Why I Like Mary

First of all, an apology to regular commenter Robin. I had told her earlier that the next one of these would be of David Xanatos, but upon beginning to write it, I realized that my feelings on the character are in flux at the moment, and that writing something that wouldn’t repeat what everyone already knows about the character would take an incredible amount of effort and go against the point of these essays, which is to have something short and relatively effortless  to produce to post between episode reviews. The Xanatos piece will still go up, eventually—I’ve hit on an interesting thought about how the way the show deals with it mirrors and to a degree predicts the way society has been forced to deal with the too-big-to-fail 1%–but the whole thing needs some time to marinate. So, until we get that, here’s a post about a character that’s just as awesome.

Mary

Mary is the twenty-eight-year-old (!) mother of Tom. We know almost nothing about her, except that she and her son were refugees given shelter at Castle Wyvern at the time of the massacre. Had Tom not successfully lobbied for the opportunity to accompany Princess Katherine and the Magus on their quest to safeguard the gargoyle eggs, it’s hard to say just what would have become of her. On one hand, she’s at the center of various circles of oppression, and appears to have nothing in the way of material assets; on the other hand, she’s made of awesome.

Of the four humans who initially decide to take care of the eggs, we know the motivations of three. Katherine and the Magus are motivated by guilt and gratitude. Tom is motivated by the fact that he’s a shonen anime protagonist and gargoyles are his Pokémon. Mary is motivated by…it’s hard to say. Partly it’s because of Tom, and partly, I’m sure, it’s because when you have nothing, you could do a lot worse than being part of a princess’ coterie. But that’s it: “passion” isn’t a factor for her. Neither is it reward: she’s been promised nothing for her help, and most of the time,  she has no reason to expect things will end up well for her.

And yet there she is, using her wits and perseverance to do good and protect those even more helpless than her, even when things get hard. And things do get hard: between having to say good-bye to her son, being labeled a fugitive, and—canon-in-training spoiler ahead—eventually getting taken to a time that is not her own, she’s gone through, or will go through, her own version of Goliath’s crucible. What’s more, she does it without the benefit of any super-powers or their equivalents, and without losing her spirit or good humor.

And heck, she didn’t have to be that way.  It would have been the easiest thing in the world to make her a minor antagonist, the doddering authority figure preventing Tom from answering the call to adventure, or the well-meaning but feckless character who hinders more than she ever helps.  It would have surprised no one, given that her design tends to be the sort used for Characters On Isn’t Supposed To Like.  And yet, because Gargoyles believes that awesomeness isn’t determined by what one’s body is like, she instead gets to be heroic in a way no other kind of character quite manages to replicate.  And that’s pretty damn cool.

(P.S.: Thank you, Cameca, for allowing me to borrow your title structure.)

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One Response to Why I Like Mary

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Ian. No worries, though; writing about Xanatos is no small task. So while I am very keen to see a post about him eventually, there is, by no means, a rush.

    This post makes me just as happy; Mary should absolutely get some attention. I like her a lot, too, because she’s absolutely deplorable in “Awakening Part I,” as sort of the personification and go-to for the humans-hate-gargoyles stereotype. (i.e. “get away from him, you beast!”) In fact, I wonder if a lot of her motivation comes from that. When Tom tells her later, “don’t worry, the gargoyles will come, Mama,” and she tells him, tearfully, that the gargoyles were destroyed, I had originally chalked her emotional reaction to being simply looking death and misery in the face, knowing there was no way out. But I think it’s also sincere regret. The gargoyles DID protect the citizens, in spite of how horrible *they* were to the *gargoyles*. Her actions from then on, to me, demonstrate someone acting not out of guilt, necessarily, but as someone with a genuinely-changed worldview. So, I tend to think that she’s not really any different from the Princess and the Magus, but it’s portrayed with a lot more subtlety and finesse than the others. And because she is a parent. Katherine has some notion of what it means to be responsible for people, but indirectly, as a political leader, not as a personal nurturer. The Magus doesn’t have any sort of perspective like that, which makes Mary, again, significantly more interesting.

    That’s all based on the series proper, though; again, I’m not familiar with the comics. Though, I know, I should be.

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