Padme Amidala and the Force, and why Anakin's descent to the Dark Side was the fault of galactic level classim

in #starwars6 days ago (edited)

We've now reached the point of quarantine where I'm avidly rewatching all of the Star Wars movies, beginning with the original trilogy and reluctantly ending with the monstrosity that was The Rise of Skywalker. Every time I watch a favorite series from my childhood, be it Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc, I formulate new theories as I rewatch from a new age and new perspective. This time around, I'm infatuated with the idea of Padme Amidala possessing Force sensitivity, and here's why.

Midichlorian BS aside, there have always been indications of different levels of power in those with Force sensitivity. Anakin Skywalker is supposedly one of the most powerful Jedi ever seen according to canon in The Phantom Menace, potentially surpassed later by Luke's powers, though I tend to be of the mind that Anakin gave himself up as a last act of love (one of my many arguments as to why Star Wars is one of the greatest love stories ever told), and not that Luke was actually a more powerful Jedi. There's also the discrepancy between Anakin's powers pre and post Darth Vader, as the mechanics of his machinery no longer allow him access to most of the Force and thus spawn his signature Force-choke, but that's another argument entirely.

Planets within the inner limits monitor Force sensitivity, but it's indicated that those exhibiting high levels of sensitivity are given a choice as to whether or not to pursue the Jedi path. Padme could conceivably have exhibited a higher level of sensitivity, and yet chosen not to follow this path. We know that she was a gifted child, the youngest queen Naboo ever elected, and at the very least was in a Diplomatic training program at the age of 11 (based on her conversation with Anakin on Naboo). Gifted children obviously don't only spawn from Force sensitivity, but it is a potential piece of evidence.

There are further reasons to believe that even a young Padme would turn down an invitation to the Jedi Academy. With a family background in politics, it is first and foremost more likely that she would choose to follow a political path. Secondly, we see often throughout the prequels that her morals do not align entirely with the Jedi Order. She comforts Anakin after the death of his mother by telling him that "to be angry is to be human", and often bridges Anakin's gap between his own emotions and the guilt he has for feeling them as a Jedi by assigning humanity to them. Though logical, she exhibits an understanding of the necessity of feeling and processing emotions that often clash with the Jedi Order's focus on distancing oneself from personal emotions and feelings.

Padme's emotional maturity combined with her diplomatic skills as a leader tend towards a theory of intense empathy and understanding that I've always felt to be a sign of Force sensitivity. I use Leia as an example because I've often felt the same about her, and my rewatch reminded me of scenes such as the one after Luke returns from Dagobah with news that Leia is his twin. He arrives in the briefing room, Leia hugs him and immediately, without any change in his expressions, senses that something is bothering him and asks what it is. Padme often displays this understanding with her decoys and with Anakin, the people she is closest to throughout the prequels. She senses not just that Anakin isn't sleeping well, but the subject of his nightmares, and often is able to communicate his emotions before he voices them.

Some have suggested that in Revenge of the Sith, her ability to communicate with Anakin from a distance and understand events that she cannot see is because she's carrying Skywalker twins, but I cannot help but think that it is Padme and Anakin's combined power that in turn gives Luke and Leia their own power. Padme (though I do not accept her death from sheer heartbreak, thanks George Lucas), essentially waits to die until she's safely given birth to both Luke and Leia, and gifted them with names - her first and last gift to them.

I see this also as part of a bigger theory: that the Force often manifests in women in ways that the majority of the galaxy ultimately does not recognize if they do not follow the Jedi path. If we follow the idea that Padme was Force-sensitive, we also see that Shmi waits to die until she has seen Anakin, the last gift she can give her child in the same way that Padme's wait was the last gift she could give. If Anakin is the most powerful Jedi known to date at the time of The Phantom Menance, why assume that he only got these powers from his unknown father? Shmi's statement that "there is no father" is metaphorical, yes, but I've always had the idea that she needed a little bit of power to safely raise the child that she did on Tatooine, in the midst of a slave market, and to understand the ways in which he was different. She accepts that he is going to leave with the Jedi, almost as if she had known it in advance.

Along with my frustrations about women and the Jedi Order, and as badly fleshed-out as I feel the character of Anakin Skywalker is at times in the prequel, I will always love his backstory. It's interesting to look at the ways in which galactic classism might've played into the downfall of Anakin and the rise of Darth Vader. As I'd mentioned before, most of the inner planets monitor for Force sensitivity, but the outer planets are an entirely different world. Padme displays surprise in The Phantom Menace at learning that slavery still exists despite the Republic's regulations; for all of her diplomatic learning and intelligence she is unaware that there are planets untouched by the Republic. For the ruling class, there is no concern over the outer planets.

Anakin's fate is "saved" as the Jedi bring him back to potentially be trained, yet, no one bothers to address the transition between fighting for survival in the outer rim as a slave, held together only by the tight-knit relationships that can be formed, to an Order that focuses on distance from one's emotions in order to comply with centuries of tradition. Anakin spends his formative years as a slave, understanding survival in terms of his connection with his mother. He later transfers this to viewing Obi Wan a father-figure, and to falling in love with Padme despite ten years of time passing, due to the trials they once faced together and the connection that was first established then. The difference, as a member of the Jedi order, is that he is told that these connections should now inspire guilt in him; that he should not have these connections because they are a weakness. And yet, no one addresses that anger he already has at his powerless upbringing or the difference in emotional connection as a means of survival for someone who was once a slave on a survivalist planet. There has perhaps never been a need to address these differences in upbringing, because most other Jedi in the Academy come from richer planets, if not richer families, in places where the Republic is the law, diplomacy lives, and slavery has been outlawed.

It perhaps never occurs to any of the Order that their chosen one may come from a forgotten outer planet, and so there is never a need to care about these in the grand scheme until that's exactly where their prospective chosen one comes from. And so, Anakin continues to feel as though his loved ones are slipping out of his grasp, even as he is encouraged to abandon them and wracked with guilt for his own emotions. Padme is often caught in the middle of this, understanding his position and yet holding the belief that emotions are human. As Anakin loses his mother, and then abandons orders to save Obi Wan, and finally fails to save Padme in the overwhelming state of his own repressed anger, his worst childhood fears have been confirmed. Darth Vader is born out of the rage and fear of ever losing control again. If you cannot love, you cannot lose love.

And in the end, Star Wars is the greatest love story ever told. Darth Vader gives himself up for his son, love prevailing over fear, finally.

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I think you'd love the prequel novelizations (assuming you haven't read them already). They go a long way (especially Matthew Stover's Revenge of the Sith) towards fleshing out Anakin's back-story and explaining things the films only hint at, if they touch on them at all. How much of their revelations are authorial creations, and how much of them have George's stamp of approval based on his ideas, is unclear, but they tread into areas the films either blunder through ham-fistedly, or don't address at all. Anakin's rise and fall feels a lot different than version we got on screen with R.A. Salvatore and Matthew Stover at the helm.

Amidala is a fascinating figure in the Prequel era. She, like Leia, isn't content to sit back and do nothing, but neither is she interested in pulling a damn-the-torpedoes moment and trying to steamroll the problems. She's a feisty young woman, willing to grab the reigns of destiny and meet issues head-on with that combo of emotion and logic you so perfectly enumerated. She, not the Jedi, is the conscience of the films.

She's the only one who actually cares about the droids aboard her ship. She's the one telling Anakin all of the things we as the audience want to tell him. The one we know is doomed as soon as Palpatine convinces the Senate to grant him the emergency war-time powers he craves in Attack of the Clones, because the conscience cannot long survive that usurpation. I feel she dies of a broken heart not because of Anakin's Force Choke, but rather what the Dark Side is doing to the entire galaxy. She realizes the last thing of consequence she can do is see her children safely enter the world; beyond that, her spirit has been crushed, and there's only enough heat remaining in the embers to ignite their sparks. As you pointed out, it's love to the rescue, though it will take a generation to bear fruit.

I also love your point about Shmi Skywalker being more than meets the eye, to be able to raise her child on a desolate planet like Tatooine, especially where he's been born into a sub-class destined only for exploitation by others. In human biology, mitochondria is what gives power to all the cells in the human body, but mitochondrial DNA is passed down only from the mother -- the male contributes nothing on this front. I've often wondered if the similarity of 'midi-chlorian' and 'mitochondria' was intentional on Lucas's part for this reason.

I better shut up. I could ramble about the Star Wars prequels all night. Lovely essay, with an awesome angle on a topic I'd not considered. :)