Looks like this essay was needed, so I went ahead and did it. Not sure I said everything I wanted to say, but I tried.
So, there’s this girl. She’s tragically orphaned and richer than anyone on the planet. Every guy she meets falls in love with her, but in between torrid romances she rejects them all because she dedicated to what is Pure and Good. She has genius level intellect, Olympic-athelete level athletic ability and incredible good looks. She is consumed by terrible angst, but this only makes guys want her more. She has no superhuman abilities, yet she is more competent than her superhuman friends and defeats superhumans with ease. She has unshakably loyal friends and allies, despite the fact she treats them pretty badly. They fear and respect her, and defer to her orders. Everyone is obsessed with her, even her enemies are attracted to her. She can plan ahead for anything and she’s generally right with any conclusion she makes. People who defy her are inevitably wrong.
God, what a Mary Sue.
I just described Batman.
Wish fulfillment characters have been around since the beginning of time. The good guys tend to win, get the girl and have everything fall into place for them. It’s only when women started doing it that it became a problem.
READ THIS I BEG OF YOU.
I mean really
Okay, let me be clear: I LOVE THIS POST and everything it has to say, and I’d like to see more of these (akin to Maureen Johnson’s cover flip?).
That said… oh lawd, please don’t come at me with knives, but I have one tiny quibble: I’m not sure this is an accurate description of Batman. It’s a great description of the Batman of yore. But the Batman of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight? Of Nolan’s Batman trilogy? These are men plagued by physical limitations (though Nolan’s Batman apparently has one hell of a chiropractor) and character deficiencies that inform their journeys and DO undermine their relations with others.
This doesn’t change any of the impact or value of the original post. Like I said, it’s a quibble. Batman STILL embodies wish-fulfillment. So does Han Solo. So does Jack Reacher. And there’s no question that genres dominated by male wish-fulfillment are treated with greater tolerance and less condescension than genres that give primacy to female desires and characters.
I think that post-modern (or post-post-modern or whatever the hell) wish-fulfillment looks slightly different than old-school wish-fulfillment and it’s worth considering that in the way that people respond to perceived “Mary Sues.” But whichever Batman is on the page, he’s still probably going to get a fairer shake than a female protagonist. And don’t even get me started on Hawkeye.
edited by LiquidSoulDesign
Love these. And also bringing back hilarious memories of Anthony Rapp INSISTING on the rules being followed to the letter during the Authors’ House Cup at Leakycon. He is wonderfully Hufflepuff to the core.
I was on the Slytherin team with Barry Lyga and Amber Benson. We won. Natch.