“She’s not a superhero. She’s a normal girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, so it’s very relatable.”
-Daisy Ridley, presumably talking about Rey
There have been complaints that Rey from Star Wars is a Mary Sue character. While these complaints have been around for some time, they have been gaining traction lately. Is this the case? Let’s look at the evidence.
It should be noted that just because a work of fiction has a Mary Sue character doesn’t mean it’s bad, though it is universally considered a sign of poor writing. While it’s true that there’s no exact agreed-upon criteria for what is considered a Mary Sue character, there are some signs to look out for when considering whether it may be the case.
Usually, a Mary Sue character is one that meets a significant amount of the following criteria:
- Mary Sues are often self-inserts who vicariously act out the author’s fantasies.
- The character is overpowered or has extraordinary abilities or skills that aren’t properly explained in the narrative.
- The character’s experiences come off as wish-fulfillment or power fantasy.
- The character is relatively flawless, or what flaws they have can be made to benefit the character in some way (such as making them more endearing).
- The character quickly makes strong personal connections with all the major characters of an established work, especially among the protagonists. Even antagonists may have a difficult time denying their goodness. This point especially applies to fan fiction.
- The character possesses ideal beauty or high intelligence, and often finds a comparably fantastic love interest.
Also of note is that Mary Sues are usually the main characters of their stories, or are at least major pivotal characters.
Considering all this, there are many examples in the Star Wars films that show that Rey meets almost all of this criteria. The following are a few examples:
- Rey is the main character of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, beginning with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
- Teedo found BB-8 first, so he had more right to the droid than Rey. However, Teedo releases the droid just because she demanded he do so.
- When Rey is ambushed by a couple thugs intending to abscond with BB-8, she quickly defeats both assailants before Finn, a trained Stormtrooper, could so much as make it to her.
- There’s more. After BB-8 fingers Finn for stealing Poe’s jacket, she cuts in front of him before he could get away with incredible speed, and beats him up, too. She did this to a Stormtrooper that’s been trained for decades in spite of having no formal combat training of her own.
- Rey expertly pilots the Millennium Falcon in spite of the fact that the ship hadn’t flown in years, and she had presumably never piloted a starship before.
- That last point not implausible enough? She, along with Finn, successfully evade two First Order pilots in this craft they had never commandeered before, destroying both First Order assailants in the process.
- Her technical knowledge of the Millennium Falcon is just a little too impressive. She identified the problem with putting a compressor on the ignition, just as Han did, which clearly impressed him. In the original trilogy, Han and Chewbacca still stumbled on various repairs to the craft, even though they personally operated it for years at that point.
- It gets better. Rey bypassed the compressor while the Falcon was in operation, enabling the group’s escape, impressing Han again. As an aside, any skilled electrician can tell you what a terrible idea it is to perform electrical work on a machine that’s powered on.
- When Finn is being dragged about by a rathtar (and being protected by plot-armor instead of being instantly killed), Rey knew just what door to shut on the rathtar’s tentacles and at what precise moment, even though the event was occurring outside her line of sight. Even Jedi rarely exhibit that kind of intuition.
- Luke’s lightsaber called out to Rey while they both were in Maz Kanata’s castle. Why Rey? We still have no explanation.
- When Kylo Ren force-probed Rey’s mind, he was at first successful at identifying her thoughts. Moments later, she turned his own technique back on him and told him his greatest insecurity. This is in spite of the fact that Ren was a skilled user of the technique and had years of training as a particularly gifted Jedi and as a dark side user under Snoke. Rey had no force training whatsoever.
- Minutes later, Rey succeeded in using a Jedi mind trick on a Stormtrooper to get him to release her. Apparently, she didn’t need any training to use that technique either. For that matter, how could it have occurred to her that she could use that technique at that time?
- For the climactic lightsaber duel of The Force Awakens, the big bad is a former Jedi of exceptional potential and extensive training in lightsaber battle versus a junk dealer who never trained in using the force or even used a lightsaber before. Though Rey stood a rabbit’s chance in a tiger pen, she defeated her opponent in convincing fashion. (As this was happening, a pilot in a tiny craft dealt the finishing blow to a battle station with an embedded superweapon that also happened to be a planet, and blew the whole thing up. Because Star Wars.)
- The mission of retrieving Luke Skywalker is among the most important in the history of the Resistance, so it stands to reason that Leah would send someone she knew and trusted to do the job. Either Poe Dameron or Admiral Ackbar would have been ideal for the job. Better yet, Leah could have gone and talked to her brother herself. Instead she sends Rey, who she only just met not long prior. Of course, we know if Rey went to Luke, she could train under him, as though Rey wasn’t strong enough as she was.
- Rey captained the Millennium Falcon on her mission to retrieve Luke, even though Chewbacca had years more experience with the craft and was the first mate to its previous captain. What does Chewbacca have to do for some respect?
- Rey’s idealism is easy enough to portray as a positive trait, but it looks so much better when contrasted with Luke’s cynicism. Let that sink in: the Luke Skywalker was brought down to bring Rey up.
- Once Rey is brought before Snoke, his only criticisms of her are mere stereotypical bad guy taunts. He even says that she “has the heart of a true Jedi”, so even the big bad of the movie acknowledged her virtue.
- Rey displayed as much skill as Kylo Ren in dispatching the Praetorian Guards, even helping him out with the last one as it had him in a neck hold. This in spite of having no lightsaber training, unless you count swinging a lightsaber around while Luke is looking on with no involvement as “training”.
- After the Praetorian Guards are defeated, Ren offers Rey to join him, showing that even her greatest adversary would prefer to have her as an ally.
- Kylo Ren informed Rey that her parents were mere junk traders, and no one of consequence. While it’s interesting to see characters in Star Wars don’t have to be related to other major characters to become someone of significance, it makes Rey’s exceptional abilities even more of an anomaly that we now have even less of an explanation for.
- By the end of The Last Jedi, the only skilled force users in the galaxy were Rey and Kylo Ren, and the Knights of Ren, of which we know Kylo to be the leader. As we’ve already seen, Rey could beat Ren in spite of Ren’s extensive training and Rey’s lack thereof. This makes Rey the strongest force user in Star Wars.
Considering this, is Rey a Mary Sue character? YES. No doubt about it. In fact, she’s so Mary Sue it’s surprising to see a character of her sort in a professional work, let alone in such a huge IP as Star Wars.
Not only is Rey an obvious Mary Sue character, she may very well be the most Mary Sue character I’ve ever seen outside of fan fiction. I kid you not, while researching this article, I looked up “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” to determine whether Rey would be just the character that someone with the condition would prefer to see themselves as.
Perhaps the greatest irony here is that the very namesake of Mary Sue comes from Star Trek fandom, Star Trek being a competing IP. At this point, the term “Mary Sue” can be shortened to “Rey”, as Star Wars has once again denied Star Trek what little cultural significance it has left.
Aside from all that, Daisy Ridley and J.J. Abrams made quite a relatable character.