I recently watched Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace for the second time. The first time was in the theater when it was released. There’s a lot going on in this movie that I missed the first time around.
What I want to focus on in this blog post (and the upcoming ones) is the relationship between Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker. They started out as friends, despite their age difference and the imbalance of power between them.
Anakin Skywaker lives with his mother, Shmi Skywalker. Both of them are slaves on Tatooine. They are owned by Watto, a cantankerous Toydarian junk dealer with a gambling problem.
When Anakin and Padmé first meet, he asks her if she is an angel. He tells her she is one of the most beautiful beings he has ever seen. This question immediately catches Padmé’s attention, and the two have a conversation.
Anakin reveals that he and his mother are slaves. Padmé is shocked by this. “I can’t believe there is slavery out here! The Republic banned slavery some time ago.” She learns that the Republic pretty much doesn’t exist on Tatooine.
Anakin vehemently responds that he is not a slave. “I’m a person!”, he shouts. It is a show of defiance and refusal to accept his current status and reality. From there, Anakin tells Padmé that he is a Pod Racer, something he obviously is excited about. His thought process is pretty typical for a nine-year-old, quickly changing subjects in an effort to talk about something he is intensely interested in.
Padmé asks Anakin how long he has lived there. He thinks about it for a minute, trying to remember, then says he was “just a little kid” when his mom brought him here. About three-years-old, he figures. Anakin has lived the majority of his life as a slave.
Anakin tells Padmé that he had a dream that he was a Jedi who came back to free the slaves. This moment of vulnerability is not unusual for kids his age who believe they are talking with a friend. It also shows that Anakin is very innocent, and genuinely wants to make life better for those who are in bad situations.
Padmé arrived on Tatooine under a false persona. She is actually Queen Amidala, but has been disguised as one of her handmaidens. In her place, pretending to be Queen, is Padmé’s bodyguard. Padmé is fourteen-years-old and one of the youngest queens Naboo has elected.
When Qui-Gon Gin and Obi-Won Kenobi are preparing to leave Naboo, they are told that the Queen insists that her handmaiden accompany them. The two Jedi are not at all interested in taking her along, but eventually give in to the Queen’s demands.
They have no idea who she really is, and neither does Anakin. I think the reason why Padmé finds this nine-year-old interesting is because he is someone she can be herself with. When she talks with Anakin, she doesn’t have to be super careful about what she says – for fear of starting a war.
I’m not sure how Naboo elects its queens, but it says something that Padmé is one of the youngest. I suspect that those who want to become queen must go through some kind of instruction and training before they run for that office.
She is only fourteen-years-old as queen, which means she likely spent years of her childhood practicing the skills she would need to use if she is elected. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the daughters of the elite and wealthy who are considered eligible to become queen, because that’s how it goes in the real world.
Padmé has a group of handmaidens, and a bodyguard, who surround her. They appear to be about the same age as she is. But, they cannot truly be friends because a queen has more power than her handmaidens do. There is no room for any of them to paint each other’s nails while talking about whomever they have a crush on.
Anakin, however, doesn’t know he is talking to the Queen of Naboo. He starts a conversation with her as though she’s just a regular person. This must be refreshing for Padmé, who doesn’t have to carefully calculate her responses to Anakin. She can simply be herself.
Right before the Pod Race, Anakin and Padmé ride in on a large lizard, alongside Shmi and a friend of Anakin’s who are riding another lizard. Anakin and Padmé are laughing and having fun. They get a moment to be kids – despite their age difference.
Qui-Gon Gin made a bet with Watto before the race started. Under the pretense that the Pod Racer Anakin had been building belonged to Qui-Gon, he makes a deal. If Anakin wins the race, Watto gets the profits – minus the cost of the parts that Qui-Gon needs to fix his ship. If Anakin loses the race, Watto gets to keep both the Pod Racer and Qui-Gon’s ship. Watto accepts.
Shortly before the race begins, a second bet is made. If Anakin wins, Qui-Gon wants the boy and his mother. Watto refuses, saying he won’t give both of them. Watto throws a chance dice that has red and blue sides. If it lands on blue, its the boy. If it lands on red, its his mother.
Qui-Gon uses the force to make sure the chance dies lands on blue.
Anakin wins the Pod Race, in part because of Qui-Gon Gin’s instructions to use his emotions to solve problems while racing. By this point, Qui-Gon is aware that Anakin doesn’t have a father and that he is unusually strong with the force.
The bets are settled, and Anakin happily returns home to his mother, with Qui-Gon accompanying him. Anakin thought that both he and his mother were now free, and becomes upset when he learns that he has been freed – but she is still a slave.
This entire scene is heartbreaking. Anakin wants to become a Jedi, and Qui-Gon Gin is willing train him (if the Jedi Council allows it). But, Anakin also doesn’t want things to change. His mother gently talks him into following his heart.
Anakin leaves, with his mother standing in the doorway of their home. All of a sudden, he rushes back to her arms. “I can’t do it,” he says. He asks if he will ever see her again.
“What does your heart tell you?”, Shmi asks. Anakin focuses for a moment, and responds, “I hope so. Yes. I guess so”. He promises to come back to Tatooine to free his mother.
This scene emphasizes that Anakin is still just a little boy. He still needs his mother. He is about to embark upon a journey with people he doesn’t know very well to places he’s never been. It makes sense that he is scared.
Qui-Gon Gin’s ship takes off, and Anakin becomes uncomfortably cold. He sits in a corner, shivering and looking miserable. Padmé doesn’t notice him at first because she is making a call to Naboo to learn about what is happening there.
“You seem sad,” Anakin says after she finishes her call.
Padmé walks over to Anakin and covers him with the cloak she had been wearing, as if it was a blanket. She explains that space is cold, and that he is used to being on a very warm planet.
“The Queen is worried because people are dying. Suffering.” Padmé explains. “She must convince the Senate to intervene. I’m not sure what will happen.” Padmé intentionally does not tell Anakin that she is Queen Amidala.
Anakin hands her a bead he carved, to remember him by. She accepts the bead, smiles, and tells him she doesn’t need a bead to remember him.
Padmé tries to prepare Anakin for what might be coming. She tells him that a lot of things are going to change, but her caring about him is not one of them.
Anakin says, “I care about you, too. It’s just…”
“You miss your mother,” Padmé responds. He nods.
To me, it looks like the two of them have begun seeing each other as siblings. She is mothering him, making sure he stays warm, and trying to prepare him for things to come. He lets her know that he sees that she seems sad, and hands her something he made by hand so she won’t forget about him.
Their age difference, and differences in power, prevent them from truly becoming friends. Instead, they sort of adopt each other as family.
Upon landing, Padmé returns to her handmaidens. Anakin is questioned by the Jedi Council, who think he is too old to start training as a Jedi. Typically, Jedi are taken from their families (hopefully with the parent’s permission) when they are toddlers. Eventually, the council allows Qui-Gon Gin to train Anakin.
Anakin tries to visit Padmé to let her know he is going away to become a Jedi. He asks Queen Amidala where Padmé is. Queen Amidala tells Anakin that Padmé is not there now, and pretty much implies that she will be given his message when she comes back.
It is unclear if the Queen Amidala Anakin was speaking to was Padmé or her bodyguard. Based on later events in the movie, I suspect it was the bodyguard, who did not seem prepared to have a nine-year-old come by and ask for the real Queen Amidala by her first name.
Anakin simply trusts that his message will be sent to Padmé. He leaves the room and walks away, presumably to begin training.
There are a lot of other plot points weaving through The Phantom Menace, and an entire blog post could be written about several of them. I’ve left out large pieces of the story specifically so I could focus on this part of it.
They Started Out Friends is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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