It’s no secret that stories, particular those of the speculative variety are inundated with Mary Sues and author avatars. While I’m all for calling out mary sues and author avatars, one of the things that really grates me about fandom is that the terms are quickly and unabashedly misapplied to any remotely competent marginalized character, notably POCs. I.E. any POC characters who avoids the racist stereotypical trappings, is fleshed out as a leading compelling three-dimensional character, and isn’t relegated to the role of the magical sidekick, suddenly their unrealistic Mary Sues.
I’ve seen these arguments time and time again: someone complained about not liking Storm because she was too powerful (yet takes no issue with Nate Grey, Phoenix or Professor X); someone complained that Cassandra Cain was too skilled, yet didn’t blink an eye at Damian Sue or Hush or Prometheus; one fan had complaints aplenty about the concept of T’Challa and the nation of Wakanda not being viable or realistic but had no issue with Doom or Latveria or Thor and the Asgardians.
To drive the point home even further. A good buddy of mine who is a novelist wrote one of my personal favorite series which features a black woman as its heroine. However critics chimed in complaining that they thought the heroine was too self-reliant and too competent. Supernatural elements……kool & the gang, a strong intellingent powerful black woman, society suddenly has a problem suspending disbelief because that’s just crazy talk.
I’m going to share with you some key insight on black culture. I surmise this is also true for other non-black POCs but I don’t feel qualified to speak for them, so I’ll let my fellow non-black siblings of color co-sign or correct on this.
As a black person, you gain a sense of second sight. We know who we are, we know the power we possess and we know our potential but we also know how we’re peceived by society: 3/5 of a subhuman savage, criminals, lazy, shiftless, only begging for a handout.
Because of this mindset that world posseses, that will be waiting for us, it is instilled in black children that we have to be perfect in all things. We have to be stronger, smarter, faster more beautiful, superior to our caucasian peers. We have to work twice as hard only to get a fraction of the accolades. We’re looking in a world that’s waiting to see us fail, they’re waiting to see us become just another statistic, so we have to personify perfection in all things at all times.
This is why when Obama arrived, we as black people knew he was the man for the job as our first black president. Because we saw he lives those fundamentals each day. A buddy of mine made the best point: white people complain about blacks supposedly being unmotivated and uneducated, and then in the same breath condemn our first black president for being an “elitist” because he’s TOO smart and not lazy ENOUGH for them to relate to.
And that’s the rub. When we do beat the odds and excel. Then suddenly we’re being uppity or aspiring to be white, or too militant, or we only got to our station through affirmative action or because we played the race card. Which by the by, contrary to popular opinion white folks play the race card just as much, if not more than POCs. If I had a cent for every time some caucasian told me I only got something because I’m black, Donald Trump would be my apprentice.
The Huxtables were not some anomaly from Bizarro.President Obama is not an exception to the rule. When it comes to the greatness that exists in black culture, he’s par for the course.
And as I explained to the critics on my buddy’s blog. When you’re a POC (and a double minority at that), you know that no one is coming to save you. When you live in a world that oppresses you for simply existing, usually three things is gonna happen: 1) it’ll break you and you will buy into the lie 2) it’ll drive you crazy 3) it will empower you. So you have to be self-reliant, powerful, and formidable in all things.
My aspirations in life is not to be a white person’s magical negro, nor is it to be their “fabulously” gay best friend. I’m an alpha and I play second string to no one. And anyone who is threatened by that can go straight to hell. If someone, white, black, male, female, gay, straight, young, old, etc. is superior to me in some regard it’s going to be because of their skills and merits and because they’ve earned it (and my respect) but not because of their stats.
Competent POCs ARE NOT Mary Sues. What we are is the norm. Anyone who overcomes adversity in a bigoted society without white privilege will be exceptional and will often be equal if not superior to their white peers.
Because we’re just that damn good.