The Case for More Padmé Amidala

senator-padme

Like the rest of Star Wars fandom, I am eagerly anticipating next week’s release of Claudia Gray’s Bloodline. And while I am excited for a Leia-centric political novel, I can’t help but think of the other Skywalker family politician: Padmé Amidala. While I have always loved Leia, as a kid I latched onto Padmé in a way I never did with her daughter. I loved Padmé because she was both someone I looked up to and someone who was relatable. Padmé was a kid who ruled a planet and foiled Sith machinations due to sheer stubbornness and quick thinking, and yet was still totally a teenage girl. She pouts when she doesn’t get her way and makes friends with funny little boys in junk shops. I was enamored.

But sadly, most of the EU apparently doesn’t share my fondness for the galaxy’s most fabulously dressed politician. For a character who makes up one third of the prequel trilogy, she doesn’t get a lot of love outside the movies (or even within the movies, if we’re being honest). But she’s intimately connected to most major players in the saga; she’s close colleagues with Palpatine (at least at first), she’s married to Anakin (and indirectly one of the reasons for his fall), and she’s mother to Luke and Leia. She’s firmly entrenched within the Skywalker family and yet this is rarely acknowledged.

All this is why I think we are long overdue for a Padmé novel (well, frankly I just want more Padmé in general but starring in her own book is a start). Furthermore, it should be something focusing on the earlier part of her career, after The Phantom Menace but before Attack of the Clones, and before Anakin comes back into the picture.

To start, the period between TPM and AotC is underutilized. The bulk of the new canon has focused on the post-prequel, pre-original trilogy era and even most prequel-era Legends was concentrated around the Clone Wars. But there’s a lot of unexplored potential there. There’s ten whole years of political buildup and Palpatine’s manipulations to explore. We could see the rise of the Separatists (who show up rather abruptly in the beginning of AotC). Star Wars may not be known for its “political” books, but if the early buzz for Bloodline is any indication, a female-led novel about galactic politics can still be a huge hit.

This time period also holds great potential for Padmé as well. For one, there’s her transition from planetary ruler to galactic senator. How does her relationship with Palpatine change as he goes from her subject to her Chancellor? How does Sidious feel towards her, since she nearly singlehandedly undermined his plan due to her tenacity and smarts when faced with adversity? How do the events of TPM affect her and inform her going forward? She mentions in AotC that she was relieved when her two terms were up…but then the next queen asked her to serve as senator and Padmé says she couldn’t refuse.
padme-tcwThat last part is something I find the most interesting. It’s easy to forget that Padmé is only 14 years old during the events of TPM; after her time as queen was up did she want to just spend a year or two being a regular teenager instead of going back into politics? She is constantly putting her duty before her personal feelings; at a certain level does she resent this? We get books exploring Anakin, Luke, and (with the release of Bloodline) Leia, but rarely do we get a glimpse at Padmé outside of what’s seen in the movies or in The Clone Wars. Lest we forget, Padmé is part of the Skywalker family too and just because she’s not Force-sensitive doesn’t mean she should be forgotten from the Skywalker legacy.

And that brings me to my second point. We don’t really get to see a lot of Padmé in the movies, though she has a strong start. The Phantom Menace is really her movie; while it’s difficult to really pick a “main” protagonist for that movie since there’s so many strong secondary characters, I would argue that Padmé/Queen Amidala has the strongest case for the designation for main character. She kickstarts the plot, she drives most of the action; TPM is about her and her conflict. And I think this gets forgotten because the next two movies aren’t about her, which is to be expected since the prequel trilogy is ultimately about Anakin’s fall.

But unfortunately she was increasingly sidelined over the course of the next two movies. Most of the cut scenes in AotC and Revenge of the Sith deal with entire subplots that helped round out her character and actually gave her something to do. We are told she is a great and respected senator, but ironically the only time we see her engaging in politics is when she makes her plea for Naboo in TPM. It’s not until TCW that we actually get to see Padmé in a more actively political role, instead of just being in romantic scenes with Anakin. There’s a fantastic scene cut from the beginning of AotC that shows her making an impassioned and fiery speech less than an hour after her ship was blown up, reaffirming her dedication to her values and responsibilities. Not to mention several scenes with her and Anakin visiting her parents, in a way that helps add dimension to her character as well as adding some depth to the Anakin/Padmé romance (because, as is, it comes across as very abrupt).

And of course there is an entire subplot cut from RotS that shows her helping to sow the seeds of the future Rebel Alliance…as well as enhances the tragedy of her downfall by showing in more detail how the war is tearing her and Anakin apart. Not to mention, cutting those scenes essentially meant that in RotS all Padmé did was sit around, cry, and then die of a broken heart.

Padmé was introduced as this awesome character who is stubborn and fights for what she believes in, no matter the odds (rather like a certain set of Skywalker twins) and then she became not much more than a side character in Anakin’s tragedy, with few motivations of her own and little importance outside of being the catalyst for Anakin’s emotional crisis. And it’s a damn shame, because there’s so much to explore with her. She’s in three movies and yet we barely know anything about her.

padme-force-visionWhat’s more, she’s rarely talked about after her death. While this article is specifically calling for more prequel-era stories about Padmé, I want to see more acknowledgement of her legacy as well. I have always maintained that Luke is far more like Padmé than he is Anakin but both Luke and Leia share a lot of traits with their mother (diplomacy, putting the duty of the greater good ahead of their personal feelings, etc). It is my dearest wish to see more of Padmé remembered as the post-Return of the Jedi story continues to unfold. There was a lovely moment in this vein in the Marvel Princess Leia miniseries, but there can always be more.

There’s a lot of potential to explore with Padmé, and when the franchise decides to revisit the prequel era, there absolutely should be stories about Padmé. For one, we hardly get to see her as is, at least compared to the other main characters. There’s so much untapped potential there that is begging to be explored. Secondly, she is just as important to the mythos of Star Wars as Anakin and Luke and Leia. Her legacy deserves to be remembered.

23 comments

  1. Eric Brown says:

    After Episode One, Padme gets presented as the “brilliant politician” – but it’s always asserted, never demonstrated, never shown – the story doesn’t take us through her thoughts and her political movements. And that’s a weakness, especially when so much of the prequel trilogy deals with political subterfuge. When you simply assert a character’s strengths instead of showing them, you do a disservice to the character.

    I second the article and call for its adoption!

    • Yes, exactly! They remedied that a bit with TCW (while the show is not my favorite, they did Padmé good) but it should’ve been a bigger part of the trilogy from the get-go. Like you said, political subterfuge is such a huge part of the prequel trilogy story, and seeing her in counterpoint to Palpatine would be SO fantastic. There’s so much squandered potential with her character.

  2. Paula says:

    I would love a Padmé-centric book! Your idea of the timing (after TPM, before AotC) is perfect in my opinion. This is because I think the things we got about her in other books were Padmé worrying about Anakin and that gets boring very quickly.
    In my wildest dreams we have a book about Padmé in one or two years… mmhh.
    Have a nice day today :)

  3. John says:

    I think that a Star Wars political thriller would work well as a TV show, too. I could imagine one set between 2 and 3 starring Padre, or maybe one between 3 and 4 starring Mon Mothma. House of Cards has done dark political drama pretty well, and been successful – I could imagine a similar show set in Star Wars!

  4. […] The Case for More Padmé Amidala. Sarah Dempster at Eleven-ThirtyEight on why Leia isn’t the only Skywalker who should have a political novel. […]

  5. Ben Crofts Ben Crofts says:

    The one difficulty I can see with this is that Padme gets severely undermined by both AOTC and ROTS. So you have a book that does a great job with her character, but then that raises the Q: Whatever happened to her? Because that same character is absent in the films. I wonder if that could be solved by Disney issuing a Special Edition of both films, with that material in – especially as audiences are perhaps more open to longer fillms now than they were. That’d either take out or lessen that problem, clearing the way for a character focus book.

  6. pizzafishjedi2 says:

    I agree with this whole article! Go Padme! And maybe these Padme-centric stories could havesome Captain Panaka, too.

  7. cooks7570 says:

    I want a Padme book too. How about a book on Luke and Leia finding out about Padme. Yes I want to know why we haven’t gotten a book on Padme either.

  8. Jon says:

    Well said

  9. Cat Ray says:

    Yes yes yes! I have basically spent most of the time since the prequels feeling angry that Padme was relegated to being the love interest/baby vessel and then dying in the last two movies. I just finished watching The Clone Wars, and she definitely is a lot more proactive there, though we could have gotten so much more! I would love to have a book exploring Padme; hopefully someone will listen!

  10. […] Thirty Eight posted a long piece called The Case For More Padmé Amidala, which advocated for more books, comics, etc. that feature […]

  11. I have to respectfully disagree. After all we never saw Leia flex her political muscles and nobody complained about that (and notice how her role in the Rebellion was sidelined in TESB because of her romance with Han). We must remember that Padme’s political career was sidelined in AOTC because she was the target of two assassination attempts for her stance on the Military Creation Act but this doesn’t diminish her as a character – we were just introduced to another side of her personality – like any other human being. In fact, Padme makes most of the decisions in episode 2: she gives advice to Anakin about mentors, she decides where to stay on Naboo, she gives Anakin a stern lecture on reality and romance, she encourages Anakin to go to Naboo to rescue his mother, it was her idea to go to Geonosis to save Obi-Wan, it was she who confessed her love for Anakin, she was the first to get herself free of her bonds and fend for herself, she was the only non-jedi to fight in the arena, she’s the first to come to the aid of an injured Obi-Wan and Anakin and she fired at Dooku’s ship as he left. And as an added bonus the first thing she did after waking up from her injury after falling out of the gunner ship was give orders to a clone trooper. All throughout episode 2, Anakin was reluctant, Padme was adamant. That’s why he said in one scene: “I’m tired of arguing with you.”

  12. drush76 says:

    ut unfortunately she was increasingly sidelined over the course of the next two movies. Most of the cut scenes in AotC and Revenge of the Sith deal with entire subplots that helped round out her character and actually gave her something to do.

    I find this comment very annoying and borderline erroneous. One, AOTC did not sideline Padme. Lucas merely cut out those scenes that featured her and Anakin’s visit to her family on Naboo. That’s it. Although she had less scenes in ROTS, her pregnancy served as one of the major themes in the movie. And of course she was “sideline” in ROTS. Nearly all of the female characters were. This served as a symbol of the growing patriarchy of the Galactic Empire. Why else would TPM featured many female characters? Why else would AOTC featured the deaths of many female characters and the cloning process? Why else would Padme be “sidelined” and eventually killed in ROTS? Have you figured it out yet?

    By the way, the Oriignal Trilogy never really explored Leia and Han’s backstory . . . only their romance in TESB. No one knew about their lives before the events of ANH. All we knew was that Leia served as a senator for Alderaan before her capture in ANH and that Han lost Jabba the Hutt’s cargo and was friends with Lando Calrissian before the events of the 1977 film. THAT’S it.

    This criticism that the PT movies failed to explore Padme’s backstory and ignoring of the lack of a backstory for both Leia and Han in the OT movies strikes me as incredibly hypocritical.

    • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

      If I may ask, do you not want more Padmé stories? Because if you do there might be better uses for this energy than getting angry at people who are 99.9% on your side.

    • So, I’m not actually criticizing the prequels for not including Padmé backstory; like you said, we don’t get much backstory for Leia or Han and it works perfectly fine. What I *am* criticizing, however, is that despite her strong story in TPM, in AotC and RotS we don’t get to really see her independent from her relationship with Anakin. We rarely see her interacting with people other than Anakin and we rarely see her in scenes that aren’t about Anakin or their romance. In those two movies, she basically doesn’t exist as a character outside of her romance, and that’s frustrating since she’s the only main woman in that trilogy. She had interesting subplots in the scenes cut from those movies that gave depth and dimension to her character. But none of them are really backstory, so I’m not sure where you’re getting that argument from.

      It’s also frustrating (to me) that she’s lauded as this great senator, but we don’t get to *see* that until TCW (and even then, we barely get to see it). If they had kept in her address to the Senate at the beginning of AotC (after the attempt on her life) or even just ONE of the Rebel Alliance scenes in RotS, that would’ve helped so much!

      But, regardless, all of that is moot because the movies have been out for 10+ years and there’s no going back and changing that. And the point of my article is that the books have a chance to pick up the slack and give Padmé stories that aren’t just about her relationship to Anakin. I happened to focus specifically on the era between TPM and AotC but that was more because that era is underutilized (frankly, I’m ready for a rest from the Clone Wars era) and there’s more freedom to create a story. It wasn’t necessarily because of a desire for backstory.

      “And of course she was “sideline” in ROTS. Nearly all of the female characters were. This served as a symbol of the growing patriarchy of the Galactic Empire”

      Well that’s definitely a valid interpretation of the trilogy, but based on what I’ve seen of Lucas in my 20+ years of being a Star Wars fan, I’m more inclined that sidelining the women was an unconscious choice and not a deliberate anti-patriarchy message. But obviously, interpretations are subjective so we can agree to disagree there. but just based on how sci-fi and fantasy fiction especially trends towards fridging/not developing women as much as the men, you’ll understand if I’m cynical. :)

      Really, I just love Padmé and think she deserves better than what she got in the movies! And I could always use more books about a badass galactic senator. 😀

  13. DRush76 says:

    Even AOTC was mainly about Padme and her connection to the beginning of the Clone Wars. The only time Leia and Han are independent of Luke is when their romance is played out in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. That’s it. And even in that movie, Luke ends up hijacking their story arc by the end of the film.

    The problem is that Padme is not the main character of the PT movies. And neither Leia or Han are the main characters of the OT movies. What you should really be complaining about is that there were hardly any EU stories that were mainly about her.

    [“Well that’s definitely a valid interpretation of the trilogy, but based on what I’ve seen of Lucas in my 20+ years of being a Star Wars fan, I’m more inclined that sidelining the women was an unconscious choice and not a deliberate anti-patriarchy message.”]

    On this topic, we can disagree.

  14. DRush76 says:

    You know what? I take it back about Luke ‘s presence in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. That whole movie was really about him and Vader. Leia and Han were basically plot tools used by Lucas to bring Luke to Bespin for his next and very crucial encounter with Vader.

  15. cooks7570 says:

    Leia got a book on finding out about Anakin, So why can’t Luke and Leia find out about Padme. Why can’t we find about Padme family and what happened to them after she died. I just want find out more about Padme.

    • Marshall says:

      If you look up Pooja Naberrie on Wookiepedia it has this to say:

      “And now, my dear friend Leia Organa Solo tells me about her discovery that Padmé was her mother, and of what became of Anakin. My head is still reeling. I’ve known Leia ever since we both served in the Imperial Senate, and to think that neither of us ever had the slightest inkling that we were first cousins.”

  16. Mia says:

    Personally, I’d love to see more done with Padme. It was really disappointing to find next to no Padme content across the span of the original Clone Wars output. But—and this is a pretty large but—only if we get more Padme content from someone who’s capable of doing the character the justice she deserves. Because while I agree wholeheartedly with the thrust and majority of this piece, I can’t help but disagree with the idea that she was portrayed well in TCW. Often? Certainly, and that’s a win in and of itself. But I’d really hesitate to say that quantity was joined by quality. That’s an essay for another time, though. Assuming we could guarantee a project backed by a competent author, someone like, say…Claudia Gray, for instance, than the answer’s again an unqualified yes.

    • Marshall says:

      Anytime I watched an episode where Padme was front and center, I’d shake my head and think: “poor Padme, she’s fighting a losing battle” because all her efforts at peaceful negotiations were always met with violence. The Dark Side was just too strong.

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