Is Rey a Mary Sue?

Star Wars: the Force Awakens was a pretty good movie, but Rey might become a Mary Sue. Not because of anything that is wrong with her. Her personality is fine, her actress was fine, but the rules of her own universe are often broken for her, which doesn’t happen to everyone else as much.

Breaking the rules for the hero isn’t unusual. Star Wars stories often break and bend their own rules, just to let the heroes win. When I was watching the New Hope, it was impossible to ignore how badly the stormtroopers shot compared to the heroes. It’s also pretty silly how the Death Star always kept being blown up due to some convenient weak point. But it was acceptable, because all the heroes received the same Mary Sue treatment, and didn’t seem so Sueish when compared to each other. For example, Luke might have had the force and learned fast, but he wasn’t as badass as Han Solo when it came to dealing with bar fights in New Hope. Luke was an equal in his own hero group.

Rey, on the other hand, is better than everyone else. She can fly the Millenium Falcon and fix it, she can fight off anyone who attacks her, she can out-force another force user without former training, shoot well without former training, use a lightsaber without former training, and save herself from almost anything that comes across her. If she only had half of those skills, it would fall within the regular Star Wars hero Sueness, but she has way more of those than the other characters.

Also, Kylo Ren does some pretty stupid stuff, which allows Rey to escape easier. I’m not sure if this counts as Kylo Ren character development or the writers handicapping the villain to make it easier for the hero. Maybe both. First of all, he discovers she’s got the force, and immediately leaves her to be guarded by a regular weak-minded storm-trooper that she can manipulate. And then he makes his own injury worse by knocking on it. And later, when they are sword-fighting, he tells her he could teach her how to use the force better, which reminds her she could just use it against him. He even lets her concentrate and collect her strength for a minute, allowing her more opportunity to kick his ass. It’s almost like he wanted to be beaten.

Actually that was hilarious. Kylo Ren, despite making questionable decisions and being beaten up by someone with much less training, was kinda cool and very entertaining. Not to mention the writers gave him a real personality and motivations. I know many people thought he was an emo brat and not menacing at all after he took his helmet off, but I think he’s great. It’s funny how he’s afraid of not being as good as Darth Vader. It’s almost like the writers know they have a lot to live up to when making a new villain, so they made their villain worry about it, too. That’s both funny and clever.

Another character I really liked was Finn. He has real struggles and flaws, but can also be tough and heroic for the right purpose. I also loved the fact that he was a stormtrooper – those are usually nothing but cannon fodder for the heroes to shoot and the main villain to lose his temper at. Showing that they can be human is not common, and I can’t help but root for him now. Something similar to this happened in Mad Max:Fury Road, which is another movie accused of being feminist propaganda.

So both of these guys got upstaged by Rey, but have more personality. If I was a feminist, I would commend the filmmakers for their effort but not be totally happy yet. Because this movie made the men more interesting than the main heroine (at least in my opinion). And I would want the heroine to become just as interesting in the sequels.

So is Rey a Mary Sue? I don’t think she is yet. The story isn’t over and I don’t know what will happen in the next two movies. Maybe she’s so powerful because she received Jedi training in the past, got her memory wiped, and slowly got it back when she touched Luke’s sword and got those visions/flashbacks. Or maybe her character development will take an interesting turn in the next movie. I’ll have to wait and see.

What did you think?

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19 Responses to Is Rey a Mary Sue?

  1. It is somewhat funny, but I grow weary of the warrior princess meme, even one such as Rey. I long for the good old days when some handsome hero would rescue a damsel in distress, because,well, because that is what men do!

    Women are amazing and smart and we can harvest rubbish off a planet in a pinch, but who wants to do that all the time? The romance, the story, is in the heroism, the love, the interplay between male and female characters.

    • Interesting. What kind of movies did you like instead?

      I don’t mind the fact that she harvests garbage. It’s not fun, but at least it’s relatable. Think of how many people can insert themselves into that character… Maybe that was the point, but didn’t work for me.

    • me says:

      Rey wasn’t any kind of princess, though (unless she turns out to be later…). She was tough because she had a rough life.

      Star Wars may have some romance between characters, but it isn’t predominantly a romance movie. Its target audience is kids/adolescents and people who like sci-fi and action movies. It sounds like you’re looking for romantic comedy or romance novel stuff in the wrong genre.

  2. Liz says:

    I think you’re reading far far more complexity and subtlety into the plot and character development than was intended, Emma.
    Unfortunately I should add…because I’d really like to believe that is the case. But this film came off as subtle and full of underlying meaning as Transformers in my estimation.
    I thought the villain was terrible. Star Wars is supposed to have epic villains. This had a lesser version of Severus Snape (RIP) and a goblin on a throne. How did THIS guy single handedly kill all of the other Jedi, when he couldn’t even defeat one completely untrained one? Yes, she’s a Mary Sue.

    • Liz says:

      We recently watched the ‘New Hope’ episode again. Now THAT was an epic movie. I’d forgotten how good it was. And I didn’t get the feeling I was sitting through a lecture about anti-Naziism coupled with some weird racist undertones (Jewish looking “only money” space aliens/strikingly Asian looking villains/Jamaican jokesters and so forth).

      • I thought the New Hope and Force Awakens were equally good. And wasn’t there a stereotypical asian-looking alien pilot in New Hope?

        I want to ask, what’s your favorite episode? And how do you rate the rest?

      • Liz says:

        New Hope and Empire Strikes Back were my favorite episodes.
        I don’t remember any stereotypical asian looking aliens in New Hope. I think there was an actual Asian pilot or two. If it was there, it wasn’t obvious. Unlike the Neimodians (sp?) they even spoke in a way that sounded like a person imitating an Asian person speaking English. It was so blatant it was like an intentional parody. I think Mr Lucas just lost his mind somewhere.

    • But I don’t believe it’s that complex. Neither the original trilogy nor this movie were complex stories, IMO. Only the prequels were complex, and it didn’t work very well (although I still like episode 1 and 3). I see them as entertaining action fantasy/sci-fi movies where heroes win over the villains. To me, they are movies to turn your brain off to. But a movie doesn’t have to have deep meaning to be analyzed in more detail. Even when a movie is simple, the people behind it put a lot of thought into it. I think it’s fun to enjoy a movie with a turned-off brain, then turn it on and analyze the shit out of it.

      I think the villain’s varying competence is probably a flaw in the writing. Interesting he reminded you of Snape – I heard other people say it, but didn’t think so myself. He was a bit comical and reminded me of Dark Helmet a little (the voice/appearance change). The “goblin on a throne” was okay, and so was the redhead Hitler guy.

  3. David Addison says:

    I haven’t watched the film – I refuse to give my money to the Hollyweird diversity asskickinggirl narrative. But I read something the other day that was incredibly thought provoking.

    Luke goes on a journey… learns… becomes better and better over time and tribulation. Still gets his hand cut off by Vader. In the original films, everyone knew their place in the “layer cake”… they EARNED it. Hell, even Kenobi lost to Vader!

    Move forward to our new modern politically correct, equality-enforced (irrespective of merit) culture. What happens? yep… the girl moves literally from zero to unstoppable hero in about 5 minutes. It’s not only dishonest, it leaves the viewer cheated of experiencing the “journey” the original characters went through. It’s an empty message because for even in fantasy we know it’s impossible; in the real world, the fattest guy can crush the fittest girl without breaking sweat… but in the new Star Wars, the girl makes Luke look like a retarded, incompetent loser.

    A sad reflection of the times we live in – everything true is framed as a lies. Every lie, is upheld as the truth. I wish I could go back to the early 80’s…

    • “Luke goes on a journey… learns… becomes better and better over time and tribulation. Still gets his hand cut off by Vader. In the original films, everyone knew their place in the “layer cake”… they EARNED it. Hell, even Kenobi lost to Vader!”

      Right. Unless you’re writing some kind of psychological thriller or a philosophical mindfuck movie, you shouldn’t let your heroes win too easily. In fact, analyzing this movie helped me improve my own protagonist. It’s hard to think up clever and logical ways for a hero to gain powers, but it has to be done. Anything else feels lazy or unclever. And the hero should get beat up, to make the viewer fear for them.

  4. “And the hero should get beat up, to make the viewer fear for them….”

    We can’t beat up women in our culture, that just feels wrong, as it should! As it truly should, that protected status that women enjoy is a blessing indeed. Of course in real life we often do get beat up and victimized, but in the fantasy world you aren’t allowed to portray your women warriors as having developed their skills based on merit, because they we must portray women’s suffering and we must affirm the differences between men and women, we must be truthful about how women heal, respond, fight back. These things are all politically incorrect, counter cultural, so we we wind up with a flat, two dimensional story, women not there on merit, women that can only win and never lose. Women who are only valued in our story when they are able to give a rather cheap imitation of men, just as smaller, weaker, more attractive versions. That’s a fantasy, one that robs us of what is beautiful within women and men, but also very different.

    Also, we really do a grave disservice to our little girls who now grow up thinking they can be warrior princesses with no suffering, no loss, no needing to even earn it, not even aware of our own limitations.

  5. Mark says:

    It’s the other way around: Mary Sue is a Rey!

  6. Thomas Crespo says:

    Interesting comments. As I remember, in Episode IV, Luke blew up the Death Star (beginners luck?) He lost his hand, his best friend, and found out a nasty truth in Episode V. In VI he had to redeem them all. It will be interesting to see if VIII and IX follow a similar pattern.

  7. Shea Lisboa says:

    Is it too late for an opinion? I don’t think Rey is a Mary Sue, I think she was poorly introduced.

  8. WebLurker says:

    Hey, there. Another late to the party comment. No, I don’t think Rey is a Mary Sue at all.

    She makes mistakes (like willingly lying to herself about her family, running from the Force’s call, accidentally releasing the rathtars, and has low self-esteem).

    Her primary skills set (mechanical work, melee weapon combat) make sense with her background of a technology scavenger who’s been forced to be self-reliant and survive on a hostile world. Even her skills as a pilot (which are not the greatest, compared to Poe, or even Han) are addressed; Rey tells Finn when they’re celebrating their escape from Jakku that she’s piloted ships before, so she knows what she’s doing from first-hand practice.

    If you examine the other Jedi protagonists in the canonical materials, it’s obvious that Rey is not over-powered with the Force, since everything she does is stuff that newbie Force users have been shown to do with little or no Jedi training (and even the mind trick is fair game; there’s nothing that says it’s a Masters-only skill, not to mention Rey has trouble making it work).

    Rey’s beating Kylo Ren is shown in the movie to be special circumstances escape by the skin of her teeth, with Kylo’s severe injuries and goal of taking her alive compensating for Rey’s previous melee combat experience and better health, until Rey opens herself to the Force, getting the boost that (barely) allows her to win.

    And on top of all that, she has a distinct personality, character arc, and develops different kinds of relationships with the characters she meets. Rey’s actually a pretty decently-written protagonist.

    • Your opinion can differ from mine and I respect that, but I still felt she was heading into Sue territory. Or perhaps I should say the script allowed her too many lucky breaks and too many moments of shining in every single skill that you mention. Perhaps the problem didn’t appear because of the writer’s desire to create a perfectly lovable heroine, but because the writer wasn’t creative enough to write plausible ways for the heroine to get out of trouble. But anyway, a few of those moments every now and then won’t take me out of suspension of disbelief, but it was just too many. It wasn’t that big of a deal because the movie was overall good, but it was noticeable.

  9. Shea Lisboa says:

    “Her primary skills set (mechanical work, melee weapon combat) make sense with her background of a technology scavenger who’s been forced to be self-reliant and survive on a hostile world. Even her skills as a pilot (which are not the greatest, compared to Poe, or even Han) are addressed; Rey tells Finn when they’re celebrating their escape from Jakku that she’s piloted ships before, so she knows what she’s doing from first-hand practice.”

    That’s why I say she was poorly introduced and so was Luke. By the end of A New Hope, Luke is shown as a great pilot – and as of the start, he was just a boy living with unc and auntie. The only reference we had about his skills was something Obi-Wan said back in Tatooine.

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