Hello, readers! With The Last Jedi only two weeks away, I wanted to create a bit of a counter-argument to a big issue people had with The Force Awakens — specifically, that the film’s star heroine, Rey, was a Mary Sue.
For those of you unaware, a Mary Sue is a term used to describe a character (male or female) that is seemingly infallible at all or most things for no discernible reason. Critics of the movie cite her piloting skills, ability to use the Force, and her victory over Kylo Ren (among some others) as things that she shouldn’t be able to do given the fact that the span of The Force Awakens is only a few days and that she’s spent her entire life beforehand on the isolated world of Jakku.
Therefore, this article aims to address every argument made against Rey and offer convincing reasoning about why she can do what she can do. I want to make it clear before beginning that I can understand why people feel this way. Out of all of Star Wars’ protagonists during their introductory films, I think it’s pretty clear that Rey is the most capable of the three by far. However, just because she’s a highly skilled individual doesn’t make her a Mary Sue. And while I’m willing to concede that some of her capabilities in the movie are a bit much, I don’t think that’s nearly enough to go as far as calling her a Mary Sue.
So, without further ado…
Melee Combat Prowess
One of Rey’s skills that’s made apparent soon after The Force Awakens begins is her proficiency with her quarterstaff.
This is made very clear during a scene in which she beats down three thugs in her local market on Jakku as Finn watches in awe.
This scene made many wonder how Rey learned how to fight so well in a world where there’s never enough time or money in order to do anything other than scavenge for parts to sell. To that, I say that you’ve answered your own question. Here’s why.
On Jakku, life is clearly not easy or comfortable. This can easily be seen when Rey, who spends an entire day in the depths of an Imperial Star Destroyer trying to find salvage, only manages to bring back enough for a quarter of a full portion of food.
In harsh, hand-to-mouth places like this, crime would very likely be rampant. This would especially be the case on Jakku, due to the diminishing returns from honest salvaging work. Why spend a massive amount of time trying to earn a meager amount of money when you can just take everything from others by force? For people who can’t find enough salvage to get by, theft is the only option they have left. Desperation causes people to do terrible things, and it’s not like Star Wars has any shortage of scum and villainy, anyway.
Such is likely the case for the thugs that attacked Rey. Notably, their very first move was to quickly trap and contain BB-8, making it clear that they were stealing from her. To quote Kreia from Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords:
“Seeing another elevated often brings the eyes of those who suffer.”
Essentially, this means that when one possesses wealth, those below them view that person as a target.
Now, in such a cruel and unforgiving environment, learning how to defend oneself is vital to survival. And thus, we have our answer as to why Rey is a great melee fighter. It’s because she has to be. If she isn’t, than she runs the risk of losing what meager belongings she does have.
This also extends to the end of the film, where Rey ends up holding her own against Kylo Ren in their lightsaber duel. While a long staff is different than a short blade, I think it’s fine to assume that Rey was capable of fighting with a variety of weapon types. Plus, at this point in the movie, she had unlocked her connection to the Force, which would obviously be a big help. But we’ll get to that later.
The next part of Rey’s skillset that is often criticized is the fact she’s able to fly the Millennium Falcon well enough to engage with First Order TIE Fighters.
As with her combat abilities, the logical reasoning behind her piloting skills is found in her background as a salvager on Jakku. Consider this: the Battle of Jakku’s aftermath left hundreds, possibly even thousands, of spaceworthy vessels abandoned in the sand. In her quest to strip them of parts to sell, I think it’s not a stretch at all to assume that she spent time studying the controls of these ships.
This hypothesis is only reinforced by the scene in which Rey dons a worn and tattered Rebel Alliance pilot helmet as she eats a meal. This clearly indicates to us that being a pilot is something Rey wants to be. Rey wants to fly a ship far, far away from the wastelands of Jakku and be a part of something bigger than her current pointless existence. With this in mind, it wouldn’t make sense if Rey didn’t try to be as prepared as she could for the one day when her dreams actually came true.
I think it’s also important to note that Rey wasn’t exactly flying like a pro, either. Several times she accidentally tilts the Falcon into the ground as she takes off, and comes close to crashing during a few moments in the dogfight with the TIEs.
Proficiency As A Mechanic
Rey’s skills with fixing up the Millennium Falcon are also commonly criticized, but honestly, I don’t know why. Out of all of Rey’s abilities, being good with machinery is the one that makes the most sense by far.
As I said previously, Jakku is a graveyard of countless ships, coming in all different shapes and sizes. Since Rey makes her pitiful living by cleaning out the parts from as many of them as she can, she has spent almost her entire life working with the inner components of starships and vehicles. Hell, she lives within the husk of an AT-AT. Being surrounded by mechanical parts is all she knows prior to departing the planet.
Now, the answer to my logic would naturally be, “But how did she know the inner workings of the Falcon specifically?”
Well, I like to think of different types of ships being similar to real-life cars. Cars come in a wide variety: trucks, convertibles, jeeps, and more, each one with different manufacturers, materials, suspensions, et cetera. However, the basic “anatomy” of every car is similar. When you lift the hood on all of the different types of vehicles I mentioned, you’ll find the same general composition of parts most of the time. Sure, they’re not identical, but someone who worked on a standard car could likely be able to work well with a pick-up truck, for example.
Applying this same philosophy to Rey, we can logically conclude that since she’s spent her entire life working with the contents of fighters, frigates and even cruisers, she could easily understand the inner workings of a freighter like the Millennium Falcon.
Accuracy With A Blaster
Rey’s spot-on aim with the NN-14 blaster pistol that Han gifted to her on Takodana is actually the one aspect of Rey’s skillset that I can’t come up with an argument for. Sadly, there’s really no good explanation for Rey’s ability to snipe First Order stormtroopers (who miss every single shot with their blaster rifles which they trained with since birth) from dozens of yards away with a type of weapon that she herself said she had never used before up until that point.
Resisting Kylo Ren’s Mind Influence
This one was also a bit tricky for me to think about. Initially, I turned to a deleted scene that ended up being included in the novelization of The Force Awakens in which there’s some extra dialogue between Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren following his failed interrogation of her:
There was as much curiosity in Supreme Leader Snoke’s voice as there was disappointment. “This scavenger—this girl—resisted you?”
“That’s all she is, yes. A scavenger from that inconsequential Jakku. Completely untrained, but strong with the Force. Stronger than she knows.” His mask off, Ren replied with what seemed to be his usual assurance. No one else would have sensed a difference. Snoke did.
The Supreme Leader’s voice was flat. “You have compassion for her.”
“No—never. Compassion? For an enemy of the Order?”
“I perceive the problem,” Snoke intoned. “It isn’t her strength that is making you fail. It’s your weakness.” The rebuke hurt, but Ren didn’t show it.
Overall, I decided to ditch this angle due to the fact that it wasn’t in the final cut of the film. One can argue that just because it was removed doesn’t mean that the idea itself won’t be touched upon later on, and I actually agree, but for this article I’m trying to create my arguments based solely on what we can discern from the film itself and no outside material.
Following my dismissal of this reasoning, I realized that the answer to this question lies within Kylo Ren’s own dialogue:
“The scavenger! She resisted YOU?!”
“She is strong with the Force! Untrained, but stronger than she knows…”
Based on the incredible fight that the strong-willed Poe Dameron gave Ren near the beginning of the movie when he probed his mind, I think it makes perfect sense that Rey was able to fight off Ren’s influence. Like Poe, she’s not weak-minded, but she has the added benefit of being Force sensitive, and strongly so at that. Put those two traits together, and you have yourself a pretty effective counter-agent to mind influencing.
As for her ability to, for the lack of a better term, “reverse-probe” Kylo Ren and expose his fear of not being as powerful as Darth Vader, I think this is due to the fact that Ren was focused purely on trying to break through Rey’s defenses. He wasn’t expecting her to use his tactic on him, and thus, his guard was down.
Yet, that’s exactly what Rey did, either consciously or subconsciously. In a way, Ren was backing her mind into a corner with his probing, and like a trapped animal, she lashed out at him.
It’s also worth noting this is the pivotal moment in the film where the Force awakens within Rey. Ren’s probing seemed to be somewhat of a catalyst.
While the specifics of how Force probing works are unknown, I like to think that it’s similar to forming a tether between two beings, where one attempts to dominate the other and extract information via the tether. As we see in the film, though, it can backfire, and the exact opposite can happen. This, of course, is speculation, and there’s no solid evidence to necessarily support this being the way it works. But even so, I think overall, it’s not too difficult to explain how she resisted his interrogation.
Mind Controlling The Stormtrooper
Next up, we have Rey’s ability to mind trick the stormtrooper that was guarding her cell.
This one is half-defensible. Given the fact she had already went through the interrogation with Kylo Ren, Rey was aware that the Force could be used to invade someone’s mind. It wouldn’t be hard for her to come to the conclusion that if Ren did it, she probably could, too.
The part that there’s no good explanation for is how she knew how to do it. There’s no instance where she’s seen a Jedi mind trick (which is different than the mind probing) that we know of, and that makes her knowledge of how to perform the action puzzling.
I do think this scene is still okay overall, though, considering she fails to successfully influence the stormtrooper not once, but twice. The fact she knew how to trick him was odd and didn’t make sense, but she definitely wasn’t infallible here, either. Otherwise, she would have pulled it off on the first attempt.
Defeating Kylo Ren On Starkiller Base
Ah, this is the big one.
Indeed, this is arguably the scene in The Force Awakens that divided the Star Wars fanbase the most.
Many believe the fact Rey, an untrained and brand new user of the Force, was able to defeat Kylo Ren, a fairly powerful user of the Dark Side, is completely illogical and shouldn’t have happened. Personally, I think it’s 100% reasonable for a myriad of reasons.
Firstly, Kylo (who is already incredibly unstable as evidenced throughout the film) had literally just killed his father minutes prior to their duel. While it was something he wanted to do because he thought it would make him stronger, it was far from easy. This is seen when he comments he doesn’t know if he has the “strength to do it”, even asking Han to hold the lightsaber with him during the act. Kylo Ren was an emotional trainwreck by the time he clashes blades with Rey.
Directly after killing Han, Kylo also gets nailed with a bowcaster bolt directly in his side, courtesy of Chewbacca.
Force users have been shot before with blaster bolts once or twice before and it hasn’t deterred them too significantly — usually, it takes several more to bring them down. In the case of Ren’s wound, though, I think the bowcaster is a special case. The Force Awakens makes it abundantly clear that this weapon isn’t your average blaster rifle. Several times throughout the film, Han and Chewbacca both send First Order stormtroopers in full combat armor flying twenty feet away from where they were standing with just one shot.
The fact that Kylo Ren can take a blast from it like he did, wearing only cloth, and even still be in the same place is a testament to his endurance, but you’re not going to walk away from that unscathed, either. This wound hurt him quite a bit, and it undoubtedly lowered his ability to fight Rey later on.
Another thing to mention is that prior to battling Rey, Kylo Ren had to duel with Finn first. While it’s true that Finn didn’t do that great of a job — not having a connection to the Force would be a big disadvantage in this situation — he nevertheless engaged in a lightsaber duel with Ren for almost a almost a full minute, and even manages to land a glancing blow on his shoulder. Ren, who was already hurt from the bowcaster bolt, lost some more of his strength and energy fighting Finn.
Now, Rey and Kylo Ren actually begin fighting, the upper hand is clearly Ren’s. Despite all of his mental instability and physical exhaustion at this point, he still is outperforming Rey, who desperately tries to run and put distance between herself and him. In the moments where he catches up to her, she’s fully on the defensive. Kylo is the one landing all of the hits. It’s for this reason that I’ll never understand why people say she “easily wiped the floor” with him. It almost ended up being the opposite.
Right as he has her on her last legs, Ren makes the decision to offer Rey an opportunity to learn from him, to learn to utilize her power with the Force. However, this ends up being his ultimate mistake. By not continuing to press his advantage, Ren gives Rey time to collect herself and draw upon the Force in order to energize herself and become more focused.
This is where the battle turns, and I see no problem with it at all. Rey, who had very few wounds and had just started fighting, was allowed to stop and focus and draw upon the Force. Ren, on the other hand, was severely wounded at this point and extremely fatigued. With his advantage gone, he quickly was forced onto the backfoot, and now it was Rey’s turn to press her advantage and ultimately end up coming out of the duel as the victor.
While Rey is an untrained Force user, I would argue that Ren’s deteriorated mental state, physical condition, and failure to “finish the job” were much more important factors in this fight. On top of this, the fact that Ren almost defeated her regardless goes to show just how strong Ren really is, and just how invincible Rey isn’t. She barely escaped by the skin of her teeth — and that was against a Kylo Ren who was far from full strength.
Aside from her skill with a blaster and understanding of Jedi mind tricks, I think it’s completely inaccurate and wrong to say that Rey is a Mary Sue. While she’s a very talented individual, I think I’ve made a strong case in this article that given her background and past experiences, it would be strange if she wasn’t good at the things she is. And, at the end of the day, she’s not perfect and never was in The Force Awakens. Her piloting was rocky at first. Her mind trick attempts failed twice. She very nearly lost to an opponent who was severely wounded and tired.
There are more of these moments within the movie where she makes mistakes, and that’s what, to me, solidifies the fact she isn’t a Mary Sue. She simply is not perfect.
On a final note, I wanted to touch upon Luke in A New Hope.
While pointing out Luke’s questionable skills is in no way a good counter-argument to the criticisms of Rey (there’s a reason I saved this until the article’s end!) I do find it ironic that a lot of people seemingly have no problem with him.
He expertly deflects laser shots from a training droid — blindfolded — after only just learning about the Force and failing only a few times. He outflies the Rebellion’s best pilots and manages to launch a missile into a minuscule target with no assistance from targeting software, by (somehow) using the Force with barely any training at all. Finally, he manages to Force pull the lightsaber out of the ice in the wampa cave during The Empire Strikes Back with, again, hardly any training.
Could you come up with an argument for these if you sat down like I have for Rey and analyzed everything? It’s very likely, yes. But nobody seems to have a problem about those things — just Rey, for a reason I’ve yet to discern.
Regardless, this is the end of my case for Rey in The Force Awakens. If you’re going to criticize the film, I think a more justifiable area to voice concern over would be the film’s tendency to often fail to portray the setting with enough context to understand the central conflict and how we got to where we are from Return of the Jedi.
In the end, Rey is simply not a Mary Sue.
Well, that’s a wrap on another piece for you all!
I’m really sorry it’s taken me this long to sit down and write something. Life recently has been pretty hectic. For one, I was diagnosed with diabetes a week and a half ago and I’ve been dedicating a lot of my time to treating that and changing my habits. I’m happy to report that since then, my blood sugar has dropped from dangerously over the limit to within the normal ranges. Pretty sure I’m shedding some weight, too.
I also have exams in a week from now, so I likely won’t be writing anything else on here for at least another two weeks, but if all goes well I will definitely have something out prior to Christmas! Maybe I’ll review The Last Jedi, which I’m unbelievably excited for.
Anyway, thanks so much for reading. I hope I convinced some of you that Rey isn’t a Mary Sue, but if you still disagree with me, I appreciate at least giving my argument your fair chance. I love seeing your comments, so make sure to leave me one regarding your opinion either on here or on my Twitter.
Also, shout out to my good friend and fellow Halo fan HiddenXperia who has helped me out in a HUGE way. I’m not going to tell you how he did so, but just know that Luc is a true bro and really came to my aid this holiday season.
And with that, I have no more to say for now. Stay safe, enjoy your lives, and remember that I love each and every one of you with my big two Sangheili hearts.