Understand that I’m not part of the so-called “Fandom Menace” because I don’t join movements. I gather with fellow fans of a genre, format, or specific property and share my opinion on things. I don’t hate Rey and I’m one of the few detractors of the sequel trilogy to doesn’t hate the fact that Rey didn’t come from great warriors of destiny or anything (although that may well be retconned away in the next movie). I could even accept that she has a natural tie to the Force (again, like Rowan Freemaker–it’s canon to me!) or that the Force itself was trying to restore balance when the Jedi weren’t restored, since Snoake and Kylo Ren prove the Sith aren’t gone. I could accept these excuses.
We do not get these excuses. Therein lies the problem.
The Literature Devil, a YouTube commentary channel whose host will start the video promoting a new comic, lets his bias show in his snark but also goes over the difference between the overused term “Mary Sue“, and what he calls the “Mary Sue Moment” to explain why the problem with Rey isn’t that she’s good, but the reasoning we’re given why she’s good…or the lack thereof…and why her journey doesn’t connect with people the same way Luke Skywalker’s journey to becoming a Jedi did. (And why his appearance in The Last Jedi enraged his fans.)
Catch more Literature Devil on his YouTube channel.
It sounds like Rey was trying to make BB-8 look awesome. Given that I’m sure J.J. Abrams made sure to get at least a piece of that merchandising pie (remember how much BB-8 stuff there was when The Force Awakens came out?) and what’s being said about how Abrams has altered other famous sci-fi geek-beloved franchises for the same reason, I think that’s quite likely as well.
I could see if Rey’s fighting skills were meant to be a surprise but, and I haven’t seen the film since I watched it on home video with my friends that one time, I don’t think that was the point. It was just meant to show her being a good fighter. I guess you could take away that living on the planet is hard but we don’t get enough of an idea what life on Jakku like we do, say Eternia. There we know the women have to be skilled fighters because He-Man’s world isn’t just filled with guys like Skeletor or Count Marzo but various monsters, killer plants, and mysterious artifacts of their less than enlightened past. What do we know about Jakku? I looked it up on the Wookiepedia fan wiki and most of what’s there was about a battle that wasn’t in the movie and not much about what the world itself is like. We saw that one monster attack BB-8, some thugs, that jerk that (according to our hero so we don’t even know if she’s right) stiffer Rey, and then the First Order attacked. Also the Millennium Falcon is there because it was in the original trilogy.
I mentioned Rowan from Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures earlier. This kid is also pretty strong in the Force, later being his own mentor when it turned out she was secretly a Sith working for the Emperor. However, he had a strong connection to the Kyber crystals which Jedi and Sith both use as the heart of their lightsabers and the Emperor used in the Death Star (according to this show anyway). It’s such a connection that despite never hearing of the Kyber Saber Crystal, a saber itself created from a long Kyber crystal that was shattered into pieces because together it was too powerful. And yet Rowan heard the pieces call to him the way the lightsaber called to Rey. However, he still needed Naare to give him the basics, watching R0GR’s data tapes (of his constant defeats by Jedi during the Clone Wars) to help him self-train, the Maker of Zoh to further direct his talents, which led Rowan to discover his path as a Force Builder, a skill that apparently only exists in a Lego universe. Even then he learned about building fighters and ships as well as parts scavenging because he’s a Freemaker and it was how his family earned a living. Even R0GR was salvage at first. Rowan was strong in the Force and had some natural skill, but it still had to be developed before fighting Naare and even then he needed more training in season two in order to handle the Emperor’s hunting droid MOC.
Another example closer to Rey’s backstory is Ezra Bridger from Star Wars: Rebels. Like Rey, he grew up without parents on a backwater and having to fend for himself. However we see more evidence of his skills (in a rough stage mind you) than we see of Rey’s. Something he and Rowan have in common is that both were kids who had to learn how to use the Force. Luke and Rey are roughly the same age when they learn they have potential as Jedi, but for Rey it comes almost too easily. Even Anakin, despite being too old according to the Jedi Council, was a kid who had to learn how to use his connection to the Force despite instinctively using that connection when Pod Racing without realizing it and he was apparently conceived BY the Force like some Jedi Jesus, only he turned Sith Anti-Christ until the last few minutes of his life. Rey is an adult with maybe some self-taught fighting skills who still manages to have talents never hinted at while our other four lead Jedi (Anakin, Luke, Ezra, and I’m counting Rowan) either had known family history or instinctive yet unfocused Force abilities that were later honed by a mentor, even if Luke had to teach himself before going to Yoda. Even then his training was incomplete but he still had to learn in the field, which Ashoka also did after the Jedi Council basically abandoned her so she left them and continued the fight on her own. She also ended up being a mentor to Ezra, a Yoda to Kanan’s Obi-Wan.
There is nothing wrong with Rey conceptually and despite the few female main characters outside of the tossed out Expanded Universe there is no sexism (en masse anyway) in the Star Wars universe narratively speaking. However, in execution Rey does not connect the way the other Jedi leads have. Even Padme had her badass moments but she earned them and she still needed help from others. Leia was shown to have some good skills in Empire Strikes Back and in Return Of The Jedi. Rowan’s big sister was important to his development, Ezra required help from Hera, Sabine, and Ahsoka as well as his male colleagues and mentor…nobody had a problem with female characters. They have a problem with bad characters, or good characters badly developed like Rey. We WANT to connect with Rey, we want her to be a good character. Calling “sexism” instead of addressing and fixing the actual problems isn’t helping. A good female character is easy to do. It’s not making her act like a man, it’s going through the same development and journey the male characters did.
In other words making a good woman character is as simple as making a good character.