The Picnic Scene – IT’S NO PICNIC!
The picnic scene in AOTC inspires such backlash and huge amount of criticism – some say the scene doesn’t even feel like SW and its only aim is to show Harlequin-type of romance to appeal to the female audience, others argue that it basically shows Anakin having facist tendencies and it’s the moment Padmé should have run away from him. It’s such a pity because there are so many things going on in that scene – the symbolism, the political and social commentary, all the things it reveals about Anakin’s personality and motivation,… – and it has many different levels.
It’s funny how so many people automatically deduce from the dictatorship conversation that Anakin is twisted and that the relationship between him and Padmé would never work. Everyone is ready to jump on the “inherently evil and twisted” bandwagon just because a 19-year-old man freely voices his personal opinion in a free society which respects the freedom of expression and opinion. They condemn him without giving him the benefit of doubt. It’s a bias stemming from the fact that THEY KNOW HE WILL BECOME DARTH VADER, THE EPITOME OF OF EVIL, ergo him supporting dictatorship makes him already guilty of much worse crimes.
As if “dictatorship” was the most taboo word in the world. Just uttering it makes him guilty in almost everyone’s eyes. It’s much worse than if he said the F-word (actually, if he did it most people would think him cool). However, what people fail to see is that an opinion and actually acting on it are two completely different things. It feels ironic that the same people who accuse Anakin of being written as a moody teenager vilify him for having a mature and relevant conversation about such sophisticated topic as the political organization of society.
Anakin in AOTC is portrayed with naivité that is typical for his age but also cynism of a man who has seen too much too soon, and this combination makes him much more mature than a typical teenager. However, most of all, Anakin is an idealist who he sees the system isn’t working and Padmé sees it, as well. However, when he offers dictatorship as a way of reforming the system, Padmé cannot offer other solution because she doesn’t have one, even though her own belief tells her dictatorship is wrong, and she can only show incredulity. In that moment, Anakin doesn’t defend dictatorship because he wants to rule the Galaxy himself (that only happens after he joins Sidious), but because he sees it as an alternative to a system that has been failing and HE ACTUALLY SAW PEOPLE DIE BECAUSE OF IT, SAW THEIR SUFFERING AS HE WAS HELPLESS TO SAVE THEM. HE BLED FOR THAT SYSTEM, HE FOUGHT EACH DAY WHILE RISKING HIS LIFE TO PROTECT THAT SYSTEM OUT OF LOYALTY, HONOUR AND HIS VOWS BUT IT KEPT DISAPPOINTING HIM OVER AND OVER AGAIN. He had left his mother in slavery for what she’d hoped to be his freedom, but he ended up realizing that the politicians he serves are as corrupted and evil as the criminals on Tatooine. In ROTS it’s strongly implied how he has stopped believing in what he’s fighting for because that very thing has become corrupted. One of the reasons why he wants to go with Obi-wan to Utapau is because with him he feels he is doing the right thing – with him he feels there are still things worth fighting for in the Galaxy.
Another level is that people forget that the real point of that scene isn’t about Anakin showing to be in favour of dictatorship nor it’s about politics – it’s about an argument and a debate, about philosophy, the importance of discussion and a point of view, because there is no such thing as an absolute truth or a perfect system. George Lucas is famous for working with motifs and ideologies in his Saga and that fact is even more pronounced in the Prequels as the conversation between Padmé and Anakin is an allusion to the Greek history and philosophy which gave birth to the ideas of political systems. Aristotle himself, who lived in the democratic Athens and is considered to be one of the greatest thinkers and philosophers of all time, was a passionate advocate of autocracy, which he considered to be the best type of political system, and the rule of a benevolent dictator while he deemed democracy as the worst of all the political systems. The flaw is not in any of the systems, it’s in the people – be it communism, autocracy or democracy (or dynamite), originally they were all noble ideas to help people. However, each time the philosophers and their founders assumed that the people who would hold the power would be righteous and incorruptable and that was their common mistake because the people are weak and greedy and power corrupts.
Finally, about Padmé’s reaction to Anakin’s opinions – it’s obvious it shocks her but it also intrigues her because no man would ever dare to openly and frankly voice his political beliefs which are considered by the general society as politically incorrect. He believes in the same things as she does – the prosperity of people – but not neccessarily in the same methods with which he would achieve it. And why? Because he was shaped differently than Padmé who always had the freedom to shape her own destiny and the possibilities and means to freely fight for her people and her beliefs, but for the most parts she was sheltered and protected from the terrible atrocities of war and social injustice. On the other hand, Anakin, even after being freed from slavery, was never sheltered and as Obi-Wan’s padawan was always in the middle of battles and fights; he could never decide for himself and had to follow the orders of the Council and the Senate, left again to watch helplessly all the people he couldn’t save .