“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror” as a female character showed abilities that male characters had shown before…and lo, they called her a Mary Sue.
(Mary Sue is a pop culture term for an ‘impossibly’ perfect female character. Gary Stu is the male equivalent.)
I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible for those who haven’t yet seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but there is a raging debate online about Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) because of her abilities and moral code. Many people are calling her a Mary Sue because she seems too good to be true or because she’s amazing at everything. Or both. But is she really, or are people giving short shrift to the Force in a Star Wars movie?
Loads of questions have popped up about Rey’s parentage, but let’s set those aside for now. Let’s look at her actions and abilities based solely on her strength in the Force — and as we see in the movie, her Force abilities are formidable.
Rey appears to have many talents, including as a genius mechanic and pilot. People have questioned her abilities in these areas without having any sort of formal training displayed onscreen. However, other Force-sensitive people have had inexplicable talents with mechanics and piloting — like Anakin, Luke, and Leia. In fact, as a child and with no training or mentorship, Anakin manages to scavenge parts and build a droid and a pod, then win a pod race as a pilot. He also manages to fly and fight in a Starfighter with no training, and he appears to have a strong notion of right and wrong and is prepared to act on it even at a young age.
We don’t get to meet Luke or Leia (or any Jedi, really) as children, but Luke also shows amazing innate talent as a pilot and is a crack shot with minimal to no training. When we first meet Leia, she has an incredibly strong sense of morality and is a crack shot. In Return of the Jedi, we also get to see her talent as a pilot. Luke’s sense of morality is a bit more self-centered than Leia’s is, but it’s nearly as strong — or he wouldn’t have roped Han Solo into helping to rescue “the princess” he didn’t know and pursued a bunch of other actions.
When we meet Rey, she appears to be in her mid- to late teens. She’s not only strong in the Force, she’s a product of her environment. She’s had years in which to learn to scavenge parts and repair things, and she needed to learn to pilot various craft or she couldn’t travel outside her little outpost. She’s also had the opportunity to listen to travellers’ tales and hear of the great battles and mystical abilities of the Jedi. Finally, she’s had years of experience in honing her determination, focus, and attention, or she wouldn’t have survived that life.
Extrapolating from the abilities of Force-sensitive people like Anakin, Luke, and Leia, it’s not a stretch to find that Rey has an innate talent for piloting and mechanics. Her years spent as a scavenger could only improve her abilities there. It’s also not a stretch to find that she has a strong and unwavering sense of morality. As these other characters show, a stronger connection to the Force can result in an extremely strong sense of duty or morality, or a strong comradeship with others. These characters all went to extremes to help other people/beings, sometimes risking more than their own life and limb to do so. It’s not outside the bounds of reason to see Rey do it as well.
In short, either all of these characters are Mary Sues/Gary Stus, or Rey isn’t one. She isn’t outside the “norm” for someone so strong in the Force, so let’s not declare her to be different in any way.