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This was sort of inspired by some comments in an entry in elisem's journal. But talking about Anita Blake was entirely my idea and she bears no responsibility!

I think that Anita Blake, the "vampire hunter" character serialized by Laurell K. Hamilton, is something of a Mary Sue. She does not lack flaws, but she is idealized to the point where she does function as a wish-fulfillment fantasy in a very obvious way.

(I will note that Mary Sue is a sexist term for an excessively idealized character. The male counterpart is commonly called Marty Stu, but I think he should be called James Bond.)

There are two related reasons Anita is a Mary Sue. One, after the first few books in the series she keeps collecting more and more lovers, one or two per book at least. Two, and related, she has a wider variety of supernatural powers than anyone else in the series (with the possible exception of a sort of vampire goddess figure whom we haven't really met yet), and in each book she collects one or more new supernatural powers.

So Elise's post was about how disabilities affect her work, and people in the comments were talking about all the ways they have to work around mental and physical disabilities and how as they age they can no longer take certain abilities for granted and so on.

So I thought, Aging causes people's bodies and minds to lose one ability after another.

Anita, on the other hand, gains one ability after another.

Anita is a wish-fulfillment-fantasy antidote for aging.

It makes more sense to me now why I keep reading the series even though there are parts of it that really annoy me.

Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
fauxklore
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
I've gotten too annoyed with the series to continue reading it. It's a shame, because the first few books were interesting, albeit badly edited.
firecat
Jan. 18th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah. Well you're saving a few hours per year that I'm not. ;-)
gramina
Jan. 18th, 2009 06:10 am (UTC)
She is a massive Mary Sue and I don't care.

(It's not the reverse-aging thing -- Horrible Evil Soul-Destroying Things threaten people she cares about, *and she shoots them and they die.* I really, *really* like that. There's my wish-fulfillment hole-in-one.)
firecat
Jan. 18th, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)
That works too, yeah.
nolly
Jan. 19th, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
There are lots of books with that feature, though, and many of them are more enjoyable, to me, than the later Anita books.
leback
Jan. 18th, 2009 09:56 am (UTC)
I'm not familiar with these books, but I find this analysis very interesting and thought-provoking. Thanks!

You've now got me contemplating why the "Mary Sue" stereotype might be a female one. One thought: My understanding is that the term's origins are from discussions of fanfic, and that it first referred to wish-fulfillment-fantasy characters who the fanfic author introduced into a pre-defined universe. If that understanding is correct, I can imagine one reason why most of these characters might have been female: The universes in question were usually already overflowing with wish-fulfillment-fantasy male characters. James Bond is a good example there; another, of course is James T. Kirk. (For some reason, my associations between the "Mary Sue" stereotype and the Star Trek universe are particularly strong.) Men setting their fanfic in these universes, then, had existing characters with whom they identified that they could build their stories around; women wanting to participate on that level had to create their own Mary Sues -- and of course, the latter, being the fanfic author's invention, invited readers' closer scrutiny and attracted derision, while the same readers took all the Bonds and Kirks for granted.

But then, it could be that *wherever* the characters come from, most audiences will happily accept over-idealized portraits of masculinity but will criticize idealized female protagonists.
firecat
Jan. 18th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)
My understanding of the origin of the "Mary Sue" terminology is the same as yours. And I also agree with your feminist analysis that most of the universes are male-dominated.

I have to ponder whether audiences always criticize idealized female protagonists. I think as long as they are sufficiently feminine and willing to be sidekicks to the men instead of the star in their own right, idealized women are accepted in male universes.

In fact I have even less patience with the Mary Sues that men write than with the Mary Sues that women write. (As Mary Malmros put it on alt.poly once upon a time: "I'm a beautiful bisexual woman with advanced degrees in nuclear physics and French literature who would love nothing more than to bear
your love child and chase after puppies and kittens all day and occasionally go down on some other beautiful bisexual woman for your viewing enjoyment. Really!")
(Deleted comment)
apis_mellifera
Jan. 18th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
Anita Blake is the biggest Mary Sue that ever did Mary Sue. In the first 9 books or so, I didn't mind because I don't mind a Mary Sue who kicks butt and takes names. And then she started collecting loves and magic powers like they were Pokemons and--and this is the important part--the quality of the writing got worse. They were never great literature, but they were entertaining and the pieces of worldbuilding pretty much fit together. Now it's like whatever LKH wants to stick in the books goes, whether or not it actually makes sense. I don't mind Mary Sue wish-fulfillment fiction (Hi, I loved the new Valdemar book even though it was 100% cheese), but I do mine badly written Mary Sue wish-fulfillment fiction.
firecat
Jan. 18th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
Great icon!

I agree.
apis_mellifera
Jan. 18th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
I used to live on that street. :)
sistercoyote
Jan. 19th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
When I lived in a nowhere town in SoCal, I always wanted to find a house for rent on Gaybar street.
sistercoyote
Jan. 18th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
I think we should have a Sue-off between Anita and Bella.
firecat
Jan. 18th, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
who is bella?
(Deleted comment)
sistercoyote
Jan. 19th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
Bella Swan from Twilight
firecat
Jan. 19th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Ah. Should I read it?
sistercoyote
Jan. 19th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
Pretty much no. I understand the writing is pretty bad. Read these instead and decide if you want to actually want to brave Twilight for yourself.

It spawned the phrase "creepy stalker boyfriend no."
nolly
Jan. 19th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
I would say no. I read the first one when a friend left it in my car. It was bad. Really bad. The only reason I don't regret having read it is I didn't spend money on it and I'm no longer curious about them, only boggled by the to-do.
caprine
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
This.
(Deleted comment)
firecat
Jan. 18th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
[*bows*] Thank you!
eveningstartwo
Jan. 19th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
I still like the series even if it has major flaws. But I don't buy the books--I like the library.

How about LKH's other series: Merry Gentry? Same idea, different abilities and background.
firecat
Jan. 19th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
We get them from the library too. I don't read the Merry Gentry series but the OH and one of my sweeties do.
nolly
Jan. 19th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
I've seen Gary Stu as the male version more than Marty Stu, but I don't actively follow fanfic, so it may have shifted.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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