On the surface, the two characters have a lot in common. Both have amnesia about their past, while their hero journey is tied to the discovery of it. Both come into their powers and play a role in saving the galaxy. And both are called Mary Sues. But which one is the bigger Mary Sue? Let’s compare the two to come up with an answer.

Spoiler Alert: This article will spoil multiple Marvel, Star Wars and DC movies of 2017 – 2019.

 

Names

Captain Marvel or Carol Danvers starts without even knowing her real name. She’s known as Veers. Fighting the assigned bad guys, she gets captured. In the process of being tortured, she sees flashes of another life. This doesn’t deter her from her assigned mission of getting said bad guys. However, the quest leads to her former best friend and information about the family she left behind.

Rey initially has only that name, Rey. She takes on the Skywalker mantle after the last real Skywalker dies. For some, this is cultural appropriation. That’s especially true when you realize they spent two movies intentionally deconstructing the heroes of the past movies, turning hopeful Luke Skywalker into a bitter, humorless hermit and killing Han Solo in an emotionally bereft scene. I wonder if anyone appreciated Rey taking the Skywalker name at the end, something that lacked gravitas like most of the Star Wars sequels.

 

The Hero’s Journey

Carol Danvers was always seeking to be the hero, including when she was fighting a system that excluded women from combat. (The logic of that is a different discussion.) She realizes that the Skrulls are not evil, but that the system that took her memory from her and sought to use her in their war is. There is a strong struggle here, not just being tortured and crashing multiple times. And in the end, she warns the Supreme Intelligence that she will take it down. Thus she ends up fighting the Kree system instead. It is a hero’s journey in a single movie.

Rey’s journey is only geographic, though it is interstellar. She never does anything more than travel. She’s intended to be no one and everyone, as the writers try to deconstruct the Chosen One trope thinking that they had to democratize it. (This is emphasized by the Canto Blight end scenes of random slave kids having the force, too.) It results in a disjointed narrative that lacks depth. Where Luke lost parent figures, two mentors and a hand, Rey lost … what? She shed a vague sense of self-doubt by being confirmed as a Jedi and a possible love interest that the writers would never let mature into anything meaningful. Kylo Ren’s purpose, like his uncle’s, was to die and pass on the mantle to the wonder girl. Wonder Woman is somewhat better in that she had to leave home and lose an aunt to find her true purpose, and then she loses the love interest.

 

The Place in the Team – and the Broader Galaxy

Someone had a brilliant meme about the original Star Wars. Han Solo is the pilot. Chewie is the mechanic. C-3PO is a linguist and diplomat. Leia is head of the rebellion. Rey shows up, and she can magically do everything. Pull a random cable, and the Millennium Falcon is fixed. Meet the mentor, have a brief training session, and you’re better at everything than the chosen one Luke Skywalker. As one memer put it, Luke spent months to years training while Rey did it in minutes. Pick up a light saber, and you’re beating Kylo Ren who has trained for years. She’s singularly perfect in every way barring a little teen angst, and that’s gone, too, by the end. And that is a flaw, when you’re trying to engage a human audience.

Compare this to Captain Marvel. She has to fight her original “friends” at the end of the movie, but she gains additional connections to Earth and humanity that motivate her to protect them all. More importantly, she joins and supports the Avengers in the Avengers movies. She isn’t the end all and be all, but she plays a major role in beating Thanos. She takes out multiple alien ships, but she isn’t doing it alone.

This is why Rey is a much worse Mary Sue than Captain Marvel. She loses nothing, she does relatively little of importance, and she is except be perfectly awesome in a bland way that makes her incredibly boring. And it makes her the ultimate Mary Sue.

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Photo by AntMan3001