What Does “Choice” Have to Do with Star Wars? – The Phantom Menace

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As we all know Star Wars is a franchise that can explore deep themes related to characters and classic mythology.  Through the years we’ve seen the theme of loss and redemption, family ties and the like.  One theme that has come to the forefront of my mind recently is the intriguing commentary that Star Wars has on “choice”.
We start off where the (in-universe) story begins, The Phantom  Menace.  One of the most memorable instances of choice is Queen Amidala’s willful decision to resist signing the Trade Federation treaty.  Amidala undergoes many hardships and trials to protect Naboo, all if which were willful, and made with full understanding of the consequences.  She even rode into the proverbial “valley of death” (with probably more than 600 :) ) to free her planet.

queen-amida
What can we draw from this?  It appears that even while Amidala could have gone with her gut  and simply signed the treaty which would make Naboo a puppet state and end all hostilities (and risk), she made the conscious decision (the filmmakers were probably somewhat influenced by the modern interpretation of American ideals) that it is better to do die standing than to live on one’s knees.  We can also extrapolate that exercising our free will and choosing to go above impulses for the good of others is harder and more rewarding than the former.
Another one of the big moments of choice in the saga is when Anakin leaves Shmi, his mother, behind to join the Jedi Order.  This may appear to be nothing more than a regular development of the plot, but when it is examined closely it’s actually very interesting.  Anakin is a nine-year-old boy who has probably never been more than 10 miles from his home for the majority of his life.

phantom-shmi2

He is extremely close with his mother and when the time comes for him to make the decision to stay at home Shmi and be a slave or go with Qui-Gon and be a Jedi he chooses to leave everything and everyone he’s ever known, including his only family for what he considers to be the betterment of himself.  All that in a nine-year-old boy, most of us probably had trouble deciding what color clothes we would wear when we were nine, let alone deciding on the fate of our lives!  Also, it’s not like he made the decision without thought.  While he didn’t take a long time I think it’s quite evident in the film that he is seriously considering the consequences of his actions and the effect that it will have on his life, and he ultimately the right decision, this is possibly part of the reason that Qui-Gon has so much faith in Anakin.  What can we glean from this instance?  That when we make a choice using all of faculties and seriously consider it and the consequences it we will have more success both for us and for others.  I would even venture that this instance is the height -or at least the beginning of it- of Anakin’s decision making process as by the end of episode two he begins to slip into the void of brashness and impulsiveness when he starts to crash and burn emotionally, but that will be covered in the next installment.

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  • Clone Corridor

    Love this post! I thought it was great that Lucas showed us these two young characters being forced to make such major decisions because it makes the pressure they feel later on a lot more believable! Over at Clone Corridor we just wrote a post about the choice Padme is forced to make when she confronts Anakin on Mustafar. It seems these two are always made to make choices!

    Juli @ Clone Corridor

    • Lenie Lenape

      Hi, despite the difference in my username it’s Len, the author.

      Glad you liked it!