Thursday, October 24, 2013
"The Moral Landscape of the STAR WARS Saga" - Padmé Amidala
Here is the fifth article on moral ambiguity found in the STAR WARS saga:
"The Moral Landscape of the STAR WARS Saga"
When I had first started on this project, I realized that exploring the moral ambiguity of Padmé Amidala - mother of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa - might be something of a problem. I have always suspected that the majority of STAR WARSfans might regard her as an ideal figure, someone who could not possibly possess a shread of ambiguity in her nature. One could blame George Lucas for portraying Padmé as a one-dimensional character. But I cannot. One, I have difficulty accepting Padmé as an ideal and one-dimensional character. In her own quiet and ladylike way, Padmé never struck me as one-dimensional. True, she does reflect an ideal persona in a superficial way. But when I looked past her aura of serenity and wisdom, I saw a young woman who not only made some unwise choices in her life, but also possessed her own set of personal flaws.
Since she was a child, Padmé Nabierre had made her mark upon her homeworld of Naboo and the Galactic Republic. During her youth, Padmé participated in organizations such as the Refugee Relief Movement, the Legislative Youth Program and the Apprentice Legislative. At the age of thirteen, she was elected Princess of Theed, rallying those who opposed the rule of Naboo's last king, Ars Veruna. Highly regarded by Naboo's population and its elite, Padmé was elected Queen of Naboo during that same year and took the Regnal name of Amidala. Not long after her ascension to the throne, Padmé's rule was first tested when Naboo became embroiled in a conflict with the infamous Trade Federation over trade routes. This conflict spilled into an invasion and a brief war of liberation. After serving eight years as queen, she stepped down from the throne, the new Queen Jamilla urged her to run for senator. Padmé won easily and served as Naboo's main elected representative in the Galactic Senate. During her six years as senator, Padmé survived assassination attempts, found love with Jedi Anakin Skywalker, witnessed the destructive Clone Wars, witnessed the end of the Republic and the rise of the Empire, lost her husband to the Sith and gave birth to twins before dying on the moon of Polis Massa. Recalling her life, I am not surprised that many would wonder what was so ambiguous about Padmé Amidala.
In a scene from "STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES", Padmé discussed her political career with her Jedi escort and future husband, Anakin Skywalker and expressed her belief that she may have been too young to serve as Queen of Naboo during her eight years on the throne. And honestly? I heartily agree. I have heard of reigning monarchs under the age of 18. But a regent is usually appointed to rule on the behalf of said monarch until the latter reaches 18 years old. At 13-14 years old, Padmé seemed too young to exercise such political power. This seemed very apparent in a decision she made in "STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE" - a decision that led to great consequences for the Galactic Republic.
Perhaps Padmé's lack of maturity and experience had nothing to do with her bad decision. It was one even an older and more experienced politician or head of state could have made. I am referring to Padmé's decision to declare a vote of no confidence against Chancellor Finis Valorum of the Galactic Republic. Originally, Padmé had no intention of making such a move, despite the insidious insistence of Naboo's Senator Palpatine. Perhaps my imagination had been in overdrive, but she seemed a bit resistant to Palpatine's suggestion. But when Chancellor Valorum failed to take action against the Trade Federation's invasion other than form a committee to investigate, Padmé allowed her anger and frustration to get the best of her and made two decisions. One of them resulted in her return to Naboo to lead a military resistance against the Trade Federation, which led to victory. And as Naboo's premiere political representative during her visit to Coruscant, she declared a vote of no confidence against Valorum. This act led to Palpatine's election as the Republic's new leader. I find it odd that many STAR WARS fans like to solely blame the Gungan Jar-Jar Binks for Palpatine's rise to power and the formation of the Galactic Empire. Yet, very few . . . if any have ever commented on Padmé's own contribution to Palpatine's rise.
By the beginning of "ATTACK OF THE CLONES" some ten years later, Padmé was no longer queen and serving as a representative for Naboo in the Galactic Senate. Had she become a more astute politician by this time? I believe so. She was among those senators who opposed the formation of a formal army to deal with the growing Separatist movement. Padmé saw nothing but disaster and more violence in dealing with the Separatists. She also dispensed some very wise advice to her new Jedi protector and old friend, Anakin Skywalker about trying to hard to prove himself to the Jedi Council. And when he later expressed his love for her during their visit to Naboo, she wisely pointed out the potential failures of a relationship between a senator and a Jedi padawan. It seemed crystal clear that Padmé had become a wiser individual during those ten years between "THE PHANTOM MENACE" and "ATTACK OF THE CLONES". And yet . . .
There is another scene in "ATTACK OF THE CLONES" that featured a conversation between Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padmé's current bodyguard, Captain Typho. In the scene, the two men were witnessing Padmé and Anakin's departure from Coruscant in the guise of refugees, following an assassination attempt on her life. Obi-Wan expressed his to Captain Typho over Anakin's ability to successfully serve as Padmé's sole bodyguard. Surprisingly, Typho, who remained on Coruscant to act as bodyguard for Padmé's decoy, expressed his own reservations about his political charge:
OBI-WAN: I hope he doesn't try anything foolish.
CAPTAIN TYPHO: I'd be more concerned about her doing
something, than him.
I have yet to come across any comments about Typho's remarks about Padmé. Perhaps many fans had dismissed his negative comment about his charge, considering the ideal view of her. But he proved to be right. Despite some acquired wisdom, Padmé proved that after eleven years in politics, she was still capable of making bad decisions.
Her first bad decision was to leave the safety of Naboo and accompany Anakin on his trip to Tatooine in order to learn of his mother's fate. Mind you, nothing personal happened to Padmé on Tatooine. But I believe her decision was not wise. She should have either insisted that Anakin continue his duties as her bodyguard on Naboo or arrange for more bodyguards to replace him. Padmé went on to commit a bigger blunder, when she and Anakin learned of Obi-Wan's capture by the Separatists on Geonosis. She insisted upon traveling to Geonosis, convinced that she could reason with the Separatist leaders and convince them to release Obi-Wan. Needless to say, Padmé's arrogant insistence on rushing to Geonosis to save Obi-Wan merely led to hers and Anakin's capture.
I also noticed that their capture by the Separatists, along with her participation in the Battle of Geonosis, also initiated a change in Padmé's heart regarding an army for the Republic. Perhaps the heat of combat between the Jedi forces and the Separatist battle droids led her to temporarily forget her objections against a Republic army. Or perhaps the indignities that she and Anakin had endured at the hands of Count Dooku and the Separatist leaders led her to change her mind about military action against them. Why do I comment on this? I noticed that during the Geonosis battle, Padmé seemed very enthusiastic . . . almost fey, while she and Anakin fought side-by-side during the battle. I found her attitude rather odd, considering her earlier attitude regarding a conflict against the Separatists.
Speaking of Anakin, her earlier reluctance to express her feelings for him had also disappeared during their time on Geonosis. When the pair was being led into the arena for execution, Padmé finally expressed her love him. I found nothing wrong with her confession. After all, she believed that she and Anakin were being led to their deaths and she wanted him to know her true feelings before being executed. However, the arrival of a Jedi force and the following Battle of Geonosis changed matters. But when she caught up with Anakin, who had been badly wounded during a duel with Separatist leader and former Jedi Master Count Dooku, Padmé rushed to his side. Her reaction to the sight of a wounded Anakin with a missing arm seemed a bit . . . well, indiscreet; considering that both Yoda and an equally wounded Obi-Wan were there to witness her blatant display of emotion.
Padmé committed her biggest mistake when she married Anakin in a secret wedding ceremony after he escorted her back to Naboo. Unlike many other STAR WARS fans, I would have never viewed Padmé and Anakin's marriage as a mistake if they had been honest about it. Yes, a marriage did reinforce their attachment to each other. If Anakin had put Padmé behind him, chances are his attachment to the Jedi Order would have strengthened. But as I have pointed out in previous articles, the Jedi's attachment to the Order did not help them in the end. Padmé and Anakin's decision to marry in secret led them to do the very thing she had earlier warned him about - live a lie. And by living a lie, the couple reinforced their attachment to each other in a way that proved to be very unhealthy in the end.
The issue of Padmé's marriage to Anakin did not rear its head again until the next movie, "STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH". The Clone Wars have been raging for three years by this time. The movie found Padmé still a senator representing Naboo and still secretly married to Anakin. Padmé is also pregnant with their twin children - Luke and Leia. Following the Battle of Coruscant and the rescue of Chancellor Palpatine, Padmé and Anakin were reunited before she revealed the news about her pregnancy. During this three-year interval, Padmé's opposition against an army for the Republic had revived and extended to an opposition against the Clone Wars and apprehension over Chancellor Palpatine's continuing leadership over the Republic - a leadership that has lasted thirteen years by "REVENGE OF THE SITH". In fact, Padmé's current political beliefs has led her to become part of a cabal of senators determined to convince or force Palpatine to step down as chancellor. Padmé's oppositing against the Clone Wars was not only steeped in apprehension over the continuing violence throughout the Republic, but also in the belief that the majority of homeworlds that had joined the Separatists had a legitimate grief against the Galactic Senate.
Despite Padmé's concerns over the Clone Wars and the Republic's political situation, all seemed to be right with her world. With Anakin back from the Republic's Outer Rim, she found herself with more time with her husband. She also seemed more politically astute and mature than in the previous two films. And yet . . . not all was right with her world. Despite their love for each other and Padmé's plans to return to Naboo for their child's birth, the Skywalkers seemed to be having trouble communicating with each other. One could blame Anakin for keeping his troubles with the Jedi Order to himself. But I did wonder if Padmé's growing opposition against Palpatine may have contributed to this surprising estrangement between the couple. This certainly seemed to be the case in one scene in which Padmé asked her husband to convince the Chancellor to step down as leader of the Republic. Anakin's reaction to Padmé's suggestion seemed to match his angry reaction to the Jedi Council's suggestion that he spy upon Palpatine's activities. Oddly enough, I understood the nature of his reaction. Both Padmé and the Jedi Council - upon whom Anakin had placed a great deal of trust - seemed willing to exploit not only his friendship with Palpatine, but also his trust in them in order to further their political agendas . . . no matter how benevolent.
However, Padmé's willingness to exploit Anakin's friendship with Palpatine seemed less problematic than her attachments to both the Republic and Anakin. Many fans have expressed admiration toward her devotion to both Naboo and the Republic. But this devotion has led her to shut out any possibilities of a personal life in the past. An episode of "THE CLONE WARS" called (2.04) "Senate Spy" revealed that during her early period as a senator, Padmé had befriended a young man and fellow senator named Rush Clovis. When their friendship developed into a romance, Padmé quickly ended their relationship due to her belief that romance between them would interfere with their profession. And when she finally opened herself to a personal relationship with Anakin, she acquired an attachment that proved to be even stronger than her attachment to her political career. This was very apparent in an early "REVENGE OF THE SITH" scene that featured Padmé and Anakin's reunion after Palpatine's rescue. Overjoyed from being reunited with his wife after months apart, Anakin suggested they finally confess their secret marriage to the Jedi Council and others. It did not take Padmé very long to squash this suggestion. In fact, her voice nearly trembled with fear when she did. It occurred to me that she feared losing Anakin to the Jedi Order a lot more than she feared losing him to the violence of war. Perhaps she had more faith in Anakin's ability to survive the Clone Wars than in his ability to withstand pressure from the Jedi Order and especially Obi-Wan to end their relationship.
I also suspect that Padmé's willingness to continue the lie about her marriage was a strong indication of the level of her attachment to Anakin. While many fans might disagree with me, I believe that Anakin's embrace of the Sith Order and his actions at the Jedi Temple may have taken a terrible toll on Padmé's psyche. Anakin had been her chance for some kind of personal life, following the fall of the Republic. But his fall from grace and his attack upon her on Mustafar seemed to be the straws that broke her heart and possibly her spirit. And Padmé's tenacious attachment to her husband may have put her in a very vulnerable state - not only emotionally, but also physically.
While many fans have ranted against Padmé's "death by broken heart", others have expressed outrage over Padmé's reaction to Anakin's slaughter of the Tusken Raiders in "ATTACK OF THE CLONES". In a way, I can see their point. After all, Padmé did not react very well to Anakin's actions at the Jedi Temple in "REVENGE OF THE SITH" - especially his killings of many Jedi younglings. However, I have a theory that many fans may not like. This theory might shatter Padmé's reputation as an ideal woman within the STAR WARS fandom. And what is my theory regarding Padmé's reaction to the Tusken massacre? On a superficial level, I believe she may have been surprised . . . possibly shocked by Anakin's confession of the massacre. However, one should take into account that she understood his grief over the loss of his mother, Shmi Skywalker, which would epxlain her words to him:
"To be angry is to be human."
But many seemed to forget that Padmé had the chance to meet Shmi Skywalker Lars in "THE PHANTOM MENACE". And when one considers the circumstances that surrounded Shmi's death - the kidnapping and a brutal captivity that included weeks of torture - I cannot help but wonder if Padmé shared Cliegg Lars' assessment of the Tusken Raiders:
"Those Tuskens walk like men, but they're vicious, mindless monsters."
I would not be surprised if Padmé shared her future stepfather-in-law's opinion. In fact, I would not be surprised if somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, she felt the Tuskens deserved their brutal fates at Anakin's hands.
My last view of Padmé seemed rather ugly, did it not? As I had stated earlier, it is a portrait that many STAR WARS fans may not want to consider. I do not know. Perhaps it is easier to view Padmé as this ideal young woman, whose only mistake was that she fell in love with the wrong person. That is a view I cannot accept. Mind you, I do not believe that Padmé and Anakin had a perfect marriage. But I do believe that like her husband, Padmé Nabierre Amidala Skywalker possessed her own set of flaws. And those flaws made her a more interesting character than any ideal one ever could.