Mary Sue: Storytelling Gone Wild

I wrote a post about Star Wars The Last Jedi. It was an exploration into Why Sequels SuckThen I followed up with another post on how sequels don't have to suck.

Then I saw a Forbes' post that talked about why The Last Jedi had so much controversyHe had two points that might have contributed to the hate toward the movie: the main character, Rey is a Mary Sue, and she's a girl. Being a storyteller, I’d like to talk about Mary Sue first.

Who is this mysterious woman? Is she on Tinder? Coffee Meets Bagel? Grinder?

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That's for dudes, dude. Ooh. My bad. To put it lightly, Mary Sue is a female character that can do anything and do no wrong.

The male version is called a Marty Stu. The author pointed at James Bond and Indiana Jones as well known examples because "...both are superhuman soldiers, seducers, and puzzle-solvers, flawless individuals who are the subject of intense admiration from everyone they meet...". He shouldn't have chosen them because these two have well defined setups.

James Bond is an intelligence officer in MI6, who served in the Royal Navy. So before any James Bond book/movie begins, this history exists. Meaning, he's had training and experience.

Indy is a tenured professor of archeology in Princeton. Because of his father Indy has had extensive experience in adventuring and treasure hunting. Just like Bond, Indy has a history—the setup—that allows the audience to suspend their disbeliefs. When these two characters accomplish amazing things, we believe it because people with their kind of experience are more capable than people who have no training whatsoever.

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Rey. What's her setup? Per Wikipedia, she's stubborn, headstrong, brave, optimistic, and loyal. Oh, and she's highly sensitive to the Force. That's cool. But so was Luke Skywalker. Back to him later. In The Force Awakens, I can't recall if she had made any big mistakes or did anything wrong. In fact, she was able to use the Force against Kylo Ren, who was well versed enough to stop a laser projectile in mid-air. Kinda like catching a bullet with your teeth, I’m imagining. Also, Rey didn't know she was powerful with the Force because she was surprised when she found out. In other words, she had no history with it. Kylo had training. So either she's so talented that training is not necessary, or the training Kylo had received sucked. If that was the case, he should get his money back.

The Forbes' post goes on to say that Luke and Rey have very similar setups. Both orphans, did manual labor, left their desert homes in the Millennium Falcon, and are strong with the Force. So why all the hate toward Rey? She's female. That's why. The post then says, "The most substantial difference is that Rey hasn’t experienced the emotional torture Luke has, seeing as Luke’s foster parents were murdered and his father turned out to be space-Hitler."

Well...there's this little film called Empire Strikes Back. Many critics consider this to be the best film within the original trilogy. I agree. Within the first fifteen minutes, we find Luke on the precipice of death on the ice planet Hoth. Obi-Wan Kenobi appears right in front of Luke from the netherworld (how often does this happen?) and tells him, "You's gots ta go ta Dagobah and train with my bruh, Jedi Grand Master Y. Woot woo!" I know. I'm paraphrasing here. And half the movie is dedicated to Yoda training Luke. I mean, they spend a lot of time together. Alone time.

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At the end of the movie Luke duels his father, Darth Vader, and Luke loses his masturbatory hand, effectively losing the fight. As he should. Cause that Vader is a bad mofo.

To be fair, in The Last Jedi, Rey does find Luke. But there's very little training going on. Luke says he'll give her three lessons, but my memory barely recalls two. If there was a third lesson, then I missed it. Part of storytelling is showing the important stuff. Especially where logic is concerned. Otherwise people will be pulled out of the story, wondering how such and such happened. As a storyteller, I don't want that to happen.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't. -Mark Twain

Could some of the hate come from the fact that Rey is a female character. Sure. But that's not the reason why Star Wars fans hate Rey. It's bad storytelling. Throughout the Star Wars’ cinematic universe, the idea of training someone in the ways of the Force has been hammered into the audience. Rey has received none to little of it. However, if fans did hate Rey for being female, then they would have hated Jyn. Dude. No one hates a fine glass of gin.

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Serious? Come on! I'm talking about Jyn Erso, the lead character from the film, Rogue One. She's female. She's a rogue. She's tough. She takes no shit from no one, sistah. And that works well here. Not only did she witness her mother's murder, but she's had to hide from the Empire and survive life under that regime. By the time we see her as a young adult, she has chutzpah.

I know she has been received well because the actress, Felicity Jones, hasn't had to deactivate her Instagram account like Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, had done.

All of this is to say that storytelling done right, done well will be received in that same light. So, Jimmy, how do you explain Fitty Shades?

That ain't a real book. But...the world is big enough to have Michelin-starred restaurants and fast food establishments.

Why Sequels Suck

In storytelling character traits are very important in giving dimension to characters. The rule of thumb is that a character should have three to five traits. Having too few will leave it feeling one dimensional. Having too many can convolute the character, making it a nightmare to write.

One of the character traits is usually bad, dysfunctional. Greed, unfaithfulness and hate are a few examples. Moving this bad trait to a good one is called an arc. Scrooge is a textbook example of character arch. He only thought of himself and was selfish and ungiving. These are not three traits because on paper they look very similar to each other when shown. By the end of the story, Scrooge learned that the world was bigger than him, that love was important, and giving to others in need filled the soul. He has become the person he should be.

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To write the sequel to Scrooge would be difficult. The writer would have to come up with another bad trait for Scrooge to have and then show how that happened. This would allow him to traverse another arc, allowing him to become the person he should be. Again.

In movie sequels this is often done. That's why they often feel false and forced. That's why a lot of sequels suck ass. This brings us to The Last Jedi.

In my humble opinion, Rian Johnson, the writer and director, had gone straight down the garbage compactor. He had taken an iconic and loved character, Luke, and destroyed all of the work the initial Star Wars trilogy had accomplished.

The first two movies taught us that Vader is the baddest fucking dude in the galaxy. He kills and tortures people like a psychopath, destroys his daughter's home planet, and doesn't shy away from freezing people in carbonite. His own son picks a fight with him. But instead of giving him a slap on the hand, Vader chops it off. The masturbatory one!

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Despite all of that, Luke wonders whether he can rescue his father from the dark side. He converses with his old quirky teacher, Yoda, who states, "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny." In other words: Yo pops...he gone, bruh.

That was Yoda. Grand Master Jay. Short for Jedi grandmaster. And still, Luke be like, "Yo. He mah pops, sucka. I see da good in him, bruh. I'm out. Peace."

By the end of the third film, Luke rescues his father's soul, drags his body into his ship as the new Death Star falls apart all around them, and gives him a proper burial. Respect. Luke is a dude that sees past the worst of you and says, "Ya aite."

Down the garbage compacter we go.

In The Last Jedi, Luke had taken his nephew, Ben, under his wings and taught him the ways of the force. To Luke's dismay, the dark side was strong with Ben. So what does an uncle do? Kill him. Ben finds out about Luke's plan, which sends him farther down the dark path.

For Luke to look at his nephew and have no hope betrays one of his core character traits. It would be one thing if Luke found out that Vader had no good within him. Then, attributing that to Ben would make complete sense. But when Anakin shares a father/son moment right before the Death Star blew up, and said, "Tell your sister that you kissed in the mouth in Empire Strikes Back that you were right. You were right."

Johnson's version of Luke was so off putting that even actor Mark Hamill, who plays Luke, couldn't help himself but have a dead stare.

I'm not sure if Johnson wanted to give Luke an arch to travel, so he had to force a bad trait on the character. But Johnson didn't have to because there are other characters. Not everyone has to have an arch. Maybe Johnson didn't know that. Given how he torpedoed The Last Jedi, I wouldn't be surprised of his ignorance.