Recently, I’ve seen quite a few posts about Mary Sue characters cross my dash that I don’t feel accurately deconstruct or understand the term. As someone who feels very strongly about the representation of women in media, (and as someone who has been reading fan fiction since the age of Yahoo emailing lists and live journal) I felt the need to write an article on the subject. Hopefully this will help inspire some writers and settle the concerns of others.
1. What Is a Mary Sue Character?:
The term “Mary Sue originates from the name of a character created by Paula Smith in 1973 for her parody story “A Trekkie’s Tale" published in her fanzine Menagerie The story starred Lieutenant Mary Sue ("the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old"), and satirized unrealistic Star Trek fan fiction. The best fan written definition I have come across can be found: here
In essence: A Mary-sue character is a female character that shares three major characteristics:
- They are poorly written and one dimensional with incredibly predictable personality traits.
- They are the romantic interest of nearly all the male characters within the text.
- They are infallible in many ways. Including but not limited to intelligence, battle prowess, wit, and the consequences of their own actions.
What I believe most people who criticize the Mary Sue trope are missing, is that these characteristics all have different weights of importance to the development and identification of a Mary Sue character.
The most important characteristic of the three is the first listed: That Mary Sue characters are poorly written.
The reason that this is the most important characteristic is that without this aspect of the term, many of the strong amazing female characters who you would never even dream of considering “Mary Sue” characters would have to fall underneath the term.
It is the defining difference between characters of quality who happen to be strong and interesting and compelling, and characters who seem to have inherited these personality traits from osmosis. Meaning that the difference between a strong/diverse female character and a Mary Sue is the quality of character development and (in many cases) the understanding of well studied character design.
Without understanding the importance of this particular aspect of Mary Sue characters, the following characters would be considered Mary Sues: Xena, Martha Jones, Anne of Green Gables, Eowyn, Rose Tyler, Sailor Moon, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, Katniss Everdeen, Allison Argent, Lisbeth Salander etc.
As you know, these women are decidedly NOT Mary Sue characters.
The list above is designed to showcase how vital being “poorly written” is for a character to qualify as Mary Sue. There is a certain… laziness that is associated with the personality and character development arc of known Mary Sue characters (Like Bella Swan for example). And one cannot be defined as a Mary Sue character without it…
When a woodwind player sees sixteenth or thirty-second notes in their part, they roll their eyes and then begin to practice.
When a brass player sees sixteenth or thirty-second notes in their part, they just sort of stare at it in shock, look at the director to make sure he’s serious, then begin to rethink their life completely.
Just to be clear, I do often use “dude” as a “gender-neutral” term, especially when I’m excited, but if that ever makes you uncomfortable or you feel I’m not respecting your gender, you can tell me to stop because me getting to use a certain word is not even close to being as important as you being comfortable around me, okay?
This is a good attitude to have about the word “dude”
Cards Against Humanity’s “$5 More” Black Friday Sale
A lot of people have been curious about how our “everything costs $5 more" Black Friday sale worked, and if it was successful for us.
This is a difficult time of year for us because we spend almost no money on marketing, and it’s easy for us to get lost in the noise and money of the holiday season.
We initially started talking about doing a Black Friday sale over the summer, and came up with the idea of a “$0.01 off” coupon. I liked the idea, but have always maintained a policy of no deals, no discounts, and no sales for Cards Against Humanity, even during our Kickstarter. To me the game is always $25, it’s never another price, and doing any kind of deal or discount undermines the simplicity and honesty of the game.
After some discussion, Ben came up with the idea of raising the price for Black Friday and that was so outrageous that I fell in love with it instantly. Two books I read recently that informed my decision were Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath and Marty Neumeier’s Zag, which are both kind of shitty business/science books that make the somewhat-obvious point that being small and nimble can give you advantages that huge lumbering opponents don’t have. Anyone can do a sale for Black Friday, but nobody but us could get away with raising their prices and risking a ton of sales just to make a joke.
The other guys were pretty skeptical, but Ben and I convinced them one by one, 12 Angry Men style, until they agreed to let us try a truly insane pricing experiment. The final piece needed to convince everyone was the mockup of the landing page that I designed, with the glowing “consume!” button. Once everyone saw how funny that looked, they knew we had to go through with it.
Nothing crazy here. I put together a landing page and we replaced all the “buy” buttons on our site with the new pricing. I edited the FAQ to include:
Why do all of your products cost more today?
We’re participating in the tradition of “Black Friday,” an American holiday celebrating a time when the Wampanoag tribe saved the settlers of Plymouth Colony with incredible deals. All of our products are $5 more today only, so you can enjoy buying them that much more.
I’m mad that you’re making a joke about Black Friday.
You’re probably a bad person.
We called our contact at Amazon and explained the idea for the sale to them. They thought it was funny but were also pretty annoyed - apparently monkeying with pricing on the biggest sales day of the year isn’t as funny to Amazon as it is to us.
The sale made people laugh, it was widely shared on Twitter and Tumblr, and it was the top post on Reddit. The press picked it up, and it was reported in The Guardian, USA Today, Polygon, BuzzFeed, All Things D, Chicagoist, and AdWeek. It was even the top comment on The Wirecutter’s front page AMA, which had nothing to do with us.
I was pretty sure that our fans would be into the “$5 more” sale, but I had no idea that it would turn a day where we’d normally be totally overlooked into a huge press hit for the game.
So how did we do? A little better than last year. We kept our position as the best-selling toy or game on Amazon. My guess is that peoples’ buying decisions just weren’t that affected by $5.
The interesting thing to note is that we got a nice lift in our sales the day after Black Friday (“Regret Saturday”). That might be from people who were waiting to buy the game until it came back down in price, or, more likely, those are sales from people who heard about the game after our Black Friday press. Not bad for an ad that paid us to run it.
two dads have a conversation
"haha yes i’m going golfing on the weekend"
"hello going golfing on the weekend, i’m dad"
"hello dad, i’m dad"
"hello dad, i’m dad"
"hel̡lo ̀dad, ̢i͟’͜m̧ d́ąd"
"h̕͠͞e̶͘͟l̸̀ló ҉d̕͟ad͝,̷͞ ̢̛i͏̢’m̛͠ ̕ḑ̢͝a͏͢͝ḑ͠"
"H̶͟͏͜E̢͞L҉͏̸҉Ļ̵͘͞O̵͟͟͟ ͏̷̨͠Ḑ̀A̢̛̕͞͞D̸҉̢̕,̛͠ ͏̴Į̵̷̛͘’̀͟͏̵̕M̧͜͢͠ ͢͢͏́͢D̵À͞͝D͞"