Annlyel tackles the divisive response to Rey. Does society frown upon a strong female protagonist?
Rey. She’s one of the greatest heroines in cinema. A beacon of light who does everything for good and fights evil. As awesome as she is I’ve noticed a huge portion of the Star Wars fanbase isn’t as fond of her as other heroes in the franchise. I recently did a poll asking which heroine had the best portrayal on the big screen, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, or Rey, and, surprisingly, Rey was in last with a dismal 19% while Wonder Woman gained much of the vote with a whopping 48%.
Why is this the case? Why do so many people hate on Rey?
I’m not someone who bashes fans who simply don’t like her as a character. That’s totally understandable. At times, she even gets on my nerves a little bit. But what I have learned over the years is that many fans’ complaints about her are that she’s too powerful. That she’s too great.
How dare she fly the Millennium Falcon better than most pilots in the franchise, they say. How dare she defeats Kylo Ren multiple times after just discovering the Force, they say. How dare she know how to use a lightsaber like a pro, they say. And yet they all praise Luke who blew up the Death Star (using the Force) after having just discovered his incredible power and taking the call to action.
Rey’s awe-inducing ability to pilot the Millennium Falcon wasn’t based on a means to drive the story forward and to make her seem awesome. In the novel, Before the Awakening, we learn that Rey had a flight simulator that she would play with on Jakku. She flew all sorts of different vessels and became a really good pilot.
She grew powerful with the Force because, as Kylo Ren tapped into her mind during the interrogation scene, he involuntarily awakened a buried seed of power within her, causing her to become one of the most powerful Force-wielders of all time immediately.
And of course, she would know how to wield a lightsaber because she’s been a fighter for most of her life! She had to learn to survive in the harsh landscape of Jakku, meaning she had to get familiar with how to use a weapon.
You see, people claim she’s a Mary Sue because she is so great. Because she is the Chosen One after having known nothing about the Force other than glorified tales told by travelers stopping at Jakku. And yet, Luke Skywalker, a simple farm boy nearly her same age could save the day, blow up the Death Star and become a hero and no one cared. But if Rey did the exact same thing people wouldn’t herald her like they did Luke Skywalker.
In fact, in another poll that I shared, I asked which major Sequel Trilogy character’s ending they were most excited to see and the choices were simple; Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, or Poe Dameron. Kylo Ren got a whopping 59% of the vote while Rey only got 27% of the vote. Why is that the case? Even though she’s practically the main focus of this trilogy people have tended to like Kylo Ren more. And I get it, he’s Han and Leia’s son, a conflicted villain who, at any second, could become the hero and save the day, but why isn’t Rey closer in percentage on the poll to him?
Is it because he’s a man and in a world where Star Wars (once known to be very sparse in diversity and inclusivity) is becoming more and more focused on women and people of color he’s seemingly the last, excuse my bluntness, white male character in Star Wars that has a chance to be the hero?
I’m not trying to make this post a race thing because honestly, it isn’t, but I will say it’s definitely a sexist thing. In our society, women are looked upon with a different eye.
People love Superman, a near-invincible Kryptonian who chooses to become a hero on Earth, falls in love with Lois Lane and saves humanity from evil whenever the time arises. But people dislike Captain Marvel, a half-Kree-human warrior, whose story is just as plain as Superman’s but her power is looked down upon because, according to critics and fans, she doesn’t have enough emotion, enough storyline behind her extraordinary powers.
Once again, it’s another sign of how women are viewed in movies compared to men.
So no, Rey is not a Mary Sue. And I’m not trying to change your mind on the matter, but when you cheer for Anakin Skywalker (a nine-year-old boy!) who singlehandedly destroyed the Trade Federation’s command ship, hence saving the day, or Luke Skywalker miraculously blowing up the Death Star just…think about Rey’s achievements in comparison and you will realize she is no more special than Anakin or Luke was, she’s just a woman.
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Annlyel James is a prolific Staff Writer for Future of the Force. She is passionate about Star Wars and Marvel but loves a wide variety of movie genres. Follow her on Twitter @annlyeljames where she channels the Force frequently!