Let's Talk About Mary Sue
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program: Rarer Than Bigfoot, for a special bit of insight from yours truly.
For those of you who don’t know, the term “Mary Sue” originally began as an insult to fanfiction authors, and used to refer to characters that were obviously author inserts into an established canon. Anytime you read a story set in the Harry Potter Universe, where Harry is decidedly not “the chosen one” but this new character suspiciously named after the author somehow has all the power and knowledge to defeat Voldemort, you’re reading a Mary Sue story. They are typically power fantasy/wish fulfillment stories, and they’re not all terrible, but most of them are.
Nowadays, the phrase Mary Sue is derisively used to refer to seemingly all-powerful characters that somehow manage to solve problems above their paygrade, defeat enemies strictly more powerful than they are, and perform feats of power or athleticism that they haven’t specifically earned or develop new abilities as the plot demands. This is not to be confused with the average male action hero. The difference between the two? Gender.
In short, I’m tired of reading ignorant-ass comments about a specific space opera that everyone feels a sense of ownership over. “Rey exists just to appeal to the feminazis”, “Rey has no character arc so she doesn’t deserve to be as strong as she is.” “I can’t handle that the hero of this franchise is a woman because men are warriors and women aren’t.” etc. etc. etc Whatever your argument against it, it just comes off like you’re insecure about your masculinity.
Look, if you’re not comfortable with a female protagonist in your Star Wars: One, get help. if you legitimately believe gender equality or more representation of women in film ruins a story than you’re not coping well with reality. Two, if it’s not about the fact that she’s a woman and you just don’t like the direction the franchise is going in, than do what a lot of us did about the Phantom Menace- pretend it doesn’t exist and move on with your life. Don’t try to spoil our fun because you aren’t having any. Just because you don’t like the flavors of available ice cream, doesn’t mean no one else should enjoy theirs, it’s basic human decency so kindly shut the fuck up because there’s plenty more Star Wars out there that you can enjoy. And three, try to view these things objectively. This franchise was never perfect, and never will be, but the universe it gave birth to is so rich that eventually you can and will find a Star Wars story that while not perfect, will come pretty damn close. (I’m looking at you Knights of The Old Republic)
Finally, don’t complain that Rey’s abilities or her aptitude with them doesn’t make narrative or canonical sense, and you better not whine about it not making logical sense either because this is a universe with space magic. This claim more than any of the others grinds my gears to no end because both Luke and Vader were as much Mary Sues as Rey is. No one batted an eye when we found out six- year old Anakin was the only human in the universe who could race pods. Jack-squat was given the first time we saw Luke “force jump” to avoid being frozen in carbonite. It’s all handwaved away by the mystical power of The Force granting insights and powers that you know without knowing. But look, If the current story swapped the roles of Ben and Rey, with Ben having been abandoned on Jakku by his family to keep him safe from Snoak and his lieutenant Kylo Rey, no one would have any complaints about him being able to jedi mind trick a guard or move boulders or best an old Luke Skywalker in combat whether or not Luke was cut off from The Force or not.
And if you’re about to argue that you would still be bothered by it, stop lying to yourself. You can already picture all those scenes with Adam Driver being a badass and accepting it as The Force and you’re pretty damn okay with it. We’ve been conditioned to accept that men can come into power without just reason or cause but by nature of their birth or bloodline. Women, on the other hand, have to earn that power in our eyes- usually by suffering some sort of trauma. That’s the core of this complaint. Not that it doesn’t make sense how powerful Rey is, especially since it’s heavily implied she was chosen by The Force itself to combat the rising darkness that is Ben Solo, no, the problem is that Rey hasn’t suffered enough to prove she’s worthy of power. It’s a double standard that I’m glad we’re finally seeing somewhat subverted with modern day depictions of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel.
Speaking of which, I think it’s been long enough for it to be okay to openly talk about how amazing both of those movies were, but I think I’ll save that for another day. You can catch more of the Rarer Than Bigfoot story tomorrow, until then may the Force be with you, always.