Thursday, May 14, 2009

Macho Sue's Appeal

Kit Whitfield has this incredible essay up on the "Macho Sue" character type - similar to the Gary/Mary Stu, except that rather than being an idealized image of the fanfic authour, the Macho Sue is an image of idealized macho hypermasculinity. The essay is unbelievably awesome.

The bit that particularly resonates with me is this:

Macho Sue is nothing if not powerful. He may not always be granted full powers by circumstance (he may, for instance, have a commanding officer, at least at first) - but it's clear that the force of his personality grants to him an authority in the eyes of the audience. He is the hero, he is the one whose decisions will most influence this narrative, and consequently is intended to exercise the greatest power over the reader/viewer's imagination. Hence, to an audience member who has a tendency to value power, it's easy to fall into the trap of judging Macho Sue over-charitably, when the same behaviour, displayed by another, lesser man, or even worse, a woman, would draw condemnation.
Emphasis mine. Certainly this is one of Marilyn French's trajectories - that we as a society tend to value power, and when we do, we let these overpowered fucknecks get away with being as irresponsible as they like. It's why we have a ton of movies who feature Goldenboy Asshole Heroes That Never Catch Shit For Their Fuck-Ups.

Why do people fall for these types?

We value power so much when it's clear from our histories that we should fear holding power, because with it, we can wield the ability to cause so much pain with just the slightest fuck-up. Why do we value this ability to cause so much ill? Why do we shudder at the responsibility of using this power? We see from favourite superheroes who have the according power and yet angst with it - don't we learn from their trials? Don't we see that Uncle Ben was right, and that power in itself is not a reward but a burden?

This value we place on having authourity, having the ability to influence and control other people, is not only seriously overrated, but it also seriously undermines our ability to come together as a society and work together towards a better future. Because part of the burden of having power is that everyone somehow expects you to deliver that better future.

And so your mind goes ping, and you become an asshole.

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