My first exposure to Star Wars was as a young kid watching the Original Trilogy. By the time I saw Return of the Jedi, I had my own ideas about Anakin Skywalker and his then nameless wife. I'm sure that I'm not the only one.
I knew something horrible must have happened to Anakin, but I was under the impression that his marriage was a public event and that his wife was someone Obi-Wan took care of for some time after Anakin fell to the Dark Side. On top of that, I just don't like unbalanced relationships, and I think "secret romance" is just about the cheapest plot device going.
So, okay. I admit, I was predisposed to be uneasy with the direction things were heading in Attack of the Clones, but because it was Star Wars, I was prepared to let go of the story in my head and keep an open mind about the one unfolding on the screen.
I like Padmé. A lot. Up until that ridiculous kissing scene in the Lake Country, I thought she was just about the perfect mother for Princess Leia. My problem is not that she decided to take up with Anakin; it's that I never saw her fall for him. I never saw a build up, and there was never any reason for them to be together. Padmé was much more an authority figure or a replacement mother than she ever was a lover to Anakin. So, when she abruptly decided that she wasn't going to resist his advances at all, I went "...What? Couldn't you say 'no' to him once?"
Maybe there just wasn't enough screen time for that. Maybe we're supposed to believe that the Force drew the two of them together so powerfully that she couldn't muster the will to act with honor. Maybe she was just too tired of having to be a grown-up all the time. I'd believe that one if the film had spent any time talking about her feelings, but it doesn't. So, we have no idea what she was thinking, and we know that Anakin wasn't thinking at all.
The Lake Country scenes are very lovely, and the actors make a nice looking couple on screen, but there was never a real reason for Anakin and Padmé to be together. That's just not the kind of relationship I want to spend my time watching. I want to see people who know why they are together, who have things in common, who talk and listen to one another as equals. I don't see any of that in the so-called romance presented to us by the Prequel Trilogy. I see an obsessed adolescent and a lonely young woman who grew up too fast and grabbed the first thing that came along. That's probably what I'm supposed to see--but it was a bad choice.
Now the whole mythology of Star Wars hangs on a relationship that was meaningless to begin with. WHY? Sure, it was going to have a tragic ending. We knew that going in. I think the tragedy would have had a lot more impact if the relationship had meant something. It is possible to write mature, compelling relationships where everything isn't okay and things don't end in sunshine and rainbows. There was war about to begin. There are a half dozen equally tragic but much more satisfying roads the story could have taken.
So, I watched the wedding scene at the end of AotC with a sick feeling in my stomach, not because the shadow of Darth Vader was already falling, but because I wanted there to be a reason beyond pretty visuals for me to care about the end of this romance. Then I told myself that I'd have to support it anyway, because Star Wars had always been about the twins to me, and we couldn't get the twins without their parents.
Gradually, I changed my mind and decided that I simply couldn't enjoy anything about the relationship and there was no point in trying to support it. I lost a lot of my ability to enjoy Star Wars after that. Eventually, I met Aruna7 and I think our friendship is a big part of what ultimately renewed my love of Star Wars and gave me a lot of new paths to explore in the fandom--but that's another blog series altogether.
Next week we'll go with something lighter, and I'll explain why I once wanted to marry Lando Calrissian.