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What's the Problem With Mary Sue?

Mary Sue is a derogatory name used to refer to a female character who is generally well-liked, gifted, intelligent and has few, if any, flaws. Those who coin a character as a Mary Sue usually do so in a negative way that reflects on poor writing, poorly fleshed-out characters and juvenile thoughts.


My question for you is... why?


Is there a reason we, as writers, are encouraged not to have strong female MCs? The term was coined in 1973 in the midst of the women's liberation movement. While the author who coined the term almost certainly didn't mean to do so in order to disparage women and female characters, those who did took the moniker and ran with it. It is so ingrained in our psyches today that few question it. They look at a character under the lens of negativity. If the characterization of the female in question isn't damaged to the point of irritation, she may be dubbed a Mary Sue.


I have a problem with the Mary Sue issue in the same way that I have a problem with the Karen meme of recent years. Women who refuse to sit idly by while being talked down to or mistreated are threatened with the dreaded Karening, which keeps us from speaking up. Given our society's propensity to immediately assume a woman with a good or strong visage is somehow lesser than those meek characters who stand to the side, allowing the world to happen around them, is it any wonder a Mary Sue is considered the sign of poor writing?


I encourage all of my readers (both of you) to stop using terms like this. Women, in print and in real life, deserve better.



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