Daisy Ridley was ‘just confused’ by the ‘is Rey a Mary Sue?’ debate


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.”

[From Vulture]

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.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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39 Responses to “Daisy Ridley was ‘just confused’ by the ‘is Rey a Mary Sue?’ debate”

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  1. MissMerry says:

    At least Luke failed in the movies he was in. It was made clear that he had it in him to be a jedi, but he wasn’t excellent from the get-go (which I thought was a great way to show the audience that one can be strong with the force and still not know how to use/yield it).

    You saw him fail when he gets zapped by that ball on the Falcon when he’s wearing the helmet to block his vision, you see him fail (then get better) on Dagoba when training with Yoda…you see him fail to control himself and get his hand cut off in the process. You almost see him fail at the end until Daddy saves him by throwing the Emperor off the ledge.

    Rey doesn’t really fail in her movie in the same ways…

    One could argue that she ‘fails’ the first time she told the guard to release her from her restraints, but she quickly tries again and succeeds. I’d have to watch the movie again to come up with more examples.

    • HH says:

      Yeah, I remember thinking she was a little “too good” for this to be her first go at things. However, I didn’t know there was a name for it. I also didn’t think it was THAT distracting. I can most certainly suspend my disbelief, particularly in a world of galaxies, aliens, and talking robots. Also, I love all the Marvel films. So, I’m looking to be entertained by a good story line, but I don’t need cinematic greatness. Although, Civil War was pretty close in my humble opinion. 😛

    • LadyMTL says:

      I think Rey is definitely verging on being a Mary Sue character, though I did find that the writers managed to avoid going down that road 100%. So she’s maybe Mary minus the Sue? 😛

      That said, I always found it a bit surprising how she managed to hold her own in the fight with Ren, especially considering she wasn’t exactly a Jedi master and (AFAIK) had zero experience wielding a lightsabre.

      • Mia4S says:

        OK I don’t get at all why people are surprised she held her own in the fight with Kylo Ren. I can totally see where people have an issue with other scenes, but here?

        We’ve seen that she knows how to use a weapon (her staff) and more importantly…he was shot in the stomach with a bowcaster and is bleeding all over the place!!! Do I think she’ll hold her own next time they meet and he’s at 100%? Heck no! My guess is she’s heading for a serious beat down unless Luke is there to intervene.

      • uninspired username says:

        She did struggle in that fight against Kylo for awhile.

      • Digital Unicorn (aka Betti) says:

        In the flash back scene you get a sense that there is more to her background than being a scavenger who knows how to use a staff. As others have said, its highly likely she received Jedi training as a child but has probably had those memories suppressed.

        As for the fight itself she did struggle and he was injured but it was obvs that she knew how to use a lightsaber.

      • jude says:

        Well, Kylo was both physically injured and mentally unstable at the time of the fight. He just (spoilers??) killed his father and it clearly took a toll on him. He definitely wasn’t at his best. So I think the reason Rey was able hold her own against him was a combination of the skills she developed from Jakku and pure luck.

    • Mia4S says:

      She accidentally opens the doors and releases the monsters on Han Solo’s ship nearly killing them all (Finn in particular). She has a freak out and runs into the woods at Maz’s getting herself kidnapped. She’s naive enough to believe Finn’s a resistance fighter (while Han sees through him in 2 seconds). She’s not perfect at all.

      As for the powers, I’m reserving judgment. We are not sure why she’s that powerful, there may be a reason. Plus we’ve already seen Luke’s training so the different angle of someone highly powered and the dangers in that (hubris, over confidence) could be interesting.

    • Bridget says:

      In addition to what Mia4S said, I also interpreted it as Rey being significantly tougher and more self reliant than Luke ever was. This was a girl who was left as a child and fed herself by being a scavenger, and was extremely resourceful and intuitive because of it.

    • Dhavynia says:

      Is it naive for me to mention that Luke and Rey grew up differently and that’s why she was able to make less mistakes? After all, Luke was brought up by his so called aunt and uncle who sheltered him compared to Rey who had to look after herself since a little girl

  2. Camille says:

    So you agree with everything else she says but lead with the one part you’re confused with…

  3. woodstock_schulz says:

    Mary Sue is also sometimes a character the author uses to insert themselves into the story

  4. ell says:

    i completely agree with mary sue as a notion being sexist, like fiction is packed full of the male equivalent of a mary sue, sooooooo. that said, are they good characters? meh, not so much. i liked rey, i didn’t crazy love her though as she didn’t feel very new to me.

    • LolaBones says:

      Theres a male equivalent, its Gary Stu. I think Harry Potter was called a Gary Stu.

      • Wren33 says:

        True, but the Gary Stu concept was just in reaction to Mary Sues only being applied to female characters, right? But certainly in the fantasy world there are a million Gary Stus.

      • Mae says:

        That doesn’t really make sense, since Harry wasn’t particularly good at most of what he did. Flying was the one thing he excelled at. The rest he mostly had help with. He was pretty inept in most things, and being a Gary/Mary Sue seems to be all about ridiculous levels of competence. Or maybe also an idealized character, and Harry was shown to be flawed. He also wasn’t the Chosen One because of some intrinsic specialness but because of other people’s actions (Voldemort and his mom). I feel like Rowling was aware of that trope and undermining it throughout the books, or at least that’s how it read to me. This comment makes me sound like a Potter head lol, but I’m just confused about how people overuse the Gary/Mary Sue designation and decided to be pedantic about it in a long-winded reply. 🙂

      • LolaBones says:

        @Mae, I dont think he was a Gary Stu tbh, but I remember seeing a couple of times people referring to him as one so I went with the most popular character accussed to be one. Bad choice I guess lol

  5. uninspired username says:

    People use “Mary Sue” for every female protagonist nowadays.

  6. Lala says:

    I rewatched TFA about two weeks ago. It doesn’t make much sense that Rey is fluent in English, whatever the Jakku Sand person was speaking (the most plausible since she lived there), Wookie , AND Droid. Now, it’s clear that she is the single survivor from Luke’s students after Kylo Ren slaughtered the rest, so that may be where her saber/force skills come from after being repressed (but we see Fin pick up a lightsaber and stand up to Ren for a few moments too?? This movie…). However, she does come off as a Mary Sue, and I personally, as a woman, do not think that is a sexist remark. She repeatedly shows up Han Solo when flying his ship, which he has done for countless years, while she has been stranded practically as a slave (to the system). I can’t remember how she knew how to pilot a ship, but they did make one quick line about it. She does make one mistake, releasing those monsters (I felt like this was a completely pointless part of the movie and really slows the momentum but maybe it was used to show that she isn’t perfect), so there is room for debate. Personally, I just can’t get past the “I can understand everyone/everything” language basis she has going on despite being a deserted, uneducated (for most of her life) scavenger on a desert planet.

  7. Digital Unicorn (aka Betti) says:

    I think she tried to give an intelligent answer but got lost somewhere in the word salad or maybe she’s just confused about what a Mary Sue is.

    As for Rey, the character is verging on being another Luke Skywalker – boring and a bit whiney. I didn’t pay her character much attention during the movie which i think was a mix of the character storyline and Daisy’s ‘acting’. Hopefully both improve with the 2nd one.

  8. AnotherDirtyMartini says:

    I don’t see Keira Knightly when I look at her – here I see Elizabeth Moss.

  9. Juli says:

    No, she is not like Luke at all. Luke had training before he could really use the force and fight with a light saber, Rey did not. I hope they will give an explanation on that in the next movie and why she speaks so many languages and is so good in everything. To make this into something sexist, even though I’m a passionate feminist, is total BS. Her character was annoyingly all mighty. I can totally understand the criticism.

    • Bridget says:

      I remember it as her being extremely mechanically proficient (which would make sense, considering that all she did was scavenge around the old ships and she’d have to know what was what in order to figure out what she’d be paid for) more than being an incredible pilot.

  10. Wilma says:

    She’s more a Neo to me

  11. Ashley says:

    Her face looks different for some reason like a blend of Keira Knightley and Elizabeth Moss. I think she did something to her face of maybe its face bloat but it looks weird.

  12. Melody says:

    If Rey’s character was a guy, they’d call her a prodigy. There is no classification for a male character that is too capable and talented without practice/training. That’s sexist- so, yeah – calling Rey a Mary Sue instead of a prodigy is sexist. Preternatural talent doesn’t come with a hoo hah. 😑

  13. Neo says:

    She looks a bit like one of Demi and Bruce’s kids.

  14. Val says:

    It didn’t bother me in the film, but that’s on Daisy Ridley because she is that charming.

    However, writing is crap most of the time. It’s like the writers can’t conceive a character that is flawed but strong, sometimes weak or whatever, so they have Mary Sues to whom everything happens magically and conveniently, and who are just amazing at everything.
    There were many people calling Daenerys Targaryen a Mary Sue as well.

    I think that because many writers are men, they are better able to create “grey” male characters, while females remain black or white. So yes, it is an issue of sexism.

    The male version is also referred to The Chosen One.

  15. Trixie says:

    Re watch A New Hope, Luke actually was quite dumb and failed at a lot before the final battle when he accepted The Force, but that was after training in The Force with Obi-Wan and having his voice in his head in the final battle. So I would not classify Luke as a Mary Sue at all.

    I think why people thought Rey was a Mary Sue was because she didn’t seem to fail at much except that one instance when Ren captured her, but she got out of that very quickly. And although she never had any sort of training in The Force she was able to use it at the end and beat someone who had trained in The Force for years. So there are differences between Rey’s and Luke’s capabilities.

    While I agree that the term Mary Sue is rooted in sexism – because it called out female Star Trek fan writers but failed to mention that Kirk himself is a Mary Sue – I don’t understand what Ridley meant by “The Mary Sue thing in itself is sexist because it’s the name of a woman.” The name is not what makes it sexist, what makes it sexist is the fact that the term is applied mostly to female characters and doesn’t call out the male Mary Sue characters.

  16. Sunnydaze says:

    I’ve never heard this term before, wtf is a “mary sue”?

    • Ducky la Rue says:

      @Sunnydaze – originally, it was meant to describe a fanfiction author self-insert, and/or the overly idealized original characters that were written into a story.

      Here’s a good write-up that gives the history (and that even references the debate about Rey):

    • Persephone says:

      Mary Sue was a character in an early Star Trek fan fiction, the youngest ever Lt in Star fleet (15) who saves the day. Star Trek even has it’s own in Wesley Crusher.
      The Mary Sue is usually the youngest/ first person to every do X, is amazing at everything they try their hand at, even if it’s the first time they’ve done it and are expert at multiple unrelated things.

  17. Kate says:

    Rumors are that Rey is, essentially, a child of the force, like Anakin. That explains why she is so naturally gifted.

  18. Nibbi says:

    so i m here learning what a “mary sue” is and i’m pissed off. i was/am a huge fan that the movie was packed with strong female characters and digging how badass she was as a character. and i agree with a commenter above, anakin was naturally quick at everything in the same way, but did people throw shade?! – no, because it seemed to be a part of the story, how he was a product of the force, which is what i assumed for her. like he was this amazingly quick and talented kid but no one questioned his legitimacy as a character. it just reeks of sexism that people question the character’s “feasibility” because, yeah, clearly, she’s an ass-kicker chick. i guess they should have made her cower behind something while somebody else saves her at least once. pff

    • Trixie says:

      The difference is, is in The Phantom Menace they told the audience that Anakin was a product of The Force, which basically excused his OP-ness. In The Force Awakens, they did not tell the audience that Rey is a product of The Force, so there is no excuse for her OP-ness which is why people think the way they do about her. You have to take these movies as individual films and question whether they work or not, and Anakin’s powers were explained in his first movie while Rey’s were not. So it’s not the same. This is not a sexism issue here, it’s a storytelling one.

    • Mae says:

      Yeah, I think I agree. If Anakin can be this way, so can Rey. Isn’t having high levels of midichlorians (or whatever it is) an in-story explanation for being ridiculously good at things?

  19. tealily says:

    It sounds like maybe she didn’t really understand the debate?