[Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158) has already exceeded box office expectations, but while many reviews have been glowing there have been some criticisms. After Finn was hinted to be a Jedi in the trailers, with plenty of shots of him with the Skywalker lightsaber, Star Wars 7 revealed that Rey was actually the one to walk the Jedi path.
Warning: this article contains minimal spoilers. No huge plot points will be revealed, but I'll reference some moments that are important. Continue at your own risk!
While many are overjoyed with this, others immediately jumped on the "she's just a Mary Sue!" train, criticising Rey for um... being a hero?
Use The Force, Rey
The Force Awakens has many parallels with A New Hope, from cheeky references to the plot structure. Some of the characters are completely original, like Finn, and others have fantastic parallels to the heroes of the original trilogy. Rey is definitely the latter, mirroring Luke Skywalker in her journey.
Rey begins her story alone on a desert planet, dreaming of a better life. But while Luke Skywalker had a somewhat comfortable life, Rey is very clearly starving, and struggling to survive.
Her loneliness is palpable as she tries on a rebel helmet, gazing up at the sky in a pose reminiscent of Luke's at the beginning of A New Hope. Of course, Rey is plunged into adventure when she takes little BB-8 under her wing, soon piloting the Millennium Falcon in that fantastic battle from the very first Star Wars 7 teaser trailer, defying our expectations that the pilot was Han Solo.
Rey's strength in the Force is revealed as she discovers the legendary Skywalker lightsaber, triggering visions that threaten to overwhelm our young hero. In an excellent move by J. J. Abrams, Obi Wan's voice can actually be heard in this scene, talking to Rey...
"Rey… these are your first steps."
This was achieved by layering Alec Guiness's lines from the original trilogy over Ewan Macgregor's new recordings (read more about that here). But instead of discovering her Force powers via the tutelage of a mentor, Rey has to work this out on her own. She does have help, although inadvertently, from Kylo Ren.
In a fantastically subversive scene, Kylo Ren attempts to use the Force to get information out of Rey. Strong enough to resist, Rey mimics Kylo Ren's technique to turn his method against him...
"You're afraid... that you'll never be as strong as Darth Vader!"
By the end of the film, Rey has achieved enough control over her Force powers to harness them in her battle with Kylo Ren. This mirrors Luke Skywalker using the Force to hone his targeting, allowing him to destroy the Death Star.
So here's the problem, apparently: Rey is just too good at being a hero. She harnesses the Force too quickly, and as a talented engineer and crack pilot she's good at too many things. This has already earned her the title Mary Sue. And quite rightly so because...
Rey Is A Mary Sue & That's Ok
Yes, she's a Mary Sue and that's one of the best things about The Force Awakens. Seriously.
The term Mary Sue was first coined to describe self-insertion characters in fan fiction (usually written by women). This self-insert hero is always very talented, special in a way that makes her stand out from the crowd, but flawed enough to be relatable. Here are some characters who have these traits in popular films...
- Luke Skywalker - the special sunflower/snarky kid who becomes a Jedi master.
- Bruce Wayne - overcomes his dark and dismal backstory to be an epic hero despite his lack of superpowers.
- Steve Rogers - just a kid from Brooklyn, special despite his disabilities, who becomes one of the world's greatest heroes.
You see where I'm going with this? Mary Sues share characteristics with literally every good protagonist of a popular franchise because guess what: we like to see ourselves in movies!
But if a female character dares to be a hero, to be "too perfect", she'll be torn down and called a Mary Sue. Which kind of misses the point, because Mary Sues are simply the female equivalent of the male wish fulfillment characters that populate our fictional worlds.
Ultimately, Rey's greatest power is that she allows viewers to live through her, to feel empowered to become their own hero.
This isn't just important for female viewers. Little boys can see Rey as a role model just as much as little girls, which is awesome.
Of course, that's not to say all female characters should be wish fulfillment heroes. There should be variation, and with Maz Kanata, Captain Phasma, General Leia, The Force Awakens is well on its way to populating the galaxy with a broad range of badass women.
Personally though, as a girl who grew up loving Star Wars, who identified with Luke because I too wanted to escape a humdrum life to be a Death Star-destroying hero, I'm overjoyed that our new Luke Skywalker is, in fact, a woman.
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