We need to talk about Padmé Amidala. More specifically, we have to talk about the raw deal that Padmé gets. No not the one that she got in Revenge of the Sith with her entire political plotline being cut from the film and her less than ideal death. No, I’m referring to the tendency of people (fandom and otherwise) to write Padmé off simply because she was either in the Prequels or doesn’t fit their model of a Strong Female Character because it’s really getting to be a problem.
Prequel dismissiveness aside, I’ve seen a pretty disturbing trend lately of writers leaving Padmé off their lists of prominent women within the Star Wars universe. Usually, that list includes Leia, Rey, Jyn, Ahsoka, and sometimes Sabine and Hera from Star Wars Rebels. It’s a list that doesn’t include Padmé despite her being strong enough to lead the battle to retake her planet, often going headfirst into danger when she’s trying to do the right thing, and having some of the strongest convictions of any Star Wars characters. She is also undoubtedly the prominent female character from three films.
When people talk about Padmé, they often do so dismissively whether it be because of the Prequels or because of her death or because of her fantastic fashion sense or because she’s not the flashy Hero of the story or because they simply don’t like her. That’s not okay. Say what you will about the Prequels but give Padmé the respect that she deserves and don’t omit her from a list of prominent Star Wars women just because you have an axe to grind. (And Padmé certainly can fight, by the way. She’s one of the best shots in the films but that shouldn’t matter.)
Here’s the thing: strong characters should not just include those who can fire a blaster or swing a lightsaber. That’s a dangerous misunderstanding that has corrupted the idea of what makes a good female character. (It’s also a part of a larger mess about how warriors are seen as being better and, by extent, traditionally masculine virtues being seen as better but that’s part of a larger discussion of gender roles that we won’t get into now.) When we ask for strong female characters, we aren’t asking just for those who pick up a sword and dash into battle. We’re asking for believable, well-rounded women who clearly have their own thoughts and motivations and who can pass the sexy lamp test. Encouraging the idea that only warrior women are worthy isn’t a great message to send to all the little girls out there. Women who go into public service are equally worthy of admiration. After all, the world wouldn’t function without them and it’s not everyone’s calling to fight with weapons.
We shouldn’t be asking for diversity just in terms of race, gender, and sexuality but also for diversity in what characters do and in what kind of people they are. There’s a lot of talk about celebrating and supporting women but we need to do so for all types. Yes, it’s fantastic that Rey and Jyn are the main heroes of the Sequel Trilogy and Rogue One respectively but praising them should not be done at the expense of other female characters. It’s nothing short of inspiring to see this new generation of girls who can look up to Rey and Jyn and love them but let’s not forget the generation of women who grew up looking up to Padmé and taking encouragement from her example. Don’t raise some women up by pushing others down and for the love of the Force, give Padmé Amidala the respect and acknowledgement that she deserves.