M: Padme, my queen! And today: why she’s a severely underrated character, specifically in RotS.
K: Few things make me more angry than hearing people say things like “Ugh, all Padme does in RotS is cry, she’s such a stereotypical pregnant lady, George Lucas totally ruined her character.” NONE of those things are true.
M: This, like we often say, is a result of people only thinking about the prequels in terms of memes or their skewed memories from when they saw the films 10 years ago. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like a choke pun about Padme the same as the next Star Wars nerd. But the fact is, Padme is incredibly valuable through the entire prequels trilogy, especially in RotS.
K: Let’s take stock: when, exactly, does Padme cry in RotS? When do tears actually fall? I can think of…three times. Number 1: She’s watching the Jedi Temple burn from her apartment in Coruscant. It’s the middle of the night. Her husband is supposed to be in that Temple. She has no way to get news. Number 2 is on Mustafar, where she WATCHES HER HUSBAND TURN TO THE DARK SIDE, an event that practically makes Obi-Wan, king of repressed emotions, start sobbing. And Padme is PREGNANT.
M: (king of repressed emotions) She cries when she’s giving birth. You try to give birth without crying!!!
K: Yes, that’s number three. And if she DIDN’T cry then, it would be dumb.
M: So, WE HAVE ESTABLISHED that Padme crying is a completely justified reaction to the situations she finds herself in. But I have to back up– when is crying a negative thing to begin with?!
M: The implications behind saying “crying is bad and stereotypically female” is that it is bad to have feminine qualities. That statement is in and of itself incredibly sexist. Female qualities are not inherently weak or lesser.
K: Yes. And, the thing is, George Lucas knows this. The men in RotS have their fair share of weeping. It’s a HUMAN thing, not a “female” thing, and it’s not a sign of weakness.
M: SO, Padme can cry. Stop being crybabies about someone being human. Now, let’s also take into account that Padme is plenty busy in RotS. It’s not like she’s just waiting around for Anakin to come back.
K: She’s still a freaking Senator, people. And an INVOLVED senator. She’s pushing back against Palpatine, a little hesitantly it’s true, but she is. And she’s hesitant because she thought she knew Palpatine. They were both from Naboo and he was her mentor. Going against him at all takes a lot of guts. Something Padme is never short of.
M: Yes, I’d like to emphasize just how gutsy it is to speak up against Palpatine’s acquisition of power. The people, and the Senate, LOVE Palpatine. They think he’s the best thing to happen to the Republic. He has everyone wrapped around his finger. Speaking against Palpatine, at this point, is basically treason, given that emotions and politics are so hyped up due to the war.
K: And let us not forget that Padme’s husband is one of Palpatine’s strongest supporters.
M: This is when I really wish that the deleted scenes from RotS made it into the film. Granted, I completely understand why George Lucas decided to cut them– after all, the film is primarily about Anakin. But there was a whole subplot he wrote for Padme that shows 1) how much George cared about the character and respected her in terms of the universe, and 2) how much Padme was doing, independent from Anakin. This side plot basically has her (along with Bail Organa and Mon Mothma) CREATING the rebel alliance within the midst of the republic. Padme consistently stands for principle, throughout the entirety of the films.
K: It’s what drives her enemies crazy! It’s what makes her so hard to control, because she won’t compromise on things she feels are important. It’s why the Trade Federation wants her gone badly enough to hire bounty hunters and then just straight up send her into a death arena. Honestly, Obi-Wan and Anakin are just a bonus in AotC.
M: OMG, good point! The entirety of AotC is incited due to Padme’s political, principle-filled stance. The whole story is the consequence of her refusal to back down from something she believes in, even when it puts her life in danger. If that’s not brave, admirable, and downright BADASS I don’t know what is.
K: I know this was supposed to be about RotS, but let’s talk AotC for a minute. Here’s Padme– she’s only what, 25? 24? And she’s already been Queen of Naboo for two terms. She’s served in the Senate for about 3 years and has established herself as a powerful enough threat that enemies are BLOWING UP SHIPS to try and stop her from attending a vote.
M: Padme is far more powerful than Anakin and Obi-Wan are, if we’re being honest. She has more of a direct influence on the world than most of the other characters do.
K: Especially in AotC, because there’s no war on yet and the Jedi haven’t become leaders of the Grand Army of the Republic. I honestly love that there are people trying to kill Padme in AotC, and that none of them are like “oh it’s so dishonorable to try and kill a girl, and she’s so young and pretty too!” Nah, she’s just a threat.
M: Her gender has absolutely nothing to do with it. Which is one of the best things about Star Wars and its treatment of women in general– they aren’t treated according to their gender, but according to who they are and what their abilities are.
K: Exactly! Which is why you have the Trade Federation creeps in the arena being like “Wait, no, she’s supposed to be DEAD not picking locks, climbing poles, and kicking some Nexu ass!”
M: One of my favorite parts of the arena scene is when she climbs the pole and Obi-Wan’s like “She seems to be on top of things” cause PUN from Obi-Wan and also she’s so much more savvy than both of them it’s amazing.
K: Also, when Anakin is expressing his concern for Padme in that scene it doesn’t seem to be because of her gender. They’re all disarmed, and while Jedi have the Force at all times, that would still leave Padme unprotected. So he asks “What about Padme?” not to say “She’s helpless and useless”–because he SAW her taking down droids in the battle on Naboo, he knows she’s a capable fighter–but because she doesn’t have a blaster and can’t protect herself with the Force. It’s strategic thinking, figuring out a plan. He just doesn’t know she’s sneakier than both of them and carries lock-picking equipment at all times.
M: I agree! Because she’s flipping amazing and can handle herself. But, let’s get back to RotS.
K: Let’s talk about pregnancy for a moment. As much as people claim they want strong females of all kinds in their media, pregnant women seem shockingly underrepresented. Like, statistically speaking, if the human race in these fictional universes is going to continue, someone’s got to get pregnant.
M: True! Females are strong as hell– and giving birth certainly proves that. Let’s validate that part of womanhood with representation of it in stories. Like with Padme!
K: Yes. So I LOVE that Padme is pregnant. And that she is happy to be pregnant (well, when she’s not freaking out that this child is going to get Anakin kicked out of the Jedi Order and cost her her position as Senator). And yes, it does mean she’s not going to swing around on a chain and fight a Nexu in RotS–pregnancy IS a very physically and emotionally involved process. But that’s not a bad thing (although I’m sure it’s not always pleasant). And it does NOT mean Padme’s any less important or strong than she is in the rest of the prequel trilogy.
M: YESSSS. She’s not any less important or strong for doing something intrinsically female. What it really comes down to, for me, is that Padme is a very nuanced and interesting character. She’s soft-spoken, yes, and wears GORGEOUS clothing and looks attractive– which, yes, are typically feminine qualities but not bad ones for a character to have. She’s strong in the best way– in principle, intelligence, and determination. She fights for her beliefs more than most Jedi do at this point. And it’s an absolute tragedy that people only remember her for saying “Anakin, you’re breaking my heart” and dying while giving birth. I mean, dying while giving birth does NOT make you “weak.” Like, are you really saying that the millions of women who have died in order to continue the human race are weak and not worthy of your respect? If so, shame on you. But also, there is so much else going on in that scene!
K: Seriously! People get so hung up on the droid saying “there’s nothing wrong with her.” And, I just had this thought now, it’s a freaking DROID saying that. Droids understand numbers, data. Not humans. Not really. So yeah, maybe her vitals are all fine, but that doesn’t mean she’s doing well.
M: It’s not like Obi-Wan, Yoda, or Bail Organa know how to deliver children or understand how to help a dying woman.
K: She’s just been Force-choked by the person she loves most in the world for pity’s sake. And Padme’s at least a little Force sensitive (see: she and Anakin stare across Coruscant in a moment of heightened melodrama) and her unborn children are much more than a little Force-sensitive so I’m sure all of the Dark Side energy exploding around Anakin wasn’t helping. There’s *something* wrong with her. It’s just not quantifiable.
M: Also, I take issue with comparing saving Vader’s life with saving Padme’s. Yes, Palpatine and his medical droids “save” Anakin by turning him into Vader when he is a burnt crisp with no limbs, and Padme does die. But the editing in that sequence juxtaposes the two for a reason. We see the dark room where Anakin is writhing on a table, droids hacking away at him, compared to the serene and calm place where Obi-Wan is trying to comfort Padme. I really feel that the reason these two are compared the way they are is to make it clear that Anakin’s treatment isn’t ethical or kind in the least. He’s being tortured back into a half-life, one that is likely worse than death. I think it’s clear that it was the humane thing to let Padme die (even though this gets into all sorts of medical ethics I’m not equipped to discuss).
K: Ooh, I like that. I mean, no I don’t like it, Padme dying is awful, but it’s true that, all things considered, that was almost best. (Gosh what a horrible thing to say). What if she’d lived? She’d be hunted? At the very least, they’d try to take her babies away from her. And if she went into hiding, she probably wouldn’t get to keep both of her children with her, and how do you choose which baby to stay with without dying of guilt? Not a pleasant fate, any way you look at it.
M: Exactly! And putting her death against Anakin’s horrific writhing as he’s being kept alive even though his life from now on will be terribly miserable, not to mention painful (bacta tank and meditation egg, anyone?)… It’s a great contrast, one used to illustrate that they are letting her go because it’s her time. Just like the Jedi say.
K: It’s what Anakin couldn’t do.
M: OUCH my heart, you wounded me.
K: But in the end, Padme’s final words, her undying belief that there is still good in Anakin, are what the Star Wars saga is all about. It’s a foreshadowing of her son, of her husband’s eventual redemption. And through that, the restoration of democracy and balance to the galaxy.
M: Padme literally gives herself up in order to provide hope for the future. Without her, there likely wouldn’t have been a Rebel Alliance, and there certainly wouldn’t have been the hope of Luke and Leia. She’s the hope that the rebellion is built on.
K: A moment of silence for all of the poor misguided souls who are missing out on Actual Queen Padme Amidala.