21st Century Films

Why Rey is a Mary Sue: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

The problem with a Mary Sue character is she achieves success too easily.

the force awakensIf you want to be excellent at anything, it will take time and hard work. Even if you are naturally gifted, there are no shortcuts to success. You must gain knowledge, practice what you have learned, and make mistakes.

This is the opposite of what happens in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015). The female protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) becomes excellent at many things without any prior knowledge, and minimal mentoring or training.

In the first half of the film, Rey is equal to men in her abilities, despite her lack of experience. She pilots the Millennium Falcon without a co-pilot and outmanoeuvres two TIE fighters. She makes repairs on the ship and intuitively knows things that the original owner, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), does not.

When she is captured by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), she uses the power of the Force to stop him from taking information from her mind. Then she reads his mind, discovering his greatest fear. Rey matches Kylo’s mind-control powers even though he has had many years of training with the Force.

After Kylo leaves, Rey uses the Force to make a Storm Trooper remove her restraints, and she escapes. In an earlier scene, when Finn (John Boyega) takes her hand to help her run from Storm Troopers, she says, “Stop taking my hand!” Rey is not a damsel in distress who needs a man to rescue her. She can rescue herself.

Rey is a Mary Sue, a “fictional character who is so competent or perfect that this appears absurd.” (This character type is not limited to females. The male equivalent is called a Larry Stu.) Whether male or female, the character can do things that should be beyond their scope and reach, even in the fictional Universe they exist in.

Rey is a Mary Sue because she never fails in her ability to do difficult things. Despite being a novice, she becomes proficient at everything she attempts within minutes. However, Rey’s characterization isn’t about women being equal to men (which they are).

Rey represents feminist wish fulfillment: the desire to achieve greater things than men. In the climax of the film, she becomes stronger than Kylo in her ability to use the Force. When her lightsaber is laying in the snow, and Kylo wants it for himself, they both try to summon it, but it comes to her hand.

In their duel, Rey defeats him, leaving him wounded on the ground. She defeats him even though she has never fought with a lightsaber before. (In the sequel to the film, The Last Jedi, Snoke (Andy Serkis) mocks Kylo for being “bested by a girl who never held a lightsaber.”)

Rey is an unrealistic character because she achieves success too easily. In the real world, women must work just as hard as men to be successful. Women can achieve the same things as men, but not when they have less experience.

Rey is not limited by her lack of experience. She can do anything a man can and sometimes even more, even if the man has put more time and effort into developing his abilities. To quote from the 1970s TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, Rey is “better… stronger… faster.” Her characterization is ridiculous. She is “untrained” as a Jedi. She should not be superior (or even equal) to Kylo in using the Force.

If the reader disagrees, how would you react to this film if Rey were played by a man, and Kylo a woman?


Click here to purchase my Kindle eBook: Letters from a Madman.

13 comments

  1. Thanks, Woody. I believe in Christ, but I’m not a Biblical literalist. I try to read between the lines and also recognize the knowledge mankind has gained since that time.

    I’m “planning” to write more film essays this spring and summer. I’m working on a third one called “Intellectual Yet Idiot.”

    I took a year off to focus on 10 minute plays, but with Covid-19, the theatres are all shut down.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the link mate. It seems (at least to me) like another one of the many varied pieces of the puzzle that is ‘Jesus’. If my memory serves, you’ve discussed the very question of exactly what Jesus was (or what he was like) in at least one previous post.
    It is so satisfying and different from most of what I have experienced to have an online friend who will discuss these things with me, happy to teach and to learn, rather than just tell me that I am wrong,
    Glad you’re posting again.
    All the best,

    Woody

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that Hollywood, like many other groups, is determined to over-play the plight and strength of any individual or group that falls within the list of down-trodden, historically victimized, disfortunate, discriminated, underpriveleged and so on and so forth.
    I was about to continue in my own tangential style about the Abrahamic faiths (ALL of them) and how little they have helped in general views of equality between the sexes, but i’m sure that you’ve already read the holy scriptures of your own religion and don’t need me to remind you of what lay between its covers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Would anyone have ever thought that we would see more stories with Luke, Han, and Leia? Star Wars is a story that generation upon generation want to improve or continue. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing them again in the future. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you, Annlyel. Those are great points. Thanks for those details from the novels.

    btw; I actually like Rey as a character, despite her being a Mary Sue. She has a moral code and has suffered as an orphan. Daisy Ridley gave a passionate performance.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t disagree with your assessment because it is true. Many of her incredible talents have been so jarring that LucasFilm has had to make things make more sense through novels, such as her ability to pilot so well. Apparently, she found a flight simulator on Jakku and would practice flying several different ships on it, hence her ability to pilot the Falcon with such ease.

    According to another novel, she became powerful with the Force because in Kylo’s attempt to intrude her mind he involuntarily taught her the ways of the Force and made her, essentially, his equal. (It’s the whole Dyad situation that made this happen. They are “two that are one.”)

    Now, I understand her ability to use a lightsaber well. She’s been forced to adapt to difficult situations all of her life on Jakku and she knows her way around a weapon. And even then, in The Force Awakens, she’s clearly a novice when fighting Kylo. (Remember how easily he defeated her?) It isn’t until she channels into the dark side that she manages to defeat Kylo.

    All in all, yes Rey is a bit overpowered and never has to pass any incredible tests but if the roles were switched and she was Luke in A New Hope and Luke was Rey in The Force Awakens would anyone really care if Force Awakens Luke was powerful? I highly doubt it. But New Hope Rey blowing up the Death Star after having just learned about the Force? Hmm…there would definitely be some outrage.

    Of course, I could just be biased because I love Rey. 😁

    By the way, thanks for following my blog!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I agree that the whole Force using and lightsaber wielding thing comes too easily to Rey. We don’t see her trials and tribulations in the same way that we do with Luke. She is what my sons refer to as “OP”. Perhaps that is because the focus is on her internal struggle between who she thinks she is and who she is destined to become. I think it would have been possible to demonstrate that internal character arc across the trilogy while also showing her actually having to “earn” some of her powers. That probably leans into what I think is the major issue of the sequel trilogy (which I generally love even though I think it is very flawed) is that there was clearly no “roadmap” for the two directors and the various other creators involved to follow so that character arcs and plot beats feel haphazard and not as well constructed as they should be.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. You’re right. Luke Skywalker had a much harder time. But I’m not sure movies are allowed to portray women today in process. Women must be capable and empowered. Always having arrived already. You point that out very well.

    Liked by 2 people

Your comments are welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: