Trigger warning for abuse
Lost Missions spoilers
A topic I’ve been seeing mentioned a lot recently, especially brought on by the final Clovis arc in The Clone Wars, is that of Padmé and Anakin’s relationship, and the question:
Is it an abusive relationship?
The initial reaction I’ve seen from most fans of the ‘Anidala’ pairing is a very loud and decisive NO. Unhealthy, maybe, but not abusive! (Which in itself is a worrying thing to say, though that’s a topic for another day)
I haven’t seen much from the other side, which I admit is a side I lean much more towards. But before I try and tell you straight off the bat that you should not like this pairing or anything of the sort, there are points to consider.
(First, however, let me say that I am a huge Anakin and Amidala stan. I love both of the characters separately, and I love them both together. Aaand now we can continue.)
I remember mid last year, when I was watching Attack of the Clones for the millionth time, and I began to wonder about Anakin’s attitude towards Padmé. Almost straight away, he is pretty obsessive about the young woman he had not seen for ten years (although obviously had not forgotten). Now it’s obvious the two have chemistry, especially during the meadow scene where they’re having a relatively comfortable time with each other.
But, as a girl who has had people get, er, obsessed with her and thus continuously hit on her and tell her they should be with her (yes, this is a thing that happens, argh!) the whole situation can get a little too close to uncomfortable areas. But without these feelings and without seeing The Clone Wars, it’s pretty easy to see how it’s just an awkward young man raised to be celibate and a young senator falling in love and have their relationship suffer because of a war.
Okay, now we get into the deep and dirty. I’ve experienced abusive relationships both first-hand and second-hand. None of these experiences are easy for me to talk about fully and openly, but having this first hand experience definitely shapes my perception of their relationship. I also know some people who were triggered by the final Clovis arc (An Old Friend, The Rise of Clovis, Crisis at the Heart) because of how Anakin acted. He, himself, may never actually hurt Padmé physically, but a relationship doesn’t need physical violence to be abusive.
The first episode with Clovis, Senate Spy, is really the starting point for this. Anakin struggles with jealousy and the need to have affirmation of his place and his worth from a young age. Coming from a slave background it’s kind of fair enough. To go from nothing to a jedi knight, saviour of the galaxy, is a pretty unreal step. He lost his mother at a young age, then lost her again at what is still a pretty young age. Again, I can sympathize with this a heck of a lot. It’s not easy to lose a mother, especially when you yourself feel you could have done something more. It’s not an easy burden to let go of.
So then there’s Clovis. An attractive man from Padmé’s past. Now at this point you may be like “Fair enough Anakin’s worried, look at that guy!” but remember, Anakin and Padmé are married. They should (and I repeat, should) have more trust in the relationship than Anakin worrying she’ll run off with a man she hasn’t seen in years. “But he’s young! And they barely get to see each other!” you might object. That’s still no excuse for how Anakin acts towards his wife. But then through the episode this tension between the two gets resolved, and the general feeling at the end is that the two lovers had worked through this problem. Padmé wasn’t going to break off the marriage for a man from her past, and Anakin learnt to trust his wife.
Or so we think.
Cue An Old Friend and the rest of the arc. Part of the Lost Missions, and an amazing arc. Can I just take a moment to say how much I love this arc’s character and story development? It really makes the change of Anakin and Padmé’s relationship from Episode II to Episode III so much more poignant.
I digress. First time I saw this arc was in German, because I absolutely could not wait until it aired in English, and I was blown away. I audibly gasped at some parts, swore angrily at others — it was a real experience. But, I also remember being astounded by just how powerful Anakin’s jealousy and anger had become. Even in a language I couldn’t understand, I could not believe how overbearing and, well, dangerous he had become towards his wife.
Now, I know it’s a really unfair comparison to make, but bear with me for a moment. In Twilight it’s a given that Edward and Bella have an abusive relationship. But, never is it seen that Edward gets that possessive and jealous about Bella even when she’s near Jacob. Even Edward doesn’t act like that.
Okay back to Star Wars. Anakin knows full well that Padmé is trying to help the Republic. He may well not trust Clovis, but he should know well enough by now to trust his wife. Near the beginning of The Rise of Clovis Padmé says “You’re going to have to trust my judgement here.” Anakin, however, can’t believe that Padmé would know better than he. In fact, he “demands” as her husband that she not do it. Demanding something that goes against her very morals (the defense of the Republic) is not exactly healthy at the best of times.
And these are not the best of times.
Clovis, who I love, is not the best person. But he isn’t necessarily a bad person, despite what Anakin sees. He knows, or at least has a very strong feeling, that Anakin and Padmé are a thing. But, as she must, Padmé denies it. Despite the whole situation in which the audience is going “No! No! She’s married to Anakin!” it’s clear that Clovis has very strong feelings for Padmé. Oh, dramatic irony.
There are mixed messages going on, but it’s obvious Padmé isn’t going to be doing anything with Clovis. She sticks to her guns, and her guns are that she’s married to a man she loves, even if they had earlier had a fight. But then Anakin comes in, right at the wrong moment (the cause of my loudest gasp).
He proceeds to beat the snot out of Clovis. Way to be subtle, Skywalker. He completely ignores Padmé in the background telling him to stop and even tells her that her she doesn’t have a say in what he’s doing. Since when is this not Padmé’s place to have a say? Considering the situation, it’s her most of all that he should be listening to. The whole scene is extremely distressing, and it’s a definite sign of Anakin losing himself and falling closer to the dark side. Which is good, story-telling wise. Not so good for a relationship already founded on lies and obsession. When he snaps out of it, boy do I feel sorry for the kid. It can be easy to forget that the dark side is an actual force that corrupts, and that’s absolutely what is happening to Anakin. He’s been changed by circumstances mostly beyond his control, and being warped by the force.
But even if his descent into darkness isn’t completely his fault, it doesn’t excuse his actions and how unhealthy they make the relationship he has with his wife. He should have communicated with her (cue my exasperated yelling at the screen while Episode III plays). He should have trusted her. The two of them should have made boundaries clear. But they were young and at the start of a war that would change the galaxy when they wed. And it was that very war that drove them apart. While the two reconcile uneasily at the end of Crisis at the Heart, the problems that were brought to light during the arc were still there, just buried beneath the already cracked foundation of their relationship.
Now, to continue an already wordy post, there are three recurring signs of an unhealthy/abusive relationship: neediness/fast involvement (“I’ve never loved anyone like you”), jealousy and possessiveness, and the partner being controlling. Obviously, there are many more signs, but those are some pretty good indications that you are not in a good relationship. Can anyone confidently tell me Anakin doesn’t display any of these?
So yes, I am in the camp of the relationship being unhealthy and deteriorating into abusive. Padmé eventually becomes trapped by his obsessiveness to save her, she gets her opinions ignored and overridden by Anakin, who thinks he knows better. He reaches a point where he actually attacks her because he believes she’s plotting against them.
And still, when they’re at their best, the two are clearly and utterly in love. It’s a tangled web of confusing emotions, as are most real-life relationships. It’s part of the story, and it’s necessary for the future of the galaxy that the two don’t have a healthy relationship. (“What’s that Padmé? Obi-Wan wants to help us? Palpatine’s not good? Well dang! Let’s go solve all of this!”)
As I said earlier, I adore these two. I adore them together and I’d give anything for a universe where there is no war to tear them down, and there is no reason for them to lie to their closest friends and live in fear of being found out. Basically, I dream of universe like this.