When The Force Awakens came out last year, many dudes and some ladies began to wonder if the Rey character qualified as a “Mary Sue.” Within the fandom/geek culture world, Mary Sue is an archetype – a sexist archetype – of a female character who is seemingly too good, too perfect, too admirable, too talented, too quick to pick up useful skills. The application of the Mary Sue label onto Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) was that she seemed to be using “the Force” too quickly and too well, that within the scope of the Star Wars world, her character’s abilities seemed TOO capable and blessed from the very beginning. Many think-pieces were written and many sites pointed out that no, Rey isn’t really a Mary Sue and yes, we should stop criticizing female characters in a fictional world for being capable/strong/powerful/smart.
Personally, I enjoyed the debate and the think-pieces and I liked the consensus that was formed around the idea that Rey and her skills are no more or less realistic than Luke Skywalker and his skills in A New Hope. So, Daisy Ridley appeared on MTV’s Happy Sad Confused Podcast and she was asked about the Mary Sue issue. Her answer was… sort of confusing.
Of hearing the Mary Sue criticisms, Daisy Ridley said: “I think Rey is incredibly vulnerable, and nothing she’s doing is for the greater good. She’s just doing what she thinks is the right thing. And she doesn’t want to do some of it, but she feels compelled to do it. So for me, I was just confused.”
Ridley brought up how “everyone was saying that Luke had the exact same [capabilities],” and she also took issue with the entire notion of a Mary Sue, noting that it’s an inherently gendered objection: “The Mary Sue thing in itself is sexist because it’s the name of a woman.”
I don’t get this: “The Mary Sue thing in itself is sexist because it’s the name of a woman.” Maybe I’m an idiot, but what is she trying to say? We can’t use a woman’s name to represent an archetype? I guess she’s saying that the whole debate itself is inherently sexist because we only have these conversations about female characters, although I feel like I’m meeting her more than halfway. Everything else is on-point though – they established Rey’s vulnerabilities as well as her ability to adapt and learn things quickly. Now, let’s debate whether Luke was a Mary Sue.
PS… Everyone always says she looks so much like Keira Knightley (which is true) but in these photos, she’s giving me strong Emilia Clarke vibes.