Hoo boy. Yeah, I saw Force Awakens. It’s a common argument online already: is Rey, one of the new characters, a Mary Sue or not? I can say, spoiler-free, that through the first third of the movie I kept rolling my eyes because “gee, those assholes on the internet sure don’t want a girl to matter in Star Wars.” And then… the rest of the movie happened, and I sure did wonder some things. Please don’t click through unless you either: A sort of want to read about Star Wars not having seen Force Awakens or B already saw the damn movie. Spoilers ahoy.
OK, hopefully we saved some of the innocents from getting fucked up. Fun fact: Han Solo’s death was spoiled for me by some asshole on Splatoon who just scrawled it in his miiverse post. You know, the thing that pops up when you walk by somebody.
Anyway. Rey is a Mary Sue. I’m sorry, that’s hard to debate. Here, have a really good article about the sexism entering the conversation. I would obviously like to avoid being sexist. We’ll see how that goes.
So, anyway, the basic points are these: she’s good at electronics. Of course she is, she’s a scavenger in a society that runs on fixing people’s shit that’s possibly decades old, maybe older. Any character in Fallout can fix a gun they’ve never seen before, made out of a pipe and dreams, and you worry about this?
She’s good at fighting. She lives on a world in which people will kick your ass because you have half a baggie of bachelor chow, of course she’s good at fighting. I was actually surprised they let Finn be good at fighting — of course he should be, he’s a soldier, but you know, movies. He’s funny, he’s heartfelt, why would be good at fighting? Worry — allayed. I particularly appreciate that he can use a lightsaber (by the way, that’s a major point some assholes make: how can she possibly know how to use a lightsaber? Pay attention to that fight scene: she doesn’t. The actual question is “why is our new villain so bad at it?”).
Oh, and I had one moment of genuine old-fashioned fan-squee, and it was when that stormtrooper broke out the Star Wars version of the fucking police baton. That shit was sweet. Anyway.
She lucks into finding BB-8 and then lucks into meeting Finn. That’s de rigeur for Star Wars. I went straight home and re-watched A New Hope and Luke stumbles into shit constantly. This is not a problem. There’s a moment in there where the unfortunate astromech droid Uncle Owen wanted to buy blows a gasket. This is patently the Force making sure Artoo gets into Luke’s hands. I wasn’t aware there was an argument there. So why wouldn’t Rey find a droid, find a friend, stumble on Luke’s old lightsaber? Why wouldn’t that happen in this universe? That’s how it works. As they say, it’s the decisions people make afterwards that matter.
So the damn thing is the Force. What disappointed me a little is how suddenly she can use the Force with no training. And I don’t mean knowing something’s going to happen (though I don’t remember Luke ever doing that on Tatooine). I mean being able to fuck up people’s brains for them and grab shit from twenty yards away. How does she even know she can fuck up stormtrooper brains with her voice? How does she know to try that?
So. So what?
Is the movie any worse for all of this? No. Not really. I personally find stories of people training and bettering themselves to be fulfilling, and so I would have preferred if she’d had to do that. Hell, I can imagine her finding out she’s Force sensitive a little earlier in the movie, so there could just be a scene of Han saying, “Geez, Chewie, remember all the weird crap Luke pulled? Like that time you told me he messed with Jabba’s guards?” That would tie beautifully into Abrams’ stated intention of depicting a setting in which the events of the past movies have turned into myth and legend. It would be a direct example of storytelling in a movie that had very little (go back and look at how many people tell stories to others in the original trilogy; it’s pretty often, and starts with Obi-Wan and Luke).
So maybe the movie would have been better (according to my interests, anyway), but it’s not bad because Rey is a Mary Sue. Literature and film have a long history of Mary Sues (and “Gary Stus,” the male version, which is more common). The entirety of Gothic literature was built on Mary Sues, which, yes, is why Bella Swan makes sense in context, even if she’s still terrible.
My concern is about the next movie. The Force Awakens really, really acts like it wants Luke to be the next Yoda in its second film, and that is fantastic. But what the hell does Rey need to learn? If she doesn’t know it, apparently she can pull it out of her ass. So if suddenly she needs to learn shit, that’s sort of bad writing there.
But on the other hand, maybe they want to do a pretty cool thing where she’s a prodigy but pissed off; she did lose her actual father (looking for that plot point to come back eventually, actually) and her surrogate father. So there’s always the chance it’ll basically be her drifting through Force exercises while Luke tries to get her to calm the fuck down and go stare at a flower. I would watch that, too.
So. Does it matter that Rey is maybe too good at everything? Nope. It feels like it does because Star Wars usually doesn’t have those characters (in the films). They’re either old enough to have trained all their lives (Yoda, Han Solo even), or they get zapped on the ass by a training remote to learn some fucking Zen (Luke, Leia if you swap “torture droid” in for “training remote”).