Theresa Sullivan

Theresa Sullivan (Artist's Depiction)

Theresa Sullivan, later Theresa Sullivan Hartley, is the main character of Norman Boutin's indie published book Empress Theresa. She is the daughter of Edward and Elizabeth Sullivan, wife of Steve Hartley, and a native of Framingham, Massachusetts. At the age of ten, she has an alien life force enter her, after which she begins to exhibit great powers that eventually cause her to be the most relied upon and beloved person in the world.

Although she is portrayed as the greatest girl in the world by the book's characters, readers and critics alike have complained that she is taken far too seriously by world leaders and common people. Many of the claims made about her by other characters, and the author, are not consistent with her actions and beliefs.

Inspiration Edit

The only other girl that Norman may have been obsessed with other than Theresa was Joan of Arc. In his online musings over Joan,[1] much of his language and rhetoric sounds similar to his language and rhetoric over Theresa. His descriptions of events in Joan's life also sound eerily similar to descriptions of events in Theresa's life (for example, Theresa's thoughts while being led away to imprisonment and execution). This obsession is further supported by three Amazon reviews Boutin left in the 2000s; each was titled a variant of " A 5x year old Joan of Arc fanatic [verbs] on [title]."

Norman also admitted in an interview[2] that Theresa's story was drawn from the 1994 attack on Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, and the investigation of Tonya Harding. He had originally written the story as a man who could read minds and solve a similar case, but threw out the idea. He then invented a character based off of Harding (now renamed Theresa) who had psychokinetic powers and used them to get revenge on her accusers. Over time, the story changed and developed into a young girl given special powers from an extraterrestrial force.

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Theresa Sullivan in Korea

Role in the Story Edit

Theresa is, obviously, the central character of the story. She uses her awesome powers to reshape the world in her image.

Mary Sue? Edit

Traditionally, a Mary Sue refers to a character in a fanfiction who is a self-insert of the author into a canon world. They tend to be flawless, relied upon heavily by other characters, and have their pick of romantic interests. Everything they do is seen as perfect or morally justifiable (even if, in reality, it isn't), and the only characters who might oppose them and their worldview are villains. The term's scope has broadened in recent years, and has come to refer to fiction characters in general who are flawless and heavily influenced by the author's personality and worldview. They are frowned upon by readers for being far too perfect and hence flat, undeveloped characters, and achieving success so easily their exploits become dull and predictable.

Many critics have labeled Theresa a Mary Sue, saying she is far too perfect to relate to the reader, as well as the fact that the treatment she receives from other characters is far too unrealistic. Norman has denied these allegations,[3] saying that "anybody can become as fine a person as Theresa if they'll only try."[4] However, one critic ran Theresa through the Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test, and found that she scored 100 points, making her a full on Mary Sue.[5]

Some evidence in favor of the Mary Sue charge:

  • She is constantly described as sexy and beautiful. Her body receives positive attention from other characters. This includes her wedding, where her cleavage and shoulders are said to have charmed everyone (including, one must imagine, some of her own family).
  • Everything she does is justified, or is treated as harmless. She never repents or shows any remorse for anything serious that she's done, including wearing a sexy dress to show off before boys, or mocking her ex's girlfriend. It doesn't help that other characters constantly talk about how perfect she is, even when she's clearly seen doing imperfect actions throughout the book.
  • Literally everyone who knows about her immediately trusts and relies on her, for no other reason than the book says they do. The only people to oppose her are antagonists.
  • Norman himself has admitted to just how perfect she is, saying that while "some people write stories about characters who sin and eventually repent," he wanted Theresa "to be a good Catholic girl from page one."[6] He has likewise described her as "beautiful", "very intelligent", "great personality", "attracts boys", "succeeds in her endeavors", "is courageous to the point of death", "has more power than all the world's army combined"[7] - an extreme level of absolute perfection that would definitely fit a Mary Sue.

The only thing which might work against the Mary Sue charge is the fact that it is hard to imagine Theresa as a self-insert of Norman himself. The thought of a man in his 60's seeing himself as a girl in her 20's is either impossible, or just plain horrifying to conceive. Though perhaps he is not imagining himself, but his ideal partner?

Criticism Edit

Aside from the Mary Sue charge, other criticisms have been lodged against Theresa as a character. Some critics were appalled by Theresa's poor treatment of Ginny, especially in regards to the latter's social class.

A major criticism against Theresa is directed towards her moral character. Though Theresa is called by Norman as a "good Catholic girl," and characters in the book speak of her as being morally perfect, she is often engaging in immoral or less-than-spiritual acts.

References Edit

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