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.