On Star Wars, Rey and The Myth of Mary Sues

When I was a kid, I loved Star Wars. I remember waiting in line to see The Phantom Menace and even thinking that THAT movie was cool, despite how deeply Star Wars fans seem to hate it. And then I grew up, got really into Star Trek, and turned into an elitist asshole who trash-talked Star Wars any chance I got, even though I hadn’t seen any of the movies in years. I was that asshole, and I know I was an asshole. When I saw the trailer for The Force Awakens, I was so excited, and it was like all of my curmudgeony elitism dissolved and I was again the little kid who loved Star Wars. I was skeptical, but I had hope. And then I finally got to see it last night and I genuinely couldn’t believe that it was a real movie that I was seeing, because it was just so incredibly good across the board. I denounced my old elitist self and got all of the past movies and I plan to marathon them on my next day off to fully shed my final layer of grumpy Star Wars hate.

There are lots of spoilers in here, readers beware.

My favorite character, to the surprise of absolutely no one reading this, was Rey. I was instantly captivated by her story, her obvious aptitude for mechanics, her work ethic and her will to survive. She’s an all-around badass, which reminds me of Ellen Ripley -- high praise for any character and good company to be in. 

So, naturally, every trash dude has to jump out of the hellmouth with his trash opinion about why Rey sucks.

I saw dudes calling Rey a Mary Sue, which is defined simply as “a young or low-rank person who saves the day through extraordinary abilities”. Usually, it’s used as a derogatory term for female characters. The first time I ever heard the term was at a party when a man used it to describe Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager, and I looked it up on my phone and then got into an argument with him about how wrong he was. Despite the fact that I feel that neither Rey nor Janeway are Mary Sues, the term itself is flawed by its lack of definitive qualifications. Like, the definition I gave you above describes Harry Potter. It’s a bullshit term men use to diminish women who ever get to be good at things, because men have issues with women having power.

Rey was good at flying because she learned how to be a good mechanic. The reasoning behind why she was able to fly the Millennium Falcon well on her first try is the exact same reason why Po was able to fly a TIE fighter despite having never flown one before- they both understood how the ships worked, and they filled in the blanks with their skill sets (Po’s knowledge as a pilot and Rey’s knowledge of both mechanics and the history of Han Solo and his Millennium Falcon). She was a good mechanic because she taught herself how to be one. She was quite literally called a scavenger, because it was the only way she was able to survive on Jakku. 

My BFF Dana told me that Daisy Ridley said her inspiration for Rey was Matilda and it’s a pretty flawless comparison. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about Jedis or The Force, because I haven’t seen any other Star Wars movies in years, but what I DO know a lot about is superpowers and superhero origin stories. I know that, for example, Matilda was a kid in a horrible situation, and her powers came to her and she used them to get herself into a better situation and to help the kids at her school have better lives. I know that Kara Zor-El in the show Supergirl lost her powers and was worried they wouldn’t come back, but they came back to her when she was in a situation under severe stress and fear and she NEEDED her powers. Rey’s ability to use The Force came to her when she was being tortured by Adam from Girls (I just hate him so much that I can’t even see him as Kylo Ren) and she needed to protect the map to Luke. She realized what was happening in the moment, and then she figured out that it was an ability she had and she used it to escape (from Daniel Craig LOL). She later used her powers to fight Adam from Girls who was dead-set on killing her. It’s a pretty cut-and-dry story of a hero getting and using powers, or in this case, a baby Jedi using The Force (I’m just assuming Rey is gonna be a Jedi- she went to the first Jedi temple to chill with Luke, so).

It’s frustrating to me that in attempts to establish Rey as a Mary Sue, men overlook the fact that like, she almost wrecked the Millennium Falcon when she started to fly it. She accidentally cut the wrong fuses and let out those weird monsters who tried to eat Finn. She got captured by Adam from Girls. She had to tell Daniel Craig to let her out like four times. She almost lost fighting Adam from Girls a second time. She was hardly a character who got everything right every time. She was human, she was flawed and she was wonderful. 

And! One of the main parts of being a Mary Sue is that you have to save the day! Rey didn't even save the day! Finn saved the day when he figured out how to lower the shields! Po saved the day when he went in for his final attack on that reactor thing! Chewie saved the day when he blew it up! Chewie saved the day when he got Rey and Finn off that weird mega-Death Star! The Resistance saved the day! Leia saved the day by organizing the Resistance and finding such a bad-ass group of people to help her! Rey didn't even save the day! She just fought her hardest and did her best to help where she could! Which is all anyone can do! 

 

I don’t really know how to end this, because I just want to keep talking about this movie forever. I love Leia and BB8 and Finn and Po and obviously Rey and Chewie and I can’t wait to watch more movies with them.