When I look at the Star Wars community, I am often amazed at the things fans find themselves at ends with each other about. While I typically do not involve myself in discussions about what the best film is (it’s still Rogue One for me) or whether or not I love the Ewoks (I think they’re quite alright), one conversation I always find myself drawn to is the discussion of Rey. Despite being one of the newest characters in the saga, she has received numerous amounts of debate, mostly concerning her stance as a Mary Sue. Today I want to discuss why Rey is in fact not a Mary Sue and why her character and her arc so far are a true embodiment of what Star Wars stands for.
For those of you who are unaware, a Mary Sue is “a type of female character who is depicted as unrealistically lacking in flaws or weaknesses.” This is often associated with Rey, particularly in The Force Awakens, due to her seeming lack of difficulty in doing pretty much anything. Common examples of this are her quick ability to fly (and fix) the Millennium Falcon, the sudden appearance of her force powers and her ease in fighting Kylo Ren both mentally and with a lightsaber. However, upon further review, it becomes clear that screenwriters Lawerence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt had powerful and compelling explanations for all of these instances.
Rey Flying (and Fixing) the Millennium Falcon
The first instance in which Rey is considered to be a Mary Sue is when she is able to fly the Millennium Falcon with ease through the tight corridors of the crashed Star Destroyer. Believers in the Mary Sue argument complain that Rey had no prior knowledge of flying, especially not a massive ship such as the Falcon. However, that might not be entirely true. Although Rey was known for her scavenging abilities, as a pupil of Unkar Plutt’s for most her life, it is highly unlikely she has never flown before. We see many ships in the Neema Outpost junkyard, including the TUG-b13, commonly referred to as the quadjumper, which Rey immediately appears comfortable to fly. When Finn says “We need a pilot!” and Rey replies “We’ve got one!”, it becomes clear to the audience that she is fully confident in her piloting abilities. Although she seems hesitant taking up the pilot’s chair, she flies the Falcon with confidence, and as we later can infer, the Force helps to guide her. Even Rey when the ordeal is over cannot explain how she was able to fly like that, proving that even she did not fully understand the forces (pun intended) that were at work during that time. On top of this, her knowledge of the ins and outs of the Star Destroyer from years of scavenging helped her navigate and understand the passageways and corridors much easier than a normal or even experienced pilot such as those piloting the TIE Fighters.
Even if you look at the situation from the perspective that Rey has never flown before, the sequence is not unlike the one from The Phantom Menace in which nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker takes a Naboo Starfighter into space and single-handedly destroyed the Droid Control Ship without any prior flying knowledge outside of his podracer. If fans have an issue with Rey and not little Ani, there may be other biases at work. Personally, had the ship not been the Millennium Falcon, I think fans would have been perfectly fine with the sequence, but the ship holds so much nostalgia and value to fans that they do not think just anyone can fly it.
As for Rey’s ability to fix the Falcon, that goes back to her years of scavenging and understanding of ships and speeders. Even Rey acknowledges that the Falcon is “garbage” and has probably worked on it at one point or another during its time with Unkar Plutt. It is not fair to assume that Rey had no prior knowledge of the Falcon going into that sequence. The writers set up a very simple yet effective backstory to Rey in order to explain how she was able to do these things and then doubled down on the reasoning by incorporating the Force later in the film.
The Sudden Appearance of Rey’s Force Abilities
Another instance in the film in which people think Rey exhibits Mary Sue qualities is when she suddenly develops Force abilities after being captured by Kylo Ren. While this part of the argument delves into my overall theme for the piece, the reason that Rey becomes so powerful in the Force is that the Force chose her at that moment in time. Often an aspect of Star Wars that is overlooked is that the Force is a living, breathing thing that can be awakened by anyone at any time. This goes back to George Lucas’ original ideology based on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey that anyone can be a hero. The Force chooses who it sees fit to wield its power, it can be manipulated, yes, but it is also all-powerful. The Force has now called upon Rey, essentially a nobody, to save the galaxy. But more on that later.
Another aspect of Rey’s abilities is to withhold information from Kylo Ren’s mind probe. Many critics of Rey ask how she is able to go toe-to-toe with an experienced Force user such as Kylo Ren. On top of the argument that Rey was chosen by the Force at that moment amongst many others in the film, I would also argue that Kylo’s inability to fully succumb to the dark side of the Force makes him considerably weaker. It has been established that the light side of the Force is far superior to the dark, yet a pull between the two and the inability to chose a side at all puts a Force-user at their weakest. This disconnect from both sides of the Force for Kylo Ren ultimately makes him a better character, but also makes him a weaker Force-user and allows Rey to win that Force battle.
Rey’s Duel with Kylo Ren
The final argument that is often raised comes from Rey’s ability to best Kylo Ren in lightsaber combat. The argument against this is simple, Kylo was injured. While he was using the pain of his wound to fuel his power, he was also still torn up after killing his father and he has not had a lot of time to practice with a lightsaber. We saw from Luke’s training in The Last Jedi that Luke focuses his training on the Force more than actual lightsaber combat, and it is safe to assume Kylo did not have much lightsaber training under Snoke. Rey, on the other hand, is well trained in her staff which is a similar fighting style to a lightsaber and Kylo was already fatigued from fighting Finn. I can again circle back to the argument that the Force called to Rey once again at that moment, as we see visually represented in the film once Kylo says the words “the Force”.
Looking at Rey as a Character
Outside of the argument that Rey is a Mary Sue, many still do not find themselves connected or compelled by her character. One of my friends recently revealed that he thought Rey was a boring character and her lack of history and background made her unrelatable. I completely disagree, because as I teased earlier, Rey’s lack of background actually makes her a far more interesting character and is what makes her special. The Force has called upon Rey to take up this mantle and we can assume defeat the sith once and for all in The Rise of Skywalker. What her character arc and legacy are remains to be seen.
Personally, I see Rey as a very compelling and interesting character because I was very invested in her backstory, but as we learn in The Last Jedi, she doesn’t have one. She is a nobody, yet the Force calls upon her for this task and gifts her this power. The same can be said for Anakin Skywalker, who was born from the Force (and possibly some manipulation from Palpatine) and ultimately will lead to the completion of the Chosen One prophecy in The Rise of Skywalker with Rey, who was trained by Luke Skywalker, and we can assume Kylo Ren taking down Palpatine one final time. The Force chose Anakin, Luke and Rey (and possibly Kylo) to carry out its will and audiences will see in Episode IX what the Force wants the legacy of the Skywalker name to be.
Rey ultimately embodies all that George Lucas set out to create when he developed Star Wars all those years ago. He wanted all of us, no matter what our history was, to become a hero and feel that as long as we chose light, we would be powerful. Rey is a perfect symbol for all of that. She may be a vessel for the Force, but her character and her motives make her someone we can all relate to. At her core, Rey just wants to help others because she felt abandoned as a child. I think all of us at some point feels abandoned, but it is through our good actions we too can choose the light and become our own hero. Rey continues to inspire me and inspires thousands of Star Wars fans and I look forward to seeing what the resolution of her arc is when The Rise of Skywalker releases this December.