How We Glamorize Abuse–Sci-fi Edition!

Don't think of it as choking, think of it as hugging her trachea.

I can often be found discussing all the things that are wrong with the Star Wars prequels (fuck you, George Lucas). Recently, however, the conversation steered more toward how cheated we were by Anakin not consciously turning to the Dark Side, but instead being tricked into it out of his love for Padme. (See this post for details; no need for me to rehash what someone else has already written, and far better than I could.)

What I find particularly irksome about all this is exactly how unhealthy the relationship between Anakin and Padme is from the get-go. There’s been plenty of uproar about the Bella/Edward fracas in Twilight (and I participate vigorously in said yelling), but it seems like the Anakin/Padme dynamic flew under the radar for most people. Is it because girls don’t like science fiction? I find that hard to buy. Is it because the writing is so awful that it isn’t even believable so how could it possibly be a threat? I’d find that plausible, were I not so actively engaged in the wide world of Star Wars fandom. I’ve seen the kind of vapid adoration that the Anakin/Padme relationship inspires.

So let me break it down to its simplest form: Anakin turns evil and kills children and nearly kills Padme because he just loves her so much.

Yeeeeaaaaah. About that. “It’s not that I’m a baby-killer, it’s just that I’m really in love.” Yes, because that will hold up in a court of law!

Unfortunately, the argument that he nearly strangled Padme because he loves her so much and was so overwhelmed with jealousy when he saw her with Obi-wan… Well, that one just might hold up in a court of law. DV perpetrators often speak of how they themselves aren’t angry individuals and they never wanted or meant to hurt their partner; the partner simply does something that forces their hand. The perpetrator just loves their partner soooo much that they can’t control their emotions and they end up lashing out when the partner makes them angry or jealous or any other number of emotions. The same argument is often made in regards to rape, that if the victim hadn’t done XYZ, then the rapist wouldn’t have felt compelled to rape.

Being partner violent, committing rape–both of these things require something very important. A perpetrator. And unless that perpetrator lacks agency and self-awareness, then the perpetrator–and only the perpetrator!–is the responsible party here.

Basically, I see writing violent actions off as “but I just couldn’t help myself–look at what he/she said to me! Look at how he/she was dressed! It’s a natural reaction!” as basically confessing that you are not a human being. You are incapable of controlling yourself–you are a menace to other people and yourself. When you need to pee, do you just drop trou in the middle of Stop & Shop and take a leak? When you’re hungry, do you just take a sandwich for someone else who just sat down to eat? When you’re tired, do you just curl and fall asleep wherever you are, even if it’s in the middle of Commonwealth Ave?

No, of course you don’t. Because you’re a human being and you know how to control yourself.

So why the fuck is “I just couldn’t help it” a valid excuse for partner violence and rape?

Anakin excuses his behavior because of love, and it is justified and written off by viewers as well. The relationship is toxic and destructive from the beginning, yet Padme’s coddling and forgiveness of Anakin is expected and justified because she is in love–it is never expected that she should draw a line or try to stop him. The 14-year-old queen of The Phantom Menace demonstrates backbone and resilience that is completely absent from the Padme of later films. Apparently, falling in love turns a woman into a spineless ditz. How Padme makes me yearn for Leia!

Basically, Padme was the cause of the fall of the Galactic Republic because she made her boyfriend jealous, so he turned evil. That’s some powerful lovin’, or something.

It’s easy to laugh about this because I’m analyzing Star Wars characters (and some of the shittier ones at that), but it really does translate into real life. People internalize this message. Men are taught that partner violence is okay because it’s a socially acceptable way for them to show emotion (say what now?!). Women are taught that partner violence is not just okay, it’s romantic. When I was younger, my girlfriends and I really saw it that way–a man must really, really love you if he loses his head like that over you. Luckily, we grew out of it (though many suffered en route to that place), but a lot of women don’t.

When the Chris Brown/Rihanna violence case hit the news in March/April of 2009, the outpouring of acceptance and validation of Brown’s actions from adolescent girls was astounding. There was talk of how he needed support because he was in such a vulnerable place. Oh yeah, ladies, I’m really feeling for him. Feeling my brass knuckles yearning for his face, more like.

Basically, we’ve normalized abuse and normalized the idea of abusive behavior being an indicator of love to a ridiculous level.  It spans our culture from Star Wars to pop music to young adult literature. This is pervasive. This is fucked up. Normalization is how we internalize all the negative programming we’re fed; maybe it seems unimportant how partner violence is portrayed in Star Wars, but I don’t think that’s the case at all when it’s these messages that are teaching what is and is not okay. Anakin is a tragic hero; we feel sympathy. We should feel anger and fear.

But how can you feel anger and fear toward someone who is just so in love?

Oh, bite me.

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03/02/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

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