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Quoteable snark of the day

Via apocalypsos: I can't speak to Uhura specifically, having not seen the movie, but I just roll my eyes and tune out completely whenever I see the phrase "Mary Sue" because at this point it's applied to any female character under the age of seventy who can make it home in a rainstorm without drowning. -- violetisblue in this thread

There are times when it's really a pity that fandom is a working model of anarchy, because there are certain abysmally stupid things I'd love to forbid, and applying the term "Mary Sue" to pretty much any canon character is right up there. (I'm not in love with it in general, frankly, but it's been around since I was literally using training wheels, so whatevs.)

Our ancestors wrote off an inconvenient woman with the labels "witch" or "whore." These days society at large does it with "bitch," "bimbo", etc."

Fandom? Does it with "Mary Sue." Funny how I roll my eyes every bit as hard.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 24th, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
What I figure is happening with Star Trek at least is that no one knows what to make of the Uhura-is-sleeping-with-Spock thing. And since traditionally, it's the female viewers who want to sleep with Spock, the fact that it's Uhura doing it means to a certain segment of viewers that the writers made that change in order to play out fangirl fantasies for them on screen.

I dunno if that's true. I think I'm the only person not mortally offended by the fact that Uhura was a) sleeping with Spock and b) didn't have any scenes of awesomeness that rendered her a character with agency. (Mostly because I think her actual job on ship in and of itself renders her a character without much hero potential, even though I could have come up with a scene or two to give her SOMETHING to do.)
May. 24th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
You're not the only person. And she contributed tangibly and critically to the success of the mission: If she hadn't picked up the transmission from the Klingon prison planet, the movie would have been really damn short.

This is a universe where the hero, more often than not, is the one who's showing off and/or making a personal point. Uhura doesn't seem interested in either, just in being the best at what she does.
May. 24th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
I've attempted to make that argument. What I get told is that while it's true that she found that transmission, it was Kirk who went to her. Kirk to told Pike about it. She was just there to nod.

And then when she finally got her station on the bridge, there was nothing for her to do.

I get how that's a pretty sexist message.

But... she's a telephone operator. The only thing I could think of that would have made her somehow an active participant in being a hero would have been if she was needed on the Romulan ship in order to work the computers, the thing that Spock said he was needed to do (which he ended up totally not doing at all). They could have done that. Beamed her over and had her find critical information through her super powers of reading Romulan.

But when your character is at the outset a telephone operator and translator, I guess I just don't have high expectations for her being a major source of women's lib politics or something.
May. 24th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
She provided one piece of critical information, Chekov provided another, Kirk put them together. Last I checked, that was called teamwork. But then, that's why I mostly observe and don't wade into these discussions. *shrug*
May. 24th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
I hadn't sought it out. One of my friends had just seen it, and his review was essentially:

Decent movie. SOOOOO sexist.

And I had seen it, and I was like:

That movie rocked! And hey, Spock-kissing, sweet!

So it was kind of tough to avoid at least finding out whys and wherefores. ;)
May. 24th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
I think part of the problem is that the idea of a "Mary Sue" took off among people who weren't involved with fandom and didn't understand it's meaning. I remember reading Stephen King in college and being amused that his heroes were so frequently adult, male writers, or plucky young boys who told stories and had tons of imagination like, oh I dunno, the kid who grows up to be a writer. It didn't seem like anyone had a problem with it.

I actually changed the name of "MarySue of the Opera" thinking non-fen would never get what it meant. Now I can change it back. Everyone knows the term. They just apply it to any character they don't like. MarySue is really meant to be a fanfic character, not a character in an original work.
May. 24th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
Even people who've been in fandom for ages seem to have latched onto self-insertion fantasy as the main defining point. To me it's always been defined as "OC designed to be even cooler than the canon characters."
May. 24th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
I would agree with your definition and add that a real MarySue is usually written in a way that the story becomes all about her/him and the canon characters are secondary. I'm also thinking that we could apply "MarySue" to either gender, even though the term was coined in reference to a female character. In a MarySue fanfic, the canon characters are really only there to provide a background for the main character which the author doesn't have to describe to the reader. That leaves the author free to focus almost exclusively on the OC.

Ultimately, I find that any character that is too cool or powerful has to be rewritten. I end up asking myself how I can have a plot at all if one character could have stepped in and solved everything anytime s/he felt like it.
May. 24th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
I admit to having used "Captain Mary Sue" long ago, when I was angry with a certain Voyager trend (I also used "Captain Mary Poppins," and whatever else I could throw at what I considered, at the time, to be a rash of poor writing, unworthy of Trek and of Janeway). So I'm not innocent. But that's the only time I've wielded it against canon writers and a canon character, and I knew I was stepping out of bounds, that the term was properly meant for non-canon characters of a very particular variety in fanfiction.

That said, the term designated a specific phenomenon/genre that needs a name. But if people are using it in such a diluted way that it could conceivably apply to Uhura (???)! I find that hard to imagine. I bet I'm both old and naive. ;-)
May. 24th, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
Janeway would be one of those times that a canon character came as close to qualifying as one can. It made me tear my hair out that no matter how boneheaded Crazy Cap'n Katie's choices were, the universe always ended up confirming that she was right. (Actually, I'm moderately concerned about reboot!Kirk ending up in the same territory, given this start.) That's certainly a Mary Sue-like phenomenon.

I mostly gave up on the show at the point where I realized that they weren't building toward a confrontation with the way she had was barreling myopically across the Delta Quadrant, but that they actually thought the things they wrong her doing made her a good captain.
May. 25th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
Word. That's when I bailed too.

the things they wrong her doing

Best Freudian slip of the day!
May. 25th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
"no matter how boneheaded Crazy Cap'n Katie's choices were, the universe always ended up confirming that she was right."

This was also true of Kirk in the original TV serie, too tho.
May. 25th, 2009 08:55 am (UTC)
Oh, definitely. But he managed to leave behind somewhat less destruction. 'Swhy I'm bracing for reboot!Kirk to hit the same buttons -- everything is bigger and badder these days, including boneheaded choices by iconoclast heroes.

There's a reason I love the array of icons taraljc made that say "James T. Kirk: Pretty, but kind of a douche."

Edited at 2009-05-25 12:56 pm (UTC)
Jun. 1st, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
I used to play this game with Voyager, three strikes and you're out, in which I would turn off the episode after three times Janeway knew something she could not possibly have known, or demonstrated personal expertise with something she could not conceivably be more expert at than her crew. It got to where I was turning off episodes after the first fifteen minutes...

No wonder Q liked her. Her omniscience complemented his omnipotence. ;-)
May. 24th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
The worst of it is, Kirk is the damned Mary Sue.
May. 24th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
To the extent that a canon character can be, ITA.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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