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January 25, 2011

Who’s your mommy?

How could George Lucas have screwed up Leia’s backstory so badly? In Return of the Jedi, Leia can remember having been with Padme, but in Revenge of the Sith Padme dies mere moments after Leia is born.

"Do you remember your mother? Your real mother... you know, the one that croaked."

Many hardcore Star Wars geeks left the theaters after seeing the births at the end of Sith wondering if George Lucas had just committed the most glaring and unforgivable retcon in the history of cinema. (Also, some of them left wondering how exactly a baby gets into a lady’s tummy in the first place, but we’ll leave that for another post entirely.)

At first glance, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. In Jedi, Leia appears to be perfectly aware of who her mother was and even briefly describes her when prompted by Luke during their discussion in Ewokopolis. How could any of that make any sense if Padme had been dead this whole time?

Such a Jabba-sized paradox was unthinkable and a lot of pants-wetting explanations spilled out across Internet discussion forums afterward. Some tried to explain it as Leia confusing memories of Padme with those of her adopted mother. Others insisted that the newborn infant Leia was able to take away memories of her dying mother. Still others claimed her adopted father Bail Organa must have passed along stories and vacation snapshots of Padme to the young Leia. None of those explanations make any sense, however, and most create more questions than they answer.

The whole issue has since gone on to become one of the most contentious topics on Star Wars discussion forums with comments veering from admirable but ham-handed attempts to defend George Lucas’ decision to outright calls for his head on a silver platter. But believe it or not, there is a perfectly good explanation that involves no re-writing of Jedi and makes sense in the context of the movies.

The Shameless Star Wars Apologist believes Lucas’ intention with the birth scene in Sith was to cast that scene in Jedi in a new light. And the only explanation that makes sense is that Leia had (as a child) tapped into the latent force abilities to which Luke alludes in that very scene. Yes, you read right. Leia gathered memories and mental images of Padme through the force… without even knowing it. She has no other explanation for that other than to assume they are memories.

You don’t buy it, do you?

Well, let’s first look at how much support there is that Leia actually knew Padme in the flesh. She doesn’t outrightly say so in Jedi.

LUKE
Do you remember your mother, your real mother?

LEIA
Just a little bit. She died when I was very young.

LUKE
What do you remember?

LEIA
Just images, really. Feelings.

LUKE
Tell me.

LEIA
She was very beautiful. Kind but… sad. Oh, and she was crazy hot too. I mean, instantly-increase-the-sperm-count-in-legions-of-fanboys hot.

So, no recollections of long strolls on the Alderaanian beaches. No lazy afternoons frolicking in the parks. No shopping trips to Naboo. Just images and feelings, exactly the kind of things Force users can tap into.

There is nothing in the movies that contradicts the possibility of Leia sensing who Padme was through her latent force abilities. In fact, there’s actually a lot there that supports it.

We know that children with a high midichlorian count can unknowingly access Force powers. Qui-Gonn refers to children doing that inadvertently when he talks to Anakin’s mother in The Phantom Menace, and we also learn in the other movies that family members have a special bond (e.g., Vader sensing Luke in Jedi when the Emperor could not; both Vader and Luke figuring out Leia’s real identity; Luke and Leia establishing that spontaneous mental contact at the end of Empire; Luke and Leia swapping spittle in Empire… er, wait… that’s a whole other type of family bonding we’re not going to touch right now; etc.)

We know force users can sense friends and loved ones, future and past. Yoda himself says in Empire that “Through the force, things you will see, other places, the future, the past… old friends long gone.”

So there it is. Lucas re-cast Leia’s memories in Jedi as force-induced. She likely dreamed of Padme as a child (as Anakin dreamt of his mother’s fate) and mistakes those as memories in her adulthood.

Still not buying it, are you?

Part of the problem here is that many of us saw Jedi in the 80s and walked out with assumptions about Leia’s apparent memories of Padme. But, as you can see from the quoted dialog, those were just assumptions. There’s no solid evidence that Leia actually knew Padme in person. The ending of Sith challenges us to let go of those original assumptions about that scene and try to view it in a new way.

Inevitably, some will reject this explanation. But all in all, it’s a richer and more interesting explanation for Leia’s memories than seeing Revenge of the Sith end with Padme and Leia walking off hand-in-hand into the twin sunsets. This new angle adds a dimension to Leia’s character and makes that scene in Jedi a little more cohesive, given that Luke is trying to explain her latent force powers to her as well as that moment where she seems suddenly to understand. (“I know. Somehow, I’ve always known.”)

So anyway, for some it’s a terrible plot hole gaping where their childhood memories used to be. For others, it’s a new facet to a scene we thought was very straightforward when we first saw it.

  • Al Parson

    Awesome. Perfect explanation.

  • Trey ‘the Grey’ Reinold

    Bullshit dude. Lucas screwed up because he doesn’t care anymore except for money. Stop making excuses for him.

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