Mary Sue

From self-inserts to imagines, how young women write themselves into the narrative

Illustration by the incredible Maia Kobabe

1.

Let’s start with the woman in question. She isn’t usually called Mary Sue — she has a less plausible, more fanciful name. Similarly, she has less plausible, more fanciful physical features than your average girl: purple eyes, or really extraordinary hair. You don’t know her, but you know the characters that surround her — she’s a new student at Hogwarts, an important ally you meet in Rivendell, the person on whom Holmes and Watson will rely to crack the case. She is notably smarter, stronger, and/or more beautiful than her peers. She’s going to save the day — and maybe a character you know will fall in love with her, too. She’s a wholly original character, though she might resemble an idealized version of the author. She’s a super-girl, bending beloved stories around her, heroism in a world mostly made up of heroes.

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