At New York Comic Con, I attended an amazing panel called Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy, which celebrated many of the women in the Star Wars universe (official characters, no “Legends” characters like Mara Jade) that were featured in the art book, also titled: Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy.
During the conversation about all the awesome women in the Star Wars universe, I came to the realization that even after all these years and so many years my favorite character in Star Wars is Padmé Amidala Naberrie.
For most Star Wars fans their most beloved female character is either going to be Leia or Rey. I am here to speak for a small but a mighty minority of people for whom their first real lady love of the Star Wars universe was the one, the only, queen turned senator Amidala.
There was always an amount of trepidation in making that known, because Padmé is not one of the “cool” female characters that are usually talked about in the Star Wars universe. She was marked for death the moment it was established that she was Luke and Leia’s mother, a character we did not meet in the original trilogy and therefore dead. So Padmé was always meant to die and her legacy was to be a nameless woman that Leia “remembered” originally, but was retconned later.
Yet as a young girl watching The Phantom Menace, I thought Padme was the coolest. She was a teenager, but she was also a queen, and she was also brave enough to want to go onto this strange new planet with the Jedi in order to better understanding of the planet. She shows compassion and thoughtfulness, and in the final battle, she, like her daughter, shows skill with a blaster.
Phantom Menace showed me an image of young female strength that I’d hadn’t seen before, so I became obsessed with everything Padmé. I got the Journal that was written from her point-of-view to tell you more about her as a Queen, I got a Padmé inflatable chair, I got the stickers, it solidified my love of the color red and I was all in on Padmé.
Then … Attack of the Clones happened and even as a ten/eleven-year-old, I’d seen the change in my blaster-shooting queen and it was the rise of the romance between Padmé and Anakin. It was rushed and poorly scripted, and while it has some sweet moments, so much of their relationship in the films is about Anakin’s emotional issues—many of which are valid and interesting—but it turns Padmé into a tool for his development.
The reality about Padmé is that she was a successful ruler who believed in democracy so much so that she pulled a George Washington and didn’t seek the be elected again. She is a bridge-builder, helping to create unity between the humans of Naboo and the native Gungans against the Trade Federations that helps turn the tide in Phantom. As a leader, she is clear-eyed, compassionate, and seeks peace over war, but will fight if need be. She is not someone who would lose the will to live. Padmé was a fighter at fourteen years old.
And regardless of if Padmé died because of that, or because the Emperor drained her life to give to Anakin, the fact that her relationship to Anakin literally drained her dry is emblematic of the problems with the way her character was framed. Thankfully Clone Wars, comics, and the upcoming book gives us more insight to who Padme is as a person and as a warrior for justice. As much as I can relate to Padmé’s experience of having her life torn apart because of the actions of an emotionally stunted white man, there is so much more going on with her character that I’m glad we can start seeing Padmé’s legacy beyond baby-maker and wife.
This is awesome, because even before all of this more recent development, I always saw Padmé as an iconic character who fundamentally believed in people, justice, and a heroine who wanted to protect everyone. That’s what made me love her and I still love her now, except now when I tell people I love Padmé other people openly love her too.
(Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy, image: Del Rey/Lucasfilm)
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