SPOILERS for many works,including Star Wars, Hawkeye,Loki, and other things.
I wrote a blog in the first half of 2020 about how Rey and Captain Marvel aren’t Mary Sues. Since then, I’ve seen people call other recent female characters Mary Sues. This is particularly true for Sylvie in Loki. I think this phenomenon goes on because our society is afraid of capable women and we want to separate ourselves from fans who like those characters. Also, I think many of us just can’t wrap our heads around the concept that female characters can fulfill fantasies for women, not for men.
I began thinking about this topic again after I watched the first two episodes of Hawkeye. During those episode, I found myself really enjoying the character of Kate Bishop. She’s wealthy, pretty, clever, funny, and extremely capable in combat. All of sudden, I began to worry: Are people going to slap the term “Mary Sue” onto Kate Bishop and use that term as an excuse to dislike her?
My brother told me recently that some people on the internet believe that Carol Danvers should fight Yon-Rogg at the end of Captain Marvel. When he told me that, my immediate reaction was “NOPE. NOPENOPENOPE.”
Why did I react so negatively to that idea? Because Carol fighting Yon-Rogg (the man who manipulated and gaslit her for six years) one-on-one would completely defeat one of the movie’s major points.
And what is that point? That Carol doesn’t have to conform to Yon-Rogg’s rules or standards. She makes her rules and her own decisions. She will no longer deal with his or anyone else’s gaslighting.
Resolving Carol’s story with a one-on-one fight with her supposed mentor would only conform to straight white fanboys’ expectations for how heroes’ origin stories must resolve. But Captain Marvel is a movie that actively defies their expectations, which part of the reason that those members of the MCU fandom don’t like this movie very much. Let’s break down why Carol’s refusal to fight Yon-Rogg one-on-one is the right decision for this narrative’s conclusion.
For the unititiated, “Mary Sue” is a fandom term for original female characters that pop up in fan fiction and who are too ridiculously perfect to be believable. A Mary Sue is often incredibly beautiful and talented, with an incredible singing voice, and back when I started out in online fandom (circa 2005), she often seduced Legolas or the Phantom of the Opera. Mary Sues are reviled in fandom because they are signs of bad writing. However, I have recently realized that this hatred for the Mary Sue character type is sexist, especially since I’ve seen the term applied to two mainstream aspirational heroines: Rey and Captain Marvel.
Today I read Alison Herman “As Disney+ Looms, ‘The Boys’ Is Sweet Relief”, and I have a few issues with the points she tries to make. Her article falls into some of the common critical pitfalls that I have covered in other posts: mainly the idea that you’re somehow superior (and even kind of oppressed) if you don’t like the big, inescapable mainstream thing that’s really popular for whatever reason. She also tries to narrow the satire of Amazon’s The Boys into being just a critique of Disney’s acquisition of massive franchises in recent years, and she also makes brief generalizations about Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman without taking into account what their adaptations mean for female representation in blockbuster film.