Amazingly, considering that it's 2016 and we may even have a woman for president, the concept of a female character who can actually do stuff in a movie is simply too much for some men to take. #TheForceAwakens was a key battleground for the straw-man argument, with many arguing that #Rey, Daisy Ridley's character in the movie, was an unbelievable character because she was capable of flying ships, wielding lightsabers and not taking any BS from men. Because everything else in Star Wars is cinéma vérité right? Check out the final scene from the film below:
The term employed to describe a capable women by jealous men is a 'Mary Sue', defined in Urban Dictionary as "A female fanfiction character who is so perfect as to be annoying". The character is usually considered to improve too quickly throughout the narrative, thus reflecting a type of wish-fulfilment on behalf of the author.
However, after nearly a year since the film came out, Daisy Ridley has finally responded to its attendant criticisms, mentioning that:
The Criticism Didn't Make Sense
In an interview with MTV, Ridley argues that the Mary Sue argument isn't even a coherent one:
“I was just confused... It wasn’t true, but for the most part - when anyone is mean - it’s irrational and it doesn’t make sense”
She goes on to argue that in fact:
Rey Does Has Vulnerabilities
As Ridley notes:
“I think Rey is incredibly vulnerable, and nothing she is doing is for the greater good. She’s just doing what she thinks is the right thing. She doesn’t want to do some of it, but she is compelled to do it.”
This is seen in the film itself, most notably in the interrogation scene and her final showdown with Kylo Ren. What makes the film so compelling is how she fights off her own fears and insecurities in order to save the day. Her believable and progressive character arc in that story, along with Finn rebelling against his fate as a stormtrooper, forms the emotional backbone of the film. It seems here that fans are not so much picking holes in the story as using:
The Same Old Boring Sexist Arguments
The Mary Sue argument is one that applies only to a woman. Its to say, only men are capable of flying the Millennium Falcon, or shoot guns and fight with lightsabers. If a man does it, its cool, but if a woman does it, its unrealistic. Ridley points out this sexist double-standard:
“The ‘Mary Sue’ thing in and of itself is sexist because it’s a name of a woman."
Critics may claim that there is a male equivalent, Marty Stu, but have you ever heard it actually being used? Nobody criticised Luke Skywalker in such a way, when in A New Hope he does exactly the same things. Whilst it is OK to criticise unrealistic characters and their unexplained developments, it should be done in a constructive manner and not as a knee-jerk reaction to seeing a woman acting just as capable as a man. Well done Daisy Ridley for pointing such antiquated rubbish out.