Article: You know the name. You've heard the screams and the snickers. You've read the jokes and the references, but you've never quite got it. "Who is this Mary Sue character," you may ask and why does everyone seem to hate her?
Well the first part of that answer is simple: Mary Sue, avatar, self-insert, however you refer to it, it's the author. Or rather, he's any character inserted into an existing world for the seeming sole purpose of being the sole purpose. There's a new Sailor Scout? It's Sailor Mary Sue! redshirt ends up pulling Captain Picard's arse out of the fire? "Ensign M. Sue, sir!" A ninth Digidestined? "Insertmon: Digivolve to... MARYSUEMON!:
And that first part serves to explain the knee-jerk disdain that many feel for her. The majority or Mary Sues out there have required a major plot contrivance, if not an outright violation of continuity to even exist. Why the hex wouldn't Pluto or Uranus recognize a tenth Scout? Why would Ranma need the help of some American to beat the Kunos? In other words, why the author's character suddenly necessary? The short answer is ..."because."
For those of you not familiar with the above examples, think of this: Remember the last season of Knight Rider, when KITT received the Super Pursuit Mode. It was cool and all but
A) They never needed it before (You'd think being able to drive at 250mph would be plenty fast)
B) They didn't need it until it was already there.
Substitute "Super Pursuit" with "new character" and you may get the idea. (Unless you never watched Knight Rider. In which case, you're probably more confused. But bear with me!)
But it's not all (completely) bad. Not all self-inserts are created equal. Contrary to what you may read, not every self-insert is a "Mary Sue". Read enough of those type stories and you'll start to notice four distinct types of author-insert characters. To wit...
Your classic author avatar. She's (and 95% of the time, it's a "She") there for one purpose and one purpose only: To swoon over and be swooned over by an existing character
Ocean Elf: (Revision) and sex it up with that character or get married to them, or dyie in their arms. Please, you actually used the word "boink" instead of "sex"? *Facepalm*
Article: Mary Sue sometimes appears in stories with a high WAFF (warm fuzzy feeling) content. As often as not, she's the focus of the story. Her skills and abilities are always identical or complimentary to her target o' lust. She exists to either live happily ever after or die a tragic, tear-jerking death. She also tends to be the best written of the species.
The problem with her is that she's almost always so mind-numbingly perfect, so relentlessly flawless, and overwhelmingly bratty or fake-sweet, that the reader often spends most of the fic hoping she dies a horrible, lingering death.
Ocean Elf: Or a quick death with no one sticking around to mourn her, but expressing relief instead.
Article: For Mary Sue Classic Fiction:
Mary Sues can be found in large numbers in most of your popular TV fan fics (Esp. Star Trek) And - surprisingly - professional wrestling fics tend to swim with them.
The most numerous of SI species. They tend to go about 2:1 male to female, most of the female Avatars existing as Sailor Sun/Earth/Pleadies/Hubble. They tend to more noble and/or powerful than the characters who's world they invade.
For you RPGers out there, let me put it another way: Think of a brand new Everquest character who arrives maxed out on all skills and equipped with everything his character will "happen" to need to complete a particular quest.
When they do show up, there are generally four points to look for.
A) The new character is dramatically more powerful/competent than the main cast. Often to the extent that the regular cast is relegated to cheerleaders or sidekicks. They end up helping him out instead of the other way around. Often they need his help to take out a bad guy they've never had problem defeating before he showed up (The Super Pursuit scenario).
B) The regular cast can't stop commenting about how great he is. They run into our Avatar and he's instantly the best martial artist/swordsman/detective/cook/lover (don't snicker, I've seen it) they've ever been around. Often, the Avatar will try to deflect said admiration with a humility or self-depreciation that no one this side of Superman or Captain America has ever been able to get away with. (Ex: a previously unseen Maximal who single-handedly defeats Megatron, but insists he's just another soldier.)
C) One of the regular cast falls instantly in love with him, despite prior characterization, current emotional attachment, or total lack of rationale other than the infamous Avatar Aura of Smooth. the imaginary energy field self-inserted characters generate to bend the regular cast to their wills - i.e. trusting and/or falling in love with them for no stated reason.)
E) The new character will often make some tremendously noble sacrifice at one point. Be it giving up the love of a cast member (i.e. Sailor Sun stepping aside so Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask can get together) or his life to save one of the others.
*Snipped out anti-Wesley Crusher whinge.*
For Avatar Fiction:
Any action genre - be it comics, anime, or TV – will have lots of them to choose from.
For Avatar MSTings:
Ocean Elf: MSTing is giving characters from anywhere the Mystery Science Theater treatment. t was a big trend back in the Gundam payday, but is passe.
Article: Basically, a variant of the Avatar type: Basically, it's the author portraying a world's regular character as talking and acting the way he would in a given situation, regardless of what the character's established personality would dictate. This only qualifies when the author takes this to the extreme that it basically becomes the author wearing a Wolverine suit.
Ocean Elf: *SMH* Did that make any sense to you?
Article: For Possession Avatar Fiction:
Possession Avatars can be found in comic book-based fics (esp. X-Men), antifics, revengefics. and lemons of all genres. They are especially prevalent in crossover fics where one character invades another's world and basically lays the smack down on everyone in it.
For Possession Avatar MSTings:
Godboy may be a bit derogatory, but it's the most descriptive term for them. There aren't that many of them out there, but they're notable in their - for lack of a better word - obnoxiousness. Basically a Godboy is an Avatar with most of an Avatar's redeeming qualities removed, replaced with power levels above an beyond the entire regular cast *put together.* Whereas an Avatar would toss in some modesty or some character "flaw" to defray his obvious superiority, a Godboy won't hesitate to throw the fact that he's THAT much better than the best regular cast member. Think of a new Saiyan who's stronger that Goku, Gohan, Vegita, and Trunks, and is a match for two or three of them in tandem.
For Godboy Fiction:
Same as for Avatar fiction. They're not as prevalent, but you'll know it when you see it.
An exception to any neat categorization is Stephen Ratliff's Marrissa Picard. She's clearly not a classic Mary Sue (She swoons for no one!) She's not really an Avatar type - she doesn't really lord it over the regular cast, since Ratliff tends to keep her out of the way of the canonical TNG cast. But she makes up for it by riding roughshod over Star Trek's supporting races. Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, all brushed aside. (It helps that they tend to be OOC stupid when facing her, but oh well.) She doesn't really fit the Godboy mode either, she never comes out and says she's better than Picard or Kirk or any of those guys. (Although, IMHO, she'd command rings around Riker.) Granted, her competency and ease at which she vanquishes enemies, puts her close. The kicker here is that it is so much that she's the only one capable of the things she does, it's just that circumstances (read: contrivances) conspire so that she's the only one there who can.
In short, Marrissa's just unique enough that she's neither fish nor fowl. She's just Marrissa.
For quick reference: here's a chart that'll help sort the type of SI you're reading.
Mary Sue Avatar Possession SI Godboy
First Appearance Regular character notices a strikingly beautiful stranger, who then gets described right down to the color of her skirt. Swoops out of the shadows to save a regular character from certain doom – a doom that he or she usually gets themselves out of. Shows up in another character's world and starts pounding on that world's regular characters. Appears to the regular cast in a dramatic flash of light, warning of impending doom that only he can guide them through.
Attitude Demure. Deferential. Matches the object d'lust's personality perfectly " I'm really just part of the team. The best part, mind you, but..." To regular cast member: "I don't like you" or "I wanna nail you." "Do as I say or fry."
Personal Vibe "Love me!" "Gaze upon me in awe!" "I'm cooler than you!" "FEAR ME!"
Aura Of Smooth™ Level Light to medium. It's obvious that they're the regular character's "perfect match" Medium to heavy. Depends on how fast they want to get a regular character in the sack. Two-sided: Either Heavy (for maximum coolness) or negative (for maximum hatred) Heavy bordering on negative. Admiration from the IC characters is mixed with fear that Godboy will zap them if they don't fawn over him.
Personal Ability/Power Usually matching said SI's love interest. As good as (Often better than) the best of the regular cast at whatever they do. Character's normal skills pumped up 10x. Put the entire regular cast together. Multiply times 3. He's still stronger.
Damage to Space/Time Continuum Light: Only exists to be swooned over, and usually by someone who's unattached in regular continuity. Variable. A well-written Avatar can slip in with barely a ripple. Others get worse with each page. Heavy, but temporary. Possession SI's tend to appear in one-shot fics, so the damage is localized. Heavy. Their mere presence violates story canon. (Not to mention common sense.
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