Is Rey a Mary Sue?
A Question After 'The Last Jedi'
So you saw The Last Jedi and were amazed, blown away even by the awesome majesty of Rian Johnson's creation. Yet there was one glaring problem with the character of Rey. She seems a bit off, far too powerful, far too skilled in the use of a lightsaber. And here comes today's article, is Rey a Mary Sue?
What does the term mean?
If you're a fanfiction aficionado such as myself, you've obviously come across these characters. But for those unfamiliar, here's a convenient Wikipedia definition:
"A Mary Sue is an idealised and seemingly perfect fictional character. Often, this character is recognized as an author insert or wish fulfilment. They can usually perform better at tasks than should be possible given the amount of training or experience. Sometimes, the name is reserved only for women, but more often the name is used for both genders. A male can also be referred to as a Marty Sue or Gary Stu, but Mary Sue is used more commonly."
So in laymen's terms if I was to explain to you the Mary Sue, imagine Neo from The Matrix. He can fly, bend reality to his will, recreate the Matrix as he sees fit, and even save others from death. Now Neo does have training in all this but if Neo could do all this without Morpheus, that would make him the perfect Mary Sue. Now on to the analysis!
Arguments Against it
Okay let's get this straight. Star Wars is filled with Mary Sues. Anakin destroys an entire Trade Federation capital ship in one go as a 12-year-old flying a space fighter for the first time. Luke is able to face Vader and defeat him after a few days' training with Yoda. Action heroes tend to have things work out for them which isn't exactly a bad thing. Yes, having a protagonist that has to struggle to reach the point where he/she can fight against the super bad is pretty great but these are sci-fi films so they can be excused for having a little redundancy in the plot. James T. Kirk graduated the academy ahead of nearly everyone (interestingly enough, the term started from StarTrek fanfiction), the Power Rangers learned Kung-Fu as soon as they put on their morphers, and Liono was mentally just a kid when he became the great lord of the Thundercats. So where do we draw the line here exactly?
An excellent argument is made by Erik Kain at Forbes (source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2017/12/21/no-rey-from-star-wars-the-last-jedi-is-still-not-a-mary-sue/#f0cf25345004). He argues that Rey is not more powerful than Snoke, regularly needs her friends to help her out, and is shown by Luke to have more power than the generations of Jedi to come before her. Technically, it is not necessary that she has to play by the same rules. Also, the Force does not necessarily require training in every case. Daisey Ridley herself believes that the term is sexist and Rey does have to face her own fears and problems in both Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
All that is very valid and true. There have been more accusations against Rey than any male character in a sci-fi series. And she did have difficulties matching Kylo in Last Jedi and The Force Awakens too. Yes, she did beat him in the first one, but a)he had been hurt by a Wookie blaster that packs a hell of a punch and b) he was tired out after the Finn fight, as well. Given all that, it's not surprising that Rey is equal to him in that. Plus, in the mythos, it's being established that the power in the Force does improve lightsaber proficiency, which is another way to justify it. And Kylo matched Rey in the pulling apart of the lightsaber scene.
Arguments for It
Okay first off, Rey is tremendously powerful and knowledgable. She was able to use a lightsaber in The Force Awakens without any training. She knows how to hot wire spacecraft she has never used before. Max Landis, a screenwriter, started this off by saying she was far too gifted, which is a little true. She is able to fight Kylo to a draw, who has been trained by the two most gifted swordsmen in the light and the dark side. She is able to use the Force to get the lightsaber even though she barely discovered the Force five minutes ago. And then there's the whole TheLast Jedi debacle. We meet her only a few hours after The Force Awakens ended and she's going through lightsaber Katas like a pro. She breaks the rocks and shows raw strength enough to frighten Luke Skywalker of all beings. And let's not forget the killing of the Praetorian guards scene. These are all highly skilled beings with years of training to protect the supreme leader and she cuts through them like flies. Come on, people, make it a little believable. And despite not getting many lessons from Luke, she is able to lift dozens of huge boulders. Okay, that is a little bit insulting. The only other beings we have seen sending these large masses through the air are Yoda and Sidious. One was the grandmaster of the Jedi Order and the other was the prophesized Sithari. Years of training and experience and then they could perform such feats. If you follow Clone Wars and the other EU, even Mace Windu and Obi-Wan would have difficulty with the power she is displaying. She brings down Luke Skywalker at Ach-to, for god's sake. However, Tasha Robinson of the Verge made a good argument (https://www.theverge.com/2015/12/19/10626896/star-wars-the-force-awakens-rey-mary-sue-feminist) that even though Rey is a Mary Sue, we have such a lack of good female heroes that we should give some breathing space to the few that come out. And to be honest, I agree.
Look the Force is an amazing thing. It is a living, breathing energy of life and even if it gifts one more than the other, we need to respect it. Rey is not perfect, she can't beat everyone, and she can't take on the First Order all by herself. Is she gifted? Yes. Is she powerful? Yes. But those are her strengths, not her weaknesses as a character.