A question for SBD

I don’t have anything to say about a new book or read for SBD. Instead, I have a question which is prompted by a post by The BioChemist in which a commenter objected to the misogyny in fandom as evident in the use of Mary Sue as a pejorative term and the relative absence of criticism of comparable Gary Stus.

I can’t speak to fandom, as I’m relatively inexperienced in serious analysis and criticism of fandom and am not widely read in any of the truly large fandoms. But I’ve been thinking about the Mary Sue vs. Gary Stu labels in the genre romance context ever since. And while I do believe there is a huge amount of unconscious misogyny even in the woman-dominated romance genre (see AAR blog’s recent post on forced seduction and date rape for a prime example of this), I don’t necessarily think “perfect” male characters get a free pass or uncriticized. I do think the male characters are less criticized in part because many readers admit that they read for the fantasy hero, the perfect fictional man. Still, while Gary Stu is less recognized and used, there are other terms like alphahole (TM to someone at Dear Author?), etc., that encompass the placeholder or perfect hero.

Anyway, I don’t know exactly where I was going with this thought, other than to say I’m not entirely sure that calling perfect placeholder heroines Mary Sues is misogyny as much as it may be a poor label applied to sloppy characterization.

Opinions?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A question for SBD

  1. I was under the impression that Mary Sue was less a reflection of misogyny than a recognition that most of the fanfic writers were women, and they were inserting themselves into stories as perfectly perfect heroines for their beloved hero characters. But the term has morphed so much now that it’s a shorthand slam for perfect heroines.

    I agree with you that many readers want the hero to be closer to perfection. It’s so hard with the heroines because if they’re too perfect they get called Mary Sues, but if they’re flawed they get hammered. Poor authors.

    • I think my participation in fandom skews my perspective: I’ve read relatively little het fic, and those comms have little discussion of Mary Sues. Even in HP, Ginny is a cypher and Hermione is the anti-Mary Sue unless H/H is the ship in question; Harry is the ultimate Gary Stu in some of those fics. Of course, there are other issues to be found wrt the characterization of women in slash fic, too.

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