How To Remedy A Mary-Sue or A Gary-Stu (Part II)

In the last blog post, we discussed how there had been a glut of Mary-Sue characters in recent years, including Arya Stark from the latter seasons of Game of Thrones. We discussed the problems with this kind of character and then looked at a couple of ways to fix her. One thing I did not mention was that the same tips apply to a Gary-Stu (the male equivalent of a Mary-Sue, such as Superman, John Wick and James Bond. Thus, today’s blog post is a continuation of how to remedy a Mary-Sue or a Gary-Stu.

(However, we will mainly stick with only using the term ‘Mary-Sue’ because I have mostly used female examples.)

3 – Have The Mary-Sue Make Mistakes

People make mistakes, but Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus don’t. That is because everything that they do is perfect. Therefore, as soon as you make the main character err, you have automatically eradicated the chance of her being a Mary-Sue.

Indeed, it is really interesting to have the main character make a mistake, as then we can see how she tries to amend or atone for it.

Example 1 – Brit Marling in Another Earth (2011)

At the start of the film, Rhoda (Brit Marling) makes a serious mistake. She drink drives on her way home from a party, hears of ‘another Earth’ on the radio, looks up at the sky, and bang – she crashes into another car, putting John (William Mapother) in a coma and killing his pregnant wife and young son.

After serving four years in jail, Rhoda becomes a janitor at a school, before paying John a visit. At first, she cleans for him before doing something to atone for her mistake. (I don’t want to spoil this thought-provoking nugget of a movie, though. So, check it out.)

how to remedy a mary-sue or a gary-stu
Rhoda (Brit Marling) wishing she could turn back the clock and undo her mistake.

Example 2 – Catwoman from The Dark Knight Rises

Selina Kyle is a ‘cat thief’ and a borderline sociopath. At the start of the film, she seems to care for no-one but herself. Nevertheless, after (somewhat) supporting Bane’s revolution, she feels that she may have made a mistake.

This is why, when Batman returns to Gotham, she helps him defeat Bane and the League of Shadows, to put right her wrong.

Example 3 – Ariel Turns To Ursula in The Little Mermaid

Ariel is a 16-year-old mermaid, who wants to see the shore above her and marry Prince Eric. Except, her overbearing father, King Triton, forbids her from doing both.

In her anger (following Triton smashing up her treasure trove), she makes a Faustian pact with Ursula the Sea-Witch. Ariel does not fulfil the terms of the agreement, meaning that Ursula has her. King Triton intervenes and takes Ariel’s place, as Ursula becomes the most powerful creature of the seven seas.

Ariel (with Eric’s help) fights Ursula in the climactic battle to make amends for her mistake, and to save her father.

4 – Put The Mary-Sue Into A No-Win Situation

How to remedy a Mary-Sue or a Gary-Stu? Well, put her into a no-win situation. That would show that she is not perfect, as whatever she does she will lose (and suffer the consequences for her decision).

Example 1 – Helen Mirren’s Character in Eye In The Sky

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) thinking, under pressure, as to how she can order the drone strike.

In this slow-burning, tense thriller, Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) has the chance to take out a leading Al-Shabaab terrorist in Kenya via a drone attack.

The only problem is that an innocent little girl, called Alia, is selling bread outside the house where the terrorists are meeting. If Colonel Katherine orders the strike, little Alia will die as collateral damage. If Colonel Katherine does not give the green light for the attack, the terrorists will disappear again (and it may take years to find them again, if they ever will).

Thus, whatever Colonel Katherine decides, she is damned. She spends much of the film agonising about what to do.

Example 2 – Batman in The Dark Knight

Batman is obviously not a woman or a Gary-Stu (certainly not Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the character). Yet, this is one of the few instances when a super-hero has to make a hard choice, and he pays a heavy price for it.

The Joker has managed to capture both Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes. They are tied to explosives, and Batman does not have time to save both of them. So, he chooses to save his friend/love, Rachel. Only, the Joker has tricked him and the police force. Batman rescues Harvey, but not before the explosives detonate and burn half of Harvey’s face. Rachel does not survive the incident.

In short, Batman was placed into a no-win situation and (surprise surprise) he lost. For the rest of the film, he must deal with yet more grief as well as a new threat in the form of Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent.

Thank You

Thank you for reading this blog post on how to remedy a Mary-Sue or a Gary-Stu. I hope you have found this article and the previous one useful and interesting.

If you can think of any other ways to remedy a Mary-Sue or a Gary-Stu, please put it in the comments, below. I look forward to reading them.


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One comment

  1. Great post! I agree on most points, but would disagree with John Wick and Superman being Gary-Stu characters. They’re both supreme in their skills and powers, but both have their human sides. Though I’ve seen only the first two John Wicks, only once, I can’t call myself a die hard fan of these movies, but from what I understand, John Wick wanted to lead a normal life with his dog, but because of his superior skills in assassination, he won’t be left in peace as long as he has his former pals left.

    Superman also is perhaps the most powerful being in his universe (at least after Wonder Woman). But his biggest strength isn’t his power. It’s his humanity. He’s raised as Clark Kent (by a wonderful couple, who’s complete opposite from the Dursley’s). Clark is a likable and simply a good person with the right values. Superman is just his tool to use his full potential in bringing out these values. Superman is in line with his humanity, which is why his powers are in line. But if anything were to happen, for example, to Lois Lane, he could lose his control and then we would all be doomed.

    My point is, the more powerful a character is in his/her skills, the more human they need to be. More precisely, in touch with their humanity. Dr Manhattan from Watchmen would be another example. He just might be the most powerful character ever created. But he’s also a complete wreck of a human being, who’s forgotten even the very basics of being human, such as why we wear clothes, etc. The only thing that keeps him in check is his human girlfriend, who gets older by the day, as he himself doesn’t age. His ark is also in check with this drifting, as he has to find his value in humanity again.

    So, in a nutshell: It’s not the skills, it’s the humanity.

    Hope this gave some new insights. Looking forward to the next post!

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