I like Padmé more than her daughter.
I said it.
I get that Leia was/is an icon in the world of film, sci-fi, and female empowerment. And while many people admit (albeit often grudgingly) that Padmé is one of the better things about the prequel films, they also complain about her taking a backseat in the narrative once Revenge of the Sith starts. (That’s something I’m going to address in this post.) Even I’ll admit that Padmé had questionable taste in men in Attack of the Clones. She should have been smart enough to see Anakin’s dark side and run away. But even with her character flaws, I still stan Padmé. And this post is a film-by-film look at why.
THE PHANTOM MENACE
In the first prequel film, Padmé is only fourteen years old, and already a queen. I get that on Naboo, queens are quite young, but customs and culture aside, it’s incredibly impressive that Padmé is as good a queen as she is at such a young age. And you can’t say that she’s only good when she has advisors and such propping her up, because…for a lot of the film, it’s just her and Qui-Gon on Tatooine. Padmé’s cleverness and bravery are on full display in The Phantom Menace.
And who can forget how she humbly kneels before the Gungans in order to bring them over to Naboo’s cause? Padmé isn’t a monarch who is interested in what they can get from the position. She isn’t power-hungry or corrupt. Instead, she constantly seeks the good of her people as a whole and of those individuals around her.
ATTACK OF THE CLONES
As Padmé’s ship descends into Coruscant, a bomb goes off, killing Padmé’s handmaiden who had been masquerading as the senator. Padmé rushes up to Cordé, and the bond of love and respect between this handmaiden and and her mistress is evident. Padmé has earned her handmaidens’ loyalty and that is an excellent indication of how great she is.
Padmé’s strength of character is evident in how she refuses to give into her feelings for Anakin. She’s strong for both of them (as Anakin goes on and on about how he loves her), because honor is hugely important to her. It would be dishonorable for Anakin to break his Jedi vow. It would be dishonorable for both of them to enter into a secret, forbidden marriage. Of course, she does give in and admit her feelings eventually because Plot Stuff has to happen, but that’s only when she thinks they’re about to die. After their death-defying adventure in the arena on Geonosis, I can’t help but think that Padmé agreed to marry Anakin because she realized that life is short and fragile.
REVENGE OF THE SITH
Here is my rebuttal to those who complain about Padmé basically being a stay at home mom during Revenge of the Sith. One, it would have been awkward for her to do senate stuff and be out in public while pregnant because, as far as anyone knows, she’s not married. I don’t know what the social mores of the Star Wars universe are when it comes to out-of-wedlock pregnancies, but you can imagine the gossip and whispers and outright rude questions.
And secondly, Padmé has a history of protecting those that she loves. She protected Naboo, she helped Anakin go after his mom when he thought she was in danger, and her work in the Senate was also in the interest of helping others. So why wouldn’t she lead a quieter life while pregnant in order to make sure nothing went wrong? Added to that the fact that she may have not felt well since this was her first pregnancy (and twins, no less), and you’ve got some solid reasons for her to stay at home.
Plus, this film isn’t about Padmé. It’s not even about her and Anakin, really. It’s about Anakin’s descent into darkness (fueled, yes, by fears of losing Padmé, but the focus is more on him than her).
Once Anakin goes full-on Sith, Padmé travels to Mustafar to see if he’s all right, to confront him, to see whether Obi-Wan was right, to bring him back…really, it’s hard to know what exactly goes through her head at that point. But she loves Anakin, she’s not going to abandon him. It’s here where Padmé’s strength of character shines through again. First of all, in how she’s loyal to her husband even when everything is against him. And secondly, how she doesn’t let her love and loyalty sway her from what she knows to be right. In the critical moment, she sides with the light against the man she loves…and pays for that with her life.
In her final moments, Padmé names her two children and then slips away, secure in the knowledge that Obi-Wan will keep them safe no matter what. The teenage queen who became a senator who became the wife of the soon-to-be most hated man in the galaxy didn’t want to die. But when the time came, she died as she had lived: with dignity, and a heart full for those she loved best.
That’s it. That’s the tea. Padmé is the best.
What do you think? Do you agree? Do you prefer Padmé or Leia? Let me know in the comments!