Warning-- the following contains SPOILERS from the Star Wars movies. If you're one of the three people in the world who haven't seen them, stop reading.
Alison had an interesting quote on her blog today from this blogger ranting about Star Wars III. This is a funny post, particularly when she says of Padme, "She's dying? Of...meh-ness? She’s been hauling these babies around for nine months and just because her stupid husband is now evil incarnate she doesn’t see fit to stick around and raise the twins?"
This blogger writes, "Padme willingly endangered a thousands-old peacekeeping order by entering into a marriage to a supposed-to-remain-celibate Jedi solely to get her freak on with the petulantist petulant who ever petulanted. She also shows fantastic insight in the moralistic struggles of her husband, cheerily attributing his most recent broodings to the fact that 'he’s been under a lot of stress.'"
Very funny. But I'm going to indulge in some more serious thoughts about this. The lack of a strong female lead is one of the things that bothered me about the new Star Wars trilogy. The original Star Wars had a true kick-butt heroine, a Senator and rebel leader who could also fire a gun and boss big men (and bigger Wookiees) around without flinching. We're told how strong Padme is, and on the surface she appears to be a strong heroine (Queen AND Senator-- quite a resume there!), but when it comes to Anakin, she's weak. Terribly weak.
I tend to view Padme as a metaphor for battered women, although I'm not really sure that's what George Lucas had in mind. Although Anakin doesn't lay a hand on her till the last movie, he grows steadily more and more scary, yet she keeps making excuses for him. For example, when he committed a mass murder of men, women, and children, her attitude is: Oh, the poor dear... he was upset by the death of his mother. He lies. He cheats. He's appallingly arrogant. She puts up with all his mood swings, his petulant whining, and his generally scary behavior, and clings all the more tightly. By the time Padme says, "Anakin! You're going down a road I can't follow!" I'm forced to wonder, Why on earth did she follow him this far?
Bad boys are a common theme in romance. The difference is that romances end on a positive note. The hero's a bad boy, but the love of a good woman redeems him. There are three factors that make the redemption of the bad boy in romance believable. 1. The bad boy has to be redeemable (he can't have murdered children, or done anything else so vile and unforgivable that the reader's sympathy for him is shot). 2. The heroine has to be strong. She can't keep making excuses for him-- somewhere along the line, she has to force him to take a look at himself, to see what he's done wrong. 3. And lastly, the bad boy has to want to change for the better.
None of these things are true in Star Wars, which is why Episode III is a tragedy rather than a romance. Even if Padme had been stronger, she couldn't have redeemed Anakin-- he was past redemption in Episode II. (Yes, he is eventually redeemed, but I'm not sure it's enough, personally, when we consider everything we know about him, and all the horrible things he's done over the years.) It makes me wonder-- how often are bad boys really redeemed in real life? Is romance only a fantasy, or does love truly encourage men (and women) to change their lives for the better?