Star Wars: No, Rey is not a Mary Sue

Posted December 13, 2017 by Haley Schojbert in Movies

In anticipation for Star Wars: The Last Jedi premiering in theaters this week, I wanted to look back on The Force Awakens to see how the characters could develop and progress in the upcoming film. And since the new movie is coming out this week, the internet has revisited the debate of whether or not Rey is a “Mary Sue” in The Force Awakens. A Mary Sue, being, a wish-fulfillment character that is implausibly perfect and talented that lacks any character flaws that are relevant to the story. I don’t see her that way. Rey is talented and smart, but she is also a flawed character. Much like Finn and Kylo Ren, she is trying to find her role in her own destiny.

As a result of being dropped off on a planet when she was just a child, Rey developed some serious abandonment issues. She hopelessly waits for a family that will never return to her and pushes herself away from new opportunities (like working for Han Solo) in pursuit of that dream. She displays her intellect and mechanical aptitude by learning the intricacies of the Millennium Falcon; being a scavenger, she digs through the insides of ships and sells their parts for a meal ticket. Despite having this knowledge, she doesn’t always get it right. When she attempts to close the doors of the ship in order to trap the gangs that are threatening to kill Han, she hits the wrong latches, unleashing Rathtars throughout the ship. She later amends for this mistake by saving Finn from one of them.

She is headstrong and competent, but fighting in hand-to-hand combat does not come easily to her. When she is attacked on Jakku by two creatures attempting to steal BB-8, one of them gets the jump on her. She fights back and holds her own, but there is still a struggle. When given a blaster, she fumbles with the safety and misfires before shooting at a Stormtrooper. As a pilot, she manages to slip away from the First Order, but she’s no Poe Dameron. She crashes the Millenium Falcon on lift-off.

When she gets her hands on Luke’s lightsaber and she fights Kylo Ren, she is struggling to keep up with him, even if he is bleeding from two injuries and just recently murdered his own father. All of her movements are indicative of someone who is retreating to survive—not someone fighting to win. She prevails because Kylo is overwrought with emotion—not because she has magical Mary Sue powers. Kylo wants to be like his grandfather, but he is not yet cold and calculating like Darth Vader. He is intimidating, but he can’t suck the air out of a room by just walking into it quite yet, which is made clear by Poe’s quips in their first scene together. He wields his power chaotically through a lightsaber that reflects his instability. He takes to anger easily and it leaves him vulnerable, which is why it is not a stretch that someone else who is force sensitive can challenge him. That, and he is not finished with his training. When Kylo tries to get into Rey’s head, she pushes him out because she has a strong connection to the force and he doesn’t have complete control over his own thoughts.

Much like Luke and Anakin before her, there is some suspension of disbelief. If we can believe that Luke can blow up the Death Star, then we can critique Rey performing a Jedi mind trick without boxing her into the role of Mary Sue. It is obvious to me that the movie takes pains to show Rey as a hero, but not a perfect and idealized one.

I find her character compelling because she shows fear, but she ultimately faces whatever challenge is awaiting her. Throughout the film, her and Finn are both running. He is fleeing from his past with the First Order and she is retreating back to a life that, while unfulfilling, seems safe and comfortable. They both entertain the idea of ousting themselves from the conflict but eventually overcome their fear because they are compelled to defeat the evil in the universe. At the end of the film when Finn and Han save her, Rey seems genuinely surprised that they came back for her because no one else has before.

When Rey picks up the lightsaber, she sees a little girl that was left alone in the universe. She is reminded of the family that left her behind, and gets a vision of a past that is unknown to her. At the end of The Force Awakens, Rey sees the same weapon that revealed her weaknesses and uses it to fight. She finally stops waiting.


About the Author

Haley Schojbert

Haley is an editor, writer, and avid reader that enjoys role-playing games and having a lot of opinions about fictional characters.