The New York Times posted an article yesterday about how female fans were turning Star Wars fandom into something their own or whatever and there was a side piece that I didn’t read about the powerful women of Star Wars. It was just as well because apparently the guy who wrote that piece dismissed Padmé outright because he didn’t like the prequels. The really stupid part was apparently Ahsoka, a character who was basically spun off from the prequels, was included in the listicle. Really, NYT? That’s the kind of amateurish clickbait nonsense I’d see on a hack “geek” site. But amateurism is par for the course with the lamestream media these days. No wonder quarterly profits dropped 97% (some sources say 96 but still…) and ad revenues dropped 19%.
The media needs to buy a clue; if you are talking about Star Wars, the prequel trilogy is a significant part of it whether they like it or not. Denying that is basically lying to your readers and your opinion of the films is in most cases completely irrelevant and generally, not interesting. It’s even worse if you dismiss the prequels simply for no other reason than to pander to your readers or Star Wars fans in general. A lot of these guys do that to show fans they’re down with us because they think we all hate the prequels. (Hint: no we all don’t.)
It doesn’t help that the geekeratti, the fist pounders on The Mary Sue and Daily Dot, other Star Wars fans, and even Lucasfilm overlook Padmé or dismiss her entirely. They do so for primarily two reasons: one is for the same reason the NYT article dismissed her and that is she is part of the prequels. The Mary Sue and Daily Dot hate the prequels as do many “geek” and “nerd” pandering sites. The other reason is Padmé isn’t politically correct enough for them. This might sound very strange. Padmé is probably one of the most multilayered characters in the entire series. She was ruler of a planet and took charge of reclaiming her world from the Trade Federation. She was a senator. She was an action babe in her own right and managed to survive even where a lot of Jedi get killed. Who can forget Obi-Wan and Anakin bickering on Geonosis while Padme was already picking her lock and positioning herself to fight the monsters? She’s obviously smart, compassionate, and for my money, one of the kindest characters in the saga. I think Lucas bent over backwards to create a character who’s worthy to be the mother of Luke and Leia. What’s there not to love?
Well, I think the problem boils down to three things: Padmé fell in love with Anakin/Vader, she got pregnant, and she died. Never mind these things all had to happen. To the detractors, those things made her “weak.” A lot of the feminist types in geek world only want “kickass” wish fulfillment women characters and they think that every kung fu kick in the face or every male taken down is a strike against the patriarchy. If a character is not doing that, then she’s somehow regressive. Or, for a character to have any value, she must be powerful and in control all of the time. It’s a dumb and shallow way of looking at the feminine condition. Not everybody is a fighter all of the time. Being quiet, contemplative, and gentle doesn’t mean you are weak. Being feminine in a traditional way doesn’t make you weak. And I don’t get why it’s acceptable for Buffy Summers to fall in love with Angel or Spike knowing exactly what they are while Padmé is somehow a chump for loving someone who was mostly a good guy. You can’t do a whole lot of action scenes while packing twins in the trunk and heartbreak is part of the story’s tragedy. What was supposed to happen to Padmé that would be any more dignified? Suicide? Getting shot or blown up? Eaten by a nexu? Hit by a truck? Spontaneous human combustion? Falling into a sarlaac? Shish-kebabed with a lightsaber while standing on a bridge over a bottomless pit?
I’ve read that perhaps keeping Padmé’s scenes from ROTS that form the basis of the rebellion might affect how people perceive her but I’m skeptical of that for two reasons. One is it doesn’t change that she is Prequel Babe and those determined not to respect the prequels aren’t going to change their minds for a few extra minutes of people talking. The other reason is Padmé delivered one of the trilogy’s–heck maybe the whole saga’s–most amazing lines in one of the political scenes kept in the film and it didn’t seem to matter to detractors anyway.
While a lot of vocal people in fandom are discussing issues with female characters and fans, it’s going to be up to Padmé’s fans to stick up for her until she’s not forgotten or easily dismissed.
Here’s another take on the topic at Tosche Station.