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21 February 2012 @ 09:54 pm
About Padmé's Death  
In response to this post by Tricia and Lex at FANgirl Blog:

What's wrong with Padmé Amidala losing the will to live at the end of Revenge of the Sith?

What happened to her on that day would have sent many a normal person into an extreme clinical depression, the kind where you – yes – lose the will to live. And it's consistent with her characterization in all three prequel films and The Clone Wars. We never see her living for herself, only for others. She dedicates her whole life to serving her people and the Republic. We see her risking her life, without hesitation and without fear, for what she believes in. She lives for what she loves – ideals (liberty, democracy/the Republic) and people (mainly Anakin). It makes sense that when everything she lived for is no more, she dies.

She dies because, from her point of view, she has nothing to live for anymore. The twins aren't enough, nor is the man who is no longer Anakin ("I don't know you anymore!"; "Come back!") but who she still believes has good in him. Do you see what this means? In the end, no matter how much she loves them, people aren't enough for her. She needs ideals to live for. (Which begs the question: what could create such a dysfunctional personality?)

I understand that female fans don't like this because, Padmé being the main female character in the prequels, they are impelled to identify with her, and a "weak" woman who can get depressed, who has limits to what she can handle, isn't someone you normally want to identify with in fiction. One of the things that make fiction enjoyable is fantasy – being able to "insert" yourself into the story and imagine yourself having extraordinary adventures. It's similar when male fans get pissed off about male characters who are too flawed/"weak"/"wimpy"/just not perfectly "strong", whatever we mean by that. It feels almost personal, like being insulted. You don't want to imagine yourself failing or giving up, so you convince yourself you would never do that, and it bothers you when a character you somewhat relate to does.

Let's face it: the Star Wars prequels don't give female fans many options. Padmé is the only main female character in all three films. There is only Padmé to relate to, so you do relate to her, no matter how different from you she is, and then you feel offended when she acts in a manner you never would, and/or a manner you don't want to imagine yourself acting in.

The real problem with how Padmé dies is lack of medical/biological realism. Her losing the will to live is plausible. But losing the will to live – the extreme depression that sometimes happens after a traumatic loss or prolonged trauma – doesn't kill immediately. The person stops eating, moving, etc. and wants to die but doesn't even have the energy to attempt suicide. It should have taken her much longer to die – the time it takes for the body to waste away. It looks like George Lucas tried to make a compromise between having Padme commit suicide and her dying through losing the will to live, when choosing one or the other would have worked better.
 
 
 
Stephanie: SW LukeLeia Far From the Treefrostbit_sky on February 22nd, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)
I very much agree with that last paragraph. Before the prequels, when all we had was Leia saying she remembered her real mother was sad, my idea of what happened was that she in Leia's life for a short time (possibly until she was a toddler) and then she died from severe depression.
So yea, I have never been satisfied with her death in RotS. It just doesn't make sense.
C.: leia goldchameleon_irony on February 23rd, 2012 01:46 pm (UTC)
But Leia is Force sensitive, even though we don't really see evidence of this in the movies. I have no trouble believing that she has abilities a normal human doesn't, like being able to remember something that happened the day she was born. Luke can't - so what? The Force is mysterious. Why can't it manifest itself differently in the two twins?
pronker: satinepronker on February 22nd, 2012 06:14 am (UTC)
I hadn't any problem with blending all 3 Padme's: the teen in TPM and the young woman in AOTC and the slightly older woman in ROTS. Her personality strung together in all 3 movies was that of a career woman, talented and brave when she needed to be. When she got to the point where bravery and talent wouldn't bring back either the Republic she loved or the man she loved, she cried and looked out windows like any sane person would! Add to the mix her stress over being pregnant and 'living a lie' and her body gave out when her spirit did. I realize it was /fast,/ but that's the way the GFFA is different from our 'verse': the emotions felt true to me.

impelled to identify with her Well, sure. It's like Fisher says, "I am like the only woman in the whole Star Wars galaxy, the only one to fall in love with or who has exciting adventures ... " and Portman is like that for the prequels. A sort of scary impression from Portman and not Fisher is that, if you love and marry and have babies, you die! I am here to say that it is not so.
C.: vader hushchameleon_irony on February 23rd, 2012 02:19 pm (UTC)
There is a flaw in my argument re continuity between Padmé in TPM, AOTC, and ROTS; I only noticed it after posting. When she had lost all she cared about (her planet) to the Trade Federation in TPM, she fought to take it back, and would've fought to the death. In ROTS, she stopped trying. This means it wasn't "just" the end of everything she cared about that destroyed her, but the how and the who. I'm going to address this in a future post.
pronkerpronker on February 23rd, 2012 09:40 pm (UTC)
I shall look forward to your progress with great interest.
Maybe her ideals about relationships came into question and she failed in this more personal issue? Just a thought; anyway, I love to read a good meta, though can't write one for beans.
seriously evil witch here, guys!: jaina soloirnan on February 22nd, 2012 07:59 am (UTC)
The real problem with how Padmé dies is lack of medical/biological realism.

THIS, in huge ways, because all the realistic aspects of the PT hinge on Padme: her job, her plans, her ideals. She is the centre around which that part of the story turns (whereas the Jedi as Space Wizards are of course the centre of the fantastical aspects). Abandoning that when she needs to die and die quickly is inconsistent worldbuilding.

But partly also, and for me even mostly, this: the Star Wars prequels don't give female fans many options. Because the fact that she is the only woman in the movies who gets a significant part makes her a statement. Her characterisation is a statement, her story is a statement; not just about Padme as a person, but about the minority/group that she's made to represent by being the only member of it on the screen. So the statement ROTS makes about 'women', via Padme: if your bloke leaves you, you die.

(And the statement AOTC makes about women via Shmi is: if your male biological offspring leaves you, you die. There's a lot of fridging going on here.)

So I guess I object to Padme losing the will to live on the meta-level rather than because of characterisation? If that makes sense?
C.: leia alderaanchameleon_irony on February 23rd, 2012 02:08 pm (UTC)
*warning for verbal vomiting and an unintended rant*

I never analyse fiction on the meta level, because in my opinion there is something offensive about the idea that sane, grown-up people are so deeply affected by what they see on TV or in books as to mindlessly interiorize it or model themselves after it. Even more offensive is the conclusion to which this idea logically leads: that creators should censor their imagination out of worry about what kind of "message" or "statement" someone may perceive in their work. As a writer, I refuse to do this, and I can't hold others to a standard I refuse to follow. I operate with the assumption that people can be trusted to know better than to take fiction as gospel. We should never forget that people possess judgment and free will and aren't passive receptacles of culture.

The same story speaks differently to every person who reads/sees it. People find different meanings and messages in books/movies; these messages have more to do with the ones seeing them than with the work of fiction they see them in. Sometimes "death of the author" becomes an excuse to make authors say things they never said, but that kind of analysing says and is more about the one doing the analysing than about the work being analysed. It's often rooted in projection as well.

A good thing I didn't decide to study literature, isn't it? I would've hated it.
seriously evil witch here, guys!irnan on February 23rd, 2012 02:41 pm (UTC)
I never analyse fiction on the meta level, because in my opinion there is something offensive about the idea that sane, grown-up people are so deeply affected by what they see on TV or in books as to mindlessly interiorize it or model themselves after it.

"Thou shalt not might reach the head; but it takes once upon a time to reach the heart". Of course people model themselves after stories. His Dark Materials had a greater effect on the way I think and the kind of person I am than anything I ever learned at school, or uni, or work. And that's one story out of the hundreds I've consumed since childhood. Stories are supposed to affect you, to change you, to teach you, to open your eyes and show you another way of looking at the world, or another way of behaving, another system of values. That's their function. On an individual level as well as on a societal one. If they don't influence people there's no point in telling them.

I operate with the assumption that people can be trusted to know better than to take fiction as gospel.

Which I do on an individual level, absolutely. But at the same time you get fiction that influences whole societies into thinking one way or another - look at the way anti-semitic films in the thirties could bolster all of Nazi Germany's beliefs, look at the way films like Casablanca can put heart and determination into thousands of people.

And, you know, when you get right down to it: what the hell is gospel but fiction? People have been mindlessly interiorising that for two thousand years. There's a reason the majority of the NT involves Christ telling stories instead of lecturing to his apostles. What works on an individual level - the assumption of people's free discernment - doesn't necessarily on a wider one.

Even more offensive is the conclusion to which this idea logically leads: that creators should censor their imagination out of worry about what kind of "message" or "statement" someone may perceive in their work.

But there's more goes into this question than a strictly logical progression of A -> B. Things like: people are different, and most people will find something offensive of otherwise according entirely to their own experiences and tastes, or knowledge. Or things like: no one has a right not to get offended (free speech and so on).
I mean: to my mind, the notion that stories influence you leads to the logical conclusion that you should read or watch or listen to as many of them as possible, and as diverse a collection as you can manage to. So... yeah.
C.: ravenclaw thesischameleon_irony on February 23rd, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
If they don't influence people there's no point in telling them.

Says who?

To me the point of telling them is that thinking them up and telling them is fun in itself. Same about reading them. When I want to learn, I'll take a class or open a textbook. When I open a novel or watch a movie, I want to have fun. Learning something in the process is nice, but not necessary.

That's their function.

The function of stories is entertainment.

No, I get it: there are different ways of seeing everything. There's nothing wrong with that. Problems happen when we refuse to accept that our view of reality isn't the only one, or as one of my teachers likes to say, "when we mistake our reality for everyone's reality, if there even is such a thing".

His Dark Materials had a greater effect on the way I think and the kind of person I am than anything I ever learned at school, or uni, or work

Yes. It's true for you. Personal experience is not a valid basis for generalisations about what people in general do, and even less about what is "supposed" to be.

No work of fiction has had any significant influence on the way I think or the kind of person I am. This doesn't prove anything about anyone except me. My experience is true for me and yours is true for you, even though they are contrary.

Stories are supposed to affect you, to change you

Says who, again? As if I would let them do that, when I know better than many how unreliable and just bad the things people write can be.

look at the way anti-semitic films in the thirties could bolster all of Nazi Germany's beliefs, look at the way films like Casablanca can put heart and determination into thousands of people

These are theories. The influence of these things is unproven and unprovable. Nazi Germany very probably wouldn't have happened without Hitler, anti-semitic films or not. And the social psychology of obedience to authority and conformity had much more to do with it than propaganda through fiction, which, by the way, isn't really comparable to regular fiction which doesn't have an intention to manipulate its audience's beliefs.

to my mind, the notion that stories influence you leads to the logical conclusion that you should read or watch or listen to as many of them as possible

You want to be influenced and changed by outside things, thing you don't control? That, to my mind, is hard to understand.
seriously evil witch here, guys!irnan on February 23rd, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
The function of stories is entertainment.

Says who?

I operate with the assumption that people can be trusted to know better than to take fiction as gospel. We should never forget that people possess judgment and free will and aren't passive receptacles of culture.

Personal experience is not a valid basis for generalisations about what people in general do, and even less about what is "supposed" to be.

So you operate on an assumption that people can be trusted in a certain way as pertains to stories - which is based on your personal experience of them - but your personal experience of the way you enjoy/read stories is not a valid basis about what stories are "supposed" to be.


Yes, of course I want to be influenced and changed by outside things. To me, the idea of remaining exactly the way I am right now, to staying the way I am right now for the rest of my life - thirty forty fifty sixty years - is Hell itself.

If I can't change, what's the point? That's a thought that scares me, being static. Imagine: irnan, trainee lawyer, can't hold her liquor, likes wearing suits, thinks a, b and c. Always has done. Always will. To her very dying day.

*shudders*

So for me that leads to asking: how does anybody change if they don't allow themselves to be influenced by outside things? Isolation scares me, and that's what's implied - to me - by refusing to be inlfuenced by outside things. The trick lies in deciding which influences you want to accept and which you don't. (In that sense, I absolutely control them.)

Perhaps it's the implied (moral) absolutism that I don't like about the notion. To never want to change, to never allow myself to be influenced by outside things I don't control, is to me an implicit statement that I know better than they do. Well, frankly, I know Sweet Felicity Arkwright. If you can change my mind - either through a story or a reasoned discussion - that's a thing to respect, for me. (But you're not going to change my mind about stories - ever. ;) That's a thing I chose to hold on to.)

These are theories. The influence of these things is unproven and unprovable.

Which is... true of pretty much everything either of us have said so far.

propaganda through fiction, which, by the way, isn't really comparable to regular fiction which doesn't have an intention to manipulate its audience's beliefs.

OK, so Harry Potter and Star Wars are not about persuading the viewer or the reader that Love Conquers All, at least for a little while? I think a good story has to manipulate you in order for you to be entertained by it - you have to accept its truths and its philosophies above your own until it's over. Whether you carry them past the last page of the book or out of the cinema with you... well, that's when it gets complicated.

Edited at 2012-02-23 04:03 pm (UTC)
C.: fall golden sunset birdschameleon_irony on February 23rd, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
There's changing, and then there's being changed. The former is inevitable and usually good, though you can also change for the worse. The latter means giving something or someone power over who you are.

The trick lies in deciding which influences you want to accept and which you don't.

That's safer, but still...

There are other ways to change: acting/experience/doing things, introspection, learning.

an implicit statement that I know better than they do

You know better than they do who you are, who you want to be, and what's good for you. That's all it's safe to assume you know better than they do.

(But you're not going to change my mind about stories - ever. ;) That's a thing I chose to hold on to.)

Likewise. It doesn't help that my opinion on stories developed from my way of living the role of (fanfiction) writer for many years.

so Harry Potter and Star Wars are not about persuading the viewer or the reader that Love Conquers All, at least for a little while?

Only their creators know what they are really about. But what they are about to me? No, not that. They never persuaded me of that, not even for a little while, yet I enjoy them immensely.

you have to accept its truths and its philosophies above your own until it's over

Or simply find its truths and philosophies interesting, more so because they are different from yours.

that's when it gets complicated.

It's complicated long before that!
seriously evil witch here, guys!irnan on February 23rd, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC)
There are other ways to change: acting/experience/doing things, introspection, learning.

But of course - yet all of these things, I would say, involve outside influences. There are so many of my experiences I haven't had control over - I've given basic consent and then it all blew up in my face and I came out the other side the person I am today. Uni, for example. I sign up for a moot court and a year later I've been dragged halfway around the world and worked myself half to death and been made to have experiences that I never would have thought to without the influence/presence of these certain people in this certain time, and not a whit of it did I control. It's the same with stories, for me.

(Although I will say that it took a correspondingly long time, afterwards, to sort out of myself what I was prepared to take with me and what I wasn't.)

You know better than they do who you are, who you want to be, and what's good for you. That's all it's safe to assume you know better than they do.

How? That bothers me, and I don't know if I'm putting this the right way, but: how do I know that I am who I want to be if I don't allow myself to be presented with other options? I'm sure that's an awfully uncertain way to think of oneself. But it's kind of exciting, too ;)


Yeah, I'm very much coming at this with the perspective of a reader. My early attempt being a writer was awful, and thus soon abandoned ;)

Or simply find its truths and philosophies interesting, more so because they are different from yours.

But even then I find I accept them as true for a while, in order to study them or argue with them - does that make sense? That the act of being interested involves acceptance: as logical, or as true, or whatever. After that I take them apart ;)
C.: fall golden sunset birdschameleon_irony on February 23rd, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
I knew you were going to bring up that point: what is influence and where does it begin/end? ;)

how do I know that I am who I want to be if I don't allow myself to be presented with other options?

You don't. But how would anyone else know it? Your knowledge of yourself is far from perfect or complete, but it's more complete than other people's knowledge of you... unless you really lack self-awareness. ;)

That the act of being interested involves acceptance: as logical, or as true, or whatever.

Something can be logical without being true or right.
seriously evil witch here, guys!irnan on February 24th, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
Haha, yeah - are we both being influenced by this argument, etc. ;)

Your knowledge of yourself is far from perfect or complete, but it's more complete than other people's knowledge of you... unless you really lack self-awareness.

I guess that's a pretty fair assessment.

Something can be logical without being true or right.

"Logic is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't always beat actual thought". That's Pratchett... But I think for me, to find something interesting is to... to treat it as something that may be true. That may apply to me. At least for as long as it takes to formulate a counter-argument! You give it a chance, and then you counter-argue, and then see which wins out.
seriously evil witch here, guys!irnan on February 23rd, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
Also, you should check out Marina Warner - you might find her stuff interesting. I'm halfway through From the Beast to the Blonde and her analysis of the societal function of fairy tales is really fascinating.
sandspirit on February 22nd, 2012 08:45 am (UTC)
I don't have problems with her losing the will to live, too. Even if it's because she loses Anakin, but as you rightfully say, it can be because she loses *ideals*. I think it's more probable. She seems a sufficiently idealistic person in the previous prequels. In a good way.

As for "medical/biological realism" that's just - ROFL. Star Wars is mythology. I don't think that realism is what a SW viewer sould be concerned about most of all.
C.: tatooine suns smallchameleon_irony on February 23rd, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
I've always thought one of the best and most remarkable things about Star Wars is the psychological realism of the characters, even more remarkable in a universe full of fantasy/magic and sci-fi elements. The characters of Star Wars think, feel, and behave in ways that are so believable and real, which, to be honest, isn't the case in the majority of fiction (and that's why I don't like the majority of fiction).
(Deleted comment)
C.: luke duel green vs redchameleon_irony on February 23rd, 2012 02:27 pm (UTC)
her fate would have been much more satisfying if every viewer had been allowed to keep their own version

I agree. Ambiguity is best. ;) Even though I like the reason we were given.

Edited at 2012-02-23 05:40 pm (UTC)