Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mary Sue

A 'Mary Sue' can be defined as: A fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors and readers.

In literature, this type of character annoys the hell out of me. Some prime examples of 'Mary Sues' in the Star Wars universe are:

Mara Jade:
Complete badass. Good at everything. Cynical and sarcastic (the typical tough chick). Beautiful but untouchable. Dark and tormented background. In many ways, she's the 'mother of all Star Wars mary sue characters' (since Zahn's novels opened the door for a flood thereafter). I don't really HATE Mara as much as I do other Mary sues—probably because, at the time, she was almost 'original'. But the stream of subsequent bad-girl characters in popular culture (Lara Croft, Xena, et. al.) have soured me in general to the archetype.

Corran Horn:
I've railed against this pudwacker before. He's like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo all rolled into one. And to make matters worse, he was the Star of the Rogue Squadron novels—crushing my fanboy hope for stories centered around my personal hero, Wedge. He just rubs me the wrong way and probably always will. Its more than a little irrational on my part, but he certainly /does/ fit into the Mary Sue category. Yeah, the authors tried to give him a 'fault' in his difficulty using telekinesis, but he more than makes up for it with being the bestest pilot evarr.

This is probably the most blatant Mary Sue in the Star Wars universe. She and Luke fall into very melodramaculous lurve at first sight—even though she is actually the spirit of a former jedi living in the body of a former student of Luke's who's spirit died to be with HER twoo wuv. Yes, it does sound stupid, doesn't it? Thankfully, she only appears in one trilogy and upon its ending just disappears from the story and falls off the face of the Galaxy. Evidently after being in mad, eternal love, she and Luke had one of those mythical 'mutual breakups' and went their separate ways. Good riddance.

Cade Skywalker:
He's a Jedi. He's a bounty-hunter. He's a space pirate. He's a smuggler. He's a descendant of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade. He's a brooding, morally ambiguous loner—but with a heart of gold. He's got a tortured personal history. He's got a two-tone afro-perm and a cool goatee. He wears a black duster and carries a double barreled shotgun blaster. Do I need to go on? I mean come ON. He's like every powergamer cliche in the freaking book. All he needs is to be half-mandalorian with a hint of Noghri blood and he would be the poster child for twinks. Ugh.

Kyp Durron:
He was actually almost tolerable when he first appeared in the Jedi Academy novels. A force-sensitive kid, raised in the spice mines of kessel, surviving due to instinctive use of his abilities. But the quickness with which Han Solo grew to love Kyp and adopt him as a sidekick soured me very quickly. There was no build up from. "Hey, this kid is okay" to "Hey, you know, I like this kid" to "This is a good kid and I'm going to do what I can to help him." it went from. "Hey, I'm Kyp" to "Kyp is my bestest buddy evarr!" And then there is the leniency they showed Kyp after he blew up an entire solar system, killing billions of people. They said. "Oh, well, he was under the influence of the Dark Side, so...its okay. He won't do that again." I was like: WTF!? The kid is a freaking mass murderer and they just ignore it and give him a free ride. Oh, and Kyp is also a NATURAL at the force, meaning he picks up everything with amazing speed and is destined to become the bestest- well, you know the routine. My opinion of the character didn't improve any with Kyp's incarnations in the Salvatore novels—where he plays the cool, young Jedi who's out there doing thing while stodgy and scared old Luke is too stodgy and scared to act. Bleh.

I could go on, but my bile levels are already approaching critical.

Exhale. Soooo...while I really do have some rather venomous dislike of Mary Sue characters in literature, I will be the first to admit that in a roleplaying game, I encourage my players to be just that. As I've talked about before, I like players in my games (especially Star Wars games) to feel as though they can achieve great things—change the world they're in and be a 'mover and shaker' on a very high level. They don't start off with this kind of clout (that would be stupid and anti-climactic), but rather, can build up to it over years of play. When viewed from the outside, the Characters of my Vermillion campaign no doubt come off as very Mary Sue. After all—at least three of them are Jedi Masters and one is now THE Mandalore, in charge of the entire planet/culture/people. These guys have saved the galaxy several times over. They rub shoulders with the heroes of the story on a regular basis. They are skilled enough now to take on MAJOR NPCs (like Boba Fett for instance) and win.

If I read a Star Wars novel about this group, I'd no doubt be spewing more bile at how 'lame' it is. But the game medium is NOT the same as the literary. My players didn't get where they are just because I said so. They developed it. They EARNED it. And I'm proud of how 'bogus' they've become. Also, unlike many Mary Sues, these guys DO have faults. Some are too impulsive (looking at you, Adren). Others are primitive 'outsiders' who don't quite fit in to galactic society (Bob the Tusken, for instance). And ALL of them have made mistakes throughout their in-character careers. But yeah, overall, they might be viewed as Mary Sues.

That being said, do I have double standard? You bet—and I hope other GMs an players feel the same way, because, as it turns out, its an awful lot of fun to play.

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