Rey Isn’t a Mary Sue, and It’s Time to Retire the Term

(Spoiler warnings apply.)

Since The Force Awakens hit theaters, there’s been an outpouring of love for the main character of Rey. A woman at the center of sci-fi’s most famous film franchise? A female Jedi? Dreams do come true!

And almost in tandem with the appreciation came the backlash. She’s annoying. She’s too perfect. She’s unrealistic. She’s that most dreaded of terms: a Mary Sue. GASP.

For those unfamiliar with a Mary Sue, here’s Wikipedia’s description:

A Mary Sue is an idealized fictional character […] who saves the day through extraordinary abilities. Often but not necessarily this character is recognized as an author insert and/or wish-fulfillment.

Mary Sues can and do exist in both fanfiction and pop culture, I won’t argue with anyone there. But there are points I think need to be addressed in the arguments against Rey, and what the overlooked connotations of using the term “Mary Sue” even mean on a broader scale.

Get comfy, kids.

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The Force Awakens is the Biggest and Best Fan Movie Ever Made

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(Very minor spoilers.)

My first memory of watching Star Wars was on my grandparents’ couch with my dad. I was 5, maybe 6 years old, and traumatized by Darth Vader’s voice. I kept begging my dad to turn the volume down whenever he spoke, even before he showed up, but I wasn’t scared enough to stop watching. Not the tiniest bit.

I even watched them out of order. The VHS rental store didn’t have a copy of The Empire Strikes Back, but I needed more. Needed. So we watched Return of the Jedi second, and ESB third, despite my parents’ warnings. Whoops.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t remember a life without Star Wars. It’s as omniscient and influential as a movie can be, whether it was informing my love for cinema or telegraphing my personal spiritual worldview. Of course it’s only a movie, but it’s the pinnacle of how film is capable of affecting a viewer. No other piece of fiction means as much to me because of how long it’s been with me.

The Force Awakens feels like the same story I’ve loved for over 20 years.

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Why I’m Saying Both Goodbye and Hello to Star Wars

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It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. If you’re one of the masses attending the sold-out first showings of The Force Awakens (Thursday at 7:30pm for me), you know the feeling. If you’re going over the weekend, or anytime after, you still know the feeling.

It’s also a bittersweet day, in its own way. No matter how much I might adore Episode VII (I’m ready to with open arms, but I also have my critique hat screwed securely on), this is the last time I’ll watch Return of the Jedi and think “Ah, what a satisfying ending. The story’s over.” A whole new world is opening up, and we have no idea what’s coming. Did Luke become a Jedi Master? Did Han and Leia live happily ever after? How did the Rebellion fare? In just hours we’ll have at least some answers, and, knowing JJ Abrams, even more questions.

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Goodness Isn’t Overrated (Why The Force Awakens Shouldn’t Make Luke Evil)

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As the clock ticks ever closer to the premiere of The Force Awakens (less than one week!), the internet’s been aflame and afire with speculation regarding the noticeable lack of Luke Skywalker in the movie’s promotional materials.

No posters, no toys, minimal appearances from actor Mark Hamill in interviews or behind the scenes footage. The most we’ve seen (and heard) was back in April: a trailer voiceover paired with the brief glimpse of a metal hand assumed to be Luke’s. There’s a deliberate aura of mystery here from a director known for keeping his secrets, which, instead of irritating me like it has in the past, as was the case with Star Trek: Into Darkness (“HE’S SO NOT KHAN!…HE’S KHAN J/K!”), is exciting in an age where trailers give everything away and spoilers are as easy to find as a mouse click.

So it’s understandable that plenty of rumors have sprung up in the fertile speculation ground. However, the one that’s garnered a lot of attention is that Luke has turned to the Dark Side.

It’s not without merit. On an episode of IFC’s Dinner for Five in 2005 with Mark Hamill and, coincidentally, future Force Awakens director JJ Abrams, Hamill said he thought Luke would become evil in Return of the Jedi.

“As an actor, that would be more fun to play. I just thought that’s the way it was going […] I figured that’s what will be the pivotal moment.”

There’s also the Dark Empire comic book series released in 1991, which saw the resurrection of a cloned Emperor Palpatine and Luke taking Vader’s place as the Emperor’s apprentice.

Most intriguing (or damning) of all is the reason why Abrams accepted the directing chair for The Force Awakens in the first place. According to LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy, that reason was a question: “Who is Luke Skywalker?”

“We’re looking, obviously, for aspiration, for characters who are conflicted between good and evil, dark and light. George [Lucas] spoke often about that tension in everybody between what’s good and bad. He always felt that it was easier to be bad than good.”

Easier, certainly — but is it a better story?

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