Anastasia Steele – Mary Sue

Anastasia Steele is a much talked about character. She is the lead female protagonist of the popular 50 Shades of Grey, and people absolutely love calling her a Mary Sue.

You might not like her, or understand what Christian Grey sees in her, or feels that something in 50 Shades of Grey wasn’t really what you wanted it to be. You might find it hard to empathize or sympathize with her, or that her story is hard to believe. But none of that makes Anastasia Steele a Mary Sue.

A Mary Sue isn’t just code for ‘A character I don’t like’ or ‘A female character that annoys me and doesn’t live up to my expectations for female characters.’

A Mary Sue is a ‘perfect’ character. A character where it seems they’re built more for the author’s wish fulfillment, because of how bright and beautiful and talented and charming the character is.

From what I know about Anastasia is that she’s probably pretty good looking in a subdued, girl next door type of way. She has men who are interested in her that she doesn’t return the affection of. She’s fairly bright in that she graduated university. She’s thin.

But she doesn’t come from a wealthy home, she isn’t rain stoppingly beautiful, she isn’t super valedictorian, she isn’t suave or charming or really all that funny most of the time, and mostly hangs out in her jeans. She’s clumsy, socially awkward, and fairly self deprecating in a ‘Bridgette Jones’ Diary’ sort of way. Everything is said through her perspective and, as a young woman entering a new relationship, it’s bound to be a little self uncertain.

And none of this makes her a Mary Sue. I’d actually argue the opposite – she is the generic girl that we can all pour our personalities and fancies into. She’s the girl that isn’t better than us, so we feel more comfortable with her. She’s the girl next door that we can feel safe rooting for her.

When you throw around the term ‘Mary Sue’ to mean any character that you think is stupid, you completely get rid of any value the term might have, once upon a time, held. It makes the term useless, as its description broadens.

Anastasia Steele and 50 Shades of Grey might not be my cup of tea, but I found Anastasia to be fairly likeable and endearing as a character. Contrast this to Christian who is wealthy beyond compare, show stoppingly handsome, charming, multi-talented, and has a rather large phallus and I really have to wonder why the female character is getting hit so hard with criticism.

Like this post? Check out these:

(Role)Playing the Victim - Why are there certain topics that are so harshly judged in Roleplay?

Evil Demon Seductress Trope – Some women are judged more harshly based on their ‘trope’ than equivalent male roles.

SWTOR: Women Don’t Flirt? - Female characters just don’t get the same flirt treatment.

9 comments

  1. Tricia says:

    Mary Sue is a term that I never heard used outside of fan fiction until Twilight. I still tend to equate it with fan fiction rather than mainstream. I would disagree slightly with your definition, saying that it is a woman who is considered beautiful, and men all around her fall hopelessly in love with her. Usually, though, one character is her soul mate, and that is the only one she’ll love. I’ve also seen it used as a woman who was born in the wrong place, especially in LotR fanfiction

  2. Claudia King says:

    I think this is a real problem with the way readers see a lot of female characters. More and more in mainstream fiction now I find it difficult to read through reviews of stories featuring a female lead without someone somewhere throwing the dreaded Mary Sue bomb at them. It’s just become such a meaningless throwaway term that I feel it’s lost a lot of its meaning. Nine times out of then when I see people using it it can indeed be substituted for “female character I happen not to like for any variety of reasons”.

  3. [...] At Femmedia, M. Keep explains why Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey may not be a particularly good chara…. [...]

  4. SunlessNick says:

    wealthy beyond compare

    Without particularly having to do anything to maintain it, since most of his ostensible business trips seem to be spent rearranging Anastasia’s life to suit himself (and he has all the friends and contacts he needs to do that off the cuff, no pun intended). And most Stu-ish of all, when he crosses so far over the line between play and abuse that Anastasia runs, she somehow then ends up being the one to apologise for betraying his trust.

    • Anjasa says:

      I found it funny how little work he did, and how vague his work was. I mean, he was in ‘mergers and acquisitions and ‘feeding people in Darfur’ and had billions to blow and spent most of his time pouring over the minutia of Anastasia’s life.

  5. [...] Anastasia Steel – Mary Sue? – You might not like her, or understand what Christian Grey sees in her, or feels that something in 50 Shades of Grey wasn’t really what you wanted it to be. [...]

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