The Reason Why Padme Is the Worst ‘Star Wars’ Heroine; Comparing Sequels

The other day I watched the second half of Attack of the Clones, which I hadn’t seen in years (I don’t watch it very often anymore) and as I watched the movie I found myself baffled by Padme’s role in the film. Yeah, I’ve watched the film a million times but I haven’t really seen it during the Disney era of Star Wars. With so many inspiring and incredible heroines to enjoy it’s almost shockingly bad how George Lucas treated his only heroine of the prequel trilogy; Padme Amidala.

And don’t get me wrong. She’s a great heroine, or at least she was in The Phantom Menace.

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She was a teenage queen but you didn’t even see that because of how mature she was. She didn’t shrink under the scrutiny of the senators in the Republic, she didn’t mind calling Chancellor Valorum out for his lack of care in Naboo’s situation, and she wasn’t afraid to die fighting for the people that she loved. She literally led her meager army, with the help of the Jedi, to war against the much larger force, the Trade Federation and won!

Fast forward three years later to Attack of the Clones and it’s as if every aspect that made her such a likable character was erased, replaced by this storyline that made her seem weak in comparison to her role in The Phantom Menace.

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Gone was the stern maturity that made her awesome as George Lucas decided to focus more on Anakin’s story and leave her as the infatuated senator who practically lost all coolness after one kiss with the boy who she used to know ten years before that had now grown into a young man. It’s ridiculous!

As I watched Attack of the Clones I couldn’t help comparing her storyline to that of Rey and Princess Leia’s in their respective sequels and how laughably terrible it is in comparison. And, of course, I had to share my thoughts with you about the subject. So, let’s compare the similar aspects of each sequel between these characters.

Romance

Romance is a very important aspect in a Star Wars movie. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s the dominating storyline, and for the sequels of all three trilogies (Original, Prequel, and Sequel) romance has been a major factor.

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In The Empire Strikes Back the romance between Princess Leia and Han Solo was a major factor to her storyline but, unlike Padme, it didn’t diminish her awesomeness. Han Solo’s eventual winning of her heart didn’t come easily.

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Throughout the film, we see both of them bickering because Leia wasn’t that easy. Back and forth they spewed arguments. She even went as far as kissing Luke to prove to Han that he wasn’t the center of her universe but she did eventually end up falling for him. But it doesn’t matter that she would end up loving Han. What matters is how she got there.

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Unlike Leia, she didn’t make it hard for Anakin to win her affection even though she clearly knew that falling for the young Jedi was a bad idea. Instead, she melts into the prospect of being with him and after that first kiss, she was practically toast. All she could think about for the rest of the movie is Anakin Skywalker, or, as she kept calling him, “Ani.”

With her sternness practically eradicated you could almost forget she was a powerful senator of the Republic. You never forgot that Leia was not only a princess of Alderaan but a leader of the Rebellion.

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And while it wasn’t an official romance between Rey and Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi their bond was definitely more than a friendly occurrence, specifically after that heart-pounding hand touching scene. But unlike Padme, her feelings for Kylo didn’t dominate her story. It was only an aspect that helped her character grow which I will elaborate on further in this post.

Action Scenes

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Leia isn’t an action hero, electing to lead rather than fight, but if she does have to use a blaster she does so very well. I love when she is trying to escape the cloud City with Lando, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 and with every stormtrooper that she sees she fires at them. It’s this subtle hint that yes, she’s madder than ever and is ready to take on the whole Empire after what had just happened to the man she loved.

Padmé Amidala

Padme was awesome in her action scenes in The Phantom MenaceAttack of the Clones, hmm, not so much. In the droid factory sequence, she doesn’t take care of herself like Anakin did. Instead, she has to get rescued by R2 after falling in a lava bowl.

And then in the arena sequence, she does a pretty good job taking care of herself as she fends off the cat creature but her awesomeness is immediately discredited after Anakin rescues her from the cat and as she jumps onto the bull thingie behind him she kisses his cheek. *gagging noise*

That’s the worst.

And I don’t know, maybe it’s the clunky blaster she’s holding, maybe it’s Natalie Portman’s annoyance with the sequence, but it just feels like she’s out of her element. She doesn’t hold the blaster with enough authority, especially when you compare her action scenes to Leia’s.

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Rey’s action scenes are amazing, obviously.

Strength

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When I summarize what makes a heroine a FANTASTIC heroine is the level of her strength in a story. And I don’t mean physical strength but rather the mental strength. The scene that I always find myself drawn to in terms of Leia’s incredible mental strength is when Han gets frozen in carbonite. Remember, she had just declared her love for him moments before he would be lowered into the chamber of his potential demise.

Chewbacca’s roars of anguish say it all. It’s a horrible moment and yet, she doesn’t shed a single tear. She keeps her composure knowing that all she wanted to do, as she stared at the pain on his frozen face, was to cry her eyes out. That scene alone is why I’m a Leia fan.

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The one moment of strength that we have with Padme in Attack of the Clones is her first sexually tense moment with Anakin Skywalker. She’s in her room packing her bags and complaining about wanting to stay in Coruscant and finish the bill that she was working on. Anakin also starts conveying his frustrations about being a padawan and Obi-Wan not believing in his talents and as Padme encourages him not to grow up too fast he stands, giving her this look, and she bluntly tells him to stop.

It’s that one moment where you can perfectly visualize where Leia got her no-nonsense attitude from but it, unfortunately, doesn’t last.

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The scene that ultimately brings to me to Rey’s strength, which has been conveyed many times throughout the sequel trilogy, is this one here. She and Kylo Ren have just killed the Praetorian Guards, she thinks Kylo has turned and is going to help her save the rebels but he has other plans. He speaks about him and her ruling the galaxy, he tells her that she’s a nobody and that he’s the only who cares for her. And then he gives her a choice; “Join me,” he says.

At that moment she could’ve easily reached out, took his hand, and walked into the metaphoric sunset but she didn’t. Despite her budding feelings for him she chose to fight.

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And the second time we get to see her strength on full display is her final interaction with Kylo Ren. They have one last Force connection and as he stares at Rey he waits to see what she does. With a stern expression upon her face, she closes the ramp to the Millennium Falcon, thus shutting him off. It’s such an impactful moment.

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But one thing you can’t deny is Padme’s incredible wardrobe. She still has the greatest Star Wars outfits of all time. I mean, just wow!

I thank you for reading and I hope you have a lovely day.

14 thoughts on “The Reason Why Padme Is the Worst ‘Star Wars’ Heroine; Comparing Sequels”

  1. Annlyle,

    I really enjoy reading your writing, but this one irks me. I couldn’t possibly disagree further from the content, having spent a lot of time challenging online PT-bashers on the same subject. These days I enjoy analysing Star Wars with some brave fans who’ve been defending her as way back as 2005, and all through the dark times – far more than my own humble efforts.

    I believe I see the character through a different lens to you. Which is honestly fine, but when other characters get less scrutiny despite their obvious faults, it really does bug me.

    Politics

    First, you’ve got to keep in mind that Padmé was Leader of the Opposition in the Galactic Senate during the Clone War – in her early 20s. That is no small feat. And unlike Leia, she manages to obtain high office without any of the assistance of a family dynasty (the Organas are crucial, and it’s implied via an inherited title – princess – as early as Episode IV). That’s already 1-0 to Padmé.

    Standing around, debating fellow politicians in the not-so-great indoors might not seem so exciting or glamorous on film, particularly in a series known for its swashbuckling characters, but if we’re paying any attention to the real world, we know this to be very important. In fact, more important, I would argue. And Lucas himself echoes this by having Palpatine achieve absolute power not from a Coup d’État, as we would have expected, but through ballot politics. Do you remember who also did this in 1930s Germany? I tip my hat to anyone fighting against that kind of tyranny.

    Strength

    Padmé is a chief rival to Palpatine, and rallies support in the senate against the creation of a grand army, his key policy. You say that Leia “is ready to take on the whole Empire”, but Padmé is literally doing this, to the proto-empire, and in a variant that doesn’t require violence. And what does she meet with in response? Assination attempt after assassination attempt. As if taking on the Dark Lord in disguise wasn’t hard enough, she’s got to have nerves of steel to keep going when her life is constantly threatened. This is not a “damsel in distress” – this is precisely what grown men like Alex Navelny deal with in the real world, in modern Russia. Rey, as brave as she is, faces nothing of this magnitude.

    “At that moment she could’ve easily reached out, took his hand, and walked into the metaphoric sunset but she didn’t.”

    You describe an occurrence in TLJ, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but it could so easily apply to RotS too. In 23 BBY, on Mustafar, Kylo Ren’s grandfather offered his grandmother the chance to become empress, but the latter quickly stepped away, rejecting her husband’s madness as she realises how much he’s changed – he has, metaphorically, descended into hell, and soon will do so literally. She is then chocked by Darth Vader at arguably his very worst, and it’s left for Obi-Wan to deal with the monster. Now you can suggest, like some have, that she should have had a knife on her, but I would argue that the scene of her starting the Rebellion, sadly deleted (head cannon to me), is more in line with her character.

    Romance

    The romantic plot in the Original and Prequel trilogies are strikingly different, and explicitly so. Lucas knew that with AotC the romance wouldn’t just be a subplot – for it was the plot itself, an integral part of the arc of Anakin Skywalker. Devising a way to explain Luke and Leia’s parents falling in love came with enormous pressure: a largely male audience, who couldn’t care less about any love story, were in for a big surprise.

    “Han Solo’s eventual winning of her heart didn’t come easily”

    Neither did it for Anakin. The daring, self-entitled, yet remarkedly talented padawan we see in the early stages of AotC eventually gives up when Padmé delivers a reality-check in the fireside scene as to how destructive a relationship would be for the two of them. We can see that he’s processed this and come to his senses, when the pair are preparing to be led into the Genosian colosseum. It’s only a moment later, when faced with the prospect of brutal death, that Padmé does a spectacular U-turn and confesses her affection. Would she have eventually done so, regardless? I’m not so sure, humans aren’t always so cool and collected in these unthinkable circumstances.

    I’m not going to justify someone falling in love with another. That’s a complex process, and like the force itself, not always open to rational explanations – for better or worse. What I will say is to consider Padmé’s life: dealing with a stressful political career, dealing with murder plots. Does she get much time to spend with her Naberrie family on Naboo? Does she get a chance to date people anymore? Does she get time for travelling and vacations? Likely not. She lives in extraordinary times yet is still an ordinary woman. Who are we to say she’s not allowed to make a mistake?

    Action Sequences

    The idea that Padmé was ever “toast” is nonsense. Tell me, who is the person that decides the ship should be taken away to rescue Obi-Wan Kenobi? Yep, this is prime example of the Galactic senator exhibiting the same bravery she was admired for in Episode I. And when she later gets thrown off a gunship and falls into the dessert, what is she doing? Directing a clone trooper, that’s what. What does it matter that she might encounter difficulties navigating the busy factory? She’s not a Jedi, there are no magical powers available to her to move the big robots. She’s a normal human being like us, and with that comes faults and weaknesses. That makes her more relatable, more down to earth. In Episode V we can see that her daughter succumbs to similar obstacles.

    “Rey’s action scenes are amazing, obviously”

    Rey is not a mere mortal. She’s capable of these feats because she’s been blessed with the Force. I have no idea why she is so proficient, or how she can easily defeat a trained user like Kylo Ren, and this really frustrates me. But it is the way it is. However, I fail to see anything thrilling about teaming up with the well-known right-hand man of an emperor. Can you imagine the abuse people would fire at Padmé if she collaborated with Darth Vader on Mustafar for all but a few minutes?

    Death

    Padmé’s death and funeral is arguably the most tragic part of a very dark, and merciless film. If we can look past incompetent droids, and Palpatine doing anything to rouse his Frankenstein, it seems clear that Sith meddling was responsible for her death. That’s an assassination and, you know, for anyone to lose their life at 27 years old, as a victim to unmasked totalitarianism, truly is beyond horrible. A martyr to democracy and the Galactic Republic.

    I can’t imagine how angry and upset Luke would be after learning about this (and let’s face it, he probably did). He’d find out the Jedi Council weren’t exactly blameless either.

    I think I’ve written enough for now. If you’re interested in reading more stuff like this, from people with a similar outlook on Padmé and the PT at large, I’d recommend checking out D. Trull of Lard Biscuit (I would link but I’m not sure if its allowed). He’s a seriously talented writer!

    Padmé is so much more than her wardrobe. She’s a fantastic heroine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the great things about being a Star Wars fan among fellow Star Wars fans is the debating. Some people may despise TLJ for everything that it is while I have grown an appreciation for the story Rian Johnson tried to tell. And then there are those who think the PT was garbage while others grew up with the films (like me) and absolutely LOVE them (I don’t love them, but I do enjoy them.)

      While I stick to the points I made in this post (obviously, considering that I wrote them) I am grateful that you shared your opinion. It was actually kind of amazing and gave me a chance to see Padme’s character–and the decisions she made–in a different light.

      Thank you for reading my irking post. 😁

      Like

  2. This turned up in my sidebar, so of course I was gonna say something.

    I think that to some degree, thinking of Padme as a heroine is kind of the wrong approach. I’ve long held that the prequel trilogy absolutely has to be viewed with a mindset that every single character other than Palpatine is a flawed, tragic figure. Even going into the Clone Wars series that we’ve now seen concluded, Ahsoka falls into this as well.

    Mace is too dogmatic and mistrusting.
    Yoda is too wrapped up in his own absolutist mysticism to remember pity and compassion for the peasants, preferring an abstract idealism to real world concerns.
    Qui Gon is rather impulsive and goes a bit too much on his gut.
    Obi Wan is a bit wiser, but he’s a little too taken in by affection for Anakin and simultaneous annoyance at his headstrong attitude to slow down and have compassion for him.
    Dooku is a villain, but he fails to realize he’s a placeholder.
    Ahsoka is the closest to heroic, but she’s blinded enough by her own friendship to Anakin that she doesn’t realize he’s being torn apart inside, to a point that when Maul literally tells her what Anakin’s going to do, she doesn’t believe him.

    Padme… well, this is the woman who had Darth Vader’s children. Ironically, she was forced to grow up at least as fast as Anakin did, being saddled with the rule of a planet in her teens, and never having time to slow down for the basics of what most teens go through. It leaves her completely without a good frame of reference for what a good and bad relationship is, and so she jumps for Anakin because he’s the first one who’s dared look at her like that. She has a few heroic traits, and she’s pretty capable at what she does. After seeing the way Han manhandles Leia in getting her off Hoth, I’d say Leia’s an even bigger damsel in distress than Padme was.

    That said, at some point Padme’s flaws were going to get her killed. We knew this going in. Yeah, she’s not as heroic as the other two… because she’s not supposed to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m showing Return of the Jedi to my son for the first time now. Leia is definitely a pretty serious damsel in distress in this. The slave girl outfit is pure fan service, but the big one that jumps out at me is on Endor. When they first encounter the Imperial scout troops, Luke and Leia go out on speeder bikes after two of them. Both of them lose their rides. Yet Luke simply walks back to the rebels’ initial staging area, while Leia just acts helpless as though she’s got no idea what to do and openly tells the Ewok, “I’m stuck here, only problem is, I don’t know where here is.” I can get that they probably wanted Leia to be the personality to meet the Ewoks first, but she still comes off as totally helpless in the face of the exact situation Luke literally, like, walks out of. Somehow I managed not to notice this until just now after reading this post. 😱

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well…he also was a Jedi by that point. That helps matters in terms of surviving. I think she did a pretty good job taking care of herself all things considered.

      Oh my goodness, I hope your son loves it. I mean, I’m sure he will. Which order have you shown him the films?

      Like

      1. He liked this one a lot. I’ve started him on the original films (4-5-6), although I was considering a modified “Machete Order” to start him out (which would’ve been 4-5-1-2-3-6). He liked the Ewoks a lot, which is an example that I suppose explains most of what you need to know about why Lucas put them in there, even if the teenagers and adults hated them. As Lucas himself put it, the films are for kids first. I imagine he’ll like Phantom Menace too, since Jar Jar is aimed at his age group too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Man, I loved the Ewoks when I was a kid. Unfortunately, a few years ago the Ewoks lost steam for me…which makes sense considering that they weren’t targeted to older people anyway.

        How did he react with the “No, I am your father” scene? I saw the prequels so I didn’t get that shock factor. (Or did he already know that Vader was Luke’s father?)

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      3. The Ewoks are going to be a polarizing thing between kids and their parents. Star Wars — as George Lucas envisioned it — is a kids movie first, and there’s a lot of grown ups that don’t entirely get that. The Ewoks and Jar Jar aren’t for us. That’s ok. This is actually the first time I really remember seeing it with a fairly young child and was paying attention to their reactions. He loved them. Conversely, Empire Strikes Back bored him to the point he was rolling around on the sofa in ennui… which is near heresy to a grown up fan. I had troubles with Empire when I first saw it at 7yo myself, so I get it. Seeing Return at 10, I was just old enough to be kinda indifferent to the Ewoks, although when I watch it now the scene where two Ewoks are running away from the AT-ST and get blasted, and the mournful look when one of them gets up and takes a moment to realize his friend is dead is still sad to me. If an adult can’t at least work up sympathy for that moment then I’d tend to say they’re a little dead inside. 😶

        The Emperor frying Luke was a bit scary to him. I had to warn him to avoid covering his eyes so he wouldn’t miss Vader throwing Palp down the reactor shaft.

        He tended not to pay close attention to the dialogue, so I had to point out the spot where Vader told Luke he’s his father so he wouldn’t miss that. He sort of sat up a little bit but didn’t find it that big a deal. I heard from a friend before I even saw it, so it’s kind of a thing where kids never are going to go “whoa” the way grown ups might.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Very interesting. Honestly, when I was a kid I got sad with the Ewok that dies. Now…I just stare blankly. I can’t believe it but I am really not fond of those spear-toting teddy bears. Lol. So yeah, I guess I’m a little heartless.😅

        Wow, he found The Empire Strikes Back boring? That’s very interesting. I always love to learn different peoples’ reactions to the movies. It’s what makes being a fan of this franchise so much fun!!! I’m glad he loved ROTJ though. That’s a heck of a finale.

        What are you going to show him next? The Phantom Menace? The Clone Wars? Where are you taking the little youngster?

        Like

      5. Re: spoiling the reveal… this is prob one reason why watching the films in release order instead of episode order is probably pretty important to a new fan. Empire just isn’t the same if you already know Vader is his father.

        Liked by 1 person

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