The case for Rey being a “Mary Sue” is currently being debated online. I sort of don’t want to get involved in this argument but I think it is kind of absurd. The movie hasn’t really been out long enough for me to watch the film with this perspective in mind. But off the cuff, I find it really surprising and absurd.
A “Mary Sue” is a character that is considered attractive, low in the world, and during the story exhibits abilities that are well beyond the level one character should possess. The point in which the trope becomes offensive is when it clearly becomes something of a wish fulfillment fantasy on the part of the author. In other words, the author of a piece will pretend they are the hero in the story they are writing and they’re really powerful and cool and all the characters in the franchise love that person.
So it is kind of like if a guy named Lucas writes a character and names him Luke which sounds like his name kinda! He has crazy abilities and at the end saves the day and proves himself as a powerful warrior. This type of self-insertion is what defines a Mary Sue. But in reality, the term is mostly used to define female characters that possess too much power, making the audience feel uncomfortable because it might defy the sex and gender norms of the day for those individuals.
When we first meet Rey, she’s exploring a crashed Star Destroyer and living on her own. She already has her staff and is well proficient with it. But this is rather logical. Rey has been living on the sand planet of Jakku since she was about five years old. That gives her about 20 years to learn how to take care of herself when dealing with scavengers and thugs. Basically, anything Rey does in a fight is just as well deserved an ability as someone that trained to be a Stormtrooper or someone that is “the best star pilot in the Resistance.”
Because Rey is a scavenger, taking apart machines all day to harvest their valuable materials, she would or could understand how a starship works based on that knowledge. To know what’s valuable would probably require a little knowledge on how things work, how to uninstall the pieces without damaging them and so on. There’s no reason to think this ability it beyond the natural abilities or attributes a young woman in her situation would possess. Even then she does make some mistakes, like friends on Twitter have pointed out, she pulls the wrong fuse. She struggles with some repairs but she still knows her stuff because it’s all she’s been doing for 15 years!
That doesn’t mean Rey isn’t special. She clearly is special. The Skywalker lightsaber calls to her. We know that the crystals in lightsabers call to young Jedi and often test them. This happens to Rey because her past is somewhat intertwined with the Jedi, apparently. I think how we interpret her vision is important to how we understand Rey.
It appears as if Rey has some kind of link to a Jedi past. The Knights of Ren attack something, a clan or a Jedi Academy. It appears as if one of the knights goes to murder a young girl and Kylo in turn murders him. Adult Rey is simply a substitute for Young Rey here and it then fades into Rey being dropped off to Unkar Plutt on Jakku (either by the Knights or someone they had drop her off). Plutt has some kind of link to Solo and the Falcon and it would make sense that a young Ben might have known of him and understood that Plutt wouldn’t tell Solo a thing if he figured it out. Hell, for all we know Kylo was in on the theft of the Falcon to Plutt, but I’m getting too out there. The fact is, it seems like Kylo Ren most likely left Rey on Jakku or saved her life, which is why she says she’s waiting for “My family” and that might mean a lot! There is also a line with just 37 pages left until the end of the novel where Kylo says to Rey:
It is you.
There’s something there. He recognizes her. Rey doesn’t just pull these powers of out nowhere. However, there are moments that massage it out of her a little more. After the vision, Rey is met by Maz. Maz teaches Rey to “feel the Force.” However, Rey probably already knows this, she has simply been denying its presence for a long time. Maz reminds her. You see this at the end of the film when Kylo uses the word “Force” and Rey knows she needs to tap into that source and she does. That’s how she beats the crap out of Kylo in the end. This is also why she’s seeing this island (where Luke Skywalker) is at night when she’s lonely and can’t sleep.
Rey doesn’t amount to J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan making an overpowered character acting as an avatar for their deepest desires. That’s an absurd notion. Rey is likely linked to a powerful family or group of characters and is rather special for a reason.
The heroes in Star Wars have always been good at fixing things. They have always had a strong link to a Force they need to tap into and trust in. They have always been great in a fight without a lot of training.
Regardless if my interpretation of Rey’s past is correct or not, there’s more to the character’s past we don’t know. People that subscribe to the “Mary Sue” concept think Rey is whatever you call a Lothrat on Jakku. But she’s actually someone of higher “stock” living the life of someone that’s “just a scavenger.” Rey is in no way any more “overpowered” than Anakin Skywalker or Luke Skywalker. These are superheroes. We don’t need a training montage to believe it works. If Rey was all powerful, Han would be alive, Kylo would be dead and Finn would have been saved. This character failed to save two of the most important people in the narrative.
I’m not a fan of calling anyone that buys into the “Mary Sue” idea a sexist. I don’t know what someone believes in totality. I can see someone wanting a slower paced version of watching Rey coming into power. But after two trilogies, I’m pretty cool with this version of it and I think its going to get really crazy in future installments. Both Rey and Kylo were evenly matched via the power of the Force and both are returning to their teachers to learn more skills to defeat the darkness or the light.
This character simply follows a long line of storytelling set forth by Luke, Anakin, Ahsoka, Ezra Bridger, and now Rey.