Nobody's Perfect

9:18 AM Gemma Fitz 6 Comments

Believe it or not, writing fan fiction really did teach me a lot of things. And it only took me a few months in the fan fiction community to learn the ultimate, number one rule of writing (fan fiction or otherwise):

The Mary-Sue is fatal. Avoid her at all costs.


My friends and I made a BIG deal out of this on FF.net-- maybe a bigger deal than we needed to. But then again, my fandom (Lord of the Rings) was renowned for churning out endless piles of 197 chapter fics, chronicling the tales of gorgeous teenaged elleths, bestowed with never-before seen powers (never-before seen in Middle Earth, anyway), who swooped into the Fellowship of the Ring and saved Frodo multiple times before finally destroying the ring themselves and riding off into the sunset with Legolas or Aragorn (or sometimes both).

It was stories like these that gave fan fiction a bad reputation, and we were determined to redeem ourselves. So no more Mary Sues. In fact, in my time on FF.net, I really only saw maybe five or six Mary Sues. Not so when I turned my eyes outside of fan fiction, and looked around at all the so-called "original" books and movies that were coming out.
Last night I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the first time. And I should stop right about now and say there are going to be spoilers in this post because I'm assuming everyone's seen it by now. If you haven't, stop reading right here.

So you've seen it? You sure? Okay, keep reading.

I don't tend to like the girl characters in movies. They're usually wildly unrealistic, arrogant, and really only there for all the guys, both those in the movie and in the audience, to stare at. Girl characters usually just annoy me to death, because so few movies portray them correctly. And so something that really got me excited near the beginning of Star Wars episode 7 was Rey.

She was kind. She was feminine. She was good with machines and robots and space junk. She wasn't really that pretty and she definitely wasn't objectified. She was a perfectly normal and awesome human being (or alien, more likely), and it didn't take long before I was cheering wildly for her, screaming "You GO, girl!"

I liked how she was good with parts and machinery. It made up an interesting part of her personality and actually contributed to the storyline, so I was totally on board with it, in spite of the subtle hint at trying to be that strong female character. I didn't totally buy it when she beat up two guys at the same time in less than two minutes, but I supposed that it was probably good they didn't make Finn have to save her. I was extremely doubtful when she turned out to be a great pilot and a little bit upset when I found out that she had some kind of connection to Luke's lightsabre. But I still clung to the hope that eventually she'd get some flaws that would help even it all out.

And then turns out she's strong in the force-- stronger than Kylo Ren, who I'm assuming has been training since childhood (right? right?), and just-- nope. I was done.
And I'm probably more upset with Star Wars episode 7 than I would have been if Rey had just been the stereotypical strong female character that I honestly hate a lot, because instead, they created a really likeable, compelling character that I desperately wanted to be on board with. And then they ruined her, because,

a) she had no flaws, and
b) she could do anything

Nobody's perfect. I don't care if you need a mechanic AND a pilot AND a talented jedi. I don't care if you think that it will make the feminists happy to see a Mary Sue on screen. I don't care if you're trying to represent women in a positive light.

Representing women as perfect is every bit as annoying as representing them as weak. Want another shocker? We're human beings, people. We're aren't objects only there for the sake of men, but we aren't goddesses, either. We have character and personality and interests and hobbies and likes and dislikes and strengths and flaws and skills and things we're just downright bad at. Just like everyone else.

Of course, it's not just women who get painted perfect on screen. The Gary Stu counterpart isn't quite as common, but he still makes an appearance. He's still annoying. Surprise, surprise-- guys can't do everything, either! Guys mess up sometimes, too! Everybody does.

Just because you're not writing fan fiction doesn't mean you can get away with Mary Sues and Gary Stus. Thankfully, it's not that hard to avoid writing these types of characters. There's just one simple rule you have to keep in mind.

Nobody's perfect.

Nobody. Ever. So your characters shouldn't be, either. It's that simple.
(And, for the record, I did love the new Star Wars movie-- and I'm still clinging to the hope that Rey will shape up-- or down, in this case-- in the upcoming films. So don't kill me, please.)

So, what did you think of the newest Star Wars instalment? What are some Mary Sues or Gary Stus in pop culture that annoy you personally? Do you think it's ever okay to write "perfect" characters?

6 comments:

  1. I haven't seen the new Star Wars yet! *wails* (So I kinda skipped over that part, thanks for the warning haha.) I do like the point you're making, though. I personally think that flaws are what make characters so relatable. I love those characters that make mistakes and sometimes fail, because they are just so adorably human.
    Great points, Gemma!

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    1. Aw, I'm so sorry! It took me a month to get around to watching it and all my friends were judging me, heheh. xD Exactly! Flawed characters are the best.
      Thanks for the comment. :)

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  2. I loooove this post. It can be said a hundred times and it will need to be said a hundred more. Mary Sues or 'Strong Female Protagonists' are popping up all over in YA and movies and it really sucks, okay? I mean, I like girls who can hold their own. But so what if they need help sometimes? If they can't do something? If - oh the horror - maybe they're saved by a guy once? THAT DOESN'T MATTER. Doing everything themselves doesn't make them strong. It makes them 'perfect'. To be honest, I'm probably going to rant about the STP problem on my blog sometime soon. Jump on the bandwagon and get my own thoughts out there.

    Also, I really liked Rey! At the beginning, her character was great, and I really enjoyed her. But as you pointed out, it went downhill from there and I was so bloody disappointed. I really, really, reeaaallyyy hope that they fix that in the next movies.

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    1. YAS YAS YAS. Thank you. You totally summed up my thoughts. xD I would LOVE to see you do a blog post on the whole "Stong Female Protagonist" issue. It's one of those things I've seen a LOT of people talk about, but EVERYONE seems to have a really unique perspective on it.

      It would be the best thing if they could just-- you know, give her something she /can't/ do, or something? I'm crossing my fingers for a better arc in the next movie. (Because I can't help it, I still want to like her.)

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  3. I definitely disagree with you when it comes to Rey, but putting that aside I can agree with this post. *nodnod*

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    1. *laughs* Everyone interprets people differently so that's all well and good. :)

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