(Here’s another opinion piece brought to you by the always gracious David Herbert. Enjoy!)
So last week I made an idiot of myself by making a commentary on straw man arguments, while using an inaccurate definition of the term. My apologies. But now we dig into territory that’s a little harder to define since the term tends to be thrown around rather casually, especially on TV Tropes.
By the broadest definition, a Sue/Stu is an idealised version of the author who is universally liked, sometimes even by the antagonists, has powers/abilities far beyond any one else and always comes out on top. However, many protagonists have traits that fall under these categories and yet are never accused of being a Sue/Stu. And there are also many who have these traits but are unfairly labelled as one.
For example, Hermione Granger is a character I feel is unfairly labelled. Now yes, you can point out that JK Rowling has admitted she identifies most with Hermione and we are talking about a witch who can perform magic far beyond what is expected of her, but that doesn’t make her a Sue. (For the record, I’m only going by the books, not the movies). In the first novel, she’s introduced as being somewhat stuck up, a buzz kill, arrogant and these traits have alienated her from the rest of her classmates. She eventually loosens up, but the other characters still find her irritating at times.
The character is shown to be very neurotic; in book 3 she fails a test when the final obstacle, a creature that transforms into a person’s worst fear, appears as the deputy headmistress and informs her she flunked all her exams. She’s also only knowledgeable on textbook subjects, relying on Ron to tell her about wizarding culture as she didn’t grow up with them. And around book 4, she gains some white guilt over the plight of house elves, even going so far as to try and trick them into freeing themselves despite the elves being perfectly happy at Hogwarts, almost in an analogue of Islamic women who hate people campaigning for the banning of burqas. She refuses to accept that though since she’s very narrow minded and is routinely shown as this being a negative quality.
There’s nothing wrong with having a character based on the author, it’s always good to write what you know. And there’s nothing wrong with having a character that can be used as a power fantasy. It really all comes down to, as I said last week, framing and execution. If the character does something bad, are they punished for it? Are we shown or told how great a character is? How do they compare to the people around them?
Let’s take a look at some characters who can be seen as Stu/Sues and see if they fit the bill.
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