OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Just because your character is a strong female doesn’t make them a Mary Sue

Michonne from Walking Dead

We use the term Mary Sue a lot in roleplaying. That’s because it can be a huge problem with one character trying to hog the limelight more than others. A Mary Sue typically is too “perfect”. They’re either unrealistically skilled for their age, or just freakishly talented at exactly whatever needs to be done to solve the current plot.

There’s loads of different types of Mary Sues (the different types are explained in the article “The Many different types of Mary Sue” – it’s also worth noting that “Mary Sue” is also a catch-all term for all genders, although some people like to use “Gary-Stu” for the male equivalent), and the term is dangerously close to the term GodModding too, and the two have crossovers. A Mary Sue is also used to describe someone who is really popular, and whom is instantly likeable by everyone – even though you really shouldn’t assume everyone likes your character. 

Authors are sick of the term Mary Sue

I wrote an article last month about authors of novels who are sick of hearing the term Mary Sue. It seams that if they have a strong female character, some people are quick to point a finger and shout “Mary Sue!”. But that seems wrong to me. Mary Sues only exist in roleplay, where each character needs to be equal. In roleplay there is no “main” character. Every character should be equal in terms of the game.

An author has even gone as far as saying that the term Mary Sue “is sexist, belittling, and reduces them in a way that is very rarely applied to their male counterparts”.

I said above that I think Mary Sue is a term applied to both genders, but obviously some don’t, and classify all competant female characters as Mary Sues, which is just wrong.

Some characters are Mary Sues and that’s okay

If you think about it, loads of characters have things in common with the Mary Sue trope. James Bond is the one who immediately springs to my mind, who seems to have the exact skill required to get him out of every situation, even parasurfing (see this rediculous clip), which I’m pretty sure has never ever been mentioned before.

Even Batman if you think about it is the exact definition of a Mary Sue (see the article about that here).

But we don’t mind these things. Sometimes a Mary Sue character can be fun (but not in roleplay, you should tell them to stop – but do it nicely).

Female characters are just people

female characters are people

George R. R. Martin gets it right (in my opinion), when he says women are people. Of course they are, that’s just obvious. Female characters can be anything you want, and just because a female character is a badass, or skilled, or whatever, don’t immediately assume she’s a Mary Sue.

There’s a checklist here to identify Mary Sue characters. Use that before deciding too early who is a Mary Sue and who isn’t!