Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has come to a close. With so many great things to do and see, even attending two of the weekends I still needed the internet to keep up. On Sunday of week three, for example, Tom Wilson, best known to many as Biff from Back to the Future, joined the Behind the Force stage show. During week four, James Arnold Taylor helped the audience wish Star Wars Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni a happy birthday. The list of the spontaneous moments from the event goes on and on. Sometimes they involve big surprises, but for me the most impactful memory this year came during a conversation I had while standing in an autograph line.
On Saturday of week one, rain threatened in the afternoon. I hadn’t yet found an opportunity to say more than a quick hello to Star Wars Weekends co-host Ashley Eckstein, who gave me the wonderful opportunity to work with her on Her Universe’s Year of the Fangirl. So I wandered over to Darth’s Mall and snagged a spot in her autograph line. Next to me was a young lady who was very excited to meet the woman behind the voice of Ahsoka Tano. Well-spoken and personable, I was surprised after a few minutes of conversation to learn that she was just ten years old. (My surprise also may have had something to do with the fact that she was almost — but not quite — as tall as I am.)
As we talked about Star Wars, her father joined us with his latest purchase: the new Padmé Nouveau Version 2 shirt, which the young lady planned on having Ashley sign. From all the shirts available, an adult shirt with a beautiful portrait of the prequel trilogy heroine struck me as unexpected for a ten-year-old. I asked her why she had chosen that one. “Padmé,” she said with a smile, “is one of my favorite characters.”
That sounded reasonable enough to this fangirl, because Padmé is one of my favorite characters, too. As a blogger who analyzes the fandom, the franchise, and the relationship between the two, though, I’m continuously trying to understand perspectives beyond my own. Just before the time of this conversation, in fact, I had completed a piece for Star Wars Insider magazine on Padmé’s role in the saga, so I was extra curious to hear more from this young lady. I asked about her exposure to the character — almost exclusively from The Clone Wars, she told me. She also mentioned some of her other favorite characters, including Asajj Ventress and Ahsoka Tano. When I asked about the reasons she found Padmé compelling, she answered simply, “Because she’s nice.”
“Nice” isn’t necessarily a word that springs to mind when I think of Padmé. Words like “aggressive negotiator,” “determined,” and “fierce” when considering her strengths, and “naïve” and “overly trusting in others” among her weaknesses. This conversation, then, really forced me to consider Padmé’s character from a new angle. How would I view her if her role in the prequel trilogy was removed from the calculus? What if I had never seen the bold queen who gambles to save her planet, the young senator in the Geonosian arena who saves herself from the nexu, or the wife who begs Anakin to come back to the light? What if I had just experienced Padmé through the television show and only with the life experience of a ten-year-old? The character becomes something entirely different: a senator from Naboo who helps the weak and oppressed, who acts as a friend to Anakin and a mentor to Ahsoka, who does a lot of nice things.
As my fellow seasoned fans of Star Wars know, we grow with the franchise. Life, age, and time often can alter our impressions of characters. As an eight-year-old, my understanding of the man called Darth Vader in A New Hope was simply that he was the stuff of nightmares, a half-man, half-machine of pure evil. Now when I watch Episode IV, fear isn’t the main emotion that jumps to the fore when Darth Vader enters a scene, but the child who did fear him still very much lives inside me. As an adult I actually empathize with the terrible realities that plagued Anakin Skywalker, and I feel sorrow over the tragic choices that turned a hero into a monster. When I see Darth Vader, I also find hope lingering around the periphery of my relationship with that character — because, after all, Anakin Skywalker did find his way back into the light.
As is often the case in Star Wars, our first impressions aren’t always the lasting ones, which is actually one of the reasons I enjoy the stories so much. Every time “Padmé’s Ruminations” plays during Revenge of the Sith, I find my thoughts turning to Padmé’s role in the Skywalker saga, which has never been as black and white as Anakin’s. For Star Wars Insider issue #142, I explore the expectations and the questions that challenge fans’ understanding of Padmé Amidala. The article is written in an adult-targeted publication, so the perspective is from the eyes of an adult who experienced her son’s and daughter’s triumph over the Empire in the original trilogy. One day, that ten-year-old fangirl from Star Wars Weekends will hopefully still be part of the fandom, and will have found even more reasons to like Padmé.
Star Wars Insider #142 is available on newsstands and at retailers now. If you have the chance to pick it up, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Tricia Barr writes about Star Wars for FANgirl Blog, Suvudu and the Star Wars Insider and also serves as a contributor to Her Universe Year of the Fangirl. You can follow her on Twitter @fangirlcantina.