Ah, nothing like waking up to the sweet smell of yet another female character getting thrown under the trope bus in the morning. For anyone out there who is already jumping on the bandwagon calling Delphi from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child a Mary Sue, I have some choice, choice words for you, starting with: STOP.
Listen, y'all. I've been writing fan fiction for the last decade and a half, which is an embarrassing majority of my human life. Even as early as the age of 12, I was ridiculously worried about one thing: making my character a Mary Sue. Making her too perfectly angsty, too convenient, too pretty, too whatever that indefinable quality of ~Mary Sue~ is. A textbook Mary Sue, as anyone who frequented these forums with me knows, is a girl with a tragic past, a girl who just happens to be uncommonly good at things, a girl who stereotypically has a physical quirk like purple eyes or dyed hair. But just about anything can qualify as a Mary Sue if you squint hard enough. Is she somehow desirable to the male protagonist? Mary Sue. Does she resemble the author a little too closely? Mary Sue. Does she surprise the other characters by (GASP) being skilled in some unusual way? Ding ding ding, Mary Sue!!!
Delphi does, of course, hit all of these markers. Her parents are dead. She's unnaturally gifted, and deliciously evil. She's even got the silvery-blue hair. All the Mary Sue boxes from the '90s and early 2000s I so feared as a writer are checked — but don't you dare call her a Mary Sue.
Because here's the kicker: there is no such thing as a Mary Sue. There never truly has been. The term Mary Sue is just one more insidious, subtle, and sexist way we perpetuate the idea of women in popular culture as flimsy or unnecessary to a narrative; by reducing Delphi to this popular trope, we are taking away her power as a character. We are telling her she is not complex, not worthy of being considered a full individual, and not because the authors didn't give her the material to become one — but because she is a woman.
If there is any doubt in your mind that it's because she is a woman, than look no further than Harry James "Literal Walking Mary Sue" Potter. The parallels between Delphi Riddle and Harry Potter are heartbreakingly deliberate: both orphaned, both burdened by the massive legacy their parents left behind, both tasked with seemingly impossible feats to restore the world as they think it should be. Yes, Delphi is absolutely evil and has the soul of an absolute garbage person. Fair. I will give you that and then some. But how on earth can anyone justify calling her a Mary Sue when Harry, orphan and the youngest seeker in a century with his mother's gorgeous green eyes, has walked away for the last two decades without a scratch?
The only real difference between Harry and Delphi is that he made the choice to be good and she made the choice to be evil. But good and evil has nothing to do with being a Mary Sue; being a woman does.
Of course, the claims that Delphi is a Mary Sue are none too surprising. We all saw last December the outrage from certain fans that Rey from Star Wars was a Mary Sue, despite the fact that Luke Skywalker's narrative was essentially the same as hers, and perhaps even more exaggerated in clichés. That's how it always seems to go in nerd culture: rather than embracing the idea of the strong, independent, skilled women that we desperately need in popular media, she gets picked apart in an instant, held to a scrutiny that her male counterparts are not.
But not today, internet. I love Harry Potter too much and I have quivered in the fear of miswriting female characters for too long. Call Delphi a monster, call her sick, call her deranged — call her all the things she certainly deserves to be called. But for the sake of women both fictional and real, do not call her a Mary Sue. Do not make her one more thing women have to apologize for, because she and every "Mary Sue" that came before her deserve so much more than that.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script), $17.99, Amazon
Images: Photographer Manuel Harlan/Courtesy of Harry Potter the Play; Getty