Mira Sue

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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57 Responses

  1. The first step towards Muslim theocracy is the imposition of Shari Lewis.Report

  2. George Turner says:

    Off the top of my head I can’t think of any Mary Sue in Star Trek TOS. TNG of course birthed the Wesley Crusher trope. Star Trek Voyager got some flack for introducing Seven of Nine, since the idea of a Borg hottie was pretty ridiculous. Stargate SG-1 tried a Tok’ra character called “Anise” who was a blatant attempt to add a Seven of Nine (the directors said that’s what they were trying). Amusingly, the actress who played Anise had auditioned for the role of Seven of Nine. But SG-1 was very lighthearted and self-aware about adding eye candy.

    Star Trek Discovery‘s Michael Burnam is often derided as a Mary Sue, but that show’s writing is such a horrible mess that I’m not sure any one failing should be singled out. As an aside, CBS is introducing a new show with Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Jean Luc Picard, and I’m really hoping they use an entirely different set of show runners.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

      Ah, the Creator’s Pet (warning: TV Tropes link).Report

      • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

        Why the hell would you ever link to that? I opened it an hour ago and still can’t get out.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Jaybird says:

        I haven’t seen the vast majority of examples listed in the live-action TV link, but of the ones I can comment on, it seems odd to include both Wesley Crusher and Vic Fontaine from DS9. Crusher was just awful: So awful as to be a significant impediment to my rewatching the show. Fontaine? Far from a highlight of the (much better than TNG) series, but in no way in the same class as Crusher.Report

    • The “Charlie X” episode of TOS was sort of an anti-Mary Sue: gifted with godlike powers by a higher form of life/something, but unable to handle them safely, then confined by the higher form because the powers can’t be taken back.Report

    • I am of the opinion it’s Kes, not Seven, who’s the Mary Sue. Kes really really bothered me, a LOT, and it was before I even knew what a Mary Sue was. Only in retrospect did I piece it together.Report

    • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      I suppose I never imagined Kes as a Mary Sue because if she was, there would have to be a writer who wanted to be like Kes. Since it’s Star Trek, I can’t exactly rule that out.

      She had special mental powers, but her closest friend was Nelix. I would expect a blatant Mary Sue to be immediately either fawned over, feared, or respected by most of the rest of the crew, but they seemed pretty indifferent to her. However, it would make sense if the author viewed themselves as having been a beta social misfit, with the predictable desire to one day outshine all those dismissive peers, just as Kes’s power’s grew until she dwarfed “normals”.

      What irritated me about Kes was that I didn’t think the actress even liked the character. Often she seemed to be distant and just phoning it in, as they say.

      But if Kes still kind of bothers you, you can take comfort in Googling her mug shots. ^_^Report

      • Aaron David in reply to George Turner says:

        “She had special mental powers, but her closest friend was Nelix.”

        I don’t know if this is what you are thinking, but if one had the power to read minds, I bet watching TV, or reading, or anything that was at a remove really, would be the best thing ever. You would be saved the grief of knowing everything that anyone in your sphere was thinking. But could access the aspects of a normal life.Report

        • Kes was though. The Captain was kind of like a mentor to her, she assisted the doctor in the medical bay, Tom had a thing for her for a while, Tuvok was counseling her for her amazing psychic powers – that’s what caught my eye about her, she seemed to have a (completely undeserved) position of importance in the ship’s hierarchy and then to top it all off she had superpowers and an unusual backstory – she just seemed Mary Sue-y to me.

          But YES I fully agree the actress also gave off a stench of “I’m too good for Star Trek” and I was glad to see her go. I liked Seven much better.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    Yeah, what we have here is a problem with people wanting to justify a bit of sexism (or pre-emptively avoid a charge of sexism) by not appealing to liking/not liking something because they like/don’t like it, but because it is somehow flawed. This allows them to communicate (signal!) sophistication and, at the same time, jockey for position ahead of the people who are pleased that Sheri Lewis’s character got a decent story in a decent episode and got to make out with Scotty.

    It’s like they saw “that’s a Mary Sue!” work as an awesome criticism once and they figured out that it’s a devastating criticism in general.

    “Mira Sue” is a good way to categorize these folks’ itchy trigger fingers.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      If instead of it being mutual Scotty had harassed her, it would have been a “Mira Max.”

      Too soon?Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Jaybird says:

      Yeah, it’s become the critical version of Procrustes, every character must be stretched or sliced to fit the Mary Sue bed. Thanks for reading.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        I think that kind of thing comes in waves as each new generation of kids picks up on some new term from a media critic, and then they try to use it in a sentence three times a day so they can sound sophisticated, cool, and indifferent. “Meme” and “meta” were probably earlier iterations. I would guess that this current Mary Sue fad stems from criticizing Rae in the new Star Wars trilogy, various reactions to Captain Marvel, and whatever might be on TV or premium cable. I think it will pass pretty quickly.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to George Turner says:

          And–pace an earlier comment–“trope”. Like, nobody really talked about tropes until TVTropes got popular, and then suddenly everything was a “trope”, with bros confidently explaining that people had always said that term but nobody had ever paid attention because it was women saying it, and sexist men, therefore we need to pay Anita lots and lots of money to talk about how God Of War is shit.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Jaybird says:

      We could make a list of critiques that are used that way: devastating when used correctly, but usually not: “passive aggressive” and “ad hominem” spring to mind as examples. Also “correlation is not causation” and “data is not the plural of anecdote.”Report

  4. LeeEsq says:

    My mom apparently went to a lecture by Shari Lewis on her trip to East Germany. Wikipedia tells us that Shari Lewis’ father was a professor at Yeshiva University and the official magician of New York City by mayoral decree.Report

  5. dragonfrog says:

    A decent very that plenty of the people who’d complain about Mira Romaine, probably like superhero stories – where the entire premise is that the character is supernaturally awesome at things.Report

    • Well, that’s the thing – I think you can write a superpowered character without them being a Mary Sue. Honestly, that’s how I ever got interested in the subject to start with, was because I wanted to write a superpowered female character and didn’t want her to be a Mary Sue (this was years ago) and so I did a bunch of research about it. It’s the inexplicable blind adoration and the coolness for the sake of being cool I think that pushes a superhero into the realm of Mary Sue.Report

  6. George Turner says:

    Speaking of Star Trek characters, Nichelle Nichols made news this week due to a recording of her screaming during a fight with her son. She seems to have been suffering from dementia for some time now, and is fighting her son’s efforts regarding her care and finances. There are plenty of fresh news stories about it.Report

    • Oh, that’s terribly sad. I remember reading she had dementia and wondered how she was doing. 🙁Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to George Turner says:

      A former job held an annual company-wide convention that included talks by famous people. One year we had Nichelle Nichols. When it came to the Q&A time my hand leapt in the air. I saw my immediate supervisor tense up, clearly afraid I would ask something appalling. I have no recollection of what I actually did ask. It undoubtedly had a fanboy tinge to it, but I wasn’t completely socially inept, even in my twenties. I also benefited from growing up in southern California, where the possibility of finding yourself at a lunch counter sitting next to a movie star. There was an understood social protocol: Don’t act like a tourist (and let the guy eat his lunch). So in any case, I saw a look of relief on my boss’s face about the actual question.Report

  7. pillsy says:

    I’m still reeling from learning that Shari Lewis wrote a Star Trek episode.Report

  8. Doctor Jay says:

    There are plenty of complaints that Rae (the main force-using girl from the Star Wars sequels) is a Mary Sue. I think this is rubbish of much the same variety. There’s even less case for it.

    And, at the same time, I sometimes have a hard time seeing women in media for what they are. For instance, it was only this week that I realized that Blythe Danner is a comic actress. Here’s the clip that led to my epiphany: (stay with it, the funny develops slowly)

    The punch line, at least for me, makes such a loud “BOOM” that I had to go find out more about Blythe Danner. So, I’ve heard her name like forever, but knew little of her. I find she’s in lots of indy comedies. In fact, she’s spent pretty much her life doing comedy, and yet, I didn’t think of her as a comedic actress.

    I say this as a confession, though I don’t feel super guilty about it. This is a blind spot that is shared by so many. We have these interpretive lenses that we wear and we categorize everything. It distorts our vision, but at the same time, it helps make sense of a world that might be overwhelming. But when I find out that my filters have kept something, something that I enjoy, from me, I’m kinda mad at them.

    Thus, I mostly ignore criticisms of “She’s a Mary Sue”. Notwithstanding, I’m really enjoying your discussion of them, Kirstin.Report

    • I am of the opinion Rey is a bit of a Mary Sue for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into at this point in time. But as per my previous post I’m not sure even if a character has some Mary Sue-ishness that it’s always a bad thing.

      Totally agree about the filters. I honestly think that’s an important facet of adulthood, learning that the filters we were taught are at least in part garbage.Report

  9. dragonfrog says:

    Complaining about “written and acted by” seems odd to me – from Shakespeare as you point out, to 90-something percent of fringe plays, that’s just so normal.

    “Directed and acted by” – now that’s a danger sign.Report

    • George Turner in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Cue Star Treks danger music.


      Cut to exterior view of the Enterprise is held fast in the mouth of a giant Lamb Chop.
      Cut to Captain Kirk standing by his chair, listening to Spock’s analysis, and then hailing Lamb Chop.

      Kirk: Release my ship!
      Lamp Chop: (muffled because he’s holding a starship in his mouth) No.


      Just fill in the rest. 🙂Report

  10. DensityDuck says:

    Tangent: my introduction to Mira Romaine was in the book “Memory Prime”, sort of a Star Trek take on cyberpunk. A good story, check it out.

    The old Pocket Books Star Trek novels were really fun. I wish there was more emphasis placed on them in current work, because there’s a lot of canon to mine there; they were doing EU before doing EU was cool…Report

    • George Turner in reply to DensityDuck says:

      But we also have Star Trek Discovery, which to me goes down about like Game of Thrones season eight.

      STD probably deserves its own review, but I won’t suggest that because I’d feel guilty about having played an direct or indirect role in causing an innocent reviewer to watch two seasons of it.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

        The problem with “Let’s make the Klingons into Trump supporters!” is that if you’re honest at all with the characters, you’re stuck writing characters that For Real Trump Supporters will find sympathetic (and For Real Trekkies will find surprisingly persuasive in ways they’ve never thought about before).

        And if you’re not honest at all, every Klingon episode becomes a Very Special Episode.Report

        • bookdragon in reply to Jaybird says:

          Except the Klingons there weren’t exactly Trump supporters. If they had analogs anywhere, it was the Mirrorverse Human Empire.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to bookdragon says:

            I cheerfully admit to not having watched so much as the opening credits of the show. I merely saw articles like this one and thought “Ah, I don’t have to watch it”.

            The co-executive producer of the new series “Star Trek: Discovery” has told Rolling Stone that President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was “front and center in our minds” as they developed it — so much so that the rallying cry of the show’s villains is specifically patterned after the Trumpster credo “Make America Great Again”

            “We felt like it would be interesting to really look at what’s going on in the United States,” Aaron Harberts told Rolling Stone, noting that the series’ primary villains — an extremist Klingon sect — scream “Remain Klingon,” something deliberately reminiscent of “Make America Great Again.”

            As Harberts put it, “It’s a call to isolationism. It’s about racial purity, and it’s about wanting to take care of yourself. And if anybody is reaching a hand out to help you, it’s about smacking it away . . . That was pretty provocative for us, and it wasn’t necessarily something that we wanted to completely lean into. But it was happening. We were hearing the stories.”

            “Discovery” star Jason Isaacs added “We’re living in monstrous times, let’s not dance around it. Hideous, divisive times, when all sorts of stuff we thought was long buried is coming to the surface, and being encouraged by the most powerful people on the planet. We’re living in disgusting times.”

            (Also, hey bookdragon! I wrote you, specifically, a comment in the latest HPMOR post.)Report

            • bookdragon in reply to Jaybird says:

              I don’t want to put spoilers in, but in the series the ‘Make the Empire Great Again’ line did not refer to the Klingon Empire. 😉

              Actually the Klingons begin as scary big bads, but we start to see from their pov, and in the second season a certain number of them are down right sympathetic and admirable.

              (I’ll go look. My oldest had her wisdom teeth out this weekend so I wasn’t on line much the last few days)Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

          After John Ford’s Klingons, any other Klingons seem inferior.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

          **** STD spoilers ****

          Well, I could tell the writing was going to be really bad by episode 1. The central and defining element of the main character is that in the first episode she advocated firing on a Klingon ship first and her captain disagreed. So in the ready room she used a Vulcan neck pinch on the Captain, waltzed back on to the bridge, and ordered the weapons officer to fire. The officer refused, the captain woke up and walked back out, and the main character (Michael Burnam) was tried and convicted of mutiny.

          Being branded as a convicted mutineer determines almost everything that subsequently happens to the character. Everybody keeps calling her “the mutineer”.

          Unfortunately, the writers never looked “mutiny” up in any dictionary. It’s a group crime like collusion, conspiracy, rioting, or gang rape, and the idea that the character’s defining act could in any way be charged as mutiny is utterly ridiculous. It’s an insult to the audience’s intelligence.

          And the writing stays bad. Really bad. In the season 2 finale they finally reveal what all those people walking down the halls on every star ship in every Star Trek series actually do. They’re all fighter pilots who man hundreds of fighter aircraft that every Federation star ship always carries on board.

          So you have to ask, “Have the writers ever watched Star Trek before?”Report