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Rey, courtesy of Disney

Rey, courtesy of Disney

“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.

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Christine Clukey Reece

Christine is an editor and fledgling writer who will never forgive the Prequels for deliberately stomping on the fact that Leia remembered her mother. And yes, parsecs are a measure of distance...and Han Solo was bragging about making an incredibly short Kessel Run, most likely by cutting far too close to planetary bodies/stars when he plotted the course for the jump. No, she's not obsessed, why would you think that? She's on Twitter as @Kuiperama.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I disagree that Rey is a Mary Sue. But the film’s story is quite rushed, which doesn’t only cause problems fo Rey’s character, it other characters as well. Small spoiler! Stormtroopers are indoctrinated from a young age, making them believe whatever the first order does is right. Yet Finn easily breaks out of it. Maybe if they explained that there were problems during his training, would have explained how he broke free from indoctrination, but no, no such thing.

    Luke and Anakin were exceptional and no doubt Rey is too. But because of lack of buildup and making her less flawless as Anakin and Luke, she almost comes off as some superhero. And Luke and Anakin both had mentors. Obi-Wan teaches Luke with a remote and he’s not great at it at first. But he gets there. He has a year to train himself in the Force and yet he still is heavily flawed which causes him to lose his hand and he needs to be rescued.

    We learn that Anakin is good at pod racing, but never one until Qui-Gon aids him. Still piloting a starfigher is different than a pod racer, hence why he still heavily struggles flying it, just like Luke struggles and without the help of Wedge and Han would have been dead. Rey barely needs any help and we just get pushed in our face that she’s a pilot. And she’s not just good at it, she’s exceptional. Certainly as good as Han. She knows the Falcon inside out, yet never flew it before.

    I disagree that she’s a Mary Sue, but there should have been more buildup, more explanation why she is so exceptional and I think her skills should have been build a little, so that we can see her shine in the next episode.

    • Whilst Iagree with your general statement regarding Rey and the Mary Sue accusation, I generally disagree with your conjecture regarding Rey’s character based on your analysis of her back story or lack there of shown in this movie. If this was a stand alone movie with no chance of exposition or future flashbacks to flesh out her back story I would probably lean towards the Mary Sue analogy. However, we have 2 more movies and even the potential suggestion that she may be the offspring of a significant force user and even some inferences though very tenuous that she may have received training in her early years prior to her being left on Jaku, your statement is a tad premature, though I do agree that the plot is hurried in spots and relies overly on coincidence.

  • She is most certainly a Mary Sue.

    Having all these abilities with no explanation is what makes her a Mary Sue.

    Sure, if subsequent movies might explain more. She was trained as a Jedi, and a pilot, and a mechanic, and a fighter all before the age of 18 and then had selective amnesia. It would all make sense.

    Being strong with the force gave Anakin quick reflexes and probably the same for Luke (best bush pilot in outer rim territories).
    While Anakin has some limited pilot skills and knowledge of droids we get a backstory of piloting (pod racing) and droids (Watto). While it’s tough to really buy into that given his young age (and a ridiculed element of the prequels), at least it’s there.
    Luke pretty much sucked at everything. After training he was a decent fighter and the only magic as a pilot he showed was making a shot with the aid of the force.
    Both Anakin and Luke were out of their element when they left the limited experience of their home worlds. Only through training and a mentor did they become something more.

    Rey is just awesome out of the box.