Here is the latest installment of my Women of Star Wars series.
Ah, Padme. I have so many conflicting feelings about this character.
Clearly, she’s an intelligent, capable woman. We meet her in The Phantom Menace as the Queen of Naboo (an elected position, despite its title), at a very young age, perhaps 15 or so. She’s smart enough to have a decoy to protect herself and throw off adversaries. She’s decisive and strong-willed. She’s brave, leading the attack to take back her position and oust the Trade Federation. She can also hold up 50lb headresses–now that’s a tough woman!
We see more of the same in Attack of the Clones, particularly in the Battle of Geonosis. But she’s also a Senator of the Republic, once her term as Queen of Naboo ends. She’s still a woman of importance, a woman to be reckoned with, even though still quite young. Even when she and Anakin are obviously falling in love on Naboo, she’s clear-headed and tries to resist giving in to her feelings. She knows what the consequences will be. Whereas Anakin, impetuous as ever, is willing to give in to his passions and throw caution to the wind. When they get married at the end of the film, you start having a bad feeling about this.
I get it, she’s pregnant and can’t very well go on dangerous missions or adventures. And I’m not saying she needs to be wielding a blaster to be strong or essential. That doesn’t mean she can’t contribute something to the film or do something halfway useful. In conversation with Anakin, she tells him she wants to go back to Naboo and have their baby there, because she doubts the Queen would let her continue as a Senator on Coruscant. Um, why? Because she’s pregnant? Maybe there’s some cultural Naboo thing I don’t know about, but this didn’t make any sense to me, and it kind of offended me.
I feel bad for Natalie Portman, because the filmmakers didn’t give her character anything to do in this third, and pretty damn important, installment of the series. She is now officially just “Anakin’s wife” and “Luke and Leia’s doomed mother”, and really just a placeholder in the story. I hate to say it, but she’s a crying Barbie doll in this movie, and it really pissed me off. After strong, capable Padme in the first two films, this is what she’s reduced to?
Understandably, with nothing to do and a child on the way, Padme is feeling lost and vulnerable. She doesn’t know what’s going on with Anakin, but feels there’s something off, not quite right. She weeps. She stares off into the distance. She waits for men to come and go to her. This image of Padme disappoints me.
Just because she’s in love and pregnant means she’s falling apart? I’m not sure what I can suggest for a better storyline for her, but surely she deserves better.
And then, at the end of the film when she’s giving birth to the twins, the medical droid states that she’s otherwise healthy, but she’s dying anyway. She’s “lost the will to live.” Yeah, okay, her husband has turned to the Dark Side and it’s broken her heart, but excuse me, you HAVE BABIES that need you. You have something left of what Anakin once was in his children, but they’re not enough? I’m sorry, but this doesn’t ring true for me. Early Padme would NEVER have given up.
I can’t help but conclude that the filmmakers simply didn’t know what to do with Padme in the third film, didn’t have the time, or take the time, to be true to her character, and reduced her to a frustrating stereotype. This is extremely disappointing and kind of unforgivable, considering that Star Wars has done a pretty good job overall with its female characters over the years; even Padme from the first two films is admirable and fairly three-dimensional.
Revenge of the Sith is my favorite movie out of the prequels, but this one thing–the mishandling of Padme–is my one sticking point. Yes, her death is tragic and moving and so forth, but it would have carried more weight if she’d been allowed to be a fully realized human being rather than the starry-eyed girl who thinks of nothing but her lover.
I get it–she’s young and love is blind, but I can’t help feeling that Padme was wasted on Anakin. She’s far his superior in character, temperament, and intellect. She fell in love with his looks, his charm, and maybe even his vulnerabilities–and it proved to be her undoing. Tragic, indeed.
What do you think of Padme Amidala? Did the filmmakers do her justice in ROTS? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!