Friday, November 29, 2013

Heartbreaker

(Originally Written for Jedi News)



One of the more contentious aspects of Revenge of the Sith is the fate of Padmé, specifically her death. Many viewers felt that, especially after the strong woman we’ve seen through Phantom and Clones, her dying after having “lost the will to live” was a major cop-out for her storyline; sweeping her under the rug once Anakin went dark and the twins were born.  I used to feel the same. I’ll admit when I first saw Sith, after spending pretty much the rest of the movie on the edge of my seat, the whole sequence at Polis Massa had me raising my eyebrows. I may have audibly said “Really?!”

"Is...your...degree...in...poetry?! *ghrrrk*"



Of course, times have changed. While this is still one of the very few instances in the Saga where I feel the execution is fairly lacking in the finished film, the idea behind what happened and the overall story arc is great enough for me to forgive. 

Besides, what most people complain about aren’t necessarily what I complain about. While I feel that the failure of the droid to recognize the residual effects of the Force Choke (explained by Lucasfilm as a deciding factor in the rapidity of Padmé’s declining health at this point) should have been made clearer, as what he ultimately says doesn’t quite gel with what we see, I find many detractors say that the concept of stress-induced death in and of itself is not believable in someone like Padmé. This is, to use common vernacular, a complete load.

"I can't cry and be strong at the same time? Have you SEEN my other films?!"

Stress is inherently deteriorating. People have heart attacks, nervous breakdowns, and other physiological and psychological issues that are either caused by or exacerbated by stress. And before anyone objects, yes a little stress is good to keep up your strength. A little. But let’s just take a look at what Padmé is going through.

"See this?! What do you think this is, a ham?! Well, okay, one of them's a ham..."

First of all, she’s pregnant. With twins, though she doesn’t know that yet. Any woman who has been through pregnancy will tell you that with everything going on in the body it is one of the most stressful times in a woman’s life. Hormones are going crazy, causing mood swings and other psychological effects. Body changes put strain on muscles, skin, and bones. Different women experience these symptoms to varying degrees, but it has nothing to do with previously established physical or character strength; how one’s body reacts to a pregnancy is a veritable crapshoot.

"This is how liberty dies..."

On top of that, she’s been dealing with her democracy – her first love and her whole career path – being slowly stripped away until it becomes a dictatorship and there’s nothing she can do to stop it…aside from naturally helping to create a sort of Alliance of, for lack of a better word, Rebels (how I wish those scenes weren’t deleted; C’mon, George, add them back already! Please?)

"You lead him here to kill me!"

Oh, and did I mention the eency-weency little detail that the love of her life, the person she cares for more deeply than anyone before or since, the father of her children, has gone quite insane to the point of committing genocide and using the Force to crush her trachea in a fit of misplaced jealousy? There’s a reason we call it “heartbreak” – it literally feels as if your heart is splitting in two.

While I doubt very much she “lost the will to live,” the ungodly amount of physical and emotional stress combined with the Force damage to her throat likely caused her body to begin shutting down from shock. Frankly, I’m amazed she held on long enough to deliver (of course, if she hadn’t, then IV-VI would never have happened). This does not undermine her importance and innate strength, but serves as just a tragic irony not only for her, but for Anakin as well. Had Anakin not been so afraid to let go, Padmé may very well have survived childbirth, the Republic would live on, and Luke and Leia would have had both their real parents when they needed them most.

"She was very pretty, but also very sad...and kind of wheezy..."

Doesn’t that just break your heart?

8 comments:

  1. Great Article Nilbog!

    I'll admit, like you it took me a while to really 'understand' just what happen to Padme the first time I saw the film. I DO think George could have maybe elaborated a bit more on what happened to her rather then just thrown out "she lost the will to live" etc.

    So I can understand why some people criticize her death, and are angry about it because Padme is a character we've followed since TPM and we want a good explanation as to why we lose her, and when just looking at everything on the surface it DOES feel like it sort of came out of left center.

    But I think if you really take the time to analyze and THINK about just what Padme was put through in ROTS then her death is more understandable. It's more then just Anakin,

    People think she died because she couldn't bear the loss of Anakin (and see it as cheesy romantic 'I'll die because I lost my one true love' etc) but I don't see it that way. Padme was clearly going to leave/divorce Anakin..."You're going down a path I can' t follow".

    These are not the words of a woman who plans on throwing herself off a cliff in despair. It's both the force choke Anakin does on her, as well as the mental trauma of the past 24 hours that triggers the premature birth of the twins...which does a number on Padme physically to a point where she can't recover.

    Pregnancy is not easy on the heart/body, and it's even worse when you are stressed out and in despair emotionally. I mean WE watch the movie and see that the Republic has fallen and think "oh that's so sad" but to Padme...this is her LIFE.

    This is everything she has worked for since she was a girl. I mean think of something you have put blood, sweat, and tears into shaping and then imagine having it ripped away from your grasp and twisted into a perverse mockery of the thing you hate the most.

    That would be enough to drive anyone into a severe depression...and THEN imagine losing your husband (or wife) on the same day...right when you are expecting a child.

    Now you can understand the sort of despair, grief, and heartbreak Padme was put through in ROTS...AND why she died.

    Her 'broken heart' wasn't just about Anakin...although losing her husband was the straw that broke the camels back...it was really a combination of having her life and everything she worked to build (and her child's future) literally destroyed before her eyes.

    And being 9 months pregnant on top of it all.

    I think that is quite enough to drive someone to death, just by the despair alone. You might say she still had her children to live for...but what kind of life?

    In a world where evil reigns supreme? Where she knows her babies will have to fight and maybe die to try to restore justice to the galaxy?

    I can forgive Padme who has spent her whole life in the service of others to allow herself in death to be selfish for once and let death take her just so she doesn't have to experience the possible death or suffering of her children in a world of evil.





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    1. Well-spoken. The only thing I'd say is that even though she was prepared to break if he was that far gone, she still loved him and would still have done what she could to help him.

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  2. When you look at the film from a mythological perspective, it actually isn't that unusual. Characters in other myths and legends die of broken hearts, such as "Tristan and Isolde", a romantic couple that have many parallels to Anakin and Padme. "Star Wars" is many things, of course, but when the characters are seen as being mythological archetypes and following paths set out in established mythic structures, then it works just fine.

    On the flipside, I know in our society people can die of broken hearts, it happened to my mother's father, who simply couldn't live without his wife once she passed away. There wasn't anything physically that really killed him.

    And on a third note, I agree with the other commenter that one could also read her losing the will to live as the result of her entire world collapsing around her, not only Anakin falling to the dark side. She learned of the Jedi "rebellion" and slaughter, Palpatine, her planet's former senator, declared the end of democracy and her husband turned into a murderer. Physically ailments or not, I am not surprised that would stop anyone's reasons for living.

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    1. For older couples, it's common for one to pass on within as year or two of the other.

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  3. IMO only but I think George pulled back from his original intention regarding the demise of Padmé. I remember reading about and then actually seeing the graphic novel where Anakin throws Padmé across the landing platform where she hits the opposite side surface extremely hard and slumps to the floor unconscious. Although this was not mentioned in Pablo's diary, the time slots for filming did indicate this was originally going to be part of RotS. The irony, of course, is that now bets are hedged when "explained by Lucasfilm as a deciding factor in the rapidity of Padmé’s declining health at this point" - After the heat from the slaughter of the younglings I think George is trying to play this both ways. He doesn't want to say that Anakin killed his wife...but then he does imply that's what happened. It was more than just a contributing factor. This is lovelucas, by the way from SWPAS

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    1. Hmmmm, interesting. That would explain a bit.

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  4. ["I can forgive Padme who has spent her whole life in the service of others to allow herself in death to be selfish for once and let death take her just so she doesn't have to experience the possible death or suffering of her children in a world of evil."]


    Why is Padme falling into despair described as "selfish"? Is it because she was a woman with newly born children? Is it okay for a man to succumb to despair - regardless of whether he has kids or not - but not women?

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    1. I'm reminded of Tolkien, who regarded despair as a cardinal sin, since only those who know the future for certain have an excuse. And that's nobody

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