Friday, May 1, 2015

31 Day Star Wars Challenge, Day 1: Least Favorite Character

I just wanted to get this one out of the way because I'd prefer to focus on other things for the rest of the month. You'd think that I'd pick Jar Jar Binks because that just seems to be the easiest way out, and to be honest, it wouldn't even be a lie. He's up there on my list of Worst Characters Ever Created. But this lovely lady just kept popping up in my head, singing, "Lalalalaaaa, I am le horrible!!"
Padme Amidala
Via Wookieepedia
I so badly wanted to like Padme Amidala. You have no idea. She was the democratically elected leader (methinks the word "queen" is not really understood in the world that Lucas' brain inhabits) and then a senator! She ended the invasion of her home planet (by throwing away her pacifist ideals but whatevs*)! She was a voice for peaceful negotiations during the Clone Wars (except when she wasn't)! She could have been such a powerful statement for feminism, showing that a woman can be strong, even if she didn't have a blaster or a lightsaber. I've seen Natalie Portman in plenty of other movies, so I know she has decent range; not the best actress out there by a long shot (that will forever be Meryl Streep), but with competent direction and a decent script, she can really shine. But no, the character was written terribly from the get-go, and Portman's delivery ended up being wooden and cartoonish, leaving me with a really bad taste in my mouth.
Via FanPop
To start things off, the inconsistencies of her character are downright maddening. In The Phantom Menace, she is strong-willed, smart, and capable; in The Attack of the Clones, however, she'd had a lobotomy and took unnecessary risks, such as the following: 1) traveling to Tatooine, the home of gangsters who probably know about the bounty on her head, 2) going to rescue Obi-Wan on Geonosis, from which she must be rescued by the whole Jedi order, and 3) supposedly falling in love with a violently hormonal teenager who says things like, "It's not fair!!!" Then, following that bizarre shift in Dumbassville, in Revenge of the Sith, she - a well-liked and influential senator with a lot on the line, including a budding rebellion, providing a voice of reason to the Senate, etc. - decides that her entire life is dedicated to her husband's morality. Her character arc is so depressingly disappointing that when I watch the prequel trilogy, I occasionally go into a feminist rage. There are already so few prominent female characters in the Star Wars saga that it is that much more insulting that Lucas and Company chose a devolving mess of tears as the only woman in the main cast.

And then there's Padme's relationship with Anakin. Okay, I'm not going to lie; I was not as discerning in my relationship choices when I was 24. I was pretty much just having fun. However, I wasn't a high-ranking politician, from whom a certain maturity was expected since that's a position that requires making decisions for large swatchs of people. Padme had been involved in politics since she was at least 14 years old. Even if she did want to get it on or develop a romantic attachment to someone, she could have chosen at least a bazillion other people whose main traits weren't complaining that his teacher was "holding him back." And yet, there's Adolescent Time Bomb himself, Anakin Skywalker, who originally makes Padme feel "uncomfortable" for leering at her. Jesus, he was basically a blueprint for Edward Cullen just a few years later. What baffles me is that, after creeping her out before, she's not backing up hardcore when Anakin confesses to slaughtering innocent Sand People**. Even with my lowered expectations for what I was looking for in a date, I would have bolted out of there and asked the Council to please send me a non-murderer as my protector, but instead, it seems to make him cuter to her? A wee bit later, she expresses that she deeply loves him (???) and, once they escape a gladiator-style death match, BOOM, they get married***. I can't really say much about their relationship in Revenge of the Sith because literally nothing new is revealed about her. She became a background character, a prop piece that is used to further her asshole husband's story. At least in Clones, she has an active role, but here? Nope. She's relegated to crying and worrying about Anakin's safety and asking him, "What are you going to do????" Blech, blech, and oh, yeah, blech.
Via Rebels Haven
Padme could have been incredible. I watch The Clone Wars, which, I know, isn't part of the movie saga (although it is considered canon, but I have rules that I've set for myself ... which I am now breaking. Shut up.), and I'm shown how strong she could have been, which makes her spiral in Revenge that much more depressing. She actively works within the Senate to try to negotiate peace and promote civil conversation between the Republic and the Separatists, sometimes placing her life in danger to do so. In later episodes, she sees her husband growing darker and even tells him that they may have made a mistake to build their relationship upon lies and deception, something that seems to have been forgotten by the last movie. She has such agency that it actually makes me feel a bit guilty for naming her my least favorite character.

But then I remember that movie Padme is just a shadow of what she should have been. Instead, she's this simpering, whiny thing that, despite the fact that she has two infants**** coming out of her, can't resolve to continue living. I just cannot buy a single second of the Padme character; it's like she's three different people who all just happen to look alike. You know, I think that's part of my head-canon now: Padme was using her decoys as stand-ins the whole time to see if Anakin was who he seemed to be, and the real one is happily living out the rest of her days on a beach somewhere.

* I think it's important to note that Satine Kryze, the queen of Mandalore and almost-lover of Obi-Wan Kenobi, was a pacifist and refused, up until the moment she was (spoiler alert) killed, to use violence, even when using said violence would prevent a lot of shit from going down. Granted, both of them ended up dying, but I feel like Satine held her credibility and integrity much better than Padme.
** Um, does Anakin ever have to answer for this? At all? This is one of those things that you'd think the Jedi Council would frown upon.
*** I mean, Three and I got married rather quickly, but we had a lot of things going for us. A) I wasn't a politician who had dedicated my life to service; B) he wasn't a peace-keeping monk that required detachment from all things; C) he wasn't a confessed killer; D) we were both old enough to drink together and realize that we were both what we wanted. As of yet, Three hasn't shown Dark Side tendencies, as far as I know, and we're still going strong.
**** I call complete bullshit on Leia being able to remember her mother. First of all, she was born second, and Padme died, like, right afterward; two, she was taken away by that floating midwife droid as soon as she was post-uterus, and three, she was a damned newborn child. And don't even start with "But the force!" fuckery.
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