Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT
The Mary Sue, perhaps the most notorious cliché ever, has been criticized widely because the very existence of a Mary Sue character usually ruins the story.
Mary Sue is a generic name for a character in a story that is absurdly popular and perfect. Mary Sue is not only the author inserted into the story, but also how the author wishes to be seen. They are often perfect to a ridiculous degree. The concept and the name Mary Sue first came out of fandom and fan-fiction, but there are also plenty of Mary Sues to be found in original fiction and media.
I've noticed a trend of frenzy for Mary Sue stories in China recently. Whenever I turn on the TV, what's playing is always some fantasy where the main female character has it all, and they are all similar in plot, despite various settings and characters.
For example, a popular show called Glory of Tang Dynasty talks about how a woman falls in love with a prince, how they conquer obstacles (family disagreement, evil characters and war) and get together.
Another show that's on TV is called To the Sky Kingdom, a fantasy story in a totally different setting, but to me it seems similar. The main female character is a goddess, she falls in love with a god and they conquer family disagreement, evil characters, war and eventually end up together.
For me, I could see through those shows instantly.
All the female characters are Mary Sue under layers of disguise.
But why do people fall in love with such ridiculous fantasies, especially in China? When my colleagues and I discuss the reasons behind such creations, they all immediately agree that this has something to do with people's desire of becoming someone they cannot be in real life.
This type of fantasy is dependent on people, especially young people, and their ideal vision of love or life. People want to be concerned, and these stories offer the stage for them to imagine and to believe, at least for a while, that they are under the very spotlight of the entire world. Prince charming and successful career can just be taken by the hand.
It has brought the public an unprecedented level of satisfaction and psychological fulfillment, something which has only been secretly written in diaries before. It is the best form of daydreaming.
It is also the reflection of narcissism, which is deeply rooted in human nature. Everyone needs to be sure of their own value; everyone wants to be able to embark on the peak of life. I think that's rather fitting in today's China, where the pressure is too huge, real estate prices are soaring, education and other social resources limited, so everybody's wondering about how to live their lives.
On a final note, creating or enjoying a Mary Sue character or story is not that embarrassing; it is an experience many people can relate to.
Chances are, somewhere in your teenage years, you also invested some brainpower in a Mary Sue. And instead of being ashamed of it, face your inner desire of dreaming the imaginary perfect self. After all, life is hard and it is ok to relax and daydream for a while.
This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.