I know what you’re thinking: how the fuck can such a thing be possible? Bella Swan is the worst female protagonist in existence (if there is one person out there who doesn’t know who or how bad she is, please watch this video before reading the rest of this post). There is no way in hell she can be topped. Well, it’s more than understandable if you think that way. I haven’t even read/studied all of the Twilight books and movies and for a while, I thought I would never encounter a female protagonist worse than her. And this is coming from someone who’s read several of Christine Feehan’s Dark books. Recently, I realized just how wrong I was. There is another female protagonist that is so weak and so despicable that she makes Bella Swan look like Xena in comparison. Who is she?
Padme Amidala from the Star Wars Prequels.
Normally, I would be walking on fine needles here because Padme Amidala does not have a character in the movies. She is nothing more than a series of plot conveniences. But even those plot conveniences hint at the potential of a character. A character that is brought to life in Matthew Stover’s novelization of Revenge of the Sith. While he defended Leia after Jeanne Cavelos presented her as weak, this was his response when asked about Padme.
“I spent nearly a hundred pages addressing exactly that in my novelization of Revenge of the Sith.” (1)
All right then. Let’s first examine how she is introduced.
This is Padme Amidala:
She is an astonishingly accomplished young women who in her short life has already become the youngest-ever elected queen of her planet, a daring partisan guerilla, and a measured, articulate, and persuasive voice of reason in the Republic Senate.
But she is, at the moment, none of these things.
She can still play at them—she pretends to be a Senator, she still wields the moral authority of a former queen, and she is not shy about using her reputation for fierce physical courage to her advantage in political debate.
The first thing Stover does is list her accomplishments, what she is most known for, the unique strength that comes with each of her titles, and that she takes full advantage of each strength in her everyday life. So far, it seems like Padme Amidala is a woman who has a multi-layered, complex sense of individuality.
But her inmost reality, the most fundamental, unbreakable core of her being, is something entirely different.
She is Anakin Skywalker’s wife.
And then we learn that any sense of purpose, identity, and strength that she has based on her accomplishments and titles means absolutely nothing when put up against her status as Anakin Skywalker’s wife.
Yet wife is a word too weak to carry the truth of her; wife is such a small word, such a common word, a word that can come from a downturned mouth with so many petty, unpleasant echoes.
You don’t say.
For Padme Amidala, saying I am Anakin Skywalker’s wife is saying neither more nor less than I am alive.
I love this quote, not only because it’s great foreshadowing, but because it sums her up so well.
Her life before Anakin belonged to someone else, some lesser being to be pitied, some poor impoverished spirit who could never suspect how profoundly life should be lived.
This is what she thinks of herself before she met Anakin? This? She was elected Queen of Naboo at the age of fourteen before she met Anakin, she was ruling an entire planet before she met Anakin, she chose to accept people’s lives and well-being as her responsibility before she met Anakin, and she thinks she was someone to be pitied back then? Jesus Christ!
But though she loves her husband without reservation, love does not blind her to his faults.
I’m very afraid to hope.
He is not a perfect man. He is prideful, and moody, and quick to anger—but these faults only make her love him the more.
She doesn’t love him in spite of his flaws. They only make her love him more.
His every flaw is more than balanced by the greatness within him, his capacity for joy and cleansing laughter, his extraordinary generosity of spirit, his passionate devotion not only to her but also in the service of every living being.
From what we’ve seen of Anakin’s character, and I’m basing it off the movies and the Expanded Universe, I don’t know where the hell she’s getting these ‘great’ qualities. He expressed none of them in Episode II. What does he actually do?
1. Looks at her with stalker-like obsession and makes an inappropriate comment on how she’s ‘grown more beautiful.’
2. Makes bold promises that he’ll protect her.
3. Bitches out his Jedi Master in front of her.
4. Bitches her out in front of the Queen of Naboo.
5. Whines about Obi-Wan’s so-called unfairness.
6. Professes his disdain for democracy in favor of a dictatorship.
7. Confesses his stalker-like obsession with her.
8. Confesses to the murder of innocent women and children.
“At this point, any woman with Amidala’s knowledge and commitment to good would be dialing 911 or checking the Yellow Pages for the nearest psychiatric hospital. Anakin is clearly a nutball and a dangerous one at that. But after his slaughter of innocents, she strokes his head and forgives his action. Apparently, mass-murder is only a misdemeanor in her universe and a bit of a turn on. For shortly after, she agrees to marry him.” (1)
Also, note her reaction to Anakin’s desire for a dictatorship in the movie. She laughs and accuses him of making fun of her. All he has to do is joke about how he’d be much too frightened to tease a senator, and she smiles at him as if he’s said the most charming thing in the world. This is proof like no other that she’s weak, stupid, and deluded.
As far as his ‘generosity of spirit’ and ‘service to every living being’ goes, during the war Anakin does express a strong desire to save everyone. He is capable of considerable compassion, but remember that Anakin confessed to Padme that his terror of the death of the people closest to him is so potent, he is determined to become all-powerful at any cost. This confession should have alerted her that his desire to save everyone stems mostly selfishness. If he saves people from death 1. They don’t have to remind him how easy it is for people to die, and 2. He doesn’t have to be alone. But like I said before, she’s weak, stupid, and deluded.
As the novel goes on, Stover does give Padme a more substantial role than she had in the movie. She realizes that Palpatine is a dictator in the making, holds several meetings with the future leaders of the Rebel Alliance, publicly denounces Palpatine as a threat to democracy, and comments on how the Republic has become as corrupt as the Separatists believe. But Stover does not use these instances as a smokescreen to hide her true character. While she pushes her point home about the corruption in the Republic to Anakin, she immediately backs down when Anakin forcefully disagrees and starts whining about how his opinions don’t matter, and that everyone expects too much from him. She never mentions the Republic’s corruption again.
Her meetings with the Rebel leaders don’t add up to much in the end either. She refuses to become wholly involved because she is terrified of what Anakin will think when he finds out she’s plotting against his beloved mentor. When she finally knows that she could never trust Anakin with the secrets of the Rebellion, she grieves for the death of an illusion instead of waking up and realizing that her husband supports a man who is fully prepared to destroy everything she has ever believed in. After Palpatine declares himself Emperor of the first Galactic Empire, she stops Bail Organa from giving himself away so he can help the Rebellion in a position of actual power, but she doesn’t offer to help him at all. When he asks her what she’s going to do, here’s her answer:
“Don’t worry about me,” she said distantly. “I don’t know I’ll live that long.”
This can be taken in so many different ways, as Stover no doubt intended. Is she afraid Palpatine will kill her? Anakin? Both? And if she believes she’s going to die, why not do everything she can to help the Rebellion beforehand? I’ll give you all one guess. Before Palpatine’s declaration, she meets with Anakin who tells her the Jedi Order is being exterminated, and that her fellow conspirators will no doubt share the same fate. She begs Anakin to run away with her so they can be safe, but after he tells her he’s going to go murder the Separatist leaders in cold blood, and for her to wait for him:
Fresh tears streamed onto her ivory cheeks, and she threw herself into his arms. “Always, Anakin. Forever. Come back to me, my love—my life. Come back to me.”
Anakin, Anakin, Anakin. Always about Anakin. Not your friends and allies, not the Jedi Order you’ve trusted and worshipped (“The Jedi Council is the bedrock of the Republic.”), not even the children you’re carrying. Everything you are revolves strictly around Anakin.
Stover’s climax on Padme’s dependency comes at the very end after she fervently denies to Obi-Wan that Anakin killed younglings.
“How many children does Anakin have to kill before Amidala will help stop him? Apparently, he hasn’t hit the magic number yet.” (1)
My theory is that she’ll brush off the murder of Tusken children, but not Jedi children. In other words, subconscious racism. This is purely opinion, but it’s the only logical one I can draw. That and delusion as Stover ever so helpfully points out in the climax.
“—oh, Anakin, he said such terrible things about you!”
He smiled down at her. “About me? Who would want to say bad things about me?” He chuckled. “Who would dare?”
“Obi-Wan.” She smeared tears from her cheeks. “He said—he told me you turned to the dark side, that you murdered Jedi…even younglings…”
Just having gotten the words out made her feel better; now all she had to do was rest in his arms while he held her and hugged her and promised her that he would never do anything like any of that, and she started half a smile aimed up toward his eyes—
But instead of the light of love in his eyes, she saw only reflections of lava.
He didn’t say, I could never turn to the dark side.
He didn’t say, Murder younglings? Me? That’s just crazy.
After that, Padme begins to become aware of her delusions. But keeping in character, Stover does not give her a strong sense of revelation. He simply lays bare the extent of her neediness and weakness.
“It’s like—it’s like—” Tears brimmed again. “I don’t even know who you are anymore…”
“I’m the man who loves you,” he said, but he said it through clenched teeth. “I’m the man who would do anything to protect you. Everything I have done, I have done for you.”
“Anakin…” Horror squeezed her voice down to a whisper: small, and fragile, and very young. “…what have you done?”
And she prayed he wouldn’t actually answer.
“What I have done is bring peace to the Republic.”
“The Republic is dead,” she whispered. “You killed it. You and Palpatine.”
“It needed to die.”
New tears started, but they didn’t matter; she’d never have enough tears for this. “Anakin, can’t we just…go? Please. Let’s leave. Together. Today. Now. Before you—before something happens—”
“Nothing will happen. Nothing can happen. Let Palpatine call himself Emperor. Let him. He can do all the dirty work, all the messy, brutal oppression it’ll take to unite the galaxy forever—unite it against him. He’ll make himself into the most hated man in history. And when the time is right, we’ll throw him down—”
“Don’t you see? We’ll be heroes. The whole galaxy will love us, and we will rule. Together.”
“Please stop—Anakin, please, stop, I can’t stand it…”
So, in the end Anakin’s true self doesn’t mean shit. She needs him that fucking much. And just when you think she can’t get more pathetic, Stover delivers the coup de grace on her character that begins when Anakin Force chokes her—
He made a fist, and she couldn’t breathe.
She wanted to scream, to beg, to howl, No, Anakin, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…I love you…
—and ends when she delivers her babies.
“Padme, you have twins,” Obi-Wan said desperately. “They need you—please hang on…”
“Anakin…isn’t here, Padme,” he said, though he didn’t think she could hear.
“Anakin, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…Anakin, please, I love you…”
Let’s start with her whining apologies. The reason Anakin Force-choked her is because he thought she betrayed him by bringing Obi-Wan to Mustafar. In reality, Obi-Wan stowed away on her ship without her knowledge. As in, she didn’t betray him at all. But like a lot of cowed, weak-willed spouses and lovers, if their partner insists that something is their fault and makes a dramatic show of it, they are usually prepared to believe it is their fault regardless of logical evidence to the contrary. It can also be a ploy of neediness: the cowed spouse feels obligated to accept responsibility for everything, even their lover’s actions and flaws, so that they can remain together. In Padme’s case, I have no doubt it’s both.
Even becoming a mother to twins isn’t enough to strengthen her. As Stover and the movie points out, all of her physical injuries were healed by medical droids, but she dies anyway from a broken heart. To that I say: BULLSHIT. She died because she needed Anakin, not because she loved him. She barely has the strength to name her twins, spares a touch and a smile for little Luke, and then starts begging for Anakin again.
You fucking whore. You’ve just become a mother to children who will need you, and the only thing on your mind is a man who tried to kill you and your children over something that wasn’t at all your fault.
Some of you may be wondering if you can you really call Anakin and Padme’s relationship love. Well, I’ll give you my opinion from a quote from my fan fiction Error Corrector 3: Revenge of the Sith.
Jealousy. That was an emotion Harlene had little to no experience with. As she told Dooku years ago, she never had any reason to feel jealousy, not even when Anakin subjected her to soppy, over-the-top speeches of his slavish, dysfunctional love for Oobadooba. Possessive as she was of Anakin, she took a perverse satisfaction in his relationship with Oobadooba. While their love couldn’t be more intense, the core of it was based on need, fascination, and shallow physical attraction instead of a healthy emotional connection. It amused Harlene to no end that they were perfectly compatible for every wrong reason imaginable.
You also may be wondering how Padme is worse than Bella. Well, mostly they’re the same: needy, lives revolving around an abusive lover, and delusional. But there are two glaring differences: Bella makes it no secret that her ultimate goal is immortality, an eternity with Edward, and forsaking everything about her life as a human, including the people who love her. Padme’s goal is supposed to be noble and selfless: saving the Republic from Palpatine. Instead, her true goal is to live happily ever after with Anakin. Also, unlike Bella, Padme chose the political career of a senator. She chose to accept responsibility for other people’s lives and well-being, something she had absolutely no business doing when only one person’s life and well-being matters to her.