We’re celebrating the holiday season with the greatest gifts Star Wars can ever give us: its characters! Here’s why Padmé Amidala is one of the best.
Everybody has their entry point into Star Wars, and mine just so happened to be during the golden era of the prequels. Well, as a kid, the prequels were a golden era since it was pretty much all I knew about Star Wars at the time.
Many kids of the VHS and DVD era know that feeling of picking a handful of movies and watching them over and over again with no end in sight, and Episode I: The Phantom Menace just happened to be one of the DVDs in my rotation of “movies to watch until the end of time.” Of course, back then, Star Wars was just a movie — the school kid me had no idea how big of a phenomenon it was or how greatly the fandom had been anticipating these new movies. No, to me, this movie was just another film with some catchy fight scenes, attention-grabbing effects and quite possibly one of the best characters I could ever see on film: Padmé Amidala.
Back then, I saw Star Wars exactly how George Lucas envisioned it: through the eyes of a child and as a fairytale. I was basically his core demographic. And as a lover of the Disney variety of fairytales, I absolutely loved the princess archetype and simply ate it up. Yes, of course, Padmé was a queen, but she wasn’t far off from your average Cinderella or Snow White in my eyes: she had the castle, she had the outfits and (eventually) she would have the love interest.
It feels like “Queen Amidala” and “Padmé” are two different people altogether. But I suppose in my journey, I came for the queen and stayed for Padmé. As the “queen,” I absolutely loved her regal outfits, and even ended up getting a doll (or two) of her. The red dress Queen Amidala doll is probably one of my favorite dolls of all time, and I still regret never getting to dress up as her for Halloween.
But as I’ve gotten older, I began to appreciate the Padmé outside of being the queen — especially as I’ve gone back and re-watched Episodes II and III. There’s a sense of bravery, courage and commitment that she demonstrates, and they’re all traits that are worthy of being looked up to. Those are the same traits we see when Leia becomes involved in politics and the fight against the Empire, making it a family of women who fight for what’s right. But as boring as intergalactic politics may be, plain and simple, Padmé was a woman in politics. A political leader who valued democracy and peace and wanted to leave no room for the abuse of power.
That’s what made it so tragic when her love, Anakin, opened himself up to the Dark Side. Just like her son, Luke, would see in the future, she knew that there was good in him — even when he began to show signs of distrusting the Jedi and siding with Palpatine’s ideologies. This is the incredible man she met as a kid and watched him grow up to be one of the best Jedi in history. And I can only imagine how heartbreaking it must have been for her to see him throw that all away when he became overpowered by fear and anger.
I sometimes wonder if Padmé could have done anything different to save him. But at the end of the day, it was Anakin’s choice. He was surrounded by good people. Not just Padmé, but friends like Obi-Wan and Ahsoka as well. And yet the choices he made resulted in the rift caused between them, not even getting to witness the birth of his children and the death of his wife.
In the end, I’ve always struggled to buy into the line that Padmé “lost the will to live” because the script says she has to die. Yes, I’m sure the idea of losing the Anakin that she knew to the Dark Side was incredibly heartbreaking. But the Padmé I know is built tough, and I always felt that she would have had the strength to live — especially to raise her children, the only piece of Anakin she would have left. But alas, as the story goes, Luke was meant to be raised a farm boy on Tatooine, and Leia would go on to become royalty of her own on Alderaan.
Still, as I’m sure many fans do, we like to project on our favorite characters, see the good in them and only accept the canon we see fit for that individual. Because if we’re really talking about Disney fairytales, there’s nothing I would have loved more for Padmé than to have Anakin stay in the Light, for the both of them to raise their children, and for democracy to never die. That may not have been the story that we got. But in my heart, that’s the picture-perfect ending she deserves.