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Wish Fulfillment And The Mary Sue - Page 7

post #301 of 626

That sounds... far worse than I imagined.  

post #302 of 626
He didn't even talk about the fucking glow cave...
post #303 of 626

I'm a big Lost apologist, and have even begun a slow-as-molasses rewatch, but even I can't defend most of the choices in season 6.

 

But if you're even feeling bold, watch the show while reading Jesse Custer's breakdowns of each episode, first on the CHUD boards and then the main page circa 2010. They're some of the best critical analyses I've ever read.

post #304 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agentsands77 View Post

He didn't even talk about the fucking glow cave...

 

Okay, seriously what the hell's the glow cave?

 

post #305 of 626
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambler View Post

That's not what happened?  I didn't finish the last season.

Somehow, what did was much worse.
post #306 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambler View Post

Okay, seriously what the hell's the glow cave?


A cave with yellow light that's stopped up with a big rock cork. The light is vaguely indicated to be the source of all life. You remove the rock cork and something bad happens to the island and the world.

This is the linchpin of the show's conclusion. And it isn't explained in much more detail than I just gave you.
post #307 of 626
That's to say nothing of the two anthropomorphized representations of good and evil playing eternal mind games to control the cave. You see, one of them went in and gained the power to turn into smoke.
post #308 of 626

Hahahahahaha

post #309 of 626

I made it through S3 of Lost and dipped my toes into S4....made me glad I stopped there.

 

Once Jack didn't kill Ben at the end of S3 as any reasonable and sane person would've, the show just lost me. It became clear it was inventing wheels simply for the sake of spinning them, rather than telling a specific, known story.

post #310 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelM View Post

It became clear it was inventing wheels simply for the sake of spinning them, rather than telling a specific, known story.

Wait, is this the Westworld thread?
post #311 of 626

While I understand and to a degree agree, I don't think they're really comparable in scope. I agree there was padding in S1 of WW, but Nolan and Joy knew exactly where they were headed the whole time, and the season ended with major questions answered. We're left not with MOAR PUZZLES but a more organic "What happens next?"

 

Lost was simply an endless set of nested dolls. Every answer or reveal was a hydra sprouting two new questions. WW hasn't really functioned like that, and I expect S2 to be less Lost-like in execution.

post #312 of 626
Speaking of Jesse Custer, MMorse himself, here's his review of a little movie only he and me appreciate:

http://www.chud.com/135994/review-star-trek-into-darkness/

History will be on our side!!!
post #313 of 626
Always two there are...No more...No less...
post #314 of 626

Okay, we've devolved into another Butthurt 'bout Lost thread. Enjoy. I'm out.

post #315 of 626
I'm trying to turn it into another Star Trek Into Darkness thread!
post #316 of 626

...Batman?

post #317 of 626
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelM View Post

While I understand and to a degree agree, I don't think they're really comparable in scope. I agree there was padding in S1 of WW, but Nolan and Joy knew exactly where they were headed the whole time, and the season ended with major questions answered. We're left not with MOAR PUZZLES but a more organic "What happens next?"

Lost was simply an endless set of nested dolls. Every answer or reveal was a hydra sprouting two new questions. WW hasn't really functioned like that, and I expect S2 to be less Lost-like in execution.

Lost was spinning wheels because it didn't know where to was going. Westworld was frustrating because it definitely knew where it was going, but was spinning wheels anyway just because it loved the smell of its own farts.
post #318 of 626

Now here's a question to take this thread back to Lost:

Is Ben Linus a Gary Stu? He does get captured and beat up a lot and he does lose his adopted daughter, but he's always able to weasel out of it thanks to another delayed explanation, another riddle within riddle, another brilliant scheme that puts him up on top of the world, basically ends up the central axis of the show in seasons 3-5, ends up redeemed, gets literally a ten-minute chunk of the finale dedicated to his redemption in both this life and the afterlife (where he finally gets the chance to be a good parent to his kid). That it works at all is because Michael Emerson is an absurdly compelling performer, but if anyone's a stand-in for Lindelof and Cuse in the series, it's Ben.

 

I would probably say no (he just takes too much abuse), but I would definitely say he's an authorial surrogate.

post #319 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelM View Post

It became clear it was inventing wheels simply for the sake of spinning them, rather than telling a specific, known story.

Oh, speaking of Battlestar Galactica, Gaius Baltar should at least be up for consideration as a Mary Sue.
post #320 of 626

In the case of Ben Linus, I'd say the character is more a result of the showrunners and audiences liking Michael Emerson so much that it strained to keep him around no matter what...

 

...and eventually got the same kind of tragic backstory AND the happy redemption that everyone on the show got.

 

Except Michael.... poor Michael... ever the Zoidberg.

post #321 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post
 

In the case of Ben Linus, I'd say the character is more a result of the showrunners and audiences liking Michael Emerson so much that it strained to keep him around no matter what...

 

...and eventually got the same kind of tragic backstory AND the happy redemption that everyone on the show got.

 

Yep. My wife has said over and over again what a "great character" Ben Linus was, and looked aghast at me when I said Jack should've just shot Ben at the end of S3 when he had the chance. 

 

I keep saying this, but Justified and True Detective (S1) have ruined a LOT of TV for me. Those were two shows eminently confident in their characters, their audiences, and refused, for the most part, to indulge in wheel spinning and BECAUSE RATINGS kind of bullshit that Lost (and Westworld) did on a weekly basis. 

post #322 of 626

at least in the case of LOST, they even admitted they had to spin their wheels because they had no idea what the fate of the show would be. 

post #323 of 626

Being honest about it doesn't make it any better.

post #324 of 626

doesn't make the show better, certainly!

 

but isn't that at least more understandable than a show that DOES know where it's going, but chooses to spin its wheels because it loves fart smell?

 

 

LOST is a really fun case of a show very CLEARLY scrambling to figure things out as it goes based on how its viewers respond!  heheheh nikki and paulo!

post #325 of 626

More understandable? I'm not sure what you're asking. I mean, on a basic human level, sure, I have some empathy for the Lost writing staff scrambling to keep up quality while also not having a hard target in mind.

 

But as a viewer? Not really. I'll take Westworld's controlled indulgence over Lost's directionless puzzles. I'll take a storyteller who values conclusions over one who is only really good at asking questions.

post #326 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post
 

doesn't make the show better, certainly!

 

but isn't that at least more understandable than a show that DOES know where it's going, but chooses to spin its wheels because it loves fart smell?

 

 

LOST is a really fun case of a show very CLEARLY scrambling to figure things out as it goes based on how its viewers respond!  heheheh nikki and paulo!

 

Did they know S6 would the last one?  Because by then it was as terrible as ever.

post #327 of 626
You know who wrote Lost?

Damon Lindelof.

You know what else Damon Lindelof wrote?
post #328 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelM View Post
 

More understandable? I'm not sure what you're asking. I mean, on a basic human level, sure, I have some empathy for the Lost writing staff scrambling to keep up quality while also not having a hard target in mind.

 

 

yes, that's what I mean!  less to do with the actual quality of the show, since I haven't seen WESTWORLD

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambler View Post
 

 

Did they know S6 would the last one?  Because by then it was as terrible as ever.

hahahaha, yes they did!

 

as I said above, it was less about the quality of the show!  I'm only addressing the wheel-spinning.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post

You know who wrote Lost?

Damon Lindelof.

You know what else Damon Lindelof wrote?
 
TOMORROWLAND!!!
post #329 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelM View Post
 

More understandable? I'm not sure what you're asking. I mean, on a basic human level, sure, I have some empathy for the Lost writing staff scrambling to keep up quality while also not having a hard target in mind.

 

But as a viewer? Not really. I'll take Westworld's controlled indulgence over Lost's directionless puzzles. I'll take a storyteller who values conclusions over one who is only really good at asking questions.

 

post #330 of 626
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reasor View Post


Oh, speaking of Battlestar Galactica, Gaius Baltar should at least be up for consideration as a Mary Sue.

 

I don't see that.  I mean, he beds half the cast of extremely comely sci-fi ladies department, which is the first and only concern of a particular type of fanfic.  But for all of that I don't think he's a character we really want to be. The other heroes regard him with varying degrees of disdain, he's frequently cowardly, venal and haggard, he never exhibits any action hero chops, and to the extent that he is a "chosen one" figure of destiny, it's all tied up in the Cylon's sinister religious agenda that we don't really want any part of.  

 

The defining aspect of a Mary Sue is that they are too perfect.  If your introduction involves you getting 99% of the human race killed, you're pretty much out of the box already.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dent6084 View Post
 

Now here's a question to take this thread back to Lost:

Is Ben Linus a Gary Stu? He does get captured and beat up a lot and he does lose his adopted daughter, but he's always able to weasel out of it thanks to another delayed explanation, another riddle within riddle, another brilliant scheme that puts him up on top of the world, basically ends up the central axis of the show in seasons 3-5, ends up redeemed, gets literally a ten-minute chunk of the finale dedicated to his redemption in both this life and the afterlife (where he finally gets the chance to be a good parent to his kid). That it works at all is because Michael Emerson is an absurdly compelling performer, but if anyone's a stand-in for Lindelof and Cuse in the series, it's Ben.

 

I would probably say no (he just takes too much abuse), but I would definitely say he's an authorial surrogate.

 

Now this is a more interesting scenario, and its as close as we're apt to get to a bonafide Mary Sue as an antagonist.  His ability to scheme his way out of every ludicrous corner his last scheme put him becomes essentially supernatural at some point, and the gradual softening of the show's stance on him seems like the natural progression of a villain taking on MS traits.  And the author identification feel is particularly strong in light of what was just being discussed:  as the show goes on, the less he can hide that he was never an omnipotent puppetmaster with grand plan, and the show finds increasing empathy for him as an Oz figure hurling scheme after increasingly desperate scheme at the wall, hoping that something sticks.  I wonder what Lindelof and Cuse could possibly have found relatable about that?

post #331 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post

 

as the show goes on, the less he can hide that he was never an omnipotent puppetmaster with grand plan, and the show finds increasing empathy for him as an Oz figure hurling scheme after increasingly desperate scheme at the wall, hoping that something sticks.  I wonder what Lindelof and Cuse could possibly have found relatable about that?

 

post #332 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dent6084 View Post
 


Is Ben Linus a Gary Stu? He does get captured and beat up a lot and he does lose his adopted daughter, but he's always able to weasel out of it thanks to another delayed explanation, another riddle within riddle, another brilliant scheme that puts him up on top of the world, basically ends up the central axis of the show in seasons 3-5, ends up redeemed, gets literally a ten-minute chunk of the finale dedicated to his redemption in both this life and the afterlife (where he finally gets the chance to be a good parent to his kid). That it works at all is because Michael Emerson is an absurdly compelling performer, but if anyone's a stand-in for Lindelof and Cuse in the series, it's Ben.

 

No, he's too flawed - not just as a villain, but as nasty, petty human being: there's an episode where it's revealed that he's been stalking Juliet; he repeatedly gets his butt kicked in in humiliating ways, he's rejected by Jacob/the Island, and most characters who have an opinion hate his guts and hold him in contempt. 

 

A villain like Hannibal Lecter - physically capable, impossibly well educated, very intelligent and charming - who unlike Ben, is never humiliated, properly foiled, or made to look like loser - still isn't a Mary Sue, because they have fundamental moral flaws: characters aren't tripping over themselves to fall in love with him, they're disturbed and frightened of him. It's easy for characters like Linus, Lecter, Moriarty, Vader, etc. to become Mary Stus, but only if they're written to be liked and admired. 


Edited by RexBanner - 1/10/17 at 12:50pm
post #333 of 626
What about the titular star of Dexter? He's smarter than the police, an amazing fighter and 99% of the time is a perfect judge of character.

His infallibility is only balanced out by his lack of morals. But even then the writers usually play it up as him being enlightened compared to most of humanity.
post #334 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post

What about the titular star of Dexter? He's smarter than the police, an amazing fighter and 99% of the time is a perfect judge of character.

His infallibility is only balanced out by his lack of morals. But even then the writers usually play it up as him being enlightened compared to most of humanity.

To be fair, literally anyone more intelligent than, say, an above-average rock would be smarter than the police on Dexter.


Edited by Dent6084 - 1/10/17 at 1:46pm
post #335 of 626
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RexBanner View Post
 

 

No, he's too flawed - not just as a villain, but as nasty, petty human being: there's an episode where it's revealed that he's been stalking Juliet; he repeatedly gets his butt kicked in in humiliating ways, he's rejected by Jacob/the Island, and most characters who have an opinion hate his guts and hold him in contempt. 

 

A villain like Hannibal Lecter - physically capable, impossibly well educated, very intelligent and charming - who unlike Ben, is never humiliated, properly foiled, or made to look like loser - still isn't a Mary Sue, because they have fundamental moral flaws: characters aren't tripping over themselves to fall in love with him, they're disturbed and frightened of him. It's easy for characters like Linus, Lecter, Moriarty, Vader, etc. to become Mary Stus, but only if they're written to be liked and admired. 

 

That is an interesting line to walk, however.  Yes, everyone loving the character is an essential part of a Mary Sue, so a villainous character can never be a purebreed.  But there is a sort of flipside angle, I think, where everyone holds a criminal mastermind in a revered awe.  Which is to say admired, if not exactly liked.  Lecter tipped over completely into that at a certain point, and I think Dracula and other vampires are prone to it in the hands of particularly sentimental writers (Twilight's complete defanging of the purported "monsters" in the face of its own Mary Sue's amazitude being the apotheosis/nadir of that particular line).  Judging only by the promos, it seems that James Spader's supercriminal show embraces this element unreservedly.  

 

Perhaps we need a separate term for the offshoot of the Mary Sue that applies to villains and antiheroes.  Snidely Sue or Scary Stu or something.  For characters that are purportedly villainous, but eventually the author becomes so enamored with them that they eventually start writing them as infallible supergenius puppetmasters; paeans to the author's own cleverness rather than any sort of believable human figure.  That or they are so cool that they eventually become heroes (just kewl, edgy ones) in their own right - a transition that is generally marked by the appearance of another, more monochromatically monstrous version of them that necessitates a team up with the hero.  Buffalo Bill with Lecter, Carnage with Venom, Malekith with Loki, the villain of Fast and Furious X with the villain of Fast And Furious (X-1), etc.

post #336 of 626

I think what we need here is a handy word for characters who stick around solely because the actor is fun to watch. And they're usually villains. The Ben Linus, or the Spike.

post #337 of 626
Dexter kind of has some overlap, except that he's the central character, and possibly the only real person in that universe (that's a fun fan theory). Mostly though, it's that everything else it made ignorant to validate his superiority, which isn't Mary Sue, just some other bad writing trope.
post #338 of 626

I think what makes a Mary Sue is the sense that the author loves the character because they think they're awesome and wonderful.

 

It's hard to put your finger on it, but while Lindelof and Cuse might've loved the character of Ben Linus, they didn't love him as a wonderful human being. They loved him because he's interesting and there's a lot of dramatic turf they could explore with him. Same with Harris and Hannibal Lecter.

 

Mary Sues, on the other hand, are characters whom the author loves because they think they're just the best. Maybe. This is hard.  

post #339 of 626
The grey areas are difficult. But there is a distinct category of author-avatar idealized fiction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter comes to mind) that is automatically in Mary Sue territory.
post #340 of 626
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RexBanner View Post

I think what makes a Mary Sue is the sense that the author loves the character because they think they're awesome and wonderful.

It's hard to put your finger on it, but while Lindelof and Cuse might've loved the character of Ben Linus, they didn't love him as a wonderful human being. They loved him because he's interesting and there's a lot of dramatic turf they could explore with him. Same with Harris and Hannibal Lecter.

Mary Sues, on the other hand, are characters whom the author loves because they think they're just the best. Maybe. This is hard.  

There's "the best" in terms of the most upstanding, and then there is "the best" in terms of just being the best at everything. The prototypical MS is both (like Rey), but there are other roads that lead to similarly masturbatory ends.
post #341 of 626
Thread Starter 

People have been discussing Lauren Wilford's piece on The Witch in some other threads, and one piece of it stuck out to me:

 

Quote:
Literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin uses the word “polyphony” to describe a literary technique in which a writer writes in “many voices.” Bakhtin coined the word when writing about Dostoevsky, an author with the uncanny ability to write convincingly from the perspectives of characters who differ wildly in their beliefs and experiences. Shakespeare’s work is full of polyphony. Polyphonic writing is a kind of ventriloquism—“throwing one’s voice” to believably animate multiple fictional personalities. In a truly polyphonic work, it can be difficult to suss out the author’s own view among the many sensitively-rendered perspectives. And it’s enormously difficult to pull off, because it requires as much empathy as it does critical thinking; it requires as much passion as it does cool remove. Artists who aim to create polyphonic work must be able to pass a kind of Ideological Turing Test for each of their characters— some part of the author has to understand and sympathize with each character they impersonate.

 

There's a lot there (maybe a Schwartzblog's worth) that got me thinking, but I bring it up here because this is the perhaps the single feat I respect most in storytelling, and those artists that can pull it off earn my immediate and permanent respect.  And I think that makes me more tetchy about this Mary Sue stuff than most.  This failure of the "ideological Turing Test" for individual characters is the basic shortcoming that the trope embodies; the author is so enamored with their creation's awesomeness that they cannot conceive of anyone disagreeing, even for the purpose of creating genuine conflict for that awesomeness to overcome.  That the awesomeness is generally just a wart-free version of themselves adds obnoxiousness, but at the core is a failure of emotional vision, and that failure angers me. 

post #342 of 626

It certainly brings to mind several writers whose characters all tend to talk the same. Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith...

post #343 of 626
Sorkin
post #344 of 626

Does Whedon fall into that bin?

post #345 of 626
Thread Starter 

This compliment is going to sound completely backhanded, but Sorkin may just be the best MS writer ever.  It's very easy to spot his mouthpieces, and they will suffer at worst failures of the achingly noble variety, but they pop with life and idiosyncratic touches.  And he writes some of the best straw men in the business; they are absolutely set up to be bested, but he pretty much always allows them to articulate their viewpoint with intelligence and some degree of honesty, before the virtuous heroes' heroic virtue puts them forcefully in their place.

 

Just look at A Few Good Men.  The most iconic, memorable part of that movie is when Nicholson's villain is given the floor to castigate the hero and sincerely defend his own villainy.

post #346 of 626
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelM View Post
 

Does Whedon fall into that bin?

 

I don't think so.  He gets included in lists that include Sorkin and Smith, because they all have a recognizable rhythm to their dialogue.  But "voice" is not the same thing as dialogue.  Speaking in similar patterns does not mean his characters have the same voice.  Whedon's ensemble work is strong because each character is allowed their own perspective on events.  I know people will object to this term for it, but The Avengers is a masterwork in how it balances six different heroes with their own distinct voices, without unequivocally privileging one over the others*.

 

*I'd say Hawkeye/Fury get the short shrift, actually, but the Top Five seem to all share fairly equal footing in terms of the film's affections

post #347 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammerhead View Post
 

Quentin Tarantino

 

post #348 of 626
Thread Starter 

Tarantino is like Whedon in this regard; he has a dialogue style, but he also revels in exploring his characters divergent perspectives.  So Pulp Fiction can have equal sympathy for Vincent and the guy who kills him, the most engaging character in IB can be a sadistic Nazi, and even Kill Bill can find sympathy for Bill, Budd, and Vernita.

post #349 of 626

Odd that the Kermode piece downplays the fact that Jackie Brown is QT's only (official and direct) adaptation of a previously-existing work. Hmm, wonder where those nuanced characters came from.

post #350 of 626
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post
 

 

That is an interesting line to walk, however.  Yes, everyone loving the character is an essential part of a Mary Sue, so a villainous character can never be a purebreed.  But there is a sort of flipside angle, I think, where everyone holds a criminal mastermind in a revered awe.  Which is to say admired, if not exactly liked.  Lecter tipped over completely into that at a certain point, and I think Dracula and other vampires are prone to it in the hands of particularly sentimental writers (Twilight's complete defanging of the purported "monsters" in the face of its own Mary Sue's amazitude being the apotheosis/nadir of that particular line).  Judging only by the promos, it seems that James Spader's supercriminal show embraces this element unreservedly.  

 

Perhaps we need a separate term for the offshoot of the Mary Sue that applies to villains and antiheroes.  Snidely Sue or Scary Stu or something.  For characters that are purportedly villainous, but eventually the author becomes so enamored with them that they eventually start writing them as infallible supergenius puppetmasters; paeans to the author's own cleverness rather than any sort of believable human figure.  That or they are so cool that they eventually become heroes (just kewl, edgy ones) in their own right - a transition that is generally marked by the appearance of another, more monochromatically monstrous version of them that necessitates a team up with the hero.  Buffalo Bill with Lecter, Carnage with Venom, Malekith with Loki, the villain of Fast and Furious X with the villain of Fast And Furious (X-1), etc.

 

Tv Tropes has probably tossed around a few terms.

 

It'd chuck in Riddick for the latter part (whose bit on TV tropes I actually wrote, once upon a time.  If it's still there).

It's hard to say whether the problem is the character himself or his 'press', but over the two films there's really no way he's this archetype of evil.  Absolutely no way.  In Pitch Black you do find him threatening and don't know which way he's going to jump.  But by the second film he's just a fugitive type loner badass who wants to be left alone.  He doesn't do anything at all that's explicitly anti social, from memory, and is a bit intimidating and rude and that's about it. 

(but this isn't really a shocking revelation on my part).

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