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The Mary Sue

Happy 3rd Birthday To The Mary Sue: Why I Love Our Logos (And Hope You Do Too)

Three years ago today, an inauspicious little thing happened. Some electrons moved from one place to another and all of a sudden this website was live on the internet. At the time I was very worried nobody would like us. I’m happy to report that that has turned out to be not true a great many times. In the past year alone we’ve hosted an advance movie screening, an incredible reader party, and a New York Comic Con panel. And that’s just our IRL achievements. We’ve also written about some crazy stuff in the past year, and it’s a safe bet there’s more crazy stuff in our future. (Trust me on this, I have some very secret “inside sources.”)

Turning three years old has us feeling pretty nostalgic, so as your fearless Managing Editor, I’m going to take a look back at our logo ladies, show you all of them in one place, and talk about why I like them so much.

This should come as a relief to those among you who have ever tried to refresh the page until you’ve seen them all. Here are our sixteen lady logos, complete with links some of the times they’ve been mentioned on the site. They were designed by Christianne Goudreau, twelve at launch and four more for our first birthday (one of those four, Hermione, was chosen by a reader poll).

Now, in order to recall how they came to be, we’re going to have to go back, back to the days when we had our visual design meetings on The Mary Sue. Everybody involved was kind of lukewarm on the idea of a super stylized image or object, the “bathroom door” solution to iconography. I was much more into the idea at explicitly showcasing the diversity of the geek world, rather than just implying it. We toyed around with the idea of one female figure draped in the iconic gear of as many female geek characters as we could think of: Wonder Woman’s lasso, Leela’s hair, the Bride’s jacket, Carmen San Diego’s hat, Leia’s blaster.

We shipped the idea of to Christianne for sketches just about when someone suggested the logo be a rotating series of women casually dressed as fictional female characters (the phrase “closet cosplay” would have been useful to the discussion), and that resulted in a series of twelve logos based on a list of female characters with iconic clothing and equipment I’d tossed off of an evening.

I love our logo ladies, and will defend them to the death. I love their full figures, I love their raised biceps, I love their confident stance. I love how their faces exude confidence even as they remain relatively anonymous, the better to insert yourself into their metaphorical shoes. And I love that they seem perfectly aware they have a bit of sex appeal.

Because sex appeal, or even mere body confidence, is a characteristic that isn’t just not associated with women in the geek world, but is widely considered antithetical to them. If I had a nickel for every time I’d heard the phrase “only fat girls play WoW” in general chat, or “only girls who can’t get boyfriends write fanfiction,” I’d buy a Starbucks hot chocolate every day before work. (Well, in the summer I’d buy an ice tea.) Many arguments that attempt to explain why fake geek girls are a real problem (and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of them) hold up the male experience of being socially awkward and ignored by the opposite sex as the foundational experiences of being a “true nerd.” But if you’re a woman with the same (assumed or otherwise) characteristics, this isn’t cause to welcome you into the community. It’s a reason to put you down.

And if you do make it to the “hot” side of that entirely arbitrary “hot or not” equation, or simply exude body confidence? Well, we’ve seen the outcome of that too. Women are sexually harassed, mistaken for booth babes instead of regular company staff, or dismissed professionally because they were obviously hired for their looks instead of their talent. Emma Frost, Starfire, Lara Croft? Strong independent women who dress how they want. Women who have the confidence to dress like Emma Frost, Starfire, or Lara Croft? Doing it for attention, and they’ve probably never even read the comics anyway.

The reason we want to see marketers take a break from putting heroines in the Butt Pose is because of how female heroes are almost universally required to play to the male gaze in order to prove to executives they have enough universal appeal to be worth spending money on. Actual geek women, on the other hand, are told by our own subculture that if we like these things, it must be because we’re unloveable, and if we do pass physical muster, then we probably aren’t liking it in the right way or for the right reasons. Our logo ladies, to borrow a Tumblr phrase, give no fucks about either of these expectations.

So happy birthday to all sixteen of them! And happy birthday to you, too, our community. It would be significantly less fun to write this website without you. Every click, like and retweet is a tiny little piece of heart that we cherish. We’ve combined many of them into full heart pieces. We’re kind of unstoppable now. Still working on that ability to greenlight movies with our minds.

We’ll keep you updated on how that goes.

(top pic copyright Pinkcandy via Shutterstock)

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  • Anonymous

    I still want a shirt where its an all over print.

  • Troy Lenze

    Happy birthday! You don’t look a day over 2.

  • Amelia Tungsten

    You’ve made my life better.

    Agree w/ choker – will also purchase Mary Sue t-shirt with these kickass prints.

  • Anonymous

    Happy birthday!

    And can I vote to have FemShep added to your logos? Even though she wasn’t used in the marketing before the third game (and therefor, had no official look), she is a very serious contender for the best female video game hero ever. You shouldn’t add a new one too often but I believe she deserves it.

  • Anonymous

    Happy happy birthday!! Me and Starbuck were making you a rum cake, but, well, you know Starbuck, so now it’s just cake. But still!

    Many happy returns. I love this site.

  • Alerrison

    I’m someone who has refreshed the page to try to see all your wonderful lady logos. Being able to scroll through them all? It’s the best gift you could have given on your birthday. Happy birthday themarysue! And here’s to many more~

  • Brooke

    Happy Birthday, Mary Sue! Keep on being the best– I’m proud to have worked with you all. :)

  • kinoumenthe

    Happy birthday :)

  • Aeryl

    I based my Wonder Woman halloween costume off this logo

  • Kit Whelan

    Happy birthday! You’ve fast become my favorite website, and probably the only one I read on a daily basis. Love you guys :)

  • Shelly

    Happy Birthday Mary Sue! You are so awesome that a year ago I realised that one of my life goals is to write for you some day (just FYI, it would be about Star Trek). Thanks for being an awesome spot for this Geek Girl!

  • Giu

    Yey! The Mary Sue is my go-to site for all things nerds, because besides news I know here I’ll find interesting reports and somewhere I know I won’t be triggered by sexism. Thank god for you! Many more years (and fierce ladies) to come!

  • Captain ZADL

    Happy Birthday Mary Sue!

  • Anonymous

    happy birthday and thanks for the history lesson! i’ll be honest, i oft times get remarkably exasperated reading this site, either rage at or rage with, but never let it be said that its not a constant source of insightful viewpoints and fandom-centric awesomeness.

  • Matthew McLaughlin

    Congratulations! Keep up the good work.

  • Melissa Bramble

    Ooooo, I *like* that idea!

  • Ashe

    Very interesting insight into the logo ladies!

    They do what they want because they know no matter where they go, some Joe Schmoe of Schmuck Kingdom will find SOME reason to be dissatisfied.

  • Nirali

    Happy birthday! I have a lot of love for this website, so here’s to many more years!

  • Lady Commentariat

    Happy birthday, Mary Sue! I remember being struck by the awesome logo lady the first time I visited. Thank you for creating and keeping a safe online space for lady-friendly geek-outs.

  • athenia45

    I’m really glad The Mary Sue is here!!! :) Here’s to many more years! Sto Lat!

  • Anonymous

    Happy Birthday to you! I love the various logos you have. I love that they look like real women. As a space tweep, I’d love to see an astronaut join your logos sometime in the future!

  • frodobatmanvader

    Thank you, The Mary Sue, for existing. In just the year that I have been aware of your site, I feel more aware of society and better informed on the many wonderful ways that women kick ass!

    And Jill Pantozzi should seriously be cast as Oracle in a live-action movie. Make it happen, world!

  • Important Film Maker

    Congratulations! The Mary Sue is one of my favourite nerd blogs, and always feels “real,” and run by human beings, as opposed to a news aggregate like /film or the such. Keep up the great writing!

  • Anonymous

    Nitpick with the caption to the Mulan picture:

    1. Mulan is not a windbender. That’s not a thing, the term is “airbender”.

    2. She’s cosplaying as either a Kyoshi warrior (no bending) or Avatar Kyoshi (earthbender). The fans are her symbol and weapons.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    Happy Birthday! Thank you for letting me ooze feelings and fannishness all over your site. This site is one of my top four internet loci!

  • Mark Brown

    Happy Birthday!

  • Harrison Grey

    There isn’t by any chance a “logo lady template” is there?

  • Harrison Grey

    I think Samus needs some logo lady love, too.

  • frankenmouse

    Yay! Happy Birthday TMS!

  • brilance

    Happy birthday! This site is one of the 2 “pop culture” blogs I check every day, the other being io9. Keep repping for geek & nerd diversity!

  • aladdinsane22

    I love the logos, but I’ve always thought a Buffy with a stake would be a perfect addition; she’s already in the right pose!

    I love the site, happy 3rd birthday!

  • Amourah

    Happy Birthday Mary Sue! I can’t believe it’s only been 3 years. When I first started reading 3 years ago the tone and content on this site felt as if it’d been around for decades. The opinions expressed, the stories highlighted… it was the first time that I felt I had a place to go to that shared, even celebrated, the same views I have. The Mary Sue is perma-bookmarked into my heart!

    Ya’ll do a remarkable job and the Mary Sue is so much apart of my daily routine I can’t even remember a time without it!

    Seriously. What did I do with all that time when I wasn’t reading The Mary Sue? Anyone? D:

  • Joanna

    Gratz Mary Sue! Would love to see a Lara Croft logo on this site. =)

  • Anonymous

    Many happy returns !
    You should be rightly proud of this corner of geekspace, a hugely enjoyable resource and such damn fun.

    ps I didn’t know the Rei character, so my mind assumed for some reason* that she was Dr Helena Russell from Space 1999**.

    [*ok, it's because I'm retro and British]
    [**she would sort of fit though...]

  • Elena

    Eowyn or Galadriel would be nice so we had some LOTR representation, but I think Mako Mori or Michonne would be excellent candidates for the modern side, too.

  • Mordicai

    The Mary Sue, I’m glad I found you!

  • Amanda Pina

    I just love this site. There is nothing like this in my country, so I can feel very welcome here. I’m very thankfull to all of you Mary Sues!

  • Rachael

    I’ve been reading The Mary Sue for years now! I completely love the site and enjoy the creativity of the logos.

    However, I’ve gotta say that it amuses me that the site tends to shake it’s head disapprovingly at movie posters with the butt+boobs pose, when the site’s logos are in the butt pose.
    I suppose it’s all in the intent of the creator, whether the intended purpose is gratification for others or the subject’s choice of showcasing her strength AND sexuality… but, anyway, it just always confuses me a little.

  • Anonymous

    We get concerns like yours every now and then (some of them quite strongly worded), and I wrote this post partially to address them. I don’t think there’s a conflict between asking that oft-sexualized superheroines be sexualized less often, and presenting a real demographic of people often painted as ugly or unattractive as confident of their own physical attractiveness.

    Ironically, the only other criticism our logos have ever received was that they were too “fat” for the logo of a chick website.