Stargate & the Mary Sue: Why Daniel Isn't One

Literature Devil tackles what makes a Mary Sue character, sometimes male, often female. What makes a character a Mary Sue is debatable. Generally, as the attached video proposes, the Mary Sue is already good at everything. Doesn't have to learn. Doesn't have to grow. Doesn't have to make choices. Doesn't have to improve. Doesn't make mistakes. Instantly knows the right answers. Rises above the other characters by label, rather than merit and attainments. 

I postulate an additional definition. Recently, while rewatching Stargate (1994) for the fifth or sixth or seventh time, I noted that Daniel walks in and solves the initial inscription immediately. A ha: a genius!

So why is he less annoying than, say, Wesley on Star Trek: TNG?

The reason? He pays a price to get where he is. And he pays the price voluntarily. 

That is, Daniel is introduced to the viewer when he is trying to convince a group of fellow archaeologists of the "true" date of the pyramids. He waffles when asked, "So who do you think built the pyramids?" but sticks to his argument. His argument, moreover, is clearly the result of much study, as evidenced by the books and notebooks he lugs around. Despite his education, he still struggles to decipher the hieroglyphics on the capstones, evidenced by many sleepless nights. 

Moreover, his blithe assurance that he will be able to figure out the hieroglyphics on the other side of the Stargate turns out to be wrong. He is reliant on others to help him find the "tablets" so he can make the final link. This team trope from the movie is fully utilized in Stargate SG-1

Struggles without cost, I propose, is one of the problems of the Mary Sue. When a character doesn't have to risk in order to excel, the character is being applauded simply for existing/enduring, often (these days) for having the correct and proper and acceptable type of existence/endurance. (The ability to "endure" is a good quality that has been lifted to abnormal heights of reverence. It's one quality, not all of them.)

Another great example of a non-Mary Sue is Blizzard in One-Punch Man. Although gifted with enormous powers, she has taken a hard look at her circumstances. Amai Mask will never let her rise to "S" class. Does she struggle in the mid-"A"-range or stay at the top of the "B" level and shore up her position? 

Saitama listens to her more than he does her more powerful and constantly irritated sister. Despite his unstoppability, Saitama has a lovable weakness for drifters (mostly due to "been there done that still doing that" empathy). While he is rather at loose ends, he appears to respect those who make concrete choices, even if the choices aren't the best ones and not ones he would make  himself. (He argues with Blizzard; he also leaves her be.) Choice indicates risk, which Saitama no longer feels. Risk indicates the character willingly pays a price, even if--in the case of Daniel--the price is self-imposed exile from his profession.  

1 comment:

Matthew said...

There are people who argue that Saitama is a mary sue or at least overpowered. I don't think they realize that is the joke. Saitama is a parody of the over powered hero at the end of the shonen manga. Also, he is filled with existential ennui because he is so powerful.