The Phantom Menace: The Reign Of A Queen


“I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.”  — Queen Amidala

I remember being in awe of Padme Amidala the moment she appeared onscreen in The Phantom Menace. She was — for lack of a better word — just epic.

Like everyone else in the packed theater, I didn’t know she was actually Leia’s mom, but between her unforgettable fashion and her unwavering bravery, I knew I had found a new Star Wars woman to look up to and I was captivated.  She was only a few years older than me (back in 1999) yet she seemed so much older and wiser than my lackluster nine-year old self. Padme was fearless, steady, intelligent, and elegant — pretty much everything I ever wanted to be. When she first appeared onscreen before the Trade Federation she was unflinching and unbreakable; she refused to accept defeat, and instead held her head high as she fought against the illegal invasion of her home-world. Simply put: she was a badass. I mean it’s no wonder Leia was such a spitfire princess and rebellion-leader!

Even on Naboo amongst her own council Padme stands stalwart and alone amidst a sea of men, each telling her what he thinks she should do, vying for her attention, and forcefully declaring their opinion to be the only valid one. Visually, it’s a powerful scene and as a woman it’s even more so because it would have been so easy to have her listen to one of them, to have her admit defeat, and then wait to be rescued by the heroic Jedi knights. But instead we see her hold her ground, frightened and alone as she is, she stands up for her own point of view — expressing herself elegantly but forcefully. And most importantly, we see this determined young Queen actively decide her own fate.

It is Padme’s choice to leave Naboo and appeal for help abroad, it is her choice to follow Qui-Gon into the desert-swept town of Mos Espa, and then to step before the galactic Senate and speak the truth that no one else wanted to hear. And when no help was offered from said Senate, it was Padme’s choice to humble herself before the other occupants of Naboo and ask for their assistance securing the planet. Every step of the way, for good or for ill, Padme is an active participant in her life, she doesn’t shirk decision-making or side-step taking the first step. She evaluates situations as they arise and she alters her course to ensure that her people and her planet are cared-for to the best of her abilities. She is no figurehead Queen. Padme is a battle-tested monarch, a woman born to rule and brave enough to do it.

With a blaster in hand and a razor-sharp intellect, Padme Amidala is one hell of a role-model for the prequel-era generation – or any generation at that. She makes mistakes like everyone else around her, she wrestles with fear and sorrow, and struggles to beat back political oppression and manipulation but through everything thrown her way, she never stops believing in herself or the power that inherently resides within her. She even stands up to my favorite Jedi: Qui-Gon Jinn when she believes his judgement to be skewed. and if that’s not self-assurance and bravery I don’t know what is. She is a woman I proudly modeled myself after then and now, and when I think of the prequel trilogy it is her iconic lines that run through my head, her wisdom that shapes the way I see the story. Her life may have been unexpectedly short, but it’s impact stretched to the far reaches of the galaxy and her strength, determination, and bravery were nevermore present than here, right from the beginning in The Phantom Menace.

 

Media via:

en.wikipedia.org

starwars.com

starwars.fandom.com

scenethatface.wordpress.com

pinterest.com

makingstarwars.tumblr.com

The Journey Begins: The Phantom Menace

The year was 1999 when the biggest Star Wars event of my young life exploded into existence, changing everything I thought I knew about that galaxy far, far away and the people there who had captured my youthful attention. The Phantom Menace hit theaters in mid-May, a few months shy of my tenth birthday and it was like a gift from George Lucas himself. Fifth-grade was looming at the end of the summer, I was a year into my Pokémon craze and a year out from discovering my next great love – Harry Potter – and I had been a die-hard Star Wars fan my WHOLE life. Simply put…life was good.

It’s funny, because I don’t remember actually being in the theater watching the movie with my mom and little brother, but I do remember coming home and repeating Every. Single. Jar-Jar line to my dad and basically reenacting the entire movie. I was a storyteller even then, and Star Wars was the most dramatic, earth-shattering, mind-blowing story I had ever come across and this new installment was everything I never knew I needed, both as a viewer and a writer myself. To see the greatest villain of my childhood portrayed onscreen as a kid almost my age was astounding, add to that the fact that he was an absolute sweetheart was mystifying. How had this eager, helpful, little optimistic Ani become one of the darkest forces in the galaxy, someone capable of destroying entire worlds and torturing his own family?

And Padme! She was only a few years older than me, but she was already a stalwart queen and a determined, powerful woman I envied and respected equally. I saw her up there, in both her handmaiden and her queenly guise, living out the adventure and I wanted so badly to be her. Leia was always, always, amazing but with her ferocity and quick wit, she seemed so far above me, so completely unreachable to a nine-year-old, but Padme felt like she could be me. She was young, scared, intelligent, and determined, she didn’t know what to do but she was brave enough to try. She made me realize that we all start somewhere, that people aren’t just born Leia’s, but that they can become women like her and that that pathway started now. I’d known Leia my whole life but now I would grow up with Padme.

Not to mention the story itself…suffice it to say, I knew the story of Star Wars. But now there were even more stories, more pieces of the puzzle I had just blindly taken for granted before… and therein lies The Phantom Menace’s greatest gift and lesson. I already understood that there is great power in the telling of a story – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi had already taught me that – but The Phantom Menace taught me there is always more to a story, and it’s the way you deliver it, (i.e. telling it in a certain order or a specific way) that elicits totally different responses. TPM didn’t change what happened in ANH, but it changed our entire perception of it. It forced us to ask those simple, powerful questions: how? Why? And it’s those questions that make us realize, we only know half of the story.

I never questioned Vader as the villain in the original saga, he was presented to me as such and I accepted it immediately. But after TPM I could never see Vader without picturing Ani’s face beneath the mask. The story was done, nothing could change Vader’s fate, but Ani’s was still uncertain, and I couldn’t give up on him, the kid who risked everything to help a group of strangers for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do. Ani had a story to tell and even knowing where it was going, I was determined to stay by his side until the very end, to hear the part that no one had ever heard before, the forgotten tale of that little slave-boy who loved his mother with all his heart.

Like I said, in the end you can’t change Vader’s story. Redeemed or not he goes down the darkest path possible and becomes one of the most powerful, terrifying villains the world has ever seen – whether you start his story from the beginning or from the middle. But by beginning in the middle and circling back once the tale is done, we aren’t left with just Vader, we are left with Anakin and that’s the whole point of Star Wars. There is always more to the story, always more to the people we see on screen, whether we want to admit that or not. We can accept Vader as bad simply because he is, or we can understand that he was once a person who made the choice to help people, and that choice led to more choices and those choices led to a path he never expected. We can ignore Anakin’s story if all we want to see is Vader, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. And this is something I use in my writing even now. Readers see the world as the writers choose to display it, I give you the side of a character I want you to see and you judge in an instant whether they’re good or bad or a million shades in between. You judge an entire lifetime with a moment, deciding a person’s fate and worth with my perception of the story as well as the main character’s coloring the entire thing in our favor. And I know you’re going to do it. There is unlimited power in that, and The Phantom Menace taught me to see it.

Now, back to 1999, flash forward three months and school had started again, and I was finally ten years old. Fifth grade was the epitome of my elementary school journey and conclusion of the first part of my young life. Just like in the galaxy far, far away, things were changing, I was gearing up to strike out on a new adventure, with new places and people and situations I could never dream of. It was exciting but hella scary. But for the time being, Star Wars was all anyone was talking about, Jar-Jar was everyone’s absolute favorite character, and I had pod-racer Ani plastered all over my new school supplies. Simply put, life was good.

*Starting this month, I will be focusing on one Star Wars film each month as we countdown to the final episodic film release in December. And if you couldn’t tell already, we will be starting at the beginning of the story as we know it: The Phantom Menace. I have some awesome posts already planned and I can’t wait to see what others emerge as inspiration strikes and my muse goes into SW overdrive. I hope you join me on this Star Wars adventure and make it the most fun it can possibly be so we can share this year together waiting and reminiscing about all those characters we love to love. This Monday I’ll be watching TPM (again) and doing a running commentary of my inner thoughts and opinions and all that fun stuff and I hope to see you there… I’ll bring the popcorn! – Tara

Media via:

en.wikipedia.org

gifer.com

pinterest.com

starwars.com

starwars.com

giphy.com

Blood and Ivory (A Padme Poem)

 

I was a Queen once,
In a game of chess.
Pale, milky-white ivory
Shaped and rounded
In the mold of my foremothers,
Unchanged after a millennia.

Demure, silent, cold, reserved,
I was hidden behind pawns,
Protected by knights,
And sacrificed by a King,
A King who should have loved me.
Why didn’t he love me?

I was a Queen once,
With blood on my ivory hands.
Dark as rubies, red as wine,
It dripped from my throat,
And splashed on the marbled stones.
Why couldn’t he love me?

 

I wrote this poem several years ago and recently rediscovered it while playing around on my computer. It originally had nothing to do with Star Wars, it was just a story that needed telling, but as I reread it this time, Padme’s face came to mind. I couldn’t help but think of her bravery, her fiery determination, her ability to love wholeheartedly, and ultimately the tragedy of her short life and the lasting impact it had on the entirety of that galaxy far, far away.

Picture via Pinterest