Rey is a Mary Sue

By the end of the second movie in this new trilogy, we should all be forced to accept that, “Yes, Rey No-last-name-given is a Mary Sue.”

Mary Sue is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. Often, this character is recognized as an author insert or wish fulfillment. They can usually perform better at tasks than should be possible given the amount of training or experience.

What seems startlingly clear isn’t the abject truth of this statement, that she is a character that has no means to her great power which are made clear to the reader, that she is capable of things she should absolutely not be able to do according to the canon, and that she is unnaturally loved by all, but that acknowledging that she was written as a rather flat trope is sexist.

Sorry, but we have Gary Stus too.

Here’s another.

And another.

You can call each of these characters out for being perfect and always winning when they shouldn’t have a chance. They can also be beloved by their fans. But there is also a reason that people who love them most are young people who haven’t grown to expect characters with more depth and vulnerability. There is a reason that the only people still watching Dragon Ball in their 30’s are people who loved him when they were 13.

The same is true of Star Wars. People have grown up, but the writing is treating Rey like the audience is nothing but 12 year old kids who don’t expect more. They think we will cheer for her because she’s perfect and always beats the bad guy, rather than expect more than what we’re getting. It isn’t sexist to say that a character was written who has no weakness, no vulnerability, unstoppable strength, no need for training, better at everything than everyone (such as both repairing and flying the Millennium Falcon), is way prettier than she should be after years of life in the Jakku sun, and who is remarkably likable in spite of growing up with no social skills, is a rather annoying trope of a character. Look, I get it, people want the strong heroine, but the rules of writing are clear, if you don’t give people a believable story, then you stretch the suspension of reality too far, it snaps and people call it for what it is. It’s a Mary Sue.

And yes, the movie Superman had elements of this too, but at least he had weaknesses. He was actually killed for goodness sake, and there was at least some reasonable basis for his powers — because aliens and the Sun. But if you want cosmic level Gary Stu, look to the comics. It’s a thing.

Rey is the quintessential Mary Sue of the Star Wars universe. Anakin had a backstory that explained why he was so strong, even if people hated the midi-chlorian business. He still had to spend years in training to be competent as a Jedi and he still screwed up everything he touched. Luke? We have seen where he was such a competent pilot (womp rats, anyone?) and he was forced to endure a whole movie of seeking out training. What happens in that one? He bails before he is ready and gets his butt kicked. It is only years later that he is competent enough to be good with the lightsaber… in the third movie.

That Rey could manipulate the force in all its ways before she had even met a Jedi, so much so that she literally beat a master of the force the first time she held a lightsaber? And with no consequences, even. No ugly scar. No amputations. Her hair doesn’t even get messed up.

Come on people. It doesn’t make you a bad person to call out bad writing. You’re not sexist if you expect female characters to be believable. In the Star Wars universe, that means that even force sensitive people don’t know how to swing the lightsaber. It means that force sensitive people still have to be trained to fly the Millennium Falcon. It means that force sensitive people still have to be trained to do all the forcey things, and it means that you will suffer some debilitating injury to learn from your stupidity at some point. This actually happened to Kylo Ren, and dammit all if he wasn’t more likable for the experience. But why is that we can’t expect the same dramatic elements for our female characters without being called sexist?

I don’t get why people are having such a hard time with this. Deadpool did it perfectly when they called the moment of confusion we are feeling surrounding female characters in fiction, where we are trying to make them special, but still want to treat them with kid gloves that says they can do no wrong.

Simply, it isn’t sexist to say that a character is flat, even if the overall experience of seeing the movie was enjoyable. I liked the movie. I even like Daisy Ridley. I think she is playing the character written for her well. But there was a lot of annoyingness in it. It was really predictable. Huge parts of it were fluff. And there was that whole scene that made absolutely no sense with Leia in space. You know what I’m talking about. That got dangerously close to Mary Sue too. And frankly, Rey is a Mary Sue. Straight up, pure unadulterated Mary Sue. She is too perfect and there is no reason why, after two movies, they couldn’t have at least tried to explain this. It’s annoying and it diminishes the quality of the story… because people are simply too distracted the whole time while watching this giant elephant in the room that Rey somehow knows how to levitate.

I’m just saying, along with many others, that the storytelling is declining in these films because people are trying to make Star Wars into some sort of social narrative rather than a great Space opera fantasy. People need to learn to accept the criticism, because they aren’t being directed at women, but at bad writing… or maybe even a culture that simply can’t accept more believable female characters as leading protagonists. Shutting down the argument as simply sexist isn’t going to do the character justice in the long run, nor will it bode well for narrative fiction as a genre.

Look, if people want the Mary Sue arguments surrounding female characters to go away, stop making them so damn perfect.

Let one of them get their arm lopped off every once in a while.

Let one of them get that nasty facial scar.

Force them to go through real training where we see how much they suck at everything.

And most importantly, let them fail.

I promise you, the fans will love her. And if they don’t, at least then we can have a decent argument about sexism.


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Could a Star Destroyer Defeat the Whole US Army?

More than likely, one TIE Fighter, could defeat the whole of the US Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, Air Force, and the combined military arsenals of all earthly defense forces.

​Let’s not look at this in terms of bigness of the ships, but of advancements in technology. When we really think about the staggering gulf between the technology of the US military of 2016 and that of the Star Wars universe, you will start to see that this question isn’t really if we can be beaten, but how long would it take. For example, would you consider it possible for a few ship loads of European Conquistadors capable of disemboweling the Aztec Empire in only a matter of months?

​In 1518, Cortés, a Spanish Conquistador, was in command of an expedition to explore and secure the interior of Mexico for colonization. Accompanied by about 11 ships, 500 men, 13 horses, and a small number of cannon, Cortés landed on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mayan territory. By 1521 Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs, had fallen, and Cortés was the governor of all their empire.

The advantages that the Conquistadors brought to fight were steel, both covering their body in armor, and with unyielding weapons. Compare this to the Aztec Eagle Warriors, what amounted to the Aztec’s special forces. For generations, they had only specialized in capture and raid tactics to take living captives for Aztec human sacrifice rituals. The only armor they needed were tightly woven cloth over shirts, and the weapons they used amounted to wooden mallets lined with obsidian. This was virtually worthless against the armored knights of Spain. Added to it the devastating psychological effects of even early guns and the whole of the empire was outmatched by a few very advanced foreigners. Disease had no small role in the defeat of the Aztecs, but the fact was undeniable. Around a thousand men conquered a nation. The difference, it should be noted, between Spain and the Aztecs, was no more than 4,000 and by some accounts much less.

​Compare this the Star Wars of the days of Luke, Leia, and the diabolical Darth Vader. According to the expanded universe, (which shouldn’t be changed for the purposes of this article) hyperdrive was invented something around 40,000 year, at which point, advanced technologies started circulating throughout the galaxy.

Let’s assume that we are only a thousand years away from some form of faster than light travel. That still means we would need to progress for another 40,000 years to be relevant to what that civilization can do. To give it some more perspective in thinking about the conquest of Mexico, instead consider what a modern warrior, take a US Navy SEAL or Marine, armed with something like the M-27 Automatic Rifle.

​Now match them up with their 40,000 years ago counterpart… with his somewhat sharp hand tool.

​Now imagine if you will, if the Marines are that much more powerful than the caveman, what is that much more powerful to the Marines? We can’t fathom it, (it’s a Sith) but if we think logarithmically, we can start to understand exactly how much of a mismatch anything the US military could field.

How would that one lone TIE fighter bring us down? I wouldn’t have the first clue how to answer that. Neither, I assume, could Montezuma. We are operating in the realm of the unknown unknowns just as much as our caveman friend trying to determine the strengths and weaknesses of that M-27 rifle. It’s safe to say, though, that by the end of the day, whatever power he fields will outmatch our own without even the slightest hope of a chance.



 

Oh dear, people in my comments are getting all worked up about stuff. Alas…

Still, a few are cool, so I will address those.

1) Cortez won because of smallpox.

Yeah, I sort of mentioned that, but I want to remind people (subtly) that a person from another galaxy might just have their own Smallpox that could disrupt the whole system just as easily. In fact, far worse. Imagine a bug that can somehow disrupt every living cell on Earth. I’m no space virologist, but I’m just guessing that, like our unfortunate answers the Native Americans, the first time we get the lucky visit from outer space by aliens who aren’t all bad, but lacking in some basic understanding or forethought, billions of us are going to die. We won’t die by murder or conquest, neither malice nor hate… just by accident… which will still be super sad. So… score one for the TIE-Fighter and one against all known and unknown life yet to meet.

2) Cortez won because of allies.

Good job learning your history. Seriously, that’s an important part of the story that I really wish people would research. Yes, Cortez showed up and shifted the balance of power. From that point, all the rival nations tired of, you know, being raided, pillaged, enslaved, and sacrificed for all those years, sort of liked having an opportunity to overthrow the evil empire. Yeah, the Aztecs were horrible people. Don’t feel sorry for them just because a bunch of white Europeans showed up to disrupt their fun and murderous barbarism. Yeah, that’s part of history too. That said, we always have this belief that we will all rally together when evil aliens come to make war on the homeworld (I, for one, still love (with italics) Independence Day) but what happens when they offer a deal to the Russians? I’m just sayin’… in this story, I don’t really trust the Russians. Look, Cortez and his few hundred guys couldn’t have done all that alone. Perhaps our TIE-Fighter couldn’t either… but the TIE and Russia, or maybe China in exchange for a few laser blaster designs… oh yeah, the free world of humankind is boned.

Props for good discussion: Wayne Sherman, Giuseppe Longo

3) “A Tie Fighter is slower than an F16 in atmosphere and has no shields.”

This is actually really cool because someone did good research. Yeah, the specs on the actual ships of the Star Wars universe are weirdly weak, even by modern standards. If you’re interested at all… which you obviously are for reading this far you nerdy nerds, read Brian Collins‘ excellent answer to What technologies in the old Star Wars trilogy (1977 – 1983) are actually not that high-tech and would actually be sort of low-tech if they were actual products/things introduced in 2015? It actually invalidates my answer, but not for the point I was trying to make on how boned we are going to be when a real evil alien menace comes around, but because the creators of Star Wars somehow failed to envision how powerful these things should have been.

4) But how did Ewoks defeat the Stormtroopers with primitive tools?

Shovels are primitive tools. They used shovels… to dig plot holes. That’s how.


You nerds will probably like these too.

What would happen if you pit Star Wars Stormtroopers against Star Trek Redshirts?

The saddest thing about all this is that we would never really know how it happened.

Have you ever noticed that you have never actually seen a red shirt die or that you have never actually seen the storm troopers do a good job? In the classic episodes at least. Even though there are dead Star fleet and jawas laying around to point out that, yes the red shirts are always dying and yes the storm troopers are actually pretty good shots, you have never really seen it happen. Therefore, all of this battle will happen off screen.

What we would see, however, would look something like this. Kirk and the gang arrive in orbit around the moon of Endor. They beam down and Kirk sends off the red shirts to a various sundry of improbable demises. Meanwhile, he himself meets a female Ewok and seduces her. After his show of manly bravado he is reminded by Spock that the away team hasn’t reported in the several hours of Kirk’s raucous lovemaking. Kirk and all the other command officers of the ship, who, by the way, are the last people who should leave the ship… leave the ship, and go off gallivanting to investigate the missing crewmen.

Meanwhile, a large ship, too small to be a moon, but still freaking huge is detected on the other end of Endor on the view screen along with a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers. Since the ship is left without any semblance of leadership, mostly because of the incredibly poor command choice that they all need to all abandon their posts in search of adventure or some other frivolous pursuit, the Enterprise is destroyed. Don’t worry, somehow the force or benevolent aliens or just something else cool and fortuitously unexpected will bring them back in the last three minutes of the episode. Don’t cry for them. They’ll be fine.

Kirk and team find the missing crewmen, all shot in the chest by laser fire ( The question is now answered and you can stop reading if you choose, but I wouldn’t suggest it.) Now Kirk and the gang spend the next thirty minutes trying to understand how all their crewmen died through perfectly aimed laser blasts to the chest. They’re not going to set up defenses or anything, even you know, take up a defensive posture. They’re just going to investigate curiously. As a reminder, that’s “curious”, not “cautious”, which would probably be the more appropriate manner, given the situation. I mean there are many things that could have caused this, why prepare for a battle to the death that happens every week?

During the half hour lull in the plot, Spock melds a force sensitive tree or his tricorder doohickey beeps or something and he is able to deduce that a spacial anomaly has sent them back in time and to a very distant galaxy. They are now taking part in a story set long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. They eventually meet with the Storm Troopers and a seven hour duel with the squad begins. No one in Kirk’s party is ever hit. Well, that’s not true. Scottie takes one to the leg, but it is mostly just a heroic, yet superficial injury. He isn’t in any real danger, but it adds suspense. McCoy can’t fix him since he left his gear on the ship. From this we can see something else important. McCoy is never prepared for the near certain death and destruction that is sure to follow Kirk wherever he goes. Seriously, they went out to investigate the complete annihilation of a team of trained Star Fleet officers killed in their prime by laser blasts to the chest! I guarantee you he didn’t even bring band-aids.

Eventually Kirk and Spock get the upper hand. Scottie throws a stick (heroically) and kills several of the troopers before he succumbs to more superficial injuries. Kirk valiantly takes down several more with oddly choreographed air punches he and McCoy set up a routine for during the stand off. Spock takes down the rest with a series of neck pinches. Yes neck pinches… through the armor… he just did…stop asking.

That is the end of the story for the red shirts and storm troopers, but not the end of our story all together.

Enter: Lord Vader.

5687577132_df7b6837a1Vader kills Kirk. He just does. I’m sorry I didn’t go into detail, but it just happens. It’s quick and unceremonious. Seriously, Kirk is an idiot and it was a long time coming. If it wasn’t Vader it would be the Space Herpes. Kirk is and always has been doomed from the start, mostly because of his own stupidity and the fact that his carelessness means he has to constantly keep training red shirts and falling on the capabilities of his much more capable officers. Well, now he isn’t a problem anymore so let’s just move along.

What happens next, though, is that McCoy is able to knock out Vader with his hypospray. Yeah, he brought that along. Meanwhile, Scottie is now raving deliriously with pain and poor medical treatment. Spock seizes the moment and conducts a Vulcan Mind Meld. Why? Because it seemed like a good idea at the time. With this Anakin’s mind is calmed with the presence of logic and wisdom as he shares the thoughts of Spock in his own mind. He is now capable of seeing that he has been a pawn of the Emperor and has been manipulated from the start. Sadly though, this kind of turned Spock evil. And even though I am pretty sure it goes against the laws of the Star Wars universe, gave him force powers as well. Oh dear God yes. We now have an evil Spock with powers of a Sith Master. His indomitable logic is now sullied by Anakin’s boyish angst and fits of post-pubescent rage. He now also has the command of the powers of Vulcan strength and telepathic abilities augmented by the combined strengths of dark Jedi and Sith teachings, along with an added asset of a mind immense with tactical and strategic value. His first most logical choice? Kill the newly reformed Anakin Skywalker. The Universe is screwed.

Now free of the incomprehensible Kirk, and with the hapless Vader disposed of, the empowered Spock takes charge of  what’s left of Vaders ship and his crew to confront the evil Emperor. They meet aboard the Death Star and a duel between Sideous and Sith Spock ensues. Well, sort of. Now Spock has the power of the new and improved Vulcan Neck Pinch – Now with Force Powers! and knocks out Sideous from across the room. Yeah, he can now neck pinch you from the other side of the galaxy. Done. He has no moral qualms with killing the treasonous villain either and does so promptly, and gruesomely I might add.

With this Spock now takes on the mantle of Emperor and is the most powerful being in the Star Wars galaxy. Thank you for asking.


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Marines are Kind of Like the Jedi

A senior Marine once taught me that being a Marine is kind of like being a Jedi. We are kind of like a strange little culture within a much larger culture. We are a bit extreme in our beliefs, some would say fanatical, and have a strange ability to bring about the destruction of evil as if guided by some supernatural force.  But there is so much more. I would like to share some of that with you now.

Marines can be broken into a few groups: Officers, Senior Staff Non-Commissioned Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and the E-3 and below.  All of these have a copy somewhere in the followers of the force. Check out the story below to see what I mean.

Take yourself back to countless Monday morning formations and inspections. Each member of the platoon is carrying his different roles. The squads are aligned and the inspections are about to begin. Suddenly there is a disturbance in the force…

PFC Rice heads to formation. As he makes his way to the formation, he realizes he has forgotten his chevrons, the symbol of his rank and his ignorance.  In his haste to correct the error before the formation, he puts his chevrons on his collar… nearly an inch from the edges.  (People not familiar with Marine Corps fanaticism might overlook this detail.  So did Rice.)  He is unaware of the gravity of his mistake and doesn’t have time to correct it.  “They’re small so maybe no one will notice,” he thinks to himself.  But he doesn’t yet understand the power of the Corps and what a great disturbance he has made within it.

I know it’s hard to see, but it’s there on the collar. You’ll see it next time.
The Non-NCO, or  The Padawan Learner:  The youngest members of the Marine Corps, these are the enlisted personnel, rank E-3 and below.  While still Marines, they are still learning their roles. They are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Corps,  its subtle rules, and its customs and are not yet fully aware of the great and terrible power they could one day command. They also screw up a lot, and if left on their own too long they would easily lop off their arm with a lightsaber. They are sometimes dangerous in their incompetence and can bring about the downfall of the entire platoon, bringing about endless field days, blaster cleaning, and the fall of The Republic. The most dangerous can be those most senior, the Senior Lance. This is the one who has passed all of his Jedi Trials, but hasn’t got the cutting score. He has grown very powerful and a master of his trade and his role of the the senior LCpl.  He commands a deep underground of knowledge and intuition (the Lance Corporal Network). He has the ability to mind-trick more senior Marines and those weak in the Corps to achieve his aims. He is still young though, and weak with the Corps,  but his terrible power and lack of understanding of the Corps will be his downfall. If his cutting score doesn’t merit promotion he will soon fall to the dark side. Still though, he isn’t as much a threat as the youngling, the boot PFC who just arrived three weeks ago straight from the school house…

A Sergeant is preparing to inspect his squad. He is a seasoned warrior and well-trained in the ways of the Corps. He still has much to learn, but the Corps is strong with him. He feels a tremor coming from the Corps. He knows something is wrong with his squad. He begins to inspect his Marines. He walks down the line of Marines. As he inspects his more senior Marines his senses are screaming. He is about to arrive at the last Marine, Rice. He is the boot PFC who has just arrived and knows nothing of the ways of the Corps. The Sergeant hopes that he is wrong, but knows this is the source of the disturbance. He left faces and to his dismay the Marine has carelessly placed his rank insignia nowhere near the designated 1/2′ and centered! He has offensively dishonored the Corps and its customs and traditions. By appearing in less than presentable attire he has offended the Corps and is in need of correction from one of its noble knights.

The NCO, Sergeant, and the Corporal are those wise and seasoned in the ways of the Corps.  They are like the Jedi Knight.  He has completed his training and is now mastering the ways of the Corps. He understands the Corps and is guided by its pull.  He has yet to gain full control of its power.  Mastery is still beyond his reach.  He has, however, a great sense for a disturbance and is the front line galactic warrior against the dark side of the Corps, the raw youngling PFC’s.  His power is great, but it pales in comparison to the abilities of the true master of the force…

 The Gunnery Sergeant sits at his desk. He feels the disturbance in the Corps and seeks to correct it. He stands up and walks to the window overlooking the platoon off in the distance. He leans out the window, and as if guided by supernatural forces yells, “RICE! Correct yourself!”

With this he begins his work in preparation for the duel that is soon to come with the dark side of the Corps.

The Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, known by many names like “The Gunny“, “Top”, “Master Gun” and “The Sgt. Major.”  He is the Jedi Master of the Corps.  His service stripes serve as symbols to the brave knights and Padawan PFC’s in his years of service fighting the forces of darkness.  He has supreme command of the Corps and uses its power to command and mold the Marines within his care.  He is attuned to even the slightest disturbances in the Corps, and is able to spot any dangerous situation, be it an enemy ambush, or the PFC using his lightsaber to fix the haircut he forgot to get on Sunday.  His charge is t0 carry out the daily mission of the Corps and see that its will is seen through.  But there is one more element to the force, one that stands opposed to the nature of the Jedi Master of the Corps.  Those who fallen to the dark side of the Corps…

He is the Lieutenant.  As he makes his way to the formation, he anticipates with a sinister glee the duel with the enlisted Jedi warriors. He has been secretly scheming, hidden away in offices away from the eyes of the noble and stalwart knights. As the Marines are distracted with this minor disturbance in the force, he is able to clandestinely manueveur to catch them unawares.  In his ambitious march to supreme power of the Corps, he is preparing for the arrival of his master, the General… or rather, the Dark Sith Lord.

Yes, Officers are the Sith. They have given up the noble path of the enlisted Jedi for power and glory. While they may have once thought they could control the power of the dark side of the Corps for good, as they all do they fell to its grandeur and corrupting power. They are selected from amongst the most powerful and impressionable of candidates. Given special training, power and privileges, they are in command of the most powerful of dark Corps abilities: Surprise inspections, field days, weapons cleanings and the 11th hour mission orders in the prospects of gaining supreme glory. Have you ever wondered why the other Marines salute? They raise their right hand when they pass officers to protect their minds from the influence of their manipulating dark powers. Just warning you.

So as they prepare for their duel, the the Masters of the Corps square off in front of the platoon. The mighty Jedi Master Gunnery Sergeant stands ably with the platoon of noble warriors behind him. Facing him is the corrupt and vile master of the dark side of the Corps. They stare each other down. The Gunny raises his right hand to protect himself from the treacherous powers of the Lieutenant. He then warns the Lieutenant away by listing the size and strength of his force “All Marines present and accounted for.” The Lieutenant is scared. He sees that he is outmatched. As a desperate bid to cover his mistake, he issues a series of senseless orders to command the Marines’ attention while he prepares a new plan. He executes his plan “Carry out the plan of the day” (said another way: “Do what must be done.”) With his distractions in place the Lieutenant makes his escape, hiding away into the dark places where he builds his schemes of galactic domination. This battle won, the Gunny takes his men and begins to undo the plans of the Lieutenant, setting his Marines to the tasks at hand.

Yep, so that’s how it is. The Marines are like Jedi and now you know why.