The Evolution of Women in the Star Wars Universe: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

This is the sixth installment of my series for FANgirl looking at screenshots of all the women that appeared in Star Wars films. I’ve enjoyed looking at where women are (and aren’t) in the first five films and seeing the more diverse roles women start to play in Star Wars films as years go by. The journey began with my breakdown of Episode IV: A New Hope if you want to start at the beginning of this series.

Looking back at the first five Star Wars films unfortunately almost all of the female roles (except for of course Leia and Padmé) are in the background, and the women don’t have much (or anything) to say. Finding female pilots, aliens, Jedi, and bounty hunters in The Phantom Menace (TPM) and Attack of the Clones (AotC) where there were few to none in A New Hope (ANH), The Empire Strikes Back (ESB), and Return of the Jedi (RotJ) does show progress in female representation in Star Wars. However, if you’re looking for a woman in a Star Wars film that looks like you (and speaks – and is more than an extra) – and you’re not white and a brunette – there’s still room for a ton of improvement for female Star Wars roles.

One of the main reasons I wanted to write this series is because of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (RotS). I really love this movie – in large part because I’m a huge fan of Obi-Wan Kenobi – and there is a ton of Kenobi in this film. But there’s no changing the fact that in RotS the women are very hard to find. And one of my favorite female Star Wars characters, Padmé, is not served as well as she could have been.

RotS has the fewest female speaking roles of any Star Wars film. Only Padmé speaks. Which is something I didn’t realize until I started breaking down this film. Even in The Empire Strikes Back a female rebel solider had a line about an ion cannon. So there’s a lot of Padmé in this article because she is really the only one to talk about.

Crazy side note. If you count the female speaking roles in the deleted scenes the number of female speaking roles in RotS jumps from one to six. We’ll get to that later.

Before I digress too much more, let’s start from the beginning and take a look at all of the women in RotS.

Coruscant

The first glimpses of women in RotS are in a crowd scene after Palpatine’s ship has landed. Of note: this scene is about 25 minutes into RotS – a much longer time to introduce a female character than in any previous Star Wars film.

From left to right: (unidentified woman), Terr Taneel (Amanda Lucas), and in blue Chi Eekway (Katie Lucas).

On the far left below you can see a couple luxury droids called BC-3000s which have a very feminine look.

Padmé

First impressions can be deceiving, but they reveal a lot about Padmé’s character in RotS and the changes in this character since TPM. The first look we get of Padmé in TPM is of her as Queen of Naboo. She’s strong, confidant, and not standing for her people being threatened by the Trade Federation.

In RotS the first glimpse we get of Padmé is of her hiding behind a pillar.

Padmé’s role in RotS is very reactive. She’s having anxiety (and understandably so) about a variety of issues. Padmé is hiding both a marriage and now a pregnancy. She’s worried that if the Queen of Naboo finds out she’s pregnant she might lose her job as Senator. And it’s getting more and more clear that her husband is not emotionally keeping it all together.

The missed opportunity for Padmé in RotS is that she is still a senator but we rarely get to see her in this role. Instead of fighting for the survival of the Republic we see Padmé multiple times in her apartment, in many cases trying to calm down Anakin.

Padmé is in many ways very alone in RotS and her loyal handmaidens that appeared in TPM and AotC are very hard to spot in RotS. The handmaiden absence doesn’t make much sense since many senators have aides in RotS. In the past Padmé has trusted her handmaidens with her life time and time again, so you would think she could trust them with her secrets now.

C-3PO in many ways takes the place of a handmaiden as Padmé’s companion and supporter in RotS. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with more C-3PO in a Star Wars film, this switch from handmaiden to droid created by Anakin, serves to isolate Padmé even more from her life as a politician. A conversation between Padmé and a handmaiden like Dormé would have gone a long way in Padme’s character development in this film.

Opera House

The Opera House scene in RotS offers another fun chance in a Star Wars film to show a crowd scene where a variety of humans and aliens get dressed up and mingle.

Terr Taneel and Chi Eekway can again be spotted in the photo below. The female with the red hair in the middle is Rystáll Sant, who it appears may also be one of the dancers from Jabba’s Palace in RotJ.

Palpatine’s aide Sly Moore (Sandi Finlay) is sitting on Palpatine’s left in the photo below. This is a perfect example of a character it would be fun to hear a few lines from even though her silence does make her a bit creepier.

More women can be seen on the far right in the photo below.

Kashyyyk

Jedi Master Luminara Unduli directs some troops on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk below. Why Luminara doesn’t actually speak any lines in this scene is a bit of a mystery to me. We just see her gesture in this quick shot.

Speaking of female Jedi, there are two female Jedi on the High Council in RotS – Shaak Ti and Stass Allie. In previous Jedi High Council scenes in RotS you don’t get a glimpse of these two female Jedi despite seeing several male Jedi – which again, is just kind of odd/annoying/frustrating. As in previous High Council scenes only Yoda, Mace Windu, Ki-Adi-Mundi, and Obi-Wan Kenobi talk in these scenes. If you look hard enough you do get a glimpse of the back of Shaak Ti in the holographic image below.

Are there any female Wookiees in RotS? I would assume yes. But it’s hard to tell from the glimpses we get of them just as it was hard to tell if any of the Ewoks and Gungans were female. It makes sense that Wookiees might all be dressed the same during a battle.

Order 66

After Palpatine executes Order 66 we see many Jedi in different locations die very quickly. Considering that few of these Jedi (female or male) even said a word in the previous films, it does unfortunately make sense that not a lot of screen time would be taken up by these roles now. Two female Jedi are shown during this section of the film.

Aayla Secura (Amy Allen).

Stass Allie (Nina Fallon) on a speeder bike right before her death.

It’s hard to tell if there are any girls in this shot of the younglings below, but I think the child third from the left might be. There were definitely girls among the younglings in AotC.

After Order 66 has been carried out Bail Organa’s Aide, Sheltay Retrac (Caroline de Souza Correa), can be seen in this brief shot behind Bail Organa.

We got a much better look at Separatist Shu Mai in AotC. Here we just get a brief glimpse of her on the far right before her demise.

Back to Padmé

Finally, at about 90 minutes into the film, we get to see Padmé in her role as a senator. This is the first look we get of one of Padmé’s handmaiden’s, Moteé (Kristy Wright), who is also in the senate box.

Padmé does get one of the most memorable lines from the entire film in this scene: “So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.” 

After her scene in the Senate, Padmé travels to Mustafar to try and talk some sense into Anakin. Her love does not blind her to the terrible choices Anakin has made and Padmé is strong enough to tell him that she will not follow him down this path.

After departing Mustafar, Padmé gives birth to twins. The maternity droid (below) has a feminine voice.

Naboo

After her death post-childbirth, Padmé’s funeral takes place in her home world of Naboo. Not surprisingly, many women and girls can be seen attending her funeral to pay their respects.

Padmé’s mother Jobal Naberrie (Trisha Noble) walks behind her casket below. Padmé’s mother and father also appeared in scenes that were deleted from AotC where they spent time talking with both Padmé and Anakin. I think it’s reasonable to assume that viewers would guess these characters are her parents or some kind of family members, but without the deleted scenes as context they don’t have the same emotional pull.

Pooja Naberrie (Hayley Mooy) appears below. This little girl is Padmé’s niece who also appeared in a deleted scene from AotC.

Handmaiden Hollé can be spotted beside Jar Jar Binks below.

Another handmaiden, Umé (unknown actress) and Queen Apailana (Keisha Castle-Hughes) are below. It’s impossible to know from these shots if these were Padmé’s or the current Queen’s handmaidens.

Alderaan

Bail Organa brings baby Leia to his wife Breha Organa (Rebecca Jackson Mendoza) so they can safely raise her.

Baby Leia (Aidan Barton).

Tatooine

Obi-Wan Kenobi brings baby Luke to Beru Lars (Bonnie Piesse) and Owen. The film ends with a shot of these three characters.

Deleted Scenes

As I noted above, Padmé is the only female character that speaks in RotS. That number jumps to six if you add in the deleted scenes.

Shaak Ti (Orli Shoshan) can barely be seen in RotS, but that wasn’t the original plan. Her death was filmed twice. In the first version below she dies early on in the film, killed by General Grievous.

In the second version below Anakin kills Shaak Ti in the Jedi Temple. In both versions Shaak Ti has a line of dialogue.

In the scene below a group of senators meet and talk about the need to create a group to resist Palpatine’s corruption. This is the best look we get of the feminine luxury droid BC-3000 (below).

Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) in the same scene.

Terr Taneel (below right) is also in this scene. Padmé, Mon Mothma, and Terr Taneel all have lines in this scene which is a rare case of a group of women talking to each in a Star Wars film.

Another deleted scene from RotS is also a conversation among Senators concerned about the current state of events. Four women speak in this scene – Chi Eekway (left), Padmé, Mon Mothma, and Bana Breemu.

This deleted scene is the only good look we get of Senator Bana Breemu (Bai Ling) in RotS.

The deleted scene scene below takes place in Palpatine’s office where Padmé directly confronts Palpatine about her concerns. Senator Nee Alavar (Rena Owen) is on the far left. I believe this scene would have benefitted Padmé’s character the most had it been left in.

I understand how a bunch of scenes that involve characters (many we have never seen before) talking about politics were seen as easy cuts to make in the editing room. But it’s a shame that we don’t get to see Padmé doing more of her job in RotS and that Mon Mothma couldn’t find her way into a scene somehow. I still see Padmé as a strong character in RotS –  I just wish there would have been more of her in RotS and that there would have been more dynamic female characters in RotS in general.

This completes my breakdown of RotS and the Star Wars prequels. Up next, a journey to Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.

Sources: StarWars.com, Wookieepedia, Ultimate Star Wars, and Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia.

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Amy Richau

Amy Richau is a Star Wars fangirl, wife and mother of two young kids, freelance writer, and Denver Broncos fan (not necessarily always in that order). Amy grew up with the Star Wars original trilogy and spent more time and money than she would like to admit tracking down Star Wars collectibles. Before motherhood in Colorado, Amy worked in several film archives and labs working as a film archivist/preservationist – including a ‘dream come true’ stint at Skywalker Ranch at the LucasFilm Archives. She can be reached by email at witcher@gmail.com, or follower her on Twitter @amyrichau.
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Amy Richau

Amy Richau is a Star Wars fangirl, wife and mother of two young kids, freelance writer, and Denver Broncos fan (not necessarily always in that order). Amy grew up with the Star Wars original trilogy and spent more time and money than she would like to admit tracking down Star Wars collectibles. Before motherhood in Colorado, Amy worked in several film archives and labs working as a film archivist/preservationist – including a ‘dream come true’ stint at Skywalker Ranch at the LucasFilm Archives. She can be reached by email at witcher@gmail.com, or follower her on Twitter @amyrichau.

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