a Mary Sue is an idealized character, often but not necessarily an author insert.
The term "Mary Sue" comes from the name of a character created by Paula Smith in 1973 for her parody story "A Trekkie's Tale" published in her fanzine Menagerie #2. The story starred Lieutenant Mary Sue ("the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old"), and satirized unrealistic Star Trek fan fiction. Such characters were generally original female adolescents who had romantic liaisons with established canonical adult characters, or in some cases were the younger relatives or protégées of those characters. By 1976 Menagerie's editors stated that they disliked such characters, saying:
Mary Sue stories—the adventures of the youngest and smartest ever person to graduate from the academy and ever get a commission at such a tender age. Usually characterized by unprecedented skill in everything from art to zoology, including karate and arm-wrestling. This character can also be found burrowing her way into the good graces/heart/mind of one of the Big Three [Kirk, Spock, andMcCoy], if not all three at once. She saves the day by her wit and ability, and, if we are lucky, has the good grace to die at the end, being grieved by the entire ship.
"Mary Sue" today has changed from its original meaning and now carries a generalized, although not universal, connotation of wish-fulfillment and is commonly associated with self-insertion. True self-insertion is a literal and generally undisguised representation of the author; most characters described as "Mary Sues" are not, though they are often called "proxies" for the author. The negative connotation comes from this "wish-fulfillment" implication: the "Mary Sue" is judged as a poorly developed character, too perfect and lacking in realism to be interesting.
Marty Stu is a male variant on this trope, which shares the same wish-fulfillment aspect but tends to describe a character with traits identified as stereotypically male. The Star Trek: The Next Generation character Wesley Crusher was called a Marty Stu by the feminist popular culture magazine Bitch. There is speculation amongst fans and academics that Wesley was a self-insertion character for Gene Roddenberry. Other variations include Gary Stu, Larry Stu, Mary Joe, or Marty Sam.
Further variant names have been suggested based on the specific personality of a Mary Sue, such as Einstein Sue (a highly intelligent character), Jerk Sue (a short-tempered character who lashes out), orSympathetic Sue (an angsty character who wants the reader's sympathy).
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- Mary Sue Deconstructed