Timestamp — 4/7/2017
I’m writing this post with the assumption most people know what a mary sue is. If you don’t, check out this post that sums it up better than I can . . .
So a couple weeks ago, I was watching one of my favorite sci fi films Enemy Mine (I would still love to read the book one day) and I got to the part at the end, and it occurred to me that Davidge winning the day all by himself was really, really unlikely, especially after all the evidence we had previously been presented of him being a shitty soldier.
I’m not trashing this film because I love it and I honestly don’t care if Davidge is a “mary sue.” The fact of the matter is, most male protagonists are easily “mary sues” because they are power fantasies specifically built for a male audience to self-insert.
The “mary sue” crap became sexist because misogynists decided to use it as a way to mock women for doing the same thing.
Sometimes I wonder if my books benefit from the fact that I tend to avoid creating power fantasy characters. I enjoy writing characters so real, they could live next door to you.
Rigg from The Thieves of Nottica is not a power fantasy but was meant to be a realistic person (setting aside the alien shapeshifting) who still triumphs in the end and beats the odds. The same goes for Thalcu in The Harvest, and pretty much all my characters.
And I wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing because most people read genre fiction to escape and, therefore, expect to be able to self-insert themselves on power fantasy protagonists.
Ah well. I don’t write to please, I write what I want.
This post is about how I came to the conclusion that Davidge is actually a “mary sue” — or at least would be called such if male characters were ever criticized on the same level as female characters.
Before proceeding, turn your sarcasm detector on. Is it on? You’ll need it for the rest of this post.
1). First, Davidge can’t fight.
Davidge is clearly not a foot soldier but a fighter pilot. He can shoot down drac ships pretty well, but this isn’t impressive. I mean, anyone who’d played a video game could probably do that crap. You literally push a few buttons to lock a target and fire.
After crashing on a strange planet, Davidge tries to fight Jeriba and easily gets captured and disarmed — which is really crappy considering he’d been spying on Jeriba all night, had the advantage of darkness, and still got caught.
I’m not saying him being a crappy fighter is a bad thing (it actually makes him real and relatable). I’m saying that him being a crappy fighter makes it a bit unrealistic at the end of the film when he single-handedly fights through crowds of tough, armed scavengers to save Zammis.
2) Davidge has zero survival skills.
Any person who’d trained in the army would tell you how they were trained to build shelter, hide with camouflage, fire a weapon, and apply first aid. Even the air force learns this, okay?
Davidge is a soldier and can do none of this.
During the first half of the film, we watch in amusement as he is nearly killed trying to hunt food and has to be saved by Jeriba.
He can’t build a shelter and has to be helped by Jeriba.
When he’s hurt, Jeriba takes care of his wounds.
And even after he spends years (or months, the movie doesn’t state exactly how fast Zammis grew up) hunting with a bow, he still can’t shoot a weapon to protect Zammis from scavengers.
Davidge is a hopeless buffoon and a clown. It’s been established.
So when he gets to the end of the movie, he is suddenly able to fight his way through dozens of armed bad guys after having shown no previous fighting skills. His friends arrive too late to help him save the day. When they get there, he’s already got Zammis in his arms and has killed every wicked scavenger in the vicinity.
And why was he able to do this? The power of love.
I don’t fault Davidge for being unrealistic. I enjoy this film and I think it’s beautiful that his love for Zammis is what conquered all. It’s not realistic and that’s what I like about it. In real life, Zammis would have been killed and Davidge would have got there too late and would have been killed too. Because in real life, evil usually wins. But this is a story, where a happy ending is possible, even if it’s not plausible.
I love Enemy Mine and I love Davidge. I really don’t care that he’s “a mary sue” and an unrealistic power fantasy. So what?
It’s just a shame female characters can’t be given the same leeway. Shame, shame on women for having power fantasies or imagining ourselves doing awesome things or being heroes.