The Phantom Menace: A Queen’s Victory

Obi-Wan Kenobi may have overcome the epic new darksider Darth Maul in the finale of The Phantom Menace with one of the most powerful songs in the history of film playing in the background, but I think it’s safe to say that the true victory of the first installment of the Star Wars saga is unequivocally Padme Amidala’s. With her unerring bravery, compassion, intellect, determination, and lack of self-sabotaging ego, Padme goes from a young Queen under attack to a bold ruler who negotiates and fights both on and off the battlefield to secure the safety of both herself and her world’s peoples. Even with the accompaniment of two of the order’s most capable Jedi sent to assist her, it is Padme who ultimately formulates the plan to end the Trade Federation’s unlawful occupation of Naboo and while doing so, mend the tattered relations with the other Sentient race of Naboo, the Gungans.

In a series that is so dominated by masculine heroes and ideals, I think it’s incredibly impactful and telling that the prequels begin the origin of the Skywalker saga with the victory of a woman, a Queen. I have no issue with Luke as the main hero in the originals, he’s the one I’ve rooted for my whole life, the man I emulated and hoped to be like. Leia was strong and fierce and amazing, but she is sometimes overshadowed by her twin brother and even that rascal who won her heart: Han Solo. The victories, even the typically more feminine emotional ones, were mostly male accomplishments. So when the first great battle of the new trilogy was won by a girl about my age, let me tell you, it made me feel so powerful, so capable of anything.

“I will sign no treaty Senator. My fate will be no different to that of our people.” — Queen Amidala

And what made it even more impactful was witnessing Padme’s frailty, her fear and hesitation, because not only did it humanize her, but it made her so much more real. Leia was ALWAYS the baddest b*tch in the galaxy and she knew it, but it was nice and important to see the perceived weakness grow into the strength that saves the day.

Over the course of the film, we are visually bombarded with similar scenes of Padme trying to stand her ground and make life or death decisions while her councilmen, pilots, head of security, Jedi ambassadors, senators, and even the lackluster Supreme Chancellor all vie to make their opinion her decision.

Even after being whisked away by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Padme is lost and noticeably alone amongst her troupe of male saviors, but she doesn’t let that fear keep her from acting. (Yes, she has her handmaidens by her side some of the way – and yes, they are hella epic – but onscreen we don’t get too much of them.) She refuses to be left behind while Qui-Gon scouts Mos Espa for supplies to fix their ship, and it is her determination to see the world for herself and her curiosity of life outside of her own limited view that leads her to understand the issues of the galaxy at large – which later impacts her decision to remain in the political arena once her term as Queen has ended. She meets with people who have no voice, people who have no choice in their own lives… it’s not surprising that afterward she becomes one of the loudest voices in the room.

“I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!” — Queen Amidala

It’s here that Padme meets the only other impactful woman in The Phantom Menace: Shmi Skywalker. Shmi is a slave and an only mother raising an extremely gifted young son on a planet where she is considered cattle to be bought and sold, won and lost to the highest bidder. She easily could have been portrayed as bitter, a spiteful shrew how hates the galaxy for doing her wrong, but instead we’re given a powerful, peaceful woman who sees the evils thrown her way and stands tall with pride and compassion. I have more to say about Shmi, but that’s for another post…suffice it to say, we see a noticeable difference in Padme after she encounters the Mother of the Skywalker line.

“The Republic doesn’t exist out here. We must survive on our own.” — Shmi Skywalker

The Padme that emerges from Tattooine is more grounded, surer of herself and the actions she must take. She still doesn’t know how to right the wrongs of the Trade Federation, but now she sees the plight of others outside of herself and her people…which in time leads her to Jar-Jar and the hidden strength of the Gungan army. Padme’s decision to appeal to the Gungans showcases the greatest lesson she’s learned since leaving her home-planet: that great evil can be conquered not only by force, but by intelligence and compassion. It is her humility and lack of ego, something she learned to put aside on Tattooine, that convinces the Gungans to help her, and it is only with their combined efforts that they free their planet.

“I ask you to help us… no, I beg you to help us.” — Queen Amidala

This is Padme’s greatest victory: a battle for justice and peace hard-won by brute force and intellect, her compassion for life as well as her passion for her planet, her selflessness as a woman, and her power as a Queen. A true middle-ground, a shade of gray, placed here in the first movie as an example of what can come of later is others follow in her footsteps. I can only hope to see her legacy live on in her grandson, another leader who has the greatest lesson to learn and everything that matters to either win…or lose.

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13 thoughts on “The Phantom Menace: A Queen’s Victory

  1. I don’t know a thing about politics but do you think Padme made a good politician? I think she was strong and dedicated to her people as their Queen, but you don’t usually see Queens in Parliament (even though they technically are the head of state as in the case of Queen Elizabeth of England). I don’t see many people blogging about this topic at all when it comes to Padme, but being a politician and mixing with people of influence was her thing yet I don’t see anyone commend her on this. She looked pretty, she made a great Queen but was so influential when it mattered? What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great question and I’ll say the same, I don’t know a thing about politics — but as for the movies, I think a majority of the real politics happens offscreen so we don’t actually get a great representarion of what Padme does day to day or over a long period of time. In Attack of the Clones she’s introduced immediately as being a part of some very big vote happening so we’re supposed to get the idea that she’s a very influential political voice and that’s what I like to think she is. Overall the story just doesn’t have time to focus on too much of her political life but I think we’re supposed to believe she’s very active in her role as Senator. As for what we actually see in the movie, we get a lot of explanatory speeches about her theories on how the senate and government should work and we definitely see them evolve and mature overtime, so yes, given what we have to work with I think she is a good politician. She’s dedicated and actively involved, compassionate and intelligent, so I’d like to think she was great at what she did. Add to that, she has the support and friendship of people like Bail Organa and we know he was great in the political arena so I doubt he’d hang around with subpar colleagues. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice reply 🙂 Agree entirely with what you’ve said. I get the picture she’s very good at what she does, and I doubt Anakin would have fallen in love with her if she wasn’t all of those things and more 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I read your post and I couldn’t help but think about Padme as a politician and thought it would be cool to discuss 🙂 Do you think she is Queen first and Politician second?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I think they go hand in hand — as in all Queens are politicians, even if not all politicians are Queens. But she is definitely more of the “Queen” in TPM because she’s more narrow in her concerns, very Naboo-minded which is appropriate for her elected position but she has no real idea what life is like outside her normally-peaceful world. But in AOTC and ROTS she is more the typical “politician”, her views have broadened into galactic concerns. She still has responsibilities to Naboo but she can act on a larger scale with the power of her planet giving weight to her voice and her opinions regarding other planets. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Very cool, thank you for teaching me about this aspect of Padme’s character. I don’t think people talk about this enough but it’s such a huge area of her character’s life. I guess most fans are in love with her and Anakin mostly but I see the appeal of her character so much more now 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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