Star Wars is such a broad universe that there’s just so much to talk about. A long-standing criticism of series is that it’s sexist. The sexism in Star Wars started in the original films, and George Lucas just brought it over to the prequels, but by then, he either ran out of ideas to hide it or gave up trying completely. Now, to be fair, I’m sure George Lucas doesn’t walk about thinking himself superior to women, and I’m sure he didn’t intentionally put sexism into his films, but what he intended or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that Star Wars has sexism all over the place, and unfortunately, it shows up in the animated series too.
Now, as to sexism in the original films, my biggest complaint would be that Leia is apparently the only woman in existence, outside Mon Mothma. As a small child, this kind of confused me, because I legitimately thought there were absolutely no women besides them in the entire galaxy. Like, did no woman ever agree with the Rebels or the Empire? None wanted to join up for the cause? I was also a little concerned when the Empire tried to execute Leia. I mean, did no one realize how very bad it would be to kill the only female who hasn’t hit menopause? Did they not want the Empire to survive past their generation?
I suppose it’s not really fair to say that Leia’s the only girl. Sure, there’s Aunt Beru, who dies. And a bunch of slave girls on Tatooine, who also die, now that I think about it. Hell, the one who stands up to Jabba gets eaten in punishment.
I also know some people think Star Wars is sexist because they don’t believe that Leia’s a strong character due to her actions in Return of the Jedi, when she abandons her post to save Han, and that that was irresponsible of her because she’s an important figure to the Rebels. I really disagree with this. Leia isn’t so much in charge of the Rebels, as she’s a very active supporter. And one can argue that Han is important to the Rebels, due to his actions in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. In many ways he’s more of a leader than she is, and we see him commanding people more than her. I was under the impression that Leia committed to the Rebels more financially than anything else—until her home got blown up, that is. And that’s not to say that I think Leia’s weak, because Han ended up with a more important role than her. She still fights for the cause, but she’s no starship pilot. She can’t lead the Rebel forces into an attack in outer space. I don’t think it was irresponsible of her to rescue Han, so much as I think she was doing her damn job.
Of course, she does fail at that and requires being saved by Luke, and all the while she’s wearing a skimpy outfit. And then there are all the slave girls Jabba had, and their deaths are kind of her fault.
But I do think she’s still a strong character. She’s not a traditional princess who always wears dresses. She’s active, and she stands up for what she believes in. As Lady Geek Girl pointed out, she does a lot for the Rebels. She very well could have been a spy against the Empire, looking at her conversation with Vader in A New Hope, and she is the one who got the plans for the Death Star.
Her mother, on the other hand, is a bit of a different story. Something about Padmé really stuck out to me as wrong during the prequels, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until the animated series came out. Yes, we can say Padmé is active in her role. She goes back to Naboo to free her people, fights in the coliseum in Attack of the Clones, and is very vocal about her political views. Of course, she’s also the reason Palpatine got elected to be Chancellor, after very obviously being manipulated. Though, during Phantom Menace, she is only fourteen, so I suppose we can’t expect too much from her, but a personality would have been nice.
And it wasn’t until watching the Clone Wars that I truly understood why I hate Padmé. And here it is:
She’s not a character; she’s a plot device for either Anakin to angst over or for George Lucas to share his political beliefs with the world.
And I’m going to talk about these two things concerning her. First of all, let me make it clear that George Lucas is well within his rights to have a character as a spokesperson for his political views. That’s not a problem. It’s a problem when that’s all a character is used for and has no identifying characteristics outside of it. This is mostly show during Padmé-centric episodes involving the senate, such as “Senate Murders” from season two, and “Heroes on Both Sides” and “Pursuit of Peace” from season three.
During “Senate Murders,” Padmé cannot shut the hell up on her view of this one bill and how she needs to convince the senate to not vote for the production of more clone troopers, because that would only prolong the war and bankrupt the republic. We’re going to come back to the whole bankruptcy thing in a second. Just know that everyone who disagrees with her is either evil or corrupt. A good example of this would be the senator for Kamino, Halle Burtoni, who we know is a bad person because she likes to drink wine in poorly lit rooms while talking sinisterly. And when she’s not doing that, she’s mocking Padmé and her friends. Naturally, she becomes a suspect for murder—the death of someone who is alive spontaneously for one episode the next season, I should point out… plot hole?—and I was honestly surprised she’s not the culprit, just because of how clichéd everything else about her is.
On top of all that, I don’t really understand Padmé’s defense during the passing of this bill. Granted, the murder is the overall plot of the episode, but the bill has to do with the overall plot of the series. I can understand how the production of clones may bankrupt the Republic—wait, no I can’t. Because Kamino seemed just fine producing clones long before anyone realized that they were, and the Republic didn’t pay for shit then. I don’t know how this works. Maybe Kamino eventually demanded payment. But on top of that, Padmé’s other reason is that more troopers will prolong the war, instead of ending it. Well, that begs the question: how? One would think that more clones fighting for the Republic would end the war faster. Not less of them. I don’t get how anything she says makes sense, and that wouldn’t be a problem if the show just explained it. It wouldn’t even need to be a good explanation, just a logical one.
But no, the only explanation seems to be, because she’s Padmé and people who disagree are stupid and evil.
And in the episodes “Heroes on Both Sides” and “Pursuit of Peace,” we have the same problems. In some ways, these episodes are better, and in others they’re much worse. They’re better, because the show finally tries to add depth to the Separatists by showing some of the senators who left the Republic, and it even makes one of them Padmé’s friend. Ahsoka also meets the friend’s son, a boy about her age, in the one episode, and learns to stop being so bigoted about the other side. She and the son even kind of like each other. Yeah, too bad we never see him again. But the main focus of this episode is that the Separatists want peace, because in all actuality, they and the Republic should be able to coexist. So the Separatists and the Republic, by Padmé’s influence, start negotiating for peace. Unfortunately, right before the vote, both the sides are attacked by droids. Padmé’s friend dies, the Republic thinks the Separatists have gone back on their word, and Dooku sends a message saying peace is no longer an option because of the Republic’s viscous attack.
This one here is probably the only Padmé-centric episode I can stand, because it is pretty decent. It’s interesting. There’s no reason to continue the war, and we finally see the effects of said war, not to mention some possible character development for Padmé. It only took three movies and three seasons of a subpar show, but we got there. And the surprise attack on both the Republic and Separatists really stands out. Like, wow, there’s a third party somewhere who likes neither side. I mean, I know Palpatine and Dooku want the war to continue, but Dooku still has to listen to the Separatists and what they want. So what’s happening?
Well, right after the attack, Bail Organa says to Padmé that his sources prove that Dooku was the one behind the droid attack. First of all, I have to ask what sources does he have that are privy to Dooku’s innermost schemes? I think it’s probably because of [insert bullshit reason here]. And by the way, it’s probably a good thing he has those, because otherwise we might have had to suffer through some character development on both sides. Thank goodness.
All in all though, this is still a better episode with Padmé. And she is the driving force behind the vote for peace, but the other episode is where shit really hits the fan.
Remember that bankruptcy thing? Well, it pops up here, too. The Senate begins debates on a bill that would eliminate government involvement in the banking companies. I don’t know about you, but this seems like a direct statement on events in the real world involving banks. And let’s not go into that issue, but we’re also going to keep in mind that there are people on both sides of it. Again, it’s not a problem for fiction to express the views of its creator. The problem is how it’s done. Padmé is once again downgraded to a personality-lacking spokesperson. She stands by the belief that without government involvement, banks will worsen the economy, and lo and behold, when the banks can control themselves, they prove just how greedy they are.
I wouldn’t care so much if Padmé would just explain her stance. Why should we listen to her? What does she have to back her statement? The only thing backing her is that she’s Padmé and the embodiment of all things good, so the show assumes we will already agree with her, and anyone who doesn’t is corrupt. Which is really rude, now that I think about it. And my beliefs aside, I can think of numerous arguments for both sides in this, and none of them show up in the episode. I understand that this is a kid show and cannot launch into politics, but it should either be done right or not at all. I wouldn’t let my kid watch this episode, because there’s nothing substantial in it. It’s not teaching children to think, so much as it’s teaching them how to think, with the basis of “Padmé said so; agree with her or you’re wrong.” This episode has nothing to do with the plot; it’s just a political statement, accompanied by the message that anyone who doesn’t like Padmé sucks as a person.
So the episode ends with Padmé giving a speech that would have persuaded no one, but she still wins the vote.
I also feel the need to point out that in her speech she mentions how her one handmaiden is without electricity at her home because of the war. Which, it would be really nice to see the effects of the war for once. This means one of two things. Either Padmé’s a horrible person who pays her employees next to nothing, or the negative financial consequences of this war are much more widespread than entirely-nonexistent. I think it’s a bit of both. And Padmé herself seems really sad about her handmaiden’s plight, but one would think that someone who works directly for a senator would be able to afford bills. So in the end, Padmé comes off as a horrible person. Her life isn’t affected this much by the war. If she’s really so kind and selfless, she should probably give her employees a damn raise. I can’t imagine it would take that much on her part.
And it’s not even just the fact that she’s nothing more than a spokesperson. It’s everything about her. For starters, there is no reason for Naboo to ever select a fourteen-year-old queen. Watching the movies and show, it is heavily implied that certain children—rich children from political families—are brought up to be the next leaders of their planets. The universe has children becoming rulers and senators at young ages due to being raised that way; it’s a world where the poor stay poor, the rich are always rich, and nepotism is abundant, which is something Padmé would be entirely against given her stand on other issues, but she never addresses this, because they wanted her to be young enough for Anakin, so there’s a lapse in her judgment.
That’s the only reason she’s fourteen in the Phantom Menace, but even then, she wouldn’t have had the hots for someone five years younger than her, and so the first movie did nothing for their relationship. The movies’ main focus is the love between the two and turning Anakin evil, but he wouldn’t have been likely to carry a crush on her for that long, and she had no reason to like him romantically from the events of Episode I. They just didn’t want her to be forty when he was eighteen, but there’s a reason why in the real world people can’t be eligible for the presidency until they’re thirty-five, and that’s experience that can only come with age. Being raised that way from birth will not give her that experience.
Just as making her a queen and a senator will not make her a strong character. I don’t know which is worse, actually. Being a spokesperson for political view points and having no actual personality, or existing only to further a man’s character arc and having no actual personality.
Padmé tends to switch between the two.
The events in Episode I also did very little in the overall arching plot. I really don’t want to suggest ways to fix the prequels—given that this is a review of the animated series—but it might have been better to start the prequels at Attack of the Clones, have Padmé and Anakin meet for the first time then, make Anakin not an asshole, give Padmé a personality, and have them learn to be friends first. Then the second episode could have taken place during the Clone Wars and developed the relationship into something more romantic. And now that I think about it, they didn’t even need to love each other romantically. They could have just hooked up because they were good friends, and Padmé could have had Luke and Leia out of wedlock during Revenge of the Sith, where according to Leia in Return of the Jedi Padmé couldn’t have died during childbirth.
And don’t give me that crap that Leia remembers because she’s Force-sensitive, because Luke would have remembered that, too.
I feel as though Padmé could be a good character had she not been invented for the sole purpose of Anakin turning evil. There’s just so much wasted potential, and not just in her, but in the entire prequel universe.
Much like Leia was the only notable woman in the originals, Padmé seems to be the only girl with any kind of a part in the prequels. Yes, we see Mon Mothma again, more slaves girls, and Padmé’s handmaidens who do nothing but stand around and possibly die. The Jedi Council has at least three women on it, and none of them have any speaking roles in the movie. Shaak Ti has a line of dialogue in a deleted scene, and then she’s murdered immediately afterward. Luminara Unduli and her Padawan get a bit of a bigger role in the Clone Wars, and that’s certainly interesting. Shaak Ti appears in one episode and gets a few more lines. And even in the limited time they appear on screen, they still have more personality and depth than Padmé. Not a lot, but they are by far more compelling as characters to me.
Even Aayla Secura gets a few episodes of her own, and it’s nice to see her as well, but I’m still expecting more from the women in this series. The only woman the series seems to like delving into outside Padmé and Ahsoka is Satine Kyrze, Duchess of Mandalore. And Satine is boring beyond belief. Her episodes are more annoying than Jar Jar’s, and I feel as though she exists only to give Obi-Wan a love interest, which doesn’t work out too well, because looking through all the fanfiction, I think the fans prefer Obi-Wan with Ventress or one of Padmé’s handmaidens. In fact, Satine Kyrze isn’t even an option in the character list. I can’t think of anything good to say about her. She adds nothing and has nothing about her to make her interesting. Every time Mandalore gets mentioned, I actually groan, because I know Satine will rear her useless head.
All the non-Force-sensitive women seem to only appear to be love interests to male characters. And outside Ahsoka and Ventress, all the Force-sensitive women aren’t given personalities, or at least not strong ones. I still think Luminara and her Padawan are fairly decent, though, all things considered.
And if it were just Padmé, it probably wouldn’t be such a big deal. There’s a shit person in either gender, no matter how you look at it (see Anakin). I suppose one can argue that the men are just as bland overall—which they are—but their character arcs have more to do with the story than the women’s. Sometimes I feel as though women only appear so the animators can go, “See! We do write female characters!”
And this leads me into two more female characters: Asajj Ventress and Aurra Sing. But I feel as though I should save them for when I talk about the rest of the villains. Until next time.