Geek news from a site named after Mary Sue? Really?

Many of the points being made by Dan Abrams and Susana Polo as they seek to launch a site for female geeks are true: The audience is underserved. On the other hand… They’re calling it TheMarySue.com.

She explained by phone that the name of the site is an ironic twist on the Mary Sue character in fan fiction. A Mary Sue is typically a beautiful female character who represents a standard of perfection that’s impossible to live up to.

“I feel that that is a very familiar concept to women in the geek world,” Polo said. “Women in the sciences often feel that they must be twice as competent as their male counterparts to get to the same regard. If society expects us to be a Mary Sue, well, we can certainly try, but in the meantime we’d like to giggle while pointing out the hypocrisy of the whole thing.”

I can see what she’s trying to say about the name, but mostly it just makes me wince. (And that’s not even going into the term being so overused that it’s practically lost all meaning as a defining term.) Thoughts, ladies?

14 thoughts on “Geek news from a site named after Mary Sue? Really?

  1. ennta

    Attitudes towards gender in fandom need to change, but … I don’t think this is the way to do it. At the end of the day, I don’t want to be so exhausted from jumping up and down screaming “I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!” that I can’t discuss the finer points of Star Wars EU canon. Can’t I just be a geek who also just happens to be female?

  2. Dunc Post author

    I’m not against the idea of a female-centric geek site, since the big players ARE exceedingly male. Just the use of ‘Mary Sue’ to do it… One of my main identifications with the term is a kind of immature vapidness, which is not something we really need to give a stamp of approval.

  3. Erika (Jawas Read, Too)

    Mary sue is overused. I think I’m too jaded at this point to believe it will ever be reclaimed into something other than what it is, even if it’s in an attempt to be ironic.

    It’s too saturated with its own meaning and long history of abuse/overuse. :p

  4. Pabawan

    Marysue is about as overused as “plot hole.” That’s everyone’s favorite complaint online. Can’t figure out how a character got from the living room to the front door? Plot hole.

  5. Amaranthine

    This reminds me of when Wookieepedia changed Mara’s article to Mary Sue. Remember that?

    “Mary Sue” can be hard to define. I think that, besides a character that is perfect, it can be any cliched character, male or female.
    People put too much focus on that phrase. All that should be said about it: Don’t write it, okay? Let’s move on now.

    But….hey, its another female geek site! We could always use more of those.
    Maybe I just had a long day, but I can’t understand her explanation for naming the site Mary Sue. Can anyone enlighten me?

  6. Annalee

    So, “ironic” means “the opposite of what you’d expect.”

    In what way is naming a site designed for women after a form of bad writing usually associated with young, naive, vapid, self-involved whiners the opposite of what fandom expects?

    Because last I checked, that’s exactly what fandom expects from women–incompetence, emotional immaturity, and stupidity.

    So the word they’re looking for there is not “ironic.” It’s “offensive.”

    I’ll pass, thanks.

  7. Cy

    “Immature vapidness” is a good phrase for what Mary Sue tends to mean.

    I’m trying to see from the creator of the site’s point of view, but get stuck at society expecting us to be a Mary Sue. That term has so many more connotations than “twice as competent as their male counterparts”, including unnaturally colorful hair, a penchant for leading men, and an over-the-top super power. I don’t feel pressure from society for me to be that shiny.

  8. carlalute

    Ooo…I think I’ve written their theme song. So I can get the tongue-in-cheek thing…though the phone interview doesn’t quite sound like they fully get Mary Sue connotation, I still think its a funny site name. Kind of a “Yankee Doodle” mentality.

  9. Chris (The Exalted)

    I have to say in the UK I haven’t noticed any real bias towards female fans. That being said I’m not the type of fantasy and Sci-Fi fan that walks around with the t-shirts on and goes to conventions etc so maybe I’m missing something.

  10. Dunc Post author

    How many guys do you know who’ve been groped at conventions? (I’m not saying it happens often, but… It happens.)

    On the positive end, it gets annoying quick to be treated like some kind of unicorn because one is a GIRL who likes GEEKY STUFF OMG. Eyeroll.

    I wouldn’t call it an overwhelming bias, but it’s there. Not everyone loves to see 10 billion variations on slave Leia and wax poetic about Boba Fett’s badassery, you know? (Not that the female side of fandom is lacking in oh-so-annoying quirks… Like the Mary Sue.)

  11. Tricia (FANgirl)

    I’m not sure how taking a term that is used often as a slur will work. Most female fans see “Mary Sue” and get their backs up or turn the other way. No amount of wishing will change what the term “Mary Sue” means; it’s really what female fans are striving to work away from, to prove we can write and create strong characters rather than caricatures that are easily mocked.

  12. Polar

    IMO, that site name is a baaaaaad idea, Ms Polo.

    “Mary Sue” is a cringe-worthy epithet that will drive me away faster than Han Solo can draw his blaster. I wouldn’t even take the time to look at that site to see whether it’s truly ironic or mocking. I don’t want to know and don’t really care.

    “If society expects us to be a Mary Sue, well, we can certainly try, but in the meantime we’d like to giggle while pointing out the hypocrisy of the whole thing.”

    Whaaaa? Trying to do what society expects? Nuh-uh. Not this chick, nor any other that I know. If Abrams and Polo want to “giggle” over the “hypocrisy” I’m of the opinion that they just might find themselves in the minority.

    “Mary Sue” is irritating at best and truly offensive at worst. I suspect that most geek women and girls, with particular emphasis on the writers among us, want to avoid this stereotype not give it more attention.

    Spotlighting what is often a derogatory term and then expecting the victimized gender to tune in for the irony and hypocrisy is, in itself, insulting. I don’t expect that site to provide much knee-slapping hilarity for me. Mr. Abrams and Ms Polo: “I find your lack of insight disturbing.”

  13. Amberlee

    **Mr. Abrams and Ms Polo: “I find your lack of insight disturbing.” **

    Yeah. That.

    As a female fan and fanfic writer, the use of Mary Sue in this context totally turns me off. This just seems to be one more way in which people simply don’t get it when it comes to women generally, much less within fandom. And yeah, offensive much?

    Will I visit given content? Nope. I can get that content elsewhere without the attempt to be cute and ironic, thank you very much. But if they’d called WonderWoman.com — all copyright and trademark problems aside — that I might have gone for.

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