Sex and the Prequel Trilogy: Anakin’s Ritual and Initiation

Years ago, I wrote and posted on a now-gone fan site about Anakin Skywalker in AOTC and what he endures in his process of “initiation.” In fact, it was recalling this essay that kind of inspired me to do this series in the first place!

In TPM, Anakin begins his journey on mostly a triumphant note. He wins the podrace and helps win the battle of Naboo, saving the day for his new friends. He leaves the slavery and poverty on Tatooine behind to begin on the path to becoming a Jedi. But in AOTC, Anakin is tested emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The simplicity in which his story ends in TPM gives way to confusion and turmoil in the second film of the prequel trilogy.

Anakin’s son Luke goes through something similar in TESB; after scoring the big win against the Empire, Luke starts getting his butt kicked literally from the beginning of the film and it doesn’t stop until Darth Vader maims him and drops the bomb on the real story of his parentage. But with Anakin, it’s everything Luke endures along with the surging hormones of young man in his late teens who wants what he cannot have.

The original essay I wrote 13-14 years ago focused on how Anakin is emasculated throughout the film. Instead of getting attacked by a wampa, Anakin’s first suffering onscreen is meeting with Padmé again after a decade. He hasn’t forgotten about her and the puppy love of his childhood has a new layer of sexual attraction. Anakin at this point is likely still a virgin; the Jedi might not be celibate per Lucas’s comments on the issue but I somehow doubt Obi-Wan took his padawan to the galactic Bunny Ranch as soon as he was legal. Obi-Wan was busy giving Anakin tips on the Force, not on his “game” with women. So in his nervousness and inexperience, Anakin doesn’t know how else to express his attraction other than to just blurt out what he’s feeling. The first thing he does is fumble in complimenting Padmé’s beauty. Luke got a big hairy paw to the face; Anakin gets shot down immediately when Padmé tells him, “You’re still that little boy I knew on Tatooine.” As earthlings would say, he got friendzoned. Anakin’s manhood is flat out dismissed by the woman he desires.

But it doesn’t stop there. Anakin tries to impress and reassure Padmé at the same time that he and Obi-Wan will track down those responsible for her near-asssassination. Obi-Wan reminds him that he’s overstepping the authority given to them. When Anakin rebelliously blurts out, “Why?” Obi-Wan, right in front of Padmé, sharply rebukes Anakin like he’s a young child. This is followed by a really awkward silence that even makes Jar Jar uncomfortable. We’re not even 15 minutes into the film and Anakin is emasculated twice already.

Anakin’s next emasculating moment is when he and Padmé visit the Queen upon their arrival on Naboo. Up until this point, Anakin and Padmé start to develop a rapport of equals in spite of Anakin yet again awkwardly trying to flirt with her on the trip over.  Then they go see the current queen of Naboo. Padme starts discussing where she’s going into hiding with the queen and apparently this is the first Anakin’s heard of this. Worse yet, Padmé tells the queen Anakin’s just a learner. He interjects with great annoyance that he’s in charge of security.  He tries to assert his dominance and authority but Padmé has none of it. She tells Anakin she knows Naboo better than he does and if he was smart, he’d listen to her. You can literally watch Anakin swallow his pride even though Padmé has basically cut him off at the knees in front of everybody. Why doesn’t Anakin fight back any further? Is it because he knows she’s right, is it because he is in love with her, or maybe a little bit of both?

When Anakin and Padmé share their first kiss, it’s Padmé who stops him mid-kiss (in a funny side note, the score literally droops as this happens). After Anakin declares his feelings for her, she insists that kind of relationship isn’t possible.

If that wasn’t enough, Anakin is too late to save his mother. All of his powers and skills can do no other good than to get revenge on the Sand People.

The more obvious symbolisms of emasculation takes place on Geonosis. First, Anakin’s lightsaber is cut in half and destroyed. (Anakin almost loses his lightsaber earlier in the film, another emasculation symbol.) Later on, Anakin loses his forearm in a lightsaber battle with Dooku. The “symbolic castration” he later delivers on Luke is done unto him first by an older man who was both a more powerful Jedi and a more powerful Sith. Anakin returns the humiliation in a more fatal way in ROTS.

Is Lucas doing this just to be mean to poor Anakin? No. Emasculation and symbolic castration have long been part of rituals in many societies visited upon teenage and pre-pubescent boys designed to initiate them into manhood. They are not considered men unless they have faced their fears, including that of injury and mutilation. It is also a part of mythology throughout many cultures. It is what Anakin has to endure—the trials if you will—before he is worthy of becoming a man.

A good portion of the film shows Anakin as daring, fearless, and ruthless in pursuing his duties but he doesn’t want to believe he still needs help. It’s interesting to note that Anakin has three primary mentors in this film: Palpatine, who is of course evil and is giving him nothing but bad advice to manipulate him; Obi-Wan; and Padmé.  The first thing Padmé tries to teach him is not to grow up too fast and to not chafe at having to listen to someone with more experience but Anakin believes he’s “already there.”  The movie is supposed to teach him that he isn’t but as Anakin says to Dooku in a surprising moment of honesty, he’s a slow learner.

Of course where Padmé guides him next is in matters of love.  She is resisting on her own part but because of her age (she’s the older one), her wisdom, and unlike Anakin, being of the world, she is the one who sets the pace of the relationship.  Anakin gets close when she allows him to and he backs off when that is what she wants.  It isn’t until she is faced with her own mortality on Geonosis and after sharing moments of joy and utter horror with Anakin that she is ready to take things further.  If Anakin succeeds at anything in AOTC, he proves to Padmé not only of his own devotion to her but that his potential as a man is enough for her to leap into a secret marriage.  Regardless of her own experience, Padmé is in all likelihood the one who “made a man” out of Anakin.  He grows into a lover and a husband in their marriage bed.

It’s interesting to note that in AOTC, Anakin kind of slouches.  The way he walks and gestures is that of a teenage boy.  In ROTS, Anakin stands tall and looks more assured which also reflects his character on The Clone Wars for the most part.  It seems that whatever success he has as a Jedi owes of course to Obi-Wan’s tutelage but also to having Padmé’s emotional support.

 

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18 Responses to “Sex and the Prequel Trilogy: Anakin’s Ritual and Initiation”

  1. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    Of course where Padmé guides him next is in matters of love. She is resisting on her own part but because of her age (she’s the older one), her wisdom, and unlike Anakin, being of the world, she is the one who sets the pace of the relationship.

    I find it ironic, considering that despite her older years, Padme was no more experienced in romance than Anakin.

  2. Hoggle Says:

    nice article LP. 🎓

    Other potential threads in there, is that in AoTCs, anakin’s living force connection is further putting him into confusion, contributing to his, the way i see it, dark jedi arc of the film.

    Firstly he is having dreams of the future, something that Obi reminisces will pass in time, just as they did for him as his jedi training progressed and he lost that aspect of his place in the force. ( in RoTS Anakin’s perceptions of the future are an anomaly for a jedi also, in stark contrast to Palpatine ) Anakin’s raw intuition is correct about the reason they are assigned to protect Padme, it is for a reason beyond the local security; Palpatine did it to ensure, knowing Anakin was on the case, that the trail leading to the Clone Army would be found. Despite Obi’s reprimand, once the ball starts rolling his natural instincts are no different to Anakin in their role. It is not so different from Obi expressing his doubt about Anakin being let loose in the Jedi Council’s authority over their relationship, & tis a loss that his pov was not even reinforced more with the additional cool scene with Mace on the landing platform, where Obi’s anxiety expresses much the same but slightly more open to Mace about his doubts in his success teaching Anakin to be a Jedi.

    The incident in the Throne room with the new Queen comes across as Anakin being abit arrogant and full of himself. He may of been being abit of a jerk, but if you take the scenes of Padme’s house before hand, ( which includes the costume i may like the most out of all of hers in the prequels so i have a bias ) and especially take the scene in Padme’s bedroom as the last one before cutting to the meeting with the Queen, then Anakin’s jerkiness is not from arrogance but a denied or dashed hope/longing, going from openly friendly chatting about each other’s personal lives in Padme’s bedroom to not being the equal of her or any of the other parties in an official capacity. Not to blame Padme for this though, as it is her way of handling a new situation herself where her official and personal are suddenly intersecting in new territory bought about by Anakin but which she had also taken the opportunity to co-create however mildly, when she knew it was taboo. 🚧

    • jayoungr Says:

      “Firstly he is having dreams of the future, something that Obi reminisces will pass in time, just as they did for him as his jedi training progressed and he lost that aspect of his place in the force.”

      Are you referring to this exchange?

      “I don’t sleep well anymore.”
      “Because of your mother?”
      “I don’t know why I keep dreaming about her.”
      “Dreams pass in time.”

      Because “I used to get prophetic dreams too, but I lost them as a result of my training” is a bit of a leap from “Dreams pass in time,” IMVHO.

      • Hoggle Says:

        yes that’s true.

        Qui-gon referred to it as a Jedi trait in context of how the order identifies Jedi to be trained, although apart from Anakin, the only other Jedi who seems to incorporate this is the most powerful Jedi of the prequel trilogy order, saying that he can no longer sees the future.

        Obi was referring to simply to how his dreams were some sort of similar issue to him, so it could be something along the lines of that leap, or something else, or just some throw away scene filler notorious GL dialogue style that those awful prequels were filled with, hehe.

  3. senatorbinks27 Says:

    I always adored the score dropping out at that point…

    It’s amazing to me just what a difference in someones demeanor, confidence, and ability to manage oneself is made through the simple act of having a partner that you can have a meaningful physical experience with. It just makes me think how many tragedies could be averted if our society wasn’t so prudish about that kind of thing (exploitative popular culture notwithstanding).

    But, as this is ostensibly a family site and I don’t even want to approach the fecal hurricane that is any form of “political” discussion, that is all I will say on the matter.

  4. Heidi Says:

    I really enjoyed reading that LP, spot on. I’m actually surprised you said
    “Regardless of her own experience, Padmé is in all likelihood the one who “made a man” out of Anakin.” because this is true in real life. Not many people realize that a man cannot become a man without a woman. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but they are necessary in a boy’s life. I really appreciated how central relationships are in SW, it’s the focal point that everything revolves around.

    It’s funny too, as another pointed because Padme is just as inexperienced. Perhaps some of her reservations for making Anakin wait were also because she was, hmm… intimidated by the inevitable?

    One other note; Stories about boys growing into men I find appealing as a woman. It fascinates me because I get to see what maturing is like from the other perspective. And part of the attraction to stories like Star Wars is because it’s like the smell of cologne to me, which I prefer to perfume. So, It’s really not a surprise why there are so many female fans, especially for Anakin.
    I used to think stories about boys to men were made for males, and to a sense that’s true, but how come I don’t find many male fans of SW geeking out over Anakin? Many are embarrassed by him simply for having to endure growing up right before their eyes. Is that why there is an overdose of already macho men in movies (skipping the process entirely) to save embarrassment?… For example, the superhero genre come to mind. I do like some super films but after awhile all the character growth feels unauthentic. Anakins story felt very real in it’s fantasy universe. Nobody can convince me they didn’t feel Anakin’s plight in some way or anther, if you felt second-hand embarrassment for him at any time, that was it.

    Whoa, I wrote a lot. oops. 😛
    Do guys secretly fine stories/films about girls growing into woman interesting? Not in an erotic way, don’t interpret that wrong. 😛

    • Marshall Says:

      Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of stories about girls growing into women – at least none that I can think of off the bat, except maybe “Spirited Away”, yet even that film doesn’t end with Chihiro becoming a woman.

      “A man cannot become a man without a woman”. More appropriately, a man cannot, will not, become completely HUMAN without a woman. We see it in the book of Genesis (“It is not good for the man to continue to be alone. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.” – Genesis 2:18) and stories like Frankenstein and Beauty and the Beast.

      • Jonathan vd Sluis (@Natusaurus) Says:

        A man cannot become a man without a woman? Am I the only one who finds that more than a bit sexist? It seems like a bad deal for men (apparently, they’re inadequate as they are on the basis of their gender alone) and for women also (they’re needed as women, not because of what they do, but almost like any necessary object you have lying around).

        Maybe my view is naive in that I think the most important thing a boy needs to do to become a man, is not die before the age of 18.

  5. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    The incident in the Throne room with the new Queen comes across as Anakin being abit arrogant and full of himself. He may of been being abit of a jerk, but if you take the scenes of Padme’s house before hand, ( which includes the costume i may like the most out of all of hers in the prequels so i have a bias ) and especially take the scene in Padme’s bedroom as the last one before cutting to the meeting with the Queen, then Anakin’s jerkiness is not from arrogance but a denied or dashed hope/longing, going from openly friendly chatting about each other’s personal lives in Padme’s bedroom to not being the equal of her or any of the other parties in an official capacity.

    Really? I didn’t get the impression that Anakin was being a jerk. Sio Bibble had asked Anakin a question. Padme interrupted him and answered it, hinting that Anakin’s answer didn’t matter because he was not a knight. I would say that she was the one had behaved like a jerk.

    • Hoggle Says:

      Padme was defensive for reasons given above, & Anakin then was hotheaded about this.

      Also Padme was resistant to Qui-gon in TPM for quite a long time, & he was an established jedi sent by the Chancellor of the Republic, Anakin was a padawan wanting to be in Padme’s personal life, who had bought his personal life into their relationship from the get go, which Padme had accepted to some degree but she was drawing a line in the sand to Anakin as part of that.

      That’s just one way of looking at it thought, & not the be all & end all.

      It could just be that Sio Bibble thought Anakin was a Qui-gon, & Padme was letting him know that Anakin was still training as a Jedi & nothing more to it than that, and Anakin mis-understood being new to high level galatic diplomacy speak.

      Or it could be something else again *shrug*

  6. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    Padme was defensive for reasons given above, & Anakin then was hotheaded about this.

    Not really. He nearly lost his temper “after” Padme had dismissed him on the grounds that he wasn’t a knight. But he collected himself, apologized and kept his cool. Unfortunately, Padme didn’t apologize for her behavior.

    It could just be that Sio Bibble thought Anakin was a Qui-gon, & Padme was letting him know that Anakin was still training as a Jedi & nothing more to it than that,

    I thought she did not handled the matter in an admirable way. I thought she was being a bit arrogant and rude.

  7. Jonathan vd Sluis (@Natusaurus) Says:

    Honestly, I don’t think Padme really guides Anakin in any effective way. She tells him that all mentors see more of our mistakes than we would like to and that such is the way we grow, but that is just a trite platitude if you consider what Anakin is bothered about. He doesn’t listen and honestly I don’t think he really hears. The only one who seems to gain anything from the ‘guidance’ is Padme herself: she enjoys the role of the guide. She doesn’t teach him anything useful because that would make him mature and no longer dependent on her. It’s like one of the games in Berne’s ‘Games People Play’, where one side constantly maneuvers itself in the ‘parent’ position and the other in the ‘child’. When Padme says ‘Anakin, you’ve grown up,’ she actually reinforces that. Apparently, it is Padme who decides when Anakin is mature.

    I tend to agree more with an article you posted a few months back. It was about the love between Anakin and Padme and argued that they were not actually lovers, because they only had a relationship to fulfill their own personal needs.

  8. Hoggle Says:

    Padme was the established force on the galactic level in AotCs out of the two.

    The cutting of her scenes, from the Senate at the start to Naboo, & negotiations with Dooku & co, would have helped clear up quite a few issues about the central romance in AotCs

  9. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    What issues regarding Anakin and Padme’s relationship would have been cleared up with these deleted scenes?

    Honestly, I don’t think Padme really guides Anakin in any effective way. She tells him that all mentors see more of our mistakes than we would like to and that such is the way we grow, but that is just a trite platitude if you consider what Anakin is bothered about. He doesn’t listen and honestly I don’t think he really hears. The only one who seems to gain anything from the ‘guidance’ is Padme herself: she enjoys the role of the guide. She doesn’t teach him anything useful because that would make him mature and no longer dependent on her.

    Was being Anakin’s guide supposed to be Padme’s role? I don’t think so. Yes, she was five years older than him (which is not much) and an experienced politician. Aside from politics, Padme had little experience in other matters. She was still a young woman. She was not Anakin’s guardian, parent, older relative or responsible for him in any manner. And she had her own personal flaws to deal with.

    I once read an article on AOTC in which the author (someone named Lard Biscuit) complained that Padme had enabled Anakin’s behavior – especially after the Tusken Raiders massacre) – by refusing to withhold her affections, unless he behave better. I thought that was ridiculous, because Padme was not in a position to dictate Anakin’s behavior. Nor did she have the right to engage in such a role. Anakin was old enough to take responsibility for his own behavior. And even he was able to acknowledge that his massacre of the Tuskens was the wrong thing to do, despite his hatred toward them for what they did to Shmi. Besides, I have a deep suspicion that Padme shared Cliegg Lars’ disparaging opinion of the Tuskens.

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