In the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, an online melee broke out about whether Arya Stark was a Mary Sue. And I don’t really care about that. Maybe she is, probably she isn’t. GoT isn’t my thing.
Star Wars is my thing. Or at least it was. Before the dark times.
My present jaded and “it’s complicated” relationship with what once titled The Journal of the Whills, Part I still has me following enough twitter accounts and lurking in enough subreddits to see that the Arya/GoT/Mary Sue discussion came up and was promptly used to rekindle the debate about whether Rey is a Mary Sue.
The Rey Mary Sue article has been written a thousand times, and I don’t want to be 1001. But here’s where it all comes together: There is almost always an unflinchingly dumb response in the Star Wars Mary Sue flame wars that always seems to come up…
If Rey is a Mary Sue than so is Luke!!!
And this, brothers and sisters, is something that just can’t stand. A phrase, that like “Caddyshack Remake,” should never be uttered. And certainly shouldn’t have a litany of responses all seeking to support the original inane comment.
But where are my manners? You may not know what a Mary Sue is! In 1973 (same year the George wrote the Journal of the Whills!) Paula Smith wrote a bit of fan fiction where the youngest lieutenant in Star Fleet shows up and is prodigious in everything. To the point that it’s all too easy, and other established characters have no choice but to marvel at their prowess and acknowledge their superiority. And then everyone on the subway applauded.
Originally, the Mary Sue was a character who embodied its author’s wish fulfillment. It was who the author wished they were if they were in the story themselves, like Michael Scott’s character in the cinema masterpiece Threat Level Midnight from season seven of The Office. Later it became a more generalized term for when a character was exceptionally good at everything despite a lack of growth, back story, or just about any other literary device that might actually be used to show how this isn’t all some cheap Deus ex Machina with the difficulty sliders all turned to the easiest level.
So Luke is a Mary Sue? As in, he’s who George wished himself to be in the Star Wars universe? Well, Luke and his love for T-16 skyhoppers and landspeeders might reflect a famous love for hot rods, but he’s hardly The Maker’s portrait of wish fulfilment, put on screen for all to see. He’s too whiny. Too simple. Too… Luke. His character flaws are right there for all to see. They’re probably what drove his mother to die of sad.
Nobody really thinks of Luke Skywalker being a Mary Sue in that original way. It’s the notion of being the character who’s good at everything without earning it that he gets accused of. By stupid people.
What follows are the major points (or point because, those screaming that Luke is a Mary Sue aren’t the brightest of lightsabers) of the “Luke is a Mary Sue” argument. I’ve also supplied the appropriate counterpoints. For maximum enjoyment, use your favorite Monty Python cast members to read what follows as that is how all internet comment threads should be read.
Luke is a Mary Sue.
Counterpoint: No, he’s not.
Yes, he is.
Well, repeating it isn’t exactly an argument now is it?
What about the Death Star?
What about it?
He blew it up, didn’t he?
You know he did.
And how could he if he wasn’t a Mary Sue?
Because he was given time by the noble Biggs Darklighter and the cowardly Wedge Antilles and then saved by Han Solo at the behest of a Wookie with a conscience, thereby allowing him to take the shot that blew up the Death Star.
Quite a shot, though. Even Han said, “One in a million.”
Han’s not a mathematician. He doesn’t even like math! “Never tell me the odds” and now he’s suddenly become one of those graphing calculators they used to lock up in High School. What’s to say the odds weren’t one in two? That’s what we saw on screen. A fifty percent success ratio once the proton torpedoes were deployed.
Still. An impossible shot. Mary Sue.
A lucky shot guided by an immortal space wizard awakening a nascent spiritual connection to the universe inside the guy behind the flight stick. And also, he practiced it at home back in Beggar’s Canyon on womprats, much to the regret of Space PETA. So, if you think about it form a certain point of view, it was just like the simulations.
All right, I’ll give you the Death Star. But you’ve got to admit his whole character arc… very Mary Sue.
I’ll admit no such thing.
A simple farm boy who saves the Galaxy not once but twice? Come off it. I’ve met farmers you know. They might save a chicken from a fox, but they’re not going around blowing up aircraft carriers from their crop-dusters and then becoming UFC Champion a few years later.
You mean a farm boy who consistently takes his lumps by being beaten up, manhandled or otherwise defeated by a pair of Tusken Raiders, Dr. Cornelius Evazan, a dianoga, a wampa, the brutal climate of Hoth, Yoda, a heavy X-wing, flying furniture, Darth Vader, a Rancor—
—He killed the Rancor.
Well, yes, I hope he’d have learned something in all that time. Where was I?
Rancor. And don’t start over.
Right. A Rancor, Boba Fett, various guards human, Nikto, and Weequay on Jabba’s Sail Barge, Darth Vader again and then Shiv Palpatine himself. He was a Mary Sue who had it easy. The stormtroopers had it easier than him.
He’s not much of a hero is he?
Of course he’s a hero! And the point was that he isn’t a Mary Sue!
Not a good one. Heroes don’t need help. They’re heroes. Take Rey. She’s a hero. Luke seems like he’d fall down on his way to the kitchen if Obi-Wan or Han or someone else weren’t there to hold him up. I don’t know what you see in him.
Jason Anspach is the co-creator of Galaxy’s Edge (no, not that one; the other one). He is currently working on a revolutionary way of saving you up to 16% on your car insurance. His website is his first and last name, only smushed together and with a dot com at the end.