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

The Mary Sue

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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