Mary Sue characters are not strong characters.
Let me get right to the point: You need to stop. You think you’re doing something good and just, but you’re being lazy, and it hurts me to see you like this.
It’s the Mary Sues, Hollywood. It’s the Mary Sues. Maybe you don’t know what that mean? Maybe you’ve been in the dark with what you’re doing? Let me spell it out to you.
Mary Sue: an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. Often times too perfect and lacking in realism to be interesting.
You see, Hollywood, your audience likes it when characters struggle. When they have to learn and grow to get through their problems. You intro a character that’s already perfect at everything and solves every problem without a fight…what’s the point?
Know who’s a great character? Honor Harrington from David Weber’s amazing series. For over two decades Honor’s been at the helm of Manticore Space Navy ships and has had her share of wins and losses. When this navy officer was thrust into the political sphere, you know what she did? She screwed up. She learned hard lessons and became better for it. She didn’t go from the bridge of a battleship to negotiate a peace treaty without skipping a beat.
Do you have Netflix, Hollywood? Watch Violet Evergarden. There’s a character that’s messed up and struggles constantly to fix herself. And at the end of the show? She’s not whole, but she’s getting there.
You see how it’s done right? Now let me explain what you’re doing wrong.
Look at this, Hollywood. Just look at it!
What do we learn about Tessa Thompson’s Agent M in this trailer? She found the Men in Black all by herself. The organization that is supposed to only exist in rumor and superstition (which the trailer reminds us), and M just…found it.
I’m old enough to remember seeing the first MIB movie way back in the day, and Wil Smith didn’t just ‘find’ the MIB, he was recruited for his ability and he had a hell of a time adjusting to being a MIB during that flick.
What happens next to M? She gets the black suit, accoutrements and is whisked off to London to save the world. Sure, this is just the trailer and maybe there’s a training montage that’ll be in the movie (who wants to bet me coffee the montage won’t be on screen?) but in the trailer M is so perfect that she’s sent right to the field! Remember that definition you read? How perfect is M at this point in the trailer?
Then she meets H, who’s supposed to be the more seasoned agent, and guess which character proceeds to screw up more during the trailer? H! He doesn’t win his fights, he doesn’t use the neuralyzer right away and M has to fix the situation, then he can’t find the big red button on his own.
And how does M do? Smooth sailing! She uses the MIB guns correctly (remember the cricket from the first movie?), is a complete natural in the MIB environment and holds her own against a three armed alien woman thing whereas H flubs his Thor impersonation.
Is this the final movie? No. But don’t tell me M get’s a full character arc, Hollywood. I know you too well. Remember all the struggle Star Wars Rey went through? Exactly. No struggle at all. She could pilot the Millennium Falcon better than Han the first time she’s at the controls, fix the ship better than Han and fight with a lightsaber better than Kylo Ren. She was perfect and never came across an obstacle her inherent goodness and perfection couldn’t overcome easily enough.
‘Floating rocks’, am I right?
Back to M. The trailer isn’t the final movie, but don’t expect me to believe M struggles as much as Will Smith’s J did during O.G. MIB.
I can already tell I’ll go to the theater and M will be as boring as a beige wall during the whole movie. She’ll just vault over every problem and be intrinsically better at H at everything because she’s intrinsically perfect. So I’ll have to suffer through that doldrum while wondering just why anyone would think Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth would find the on screen chemistry they didn’t have in Ragnarock.
It’s OK to make characters struggle, Hollywood! It makes them more human to see them fail, and have doubts, and have problems they can’t solve. We go to the movies to see characters solve their problems, not ignore them because they’re perfect and have the skills to make every situation a breeze.
But you keep giving us Rey’s and M’s, Hollywood.
It’s you, not me. Call me when you remember who Syd Field is.
Kisses, The Movie Going Public