We’ve got an amazing guest-post for you all today by David Salazar about the rhyming within Star Wars relating to Princess Leia and Padme Amidala. David Salazar is an independent director and kindly sent in the post below. He makes some fascinating links, using the idea of Mike Klimo’s Ring Theory. Padme and Leia are among the most complex characters in Star Wars and their arcs have a lot to offer to those willing to take the plunge. So follow David as he does so.
Leia, Padme and Rhyming Star Wars
One of the most fascinating features of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the fact that the main character, unlike the first two prequels, will be a female character. Rey is, by most accounts, slated to take on Campbell’s archetypal hero’s journey through the new trilogy, which should in some ways mirror the journeys of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
Or will it?
Luke and Anakin’s roles in the films are often the ones to get the most emphasis and for good reason, but Star Wars movies have always been built on a trio of developing characters – the prequels had Obi-wan Kenobi, Anakin and Padme Amidala while the originals had Luke, Han Solo and Leia Organa. Padme and Leia often get overlooked and yet they provide an interesting study that could potentially match up in some way with Rey’s progression if she is in fact the progeny of the two women.
Recent “Star Wars” scholarship has led to the unearthing of Mike Klimo’s Star Wars Ring Theory, which posits that the films by George Lucas were ultimately conceived in ring structure with the two prequels themselves forming a circle of sorts. Lucas was always open about making his movies “rhyme” like poetry and the Ring Theory articulates that the films do in fact rhyme in the following order – Episode I corresponds with VI, II with V and III with IV. In this way, the Prequels descend to their lowest point before the Originals bring back the story to its highest point of original stasis. This structure in more general terms represents a descent (of Anakin and the Republic into darkness) and then a rise (of Luke and the Rebel Alliance into the light).
The female characters articulate this point quite well in how their progressions move in opposing directions. Padme’s descent and growing powerlessness mirrors the Prequel films’ own movement toward the dark side while Leia’s ascent and empowerment represents the Original films’ move toward the light. Moreover, since both characters are representative of political organizations, their developments also parallel those of the bodies they work for. Padme is at her highest point in “The Phantom Menace” where she is literally a Queen, a station that puts her in a position of great political power and prominence. Throughout this film she will be the center of the narrative, but she grows from being a vulnerable figure to the ultimate heroine of the movie. Not only does she aptly conceal her identity throughout, thus preserving her life, but she also manages to bridge the divide with the Gungans, thus ensuring peace and prosperity in Naboo. In Episode I, the Republic is also at its peak, though there are rumblings of corruption that will slowly erode it throughout the next two films.
In “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” Leia reaches her own apotheosis. As Padme does in “Menace,” she befriends natives that will ultimately help defeat the Empire, in this case the Ewoks. She also engages in a disguise as a bounty hunger in her attempt to save Han and shows her greatest sense of power when she strangles Jabba the Hutt on her own as revenge for his objectification of her. She also shows herself an equal to Luke Skywalker during their speeder chase sequence, thus emphasizing her growth from a damsel-in-distress in previous episodes. She also leads the Rebel attack on the base.
Both women also undergo identity revelations in each corresponding film that alter their rank or station. Padme, reveals herself to be the rightful Queen of Naboo and not just some handmaiden while Leia learns that she is the daughter of Darth Vader and sister of Luke Skywalker and thus a potential Jedi as well. Leia’s empowerment by the end of “Jedi” correlates with the Rebel Alliance’s victory over the Empire.
In “Episode II” Padme is now a Senator, fully entrenched in the Republic. Yet she protests the creation of an army, knowing that it will lead to a full scale war. As in “Episode I” Padme’s life is in danger yet again, but this time she is not calling many of the shots (Padme ensures that she visits Tatooine with Qui-Gon Jinn for example in “Episode I”). This time around she is escorted to safety by Anakin where she falls in love with him. As the film develops, Padme, like Leia finds herself captured by an enemy and imprisoned, only to eventually escape. Padme does exert herself in this film, commanding some troops at one point in the battle of Geonosis, saving herself from the execution and even putting herself out in the open to help capture a bounty hunter. Throw in her ability to keep Anakin at a distance in crucial moments and even move to save Obi-Wan Kenobi and you still have a woman in control of her surroundings, albeit to a lessened degree.
Despite her efforts, Padme ultimately fails to achieve her “diplomatic” solutions just as Leia fails to save Han at the end of “Empire Strikes Back.” Like Padme, Leia is leading troops into battle in Hoth at the start of the film, but then gets whisked away for protection by Han Solo. She also falls in love with him, but for most of the film’s middle act she is powerless, functioning in relation to the men around her. That she eventually exerts herself by trying to save Han and eventually saving Luke shows that Leia is finally growing in the trilogy into a more autonomous character. There is an image that actually links the two women in the middle films of each trilogy. As Count Dooku flies away, Padme fires at the ship, a mirror of Leia doing the same to Boba Fett’s Slave I. They both miss and fail in their attempts, though their directions will diverge from this point forward. Compare that with what the two women do in Episodes III and IV and the conclusions are telling.
At this point in the narrative, both the Rebel Alliance and Republic are facing tough times, mirrored by the two characters’ own limitations. In Episode III, Padme retains her role as Senator but does little to nothing to help herself. One might argue that her role in the film is fact the most vital to the entire outcome of the saga (being pregnant with the saviors of the galaxy), but she is generally seen sitting around and being shut out by her own husband. It is a rather big reversal for a character that was shooting down droids and wandering through the harsh desert of Tatooine in both Episodes I and II. She does fly to Anakin at the end, continuing a pattern in which she makes a vital decision at the end of each prequel film that leads to the climax (she decides to return to Naboo in “Episode I” thus creating the final battle; Padme makes the decision to save Obi-Wan in “Episode II;” in “Episode III” her decision to look for Anakin on Mustafar leads to Obi-Wan finding him and doing battle with him).
In Episode IV, Leia becomes you prototypical damsel-in-distress. Like Padme at the end of “Sith,” Leia makes a decision that has major outcomes for the entire galaxy a the beginning of “A New Hope” (both decisions also ultimately lead Obi-Wan to Darth Vader) – she stores the Death Star plans inside of R2D2 and sends a message to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yet for most of this film, she stays locked up, throwing a few one-liners at her captors but being at their mercy until Luke and Han Solo rescue her.
And this is where the interesting inversion happens for both. In a ring structure, there needs to be some form of reversal in which the stories diverge and move in different directions. While Leia moves from impending doom to being rescued by the teamwork of the other two main characters in the trilogy’s trio (Luke and Han), Padme goes from being seemingly safe in Coruscant, thanks to Obi-Wan and Anakin’s rescue of Palpatine to being indirectly pushed to death by both Anakin and Obi-Wan. These events are significant for the Rebellion and Republic. Han and Luke’s rescue is a huge boost for the Rebellion in both the short and long term while Palpatine’s rescue by Anakin and Obi-Wan hints at safety but ultimately proves to be the Republic’s demise.
Speaking of Padme’s fate, Darth Vader force chokes her at the end of Episode III and calls her a “liar” and unleashes his anger at her betrayal. At the start of “A New Hope,” Darth Vader calls Leia a “traitor” and is later seen entering her cell to question and torture her. In “Revenge of the Sith” Padme goes to her husband to get information from him regarding his incriminating actions; in “A New Hope” it is Vader trying to get incriminating information from his daughter. The first image of Leia is in her white gown in “A New Hope;” Padme wears a white gown prior to her death. Both characters are also linked with droids that provide essential information to Obi-Wan. In Padme’s case, the maternity droid tells him of the twins’ birth and her death; in Leia’s case, R2D2 carries the crucial message that will ultimately save Leia’s life. Moreover holograms are also associated with both characters. A hologram with tints of blue looms over Padme on her hospital bed; Leia is a blue holographic image when Obi-Wan and Luke first see her.
These connections between mother and daughter emphasize that “Star Wars” as conceived by Lucas is a never ending adventure with new things to discover at every turn.
– by David Salazar