My ten year old son subjects me to “Star Wars” on a regular basis. Not only must I listen to dialogue which gives new meaning to the expression “gag me with a spoon,” but I must watch acting so wooden only the computer-generated figures are those I’d like to ask to dinner. I am forced to engage in conversations that begin “Wait, are you talking about the movies that came first — four, five and six — or the later movies — one, two and three? Who’s in the one you’re talking about and does he get his hand cut off? And which Fett is which?”
And they’re called “episodes,” God forgive Lucas, and each “episode” has a name as well. My son refers to that which appeared in 1977, which we called “Star Wars” and was truly fun to watch, as “A New Hope.” Lord, if only “A New Hope” had been the last hope, I would be a happier woman today.
But forgive me, that is not why I called you all here today. It’s about Padme.
We first saw Padme Amadala as the duly-elected queen of, I believe, a planet called Naboo. She had make-up which would make Elizabeth One proud, and a queenly, affectless drone to her voice that would silence all opposition by putting it to sleep. With the yards of fabric she wore and the hair style, I did admire her ability to stay upright. We will not address the problem of a planet that elects an eighteen-year-old queen.
Then we learn Padme is a girl of action, really unsuited for the job of queen, in spite of her preternatural wisdom and dedication to democracy. She wants to be in the thick of things, shooting guns and leaping from high places and flying shiny things, just like the boys. She drives her advisers, the boring old sticks, wild with anxiety.
In the next movie, whatever its name and number, she fights great big beasts with fangs and armor plating and gets only enough clothing ripped off to keep it rated PG. She also falls in love and becomes a cradle-robber, which, personally, I don’t have a problem with.
But, choices, Padme, choices. Listen to those boring old stick Jedi masters, who are a little queasy when it comes to your true love. (All except loyal Obi-wan Kenobi, aka Ewan McGregor, who is my personal choice for cradle-robbing, but, again, another story.)
The first crack in our faith appears when our totally cool, girl-power, former queen, now senator, doesn’t just have a roll-in-the-grass, wild-sex, comfort-him-when-he-slays-a-village love affair, which would be the wise thing to do. Oh, no, she has to go and marry him.
Dear, oh dear, Padme. Haven’t you been listening? We all dream of dangerous men, sweetie. But I mean, his eyes have been known to turn scarlet, and he debates with himself about killing someone with an “I shouldn’t,” as if he were turning down a chocolate. Then, like plucking the chocolate-covered nougat from the See’s box, he says, “Well, if you insist.” Padme, heads roll when he’s around.
And in the next movie — you fill in the name and number. I’m too worked up about this poor young girl — we find her pregnant and alone. Well, all right, not alone. She still has her contingent of robots, Jedis, and various fussy men. But her man has gone off to save her life by destroying democracy. Or something like that.
And can’t we all tell her that energy spent trying to change a spouse is energy wasted? She needs to save her strength for those babies. (Forgive me for digressing again, but with all the technology these people have, they didn’t know she was having twins? All right, that’s my last one.)
And now my real complaint.
Padme expires. Gently expires.
She gets strangled by her true love, but it doesn’t kill her. Bombs, beasts, and betrayers surround her, but that doesn’t kill her. Even pushing out an extra baby doesn’t kill her. Oh, no. It’s worse than any of that.
She has lost the will to live.
Wait a minute, lady! After you gasp out “Luke” and “Leia”, those tots still need raising. Representational government lies in ruins. The cadre of old fusspots who are handy with a laser sword must be rebuilt, to avenge the first set and take back all those nifty planets. And who would they be looking to to lead them against the corrupt Empire and the ex-husband with the wheeze and the cool headgear?
You, Padme, you. But you wimped out and expired with a gentle sigh, like a swooning Victorian lady. I can’t help saying I’m disappointed in you. You should at least have demanded a medical reason to die.
But I believe it’s not too late. Take a leaf from the TV gospel and rise again, girl. Do it, Padme. I say to you, Padme, “Rise up against your fate and the scriptwriters!” I say, “No woman of your strength and bullheadedness croaks simply because she is no longer needed for the plot!” I say, “Get up from your deathbed and demand a rewrite!”
There. I know it’s hard hearing the truth, Padme, but I wouldn’t be discussing this with you if I didn’t think you were woman enough to take it.
And now that that’s taken care of, let’s talk about Anakin’s mumbling and his vital need for diction lessons…