Welcome to the Padmé Renaissance

Last week was Padmé Week. It was a damn good week.

When you’ve loved a character for a good two-thirds of your life and have consistently seen parts of fandom look down on her dismissively, in part because she died of a broken heart thanks to less than stellar storytelling decisions (that droid was broken, damnit!), it can be a little disheartening. It’s especially disheartening when done so to raise up other female characters. Hollywood has given the world a strange and, quite frankly, incorrect idea of what makes a strong female character. While yes, it’s fantastic to see women in warriors roles in media, women like Shmi Skywalker who never lift a finger in combat are equally strong. There’s no right sort of capable lady and we should stop acting like there’s only one. This isn’t Highlander.

But that’s beside the point.

(Yes, I have a point.)

Last week, Padmé Amidala finally got some of the recognition she’s long been due with the publication of the novel Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston and the comic Age of Republic: Padmé Amidala by Jody Houser, Cory Smith, and Wilton Santos. (And hey! Congratulations to Queen’s Shadow for hitting the NYT Bestseller list!) We got two brand new stories starring Padmé and neither one centered on her relationship with Anakin or tried to define her by it. Twenty years was a long time to wait but holy hell was it worth it because finally, there was Padmé in the spotlight, surrounded by her loyal handmaidens who have also finally been remembered and celebrated.

Over the course of both last week and the ones leading up to it, I saw excitement on social media for Padmé-centered stories reach critical levels in a way I don’t quite recall seeing happen before. Add in how the handmaidens are finally getting their due (shout out to the Royal Handmaiden Society!) and you’ve got a large number of very excited women on your hands. Yes, Grand Admiral Thrawn’s return to canon was highly anticipated by tons but it still wasn’t quite like this. Not even the excitement for the Ahsoka novel from several years ago seemed to reach these same heights. I think it has something to do with feeling so starved for both content and feeling like what you love matters and is valued by the franchise too. It’s a bloody good one too.

I was happy to play a part in the Padmé Renaissance, tiny though it may be. I got to write the essay in the back of the Age of Republic: Padmé Amidala comic. It’s hardly anything compared to helping create the story in the comic or the novel and I want to emphasize that I did nothing to shape the character of Padmé. (I’m nowhere near cool enough for that.) Instead, over the course of 600 words, I laid out her legacy and why she’s been such an inspiration to so many of the girls who grew up as part of the Prequel Generation. She showed us that pretty clothes and having a heart full of love don’t lessen your strength of character. Girls didn’t have to be heroes in only the ways that make them more like men. It was a piece I was eager to write, to say the least, and I’m thrilled by how well it’s been received and how deeply it’s resonated with so many other Padmé fans. After all, the latter are the women I wrote it for. Maybe some people who aren’t a part of that group will read the essay and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for why we love Padmé. And then again, maybe they won’t. Regardless, I’m happy that I could, in a small yet official way, do something to hopefully help those women feel seen.

Being happy about tears feels like it’s the wrong thing to do and yet here we are. To quote a wizard from another franchise, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” It’s okay to cry because you’re happy or you feel moved or for whatever reason. And I can’t think of a much better reason to shed a few tears than for Padmé as she finally gets her day in the sun.

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