From Queen to Wife: The Domestication of Padmé Amidala

Curator's Note

Blockbuster films have never been known as bastions for female representation.  But how, exactly, can we quantify and analyze these representations?  My project uses videographic criticism to examine dialogue in blockbuster films.  Specifically, I re-edit films, cutting them down using digital editing software to include only female dialogue.  I then consider the amount, cadence, and content of female dialogue.  This allows me to quantitatively and qualitatively
analyze the role of women.  In this segment, I consider the prequel Star Wars trilogy—The Phantom Menace, The Clone Wars, and Revenge of the Sith.

The first two films contain just under 10 minutes of female dialogue each, but Sith includes less than half that amount, a mere 4min 18sec.  This clip pulls together representative moments from the films, demonstrating the stark transformation of the central female character, Padmé Amidala.  She begins the trilogy as a queen, later becomes a senator, and is a driving force in the first two films.  While she has relatively little dialogue, she exerts her authority and
dedicates herself to her first love, politics.  When looking at her dialogue alone, Phantom Menace becomes a political thriller, and we are party to the details of her planet’s invasion, her pleas to the senate, and her subsequent actions to liberate her planet.  She continues to be an active agent in Attack of the Clones, taking charge, standing up to male characters, and driving the action.  

In the third film, however, Padmé is a subdued, passive, domesticated character.  She is the only female character to speak, and she speaks largely about her love and pregnancy.  Even though she is a senator, she takes no active role, except to ask Anakin to influence the chancellor. She falls into tropes that I have observed in other blockbusters—women asking questions (providing opportunities for male characters to give exposition), deferring to men, repeatedly
saying the names of male characters, and being defined and constrained by relationships to men. Star Wars offers a complicated mix.  While Padmé is a strong, independent woman for much of the trilogy, she has a limited speaking role and is ultimately defined and restrained by her role as wife and mother.  While she can be applauded as a feminist figure, her domestication reveals an overarching commitment to patriarchal conventions.

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