sevendials: (mary sue? fandom wants a word...)
laila ([personal profile] sevendials) wrote on June 3rd, 2010 at 06:35 pm
It's That Old Circular.
... once again, I appear to have gotten completely carried away.

The plan for today was always to do a Suethor rant. The intention was to expand on a thought I had a while back and has been sitting in my 'rant about this' folder for the last amazing ho-hum length of time waiting for me to do something with it. This, though it is another Suethor rant, is not that rant. This was again inspired by a post to [livejournal.com profile] marysues and my somewhat marked propensity to, when confronted with an innocent comment box, teal into it at amazing length. This isn't really fair on the comment boxes but it is the way I was made, so it's not likely to be changing any time soon. Now read on.

I have a question relating to OCs and Mary Sues. I know this isn't a spork so if you mods don't like my question you can delete it. Anyway, here's my question. When you are reading stories in a fandom and you see [Canon CharacterXOC] do you automatically think Mary Sue? Do your pupils turn to sporks as you lick your lips to read the possibly horrible story? I know that probably 9 out of 10 fics in most fandoms dealing with OCs are Mary Sues.

Depends on the fandom as much as the OC, I think.

Given my oft-stated devotion to Weiss Kreuz I can of course only speak for myself and my own fandom, but... well, put it this way, Weiss (and, tho' to a slightly lesser extent, this applies to Schwarz as well) are genuinely not very good at keeping the people they care for alive, still less around them for very long. If an OC shows up, falls for and somehow manages to live happily ever after with one of the regulars? Well, I'm gonna be thinking Mary Sue right out the gate. That's not how things work round here.

It's kind of sad, really. The Weiss Kreuz fandom is actually surprisingly fertile ground for OCs. I'm more likely to give an OC a pass if the story they inhabit isn't straight out of the 'so there's this girl and she's cool' school of fanfiction. I have no problems with OCs just so long as the author has a story to tell that doesn't revolve around either her Special Powers and-stroke-or Tragic Past and why the rest of the cast are in awe of her awesome and should let her totally take over, her Epic True Love with one of the regulars, or both. OCs in fanfiction, to my mind, are there to help nursemaid the plot along: they shouldn't be the plot in its entirety.

I've seen a lot of very good Weiss Kreuz fanfic which used OCs in some way, shape or form. Equally I have seen an awful lot of obvious Suethor dreck.

So how do I tell the difference? Well, first and foremost if an OC shows up and nigh-on effortlessly hooks up with Aya (usually just because she's moved in with him or sat down and told him all about how tragic her life is) despite the bit where he doesn't actually want to date anybody and has far better things to think about than some sparkly girl he's only just met then yes, I'm gonna think Mary Sue. Aya is an angry, self-centered, deliberately isolated young man who's been canonically established as completely uninterested in romance: he thinks he doesn't deserve it. The ice about his frozen heart is not going to instantly melt on regarding the warm smile and sparkling orbs of some girl he barely knows just because she's there. The exact same thing applies to the rest of Weiss and all of Schwarz actually: they're not going to drop everything to fawn over a random girl who just appeared.

More to the point, I'm more likely to think that an OC is a Mary Sue if she and her love interest are mentioned upfront in the summary (Canon Hottie x OC!) or if the romance is clearly the driving force behind the fic, especially if it's a fic written for a series where true romance plays a rather tangential part in things, if it shows up at all. Straight away the character doesn't fit with the world she's been dropped into, and as a result she's not likely to look like she really belongs there. A character who doesn't look like she belongs in the setting she's supposed to have inhabited all her life? I'm gonna think Mary Sue there as well, especially if the world itself seems to be changing to accommodate her presence there. If she'd look out of place in the canon 'verse and the ficcer knows it and as a result is warping the canon setting all the better to slot her in? She's a Mary Sue.

The more of a special exception to all the canon rules the new character is, the more likely I am to think she's a Sue.

Of course, there are exceptions and exceptions. It's not really all that implausible for a young man to be more worried about the cute college girl with the broken umbrella who missed the last bus than he would be about the drenched, umbrellaless businessman standing next to her. Most young men would, however, be almost as wary about letting her sleep on the couch as he would be if the businessman wanted to, and he'd call an ambulance if the girl was bleeding in the gutter in just the same way he would if the man in the suit was down there. The Cute Girl Exemption Card only takes you so far.

Just as there are exceptions and exceptions, there are canon characters and canon characters. Some of them genuinely will be more receptive to an OC taking an interest than the others would be. It's perfectly possible for an OC to get together with a canon character without being a Mary Sue if it's in-character for that regular to want to spend time with her, and his reactions to being with her remain plausible and true to his behavior in canon. If she's the exception to all the usual rules, she's a Sue. If she isn't she's not and it doesn't matter if she's hanging off the arm of a canon character or not - just as long as it makes sense for the canon character to want her to be there.

Some characters, as long as the girl herself isn't an absolutely horrible human being, can totally plausibly be charmed by a cute OC without it looking at all out of place. Youji, for example. Nobody's going to bat an eyelid if Youji takes up with a cute stranger out of nowhere and if you write about him doing it then there's absolutely no problem. Characters like Aya and Ken can't, and that's where the accusations of 'Mary Sue' come in.
 
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