than coincidence that this should occur.

And as to judging opinions, it, again, is only objective to a point. If I were to say that someone is undoubtedly the dumbest person ever to live, it is not really possible to refute it; there is no perfect method of measuring intelligence, and therefore all perceptions of intelligence are subjective, making my observation entirely viable, whether I'm talking about the drooling fellow in the alley or Hawking.

As to the fanfiction and wish-fulfillment works, I'll admit that there is absolutely no reason why one cannot be spectacular. But fanfiction is like communism: it has been proben time and time again to simply not work. Whether that's from the inherent flaws of the medium or from the inherent flaws for most fan-ficcers' motivations is not really mine to say.

Of course, all of this is entirely moot: Opinions are solely subjective and thus there is neither need to defend nor any sound standpoint from which to assail them, apparently, especially my opinion that my sarcasm is never misplaced. :smallwink:

In any case, for the rest of you listening, merely consider this once more:


...the 'it's art, man' is pretty much a criticially flawed, but totally-unassailable cop-out for someone who knows in their heart that your criticism is otherwise irrefutable.

The truth of this hasn't changed in the few days since I first asserted it.

Renegade Paladin
2007-09-23, 11:36 PM
Hurray! I'm not wierd, I'm Japanese!
That's even worse. :smalltongue:

Anyway, the article's author completely missed the point. The Mary Sue isn't hated because it's self-insertion; it's hated because it's deus ex machina incarnate. That's bad storytelling, and that fact has nothing to do with self-insertion; I would go so far as to say that a self-insertion character that isn't all-powerful and/or perfect doesn't fit the definition of Mary Sue.