StarWars.com continues its look at the significance of meals in a galaxy far, far away.
In November, I looked at the original trilogy and the significance of meals; sharing in sustenance is important in literature and film, and encourages the audience to realize that something important is going on. This is also prescient in the prequel trilogy, with many examples that demonstrate the important character moments and themes present in Episodes I, II, and III. Breaking bread means community, and sharing that with others indicates a strong bond is being formed through the experience. Much can be gleaned from a simple meal, and may reveal significant foreshadowing to the fate of respective characters.
The Phantom Menace reveals this recurring motif at the very start of the film. Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi wait at a table for the arrival of the Neimoidians to help negotiate an end to the blockade of the planet Naboo; drinks are presented by protocol droid TC-14, but instead of imbibing fully, the Jedi are treated to noxious gas and an empty table. While not proving as damaging as the disastrous table scene in The Empire Strikes Back, the intent is still present. The Neimoidians have no intent of arranging a peace treaty, let alone a meal of nourishment for the Jedi. They seek to destroy the universal cultural moray, and tarnish their own image, as well as the trust the Jedi have placed in them. An abandoned meal reveals abandoned principles and deception, and the Jedi escape, betrayed, as well as wiser for the experience.
A more positive dining experience occurs later in the film, when Qui-Gon, Padmé, and Artoo-Detoo meet Shmi and her son, Anakin Skywalker. A meal is shared while discussing the possibility of training Anakin to be a Jedi Knight. Through the breaking of bread, Anakin begins the journey to break from his mother, and enter into a new family, the Jedi Order. While the results of this may be debated, the significance is clear. Only at the table could a transition of this importance take place.
Attack Of The Clones also features a telling sequence that is centered around a meal. While acting as bodyguard for Padme, Anakin has a meal in Naboo with her and her family. Instead of simply passing food across the table to the senator, he elects to use the Force to allow the food to glide across the table. The act is ostentatious and unnecessary, but Padmé is nevertheless pleased with the experience, and appears to fall more in love with the Padawan. Anakin takes the easy way, instead of the more acceptable way of the Jedi, and demonstrates early on that the Force serves him, and not the other way around. This seemly innocuous moment is a harbinger of the eventual fall of the mighty Jedi, as Anakin illustrates that he believes the Force can and should usurp the natural order of things.
Never is this more true in the prequels than in Revenge of the Sith, featuring the pivotal battle that truly begins to eliminate the humanity of Anakin Skywalker; things will never be the same. In this film, the critical scene that takes place at a table is that of the emergence of Darth Vader. His famous rise on the table of his rebirth indicates that here, at a place sacred to family and friends, Vader has desecrated the place where community is fostered, and instead, serves to sever his place in the community he has know since he left Tatooine. He succumbs to his own hunger for power, his ravenous desire to have power over death, and his fall to the dark side is complete. Isolated from his own humanity, both literally and figuratively, Vader leaves Anakin Skywalker behind at the table, and elevates himself above a cultural symbol of community, and into a place of terror and isolation.
Much like the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy features many important moments that showcase an important event around the table. While food and drink are provided, community is also shared and fostered. What happens while breaking bread may occur is significant, and helps the audience to examine critical cultural paradigms that offer insights into character development. This longtime trope of storytelling helps to enhance our understanding of these characters, and to enrich our experiences in a galaxy far, far away.
Dan Zehr is a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning, and is a member of the Rogues (as Blue Leader), a network of teachers that incorporate Star Wars in the Classroom. He also runs Coffee With Kenobi (with co-host Cory Clubb), a Star Wars podcast that analyzes the saga through critical thinking, analysis, interviews, and discussion.