Tag Archives: fan culture

Mary Sues Revisited, Part 2: Practically Perfect in Every Way

PracticallyPerfect

[Mary Sues were the very first topic I wrote about on this blog, some years ago. I’d like to re-examine them with my current mindset, under the hopefully true impression that I’m now older and wiser]

The long and short of my opinion on self-insert characters in teen girls’ fanfiction is really: man, who the heck cares? Writing stories that are deeply self-indulgent, highly autobiographical and borrow heavily from other people’s work is an essential (if sometimes embarrassing) part of the growth of a writer. Maybe these young authors will use their trashy OC fanfic as a practicing ground and eventually move on to write Man Booker Prize winners, maybe they’ll just keep it up as a fun creative hobby. If they’re having fun and not hurting anyone—except for annoying the Fandom Guardians, or whoever it is that gets so up in arms about these things—I see no reason they should not be left to their own devices, especially when placing yourself in a fantasy can often be a great source of safety and self-esteem.

If a Mary Sue is defined as being a) an author self-insert, and b) unbelievably perfect and wonderful and ideal and with great cosmic significance, I’m going to try and examine the second point today. Continue reading

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Mary Sues Revisited, Part 1: Insert Self Here

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[Mary Sues were the very first topic I wrote about on this blog, some years ago. I’d like to re-examine them with my current mindset, under the hopefully true impression that I’m now older and wiser]

People have been talking about Mary Sues a lot these days, mostly in the great kerfuffle of a conversation that sprang up around Rey, the undisputed heroine of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The young lady did very much awaken the force, and it seems to have upset some folks… though equally as many (if not more) folks have been keen to rebut that Rey being a Mary Sue is a ridiculous accusation, mostly pointing out that she’s a perfectly reasonable and un-Sueish character compared to the male heroes of previous movies. And even if she is some sort of Mary Sue, what’s so wrong with that anyway? Continue reading

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Waifu Culture: A Troubled Marriage

waifu bar

[First, I’d like to apologise for using a pseudo-meme as the opening image. Second, I would like to forewarn that this post contains mention of sexual harassment and child abuse]

There is nothing wrong with loving fictional characters. When everything else in a story goes to pot, the characters and the emotional attachment we have to them are often what keeps us hooked and allows many a show that would have otherwise run itself into the ground to soldier on. The characters are what we hold dear to our hearts and imaginations, and as they are non-existent conceptual beings created for the purpose of art, copyrights aside, they are in a way ours as soon as they hit the public sphere. I’d say no harm has ever come from loving something, but if you get deep enough into some subsets of fan culture, it can have some weird outreaching connotations.

I repeat, there is nothing wrong with being passionately invested in a character. By all means, write endless meta on them, gather every piece of fan art and merchandise you can find, plaster your walls with their posters and hug a pillow with them depicted lounging on it if it makes you feel any more at home. Call them your wife or your husband or your angel or your child—if you’re with them for enough of a long haul, it can develop into a constant relationship, cheering when they succeed, weeping when they don’t, perhaps identifying with or finding a sense of emotional support in them that you haven’t found elsewhere.

This is, as most things in fandom are, all harmless fun, and being voraciously attached to a fictional person has generally helped more people than it’s hindered. It can spark trouble, of course, because fandoms are weird and subject to self-destruction like any conglomerate of vocal and passionate people, but I’m not here to examine in-fighting and accusations of your waifu being shit, if you’ll allow me to paraphrase, but the people who take this “too far” and the genuinely problematic effects it can have on the outside world. Continue reading

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The Geek Chorus (Gone Wrong)

The Big Bang Theory art

‘Geek chorus’ being like a ‘Greek chorus’ in that it’s a character or set of characters that is there for aside glances to the audience. I kinda like that phrasing. Can I patent it?

Everyone wants to see themselves in the fiction they consume, and people get a buzz when they do. Relating strongly to a character warms a certain little compartment of the heart and can make a reader or viewer feel at home, which is why wide representation is so important and also why we often end up with these weird and cringe-worthy cut-out ‘geek’ or ‘book loving’ heroes that fans are meant to empathise with.

Because writers/showrunners/creators of fictional things for mass consumption are acutely aware of the cockles-warming nature of relatable heroes it’s understandable they jump on this and try to create one that will connect with their audience, who they think they also acutely know. This can go one of two ways and, I’m afraid to say, does not always end well. The internet has given rise to a new generation of TV writer, for example, that is able to have much more contact with and a better look at the people consuming their shows, whether it’s through chatting with them on Twitter or delving into the fandom circles of journals and blog sites or even, dare they, the world of fan works like art and writing. This exposure can give them an idea of the kind of people that are fans of their series, and that can spark inspiration for a character, be they a cameo or the hero of a new venture, that the audience is sure to see themselves in.

Here’s the thing: while this is ultimately well-meaning (most of the time?), representation of geek culture in media is a world of hits and misses. One only needs to look at the horror that is The Big Bang theory to know that this is how the enthusiastic and nerdy are best perceived on TV. To be fair, they have their fun with pop culture references and there are probably elements of the characters that viewers can see themselves in or be sympathetic with, but for the most part the show stars a pile of stereotypical caricatures with story driven by making fun of fans while masquerading as being relatable to them. Do you see why that’s a problem? Continue reading

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Filed under Pop Culture Ponderings, Things We Need to Stop Doing