Yup, there is one. At least a single benefit to the practise of writing Mary Sues, Self Inserts, Author Avatars, whatever you want to call them. It isn’t for the reader, of course, but then I don’t think anyone would expect this self-indulgent habit to be good for anyone but the writer.
Once again while talking to my hubby (he’s so good for making my brain work), I had a thought. This time we were talking about bad behaviour and arguments that arises from one party not having a clear sense of identity. For some reason, that made me think of Mary Sues and their long lists of skills, be they informed or legitimately utilised.
Think about it. As annoying as it is to be subjected to someone’s idealised version of herself, at least this person has something to which she aspires. Her Sue is a gorgeous singer who plays the guitar to perfection? At the very least, we have a thirteen-year-old girl who wishes she could play the guitar or sing. A kid with an interest in music. The habit of writing self-indulgent fiction and whining like a master when people criticise the poor writing is worthy of scorn. The fact that this person desires accomplishment? That’s something to praise, not kick down.
It’s far closer to a sense of identity than someone who will argue any subject or try to “win” at everything. Especially stupid things, like who is the bigger fan of whatever, or who has more beat-up shoes. People who do things like that don’t even have anything they want to be. They just want to stand out, and can’t even be arsed to figure out what they want to stand out as.
I really don’t think it matters what specific thing a person does that makes him or her special. Spinning plates. Collecting anything. Knowing lots of words. It doesn’t even have to be productive, or something that others like. Shoot, they don’t even have to be good at it. It just has to matter to the person who does it.
It doesn’t really vindicate Mary Sues or anything related, but it does add a perspective. Self-indulgence is still obnoxious to other people. But at least there is a self to indulge.
Of course, that’s not always the case, either. There’s a reason that Mary Sue is deceptively difficult to codify. There is a pool of common traits and such that seem almost inherent to the phenomenon. Seriously, if you see enough, it can start to look like a twisted sort of genre.
Take a look at any Mary Sue Litmus Test. Once I think I saw someone judge those against each other, and I laughed myself sick (oh, self-justification), but that’s another topic upon which I shall probably never elaborate.