I initially figured I would just put this rant out there as a tweet or something, but you know what? I'm pretty verbose. A tweet is not sufficient to contain my feelings on this particular subject. Really, it's a family of related subjects that boils down to using words improperly. Actually, it's even MORE than that. It's using them improperly AND using them because you want to sound smart.
So in professional wrestling we have terminology that was initially started for wrestlers to be able to speak to one another without the fans catching on. Fans got smarter and smarter and decided that if they understood the lingo, it made them a better fan or a smarter fan than all the rest of the peasants. Thus the terms Mark and Smark came into the fans' lexicon. According to the fans, a mark is a fan who love wrestling, maybe who thinks its real. A Smark is a smart mark. They know the ins and outs, they know the locker room politics, they know when wrestlers are faking it (working) or doing something real (shooting.)
But then I listened to a wrestler named Al Snow give a lecture about the business to up and coming wrestlers. There's no such thing as a smark. They're all marks. Smarks are just marks that want to be different. It's because marks isn't a derogatory term or even denotes the level of understanding a fan has. It simply means someone who the wrestler is there to fool for twenty minutes. Someone who you need to respect enough to be in character in front of. That's what I think of when I hear someone say "Mary Sue."
Something that seems to permeate the internet consciousness is that Mary Sue equals Bad Character Writing. That is false. You can have terrible characters that are not Mary Sues. You can have overpowered characters that are not Mary Sues. You can have self-inserts that are not Mary Sues. A Mary Sue is much more than that.
They must be flawless. They must be loved by everyone in the story. When they're not in a scene, they people must be talking about them. When they're confronted with a villain with way more power and experience, they must best them easily. They must be unaware of their perfection. They must be too good for this world so that when they ultimately sacrifice themselves, not a single character has dry eyes.
So I'm proposing a moratorium on the term Mary Sue. Give it, I don't know, a year? Just take time to describe the characters you hate as overpowered. As unbelievable. As taking you out of the narrative. But please, for the love of Murphy don't just repeat the new flashy word you heard on the interwebs so you can sound intelligent and well read. Do a little research. Watch some videos, read some TVtropes at least. And don't be a smark.
Don't Forget to be Awesome!
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.