Imagine if you were always being compared to a female member of your family: your mother, your grandmother, your daughter, your sister, your aunt, your niece, your cousin and so on and so on. Well this is what it’s like when people write articles singing the praises of Leia and then mention Padme for comparison, usually in a negative way. Leia is considered to be the role model and the feminist icon while Padme is considered to be the disappointing, anti-feminist, wimpy victim who should’ve known better and should’ve been a stronger than that. How dare she make mistakes!
I think it’s time to take a second look at the mother and daughter relationship of Padme and Leia.
We Saw It Coming
With the way viewers complain about Padme’s death in Revenge of the Sith, it makes me wonder if they were even paying attention to the Original Trilogy. Padme is no where to be seen. What happened to her? Did she go into hiding and if she did, why didn’t she eventually reveal herself to the Rebel Alliance and Vader? Why did she give up her children? We get a clue from Leia herself when she tells Luke that her real mother “died when I was very young”. It was because of this plot point, I knew, when The Phantom Menace premiered, that Queen Amidala would be a tragic character. Notice, however, that it’s Independent, feisty Leia that has visions of sad, beautiful Padme, not the more sensitive Luke, who takes after his mother in personality.
Also Padme’s fate was sealed not when she married Anakin, but when she was manipulated by Palpatine to impeach Chancellor Valorum. By giving a vote of no confidence in Valorum’s leadership, she gave an opportunity for the secret sith lord to become chancellor of the galaxy. And when you play a part in a sith’s schemes, whether it’s knowingly or unknowingly, sooner or later, you will be disposed of.
But what can we expect? Padme was only fourteen at the time and was living at the waning days of the Republic. She couldn’t have known that Palpatine was a sith lord or that he was the one behind the Invasion of Naboo or the Clone Wars. Heck, the Jedi didn’t even see it coming and that’s the theme of the Prequel Trilogy: even heroes can be deceived. Leia, on the other hand, has never experienced life under the Old Republic even as a senator. She’s seen Palpatine’s tyranny up close and she’s never seen Palpatine play the part of “benevolent leader”. She sees past Palpatine’s facade because there is no facade in the first place.
Leia is also older than Padme when we first meet her in A New Hope, around nineteen years of age. Age always makes a difference when it comes to life decisions. But guess what star warriors?
Leia is Flawed Too.
I remember once reading a critic’s complaint about Leia’s lack of emotional reaction to the destruction of Alderaan. I think he had a point. I wished the Original Trilogy had some scenes where Leia is sitting by herself with tears streaming down her face because she’s lost her entire planet. Her family, her people, her friends, her pets, the royal court, all dead and gone, obliterated. Instead, when an Alliance officer tells her about how shocked they were about Alderaan, her only reaction is: “no time for tears, admiral.” I know it’s wartime, but, really? Couldn’t she at least say, “I know, admiral. I know. You have no idea how devastated I feel right now. That’s why we must do all we can to destroy the Death Star so that other star systems wont suffer the same fate?” I know the EU goes into more detail about Leia’s mourning but it still would have been nice to see Leia cry on the big screen. Some people think that Leia’s stern demeanor was a sign of strength. I don’t. I see it as a personality flaw when people are afraid to cry, both men and women. It’s only natural to cry.
It was this forgetfulness about Alderaan that almost made Leia into a killer. After Lando betrays Han and gives him to Vader and Boba Fett, Chewie nearly strangles Lando in a fit of rage and Leia doesn’t stop him. Instead she gets even more furious at Lando when he pleads that he had no choice— and that he’s willing to risk his life to get them off Cloud City. Did it ever occur to her that if Lando didn’t do as he was told, the people of Cloud City would have been victims of genocide? Doesn’t it remind you of her father?
Speaking of Han Solo, it’s when she falls for him, Leia’s vulnerable side starts to show. Notice how Leia was sassy and outspoken in episode 4. She wasn’t short of insults and demands, particularly towards Han. All that goes out the window in episode 5. Han puts Leia on the spot relentlessly about her feelings for him and all she can do is give childish retorts or get tongue-tied. She finally tells him that she loves him but he never confesses his love for her—until episode six. It seems so out of character for her.
Despite Leia’s love for Han, there have been times when Leia came close to cheating on him with other men. In Shadows of the Empire Leia, under the spell of Xizor’s pheromones, nearly gets into bed with Xizor. In The Courtship of Princess Leia Leia is willing to enter into a marriage with Prince Isolder, a man she barely knows, just so that the Hapes Consortium will join the New Republic. I don’t blame her. The prince was hot and was madly in love with her. He could’ve chosen far more beautiful princesses in the galaxy but he chose Leia because he was impressed with her diplomatic skills as well. But in the end Leia chooses Han, the two marry and have three kids and Leia is back to being the superwoman we all know and love, right?
Well. No. Leia, after having three kids, had to give them up to her friend, Winter to raise because of her position as Chief of State and because their lives were being threatened. Sound familiar?
Because she missed out on her children’s formative years, it made it harder for her children to accept her as their mother, especially Jaina, and it would come back to haunt Leia once her children became young adults. Neither Padme, nor Leia qualify for Mother of the Year awards.
But these bad judgements on Leia’s part just make Leia seem all the more human. You might think I’m criticizing Leia just to make Padme look better. I’m not. I’m saying that we should turn off the nostalgia filter when it comes to Leia. I love Leia. I love Padme. And the people you love are flawed. Just like the female relatives that you constantly get compared to.
Stay tuned for further postings.
A lot of good points.