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Is Slash Incongruous With Mary Sue?
or Mary Sue's Sexual Identity Crisis

by Vywren

1. Look, Mommy, she's a woman!

Yes, Mary Sue is a woman and she repels us. But does she have to be a woman? Whenever her silken hair obliterates the Coruscant sunshine, or her hips sway seductively while running to save the world, instant recognition of this pinnacle of femininity is ensured.

Generally speaking, yes, she is a woman. Of course, Gary Stu appears once in a while, but overall, the typical Mary Sue has a set of XX chromosomes. Women seem to either insert a female original character in a het story, the main source of Mary Sues, or write slash, identifying themselves (or not) with one of the guys/girls.

2. Het. Your word for today.

Hypothesis: Typical Mary Sues are females and appear in het fiction. Duh!

Proof: original characters bordering on Mary Sue-ism appear because of the wish of the author of being that fiery, perfect girl who proves to be the niece of Qui-Gon and with whom Obi-Wan falls madly in love. Or Legolas’ first love, that beautiful elf maiden haunting the poor archer’s dreams. Therefore, Mary Sue being a woman in order to seduce the hot Jedi/sensual Elf, we have an m/f story, a.k.a het. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

I'm not saying that all original characters in het fiction are Mary Sues – I don't have the right to say it and, anyway, it is not true. What I mean is that Mary Sues have this penchant of showing their wild, red-haired heads on the het playgrounds of fandom; I have yet to find that m/m/f threesome with a believable emphasis on the m/m relation.

3. Women can't write, women can't paint.

And women have no place in a slash story. Except being a (beta)reader or writer. Or even betawriter(!).

Anyway, there are no original characters or Mary Sues in a slash story, because, in slash, relations are fixed on the gender axis, and a woman revolving around a slash relationship sounds like a hellish crossover. And I don’t mean the above-mentioned threesome formula, I mean a real slash relationship with a woman as an original character in a central position. Although male characters involved in a slash relationship are often depicted as being bisexual, this inclination seems to obey the “one gender at a time” rule.

It's just not yummy, because a het reader will say "Ewww...slash!", and the slasher will try to stay oblivious to the womanly leg of the kinky tripod. And the fear of Mary Sue is paroxysmal in slash fiction, it is almost a phobia, to the extent that original characters have become a rara avis. Slashers simply aren't good at handling women.

4. Toys make the slasher.

So why does the slasher not simply insert a male Mary Sue?

This is the core of the problem. And only God and Freud can answer the question, but we can make suppositions.

The slasher is a slasher because she sees the subtext. She is there because of a strong belief that Qui-Gon has feelings for Obi-Wan, not because she saw in the movie that Obi-Wan is gay and needs an original gay character to satisfy his sexual needs. A slasher becomes a slasher in the moment of the revelation: "Did you see how X touches Y’s shoulder? Aha!" *knowing grin*.

And this whole slash thing is more about feelings than about sex. Also, slashers being – the vast majority – females, perhaps they just feel uncomfortable "self-inserting" themselves as a male character, because, well, "write what you know".

Slashers are the modest children of fandom, adapting to their old, canon puppets. But if slash is playing with a given set of toys, het is wanting yet another toy, yes, that nice one I saw yesterday in the store, and whining to daddy in hopes of making him buy it. This toy is the original character and the only one with a Mary Sue potential.

The slasher doesn't generally need an original character, because that would mean the disturbing of the pre-existing m/m relation, which is the slasher's raison d’etre. And if there's no original character, there cannot be a Mary Sue.

But whatever the reason may be, in my opinion the original male character that will break up a fanon-established pairing and work convincingly, not only as a side plot device, still has to be borne.

5. Mary Sue – now you see her, now you don’t.

So how does the slasher insert her generously lubed self into the well-stretched slash story? Carefully, tenderly and not just ramming in.  Subtlety there must be, and no perfection. Because perfection is a trade mark of Mary Sue, Inc., and good characterization needs the struggles, weaknesses and insecurities of the character to be transmitted to the reader.

Only out of characterness is a way of making a male canon character more similar to the writer's perceptions, allowing certain features to be adapted to the right Mary Sueish state. But he is canon, and therefore not a real Mary Sue; and out of characterness is another mine field of relative interpretations.

The forum is open and Mary Sue's existence in slash, either as a male or as a female, is intersected at this point by the evergreen debate on why we read and write slash.

Slashers may be scared of Mary Sue. And yet, these two entities are not so dichotomous as it may seem, because, if we consider slash to be the quintessential Freudian Mary Sue, then slashers are the ultimate self-insertionists of fandom.

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