There’s no question that the force is with Rey, the head protagonist in Force Awakens and the Star Wars franchise’s new savior. But apparently, some feel that force was hardly earned, and certain critics dismissed Rey as a Mary Sue. Now, a nearly a year after the film’s release Daisy Ridley defended Rey from Mary Sue accusations, pointing out Rey's resistance to joining in on adventure... not to mention double-standards.
"The Mary Sue thing in itself is sexist because it’s the name of a woman,” Ridley told MTV News. "Everyone was saying that Luke had the exact same [capabilities]. I think Rey is incredible vulnerable, and nothing she’s doing is for the greater good. She’s just doing what she thinks is the right thing. And she doesn’t want to do some of it, but she feels compelled to do it. So for me, I was just confused."
It's a fair defense on Star Wars's newest heroine, reminding us that she's (for lack of a better word) sort of forced in on the story rather than trying to mimic Luke's origins. And the accusation of sexism is worth nothing, because nobody faulted farm boy Luke for knowing how to use a lightsaber. But is being, or not being, a Mary Sue more than that? It may help to backtrack of the meaning before we get into it.
"Mary Sue," for the uniformed, originated as a fanfiction terminology: generally, it's an idealized, somewhat perfect character who is inserted in a pre-existing fandom. There are many different strains of this trope, but a popular breed is someone's inexplicable, secret relative that shows up on the scene, aggressively powerful, untouchably beautiful, and beloved by everyone around her. She may have flaws here and there, but they're usually things that are endearing (clumsiness) or things that a love interest can save them from (depression, because that's totally something your boyfriend can solve for you).
Mary Sues, although they thrive in fanworks, can exist as a canon character joining a piece of media, or even just be a canon character at the helm of a piece of media. Twilight's Bella Swan reads like a Mary Sue, and Ana Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey is a Mary Sue of a Mary Sue. So, does that mean that Rey could be a Mary Sue in the Star Wars fandom, despite Ridley's proclamations?
On paper, the argument is understandable. Rey, who, prior to Force Awakens, seems to be a loner, is pretty much adopted by Han, Chewie, and Leia, and is getting major heart-eyes from Finn. She has force powers that maybe even surpass Luke's skills, and rumors abound that she could be a Skywalker. Or a Kenobi. Or, hell, even we still can't rule out that she's a Solo. All the qualities are there, superficially.
The accusation, though, really comes from the fact that Rey is entering the Star Wars franchise, and late in the game. She's dealing with a myriad of beloved characters and a fan base that is largely, although definitely not exclusively, male. Sexism may play a part in the sense that certain fanboys may see Rey, as a strong female character, tainting what's theirs, which is ridiculous because we all know Jar Jar Binks tainted the fandom at least 15 years ago. In short, it's hard to enter the party late no matter what your identity is, and sexism is certainly not the root of all evil. However, it's surely a definite factor.
As for Rey herself, though, it's difficult to nail down if she truly is perfect. I think Ridley brings a human quality to the Jedi-to-be, though, expressing genuine fear and yearning throughout her performance. More than that, though, we've only seen her in one movie. And it's the introductory movie, the film that works to get the band back together before anything else. There's only so much thorough development J.J. Abrams and fam could do with Rey (and the other newbies) when there's a full-blown reunion going on.
Independently, Rey doesn't strike me as too idealized and special snowflake-y for the series. But, if you disagree, there's definitely time for her to be more thoroughly hashed out as a three dimension character. Like, two more movies worth of time. Like I said, the force is with this one, and I really believe she's going to do something interesting with it.
Images: Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm; Giphy (3)