This post discusses four distinct looks from four separate scenes depicted in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and the Clone Wars episode “The Rise of Clovis”. These scenes are linked visually through production design, staging, and most notable to this discourse, costuming. They are also linked thematically, exploring Anakin’s emotional struggle.
Centering Anakin’s Anxiety
While not always the lead, Anakin is the most central figure in the prequels (and arguably in the Skywalker Saga). And his struggle with the Dark Side, or mental illness depending on your point of view, is the driving force of his story. Anakin’s fall coincides with the fall of the Republic and the Jedi Order and in that way affects the whole of the galaxy, but the damage done to his relationships is intimate. The screencaps above (from Attack of the Clones, Clone Wars season six, and Revenge of the Sith) showcase his isolation and increasing apprehension. The scenes all start with Anakin alone and agitated.
Many scenes in the films and series take place in Padmé’s apartment on Coruscant, it is the closest the couple has to a home. But the packing scene in Attack of the Clones and the promise scene in Revenge of the Sith share visual and textual cues.
In both scenes Padmé is busy and Anakin is brooding.
In both scenes Anakin expresses feelings of insecurity and a sense of urgency to achieve greater power.
In both scenes Anakin fidgets, complains about Obi-Wan, and becomes frustrated with his inability to express himself in a way his peers and loved ones will understand.
In both scenes Padmé listens and is surprised, concerned. She offers advice that he waves off, changing the subject from him to them.
The Clone Wars scene also takes place in Padmé’s Coruscant apartment, but it shares visuals with the fireside scene in Attack of the Clones which occurs in Padmé’s lake house on Naboo, another version of home.
In this case the costuming is also very similar, but note that her Clone Wars hairstyle references the packing scene and the dark color and beads of both these gowns are reflected in the navy dress she wears in the third film.
Anakin and Padmé’s relationship is inherently unhealthy because it is hidden. The secrecy creates tension, which builds and ultimately explodes. Anakin in particular, does not have the tools or skills to deal with the intensity of his emotions.
The Jedi are conditioned from childhood to suppress their feelings, to channel them into their community and greater purpose, so none of his mentors know how to help him. Meanwhile Palpatine deliberately sets up situations to exacerbate Anakin’s tenuous emotional state in order to manipulate him into becoming a Sith.
The Order take boundaries for granted and the Chancellor actively works against them. But Padmé consistently tries to set boundaries for the relationship between Anakin and herself.
In the packing scene she tells him, “Please don’t look at me like that….It makes me feel uncomfortable.”
In the fireside scene she lays out why they shouldn’t pursue a relationship, that she can’t accept him giving up his place in the Jedi Order or “living a lie” because it would take too high a toll on both of them.
In the Clone Wars scene she expresses the toll it has taken “other people who are married have everything that we don’t, everything that we won’t. We live in secret, Anakin. Like it or not, our relationship is built on lies and deception. No relationship can survive that.” and tells him they need time apart.
The discussion of boundaries is less explicit in this last scene, but Padmé attempts to assert some control over the situation, in particular her role, saying “I’m not gonna die in childbirth, Ani, I promise you.”
Impulsivity is Anakin’s most dangerous trait, the one all his problems stem from. Recklessness allows him to be supernaturally heroic, but ultimately creates the monster he becomes. He immediately regrets stopping Mace Windu’s saber stroke against the Chancellor but it’s done. It’s understandable that Yoda and Obi-Wan are wary of Luke’s impulsivity, and that Luke fears Rey’s, they’ve seen Anakin Skywalker’s and Ben Solo’s power and impulsivity combine to create Darth Vader and Kylo Ren.
It’s not all Dark, though. Anakin can be reasoned with, for example in the scene with Obi-Wan after Padmé falls out of their transport on Geonosis. Notably, Obi-Wan tells him to consider Padmé’s point of view, what she would want him to do.
At the end of both the fireside scene and the Clone Wars scene Anakin agrees to abide by Padmé’s constraints. In the film, he defers to Padmé’s decision not to pursue a romantic or sexual relationship, he “agree[s] not to fall in love”. In between the fireside scene and the arena confession he treats her as a confidant but does not initiate any physical intimacy or look at her in the way that makes her uncomfortable. He follows her lead.
In the series, he accepts her choice to separate, leaves her apartment, and watches her from afar, only returning to her side when she is in danger. But that resolution – Anakin rescuing Padmé and their subsequent reunion – only further damages their relationship. It emboldens the ideas that one, Padmé is in constant danger, and two, it is Anakin’s responsibility to save her.
In the first and last of these scenes Anakin ignores Padmé’s desires. In explicit denial of her expressed wish, the packing scene closes with Anakin leering at her. And in the promise scene he dismisses her, takes full responsibility for her life and refuses to allow her to reciprocate.
Attachment is Fundamental
On Tatooine, Anakin had a secure attachment to his mother and friends within his community. He had social skills; his interactions with Padmé in The Phantom Menace are appreciably less awkward than his interactions with her in Attack of the Clones. This is the result of a few different factors.
First, trauma. He is separated from his mother and days later Qui-Gon, the only member of the Jedi Order who approves of him, dies in battle. In a battle Anakin also participated in, at age nine. His subsequent Jedi training requires him to lose contact with everyone on Tatooine and Naboo, with anyone who knows him prior to joining the Order. His only constant is Obi-Wan, who is also traumatized and has been socialized against close interpersonal relationships.
Thus, second, Anakin is isolated, which leaves him anxious (and vulnerable to manipulation by Palpatine). Due to his late start, his history as a slave from outside the Republic, and his potential status as ‘The Chosen One’ he doesn’t fit in with his peers and his mentors lack a common foundation from which to communicate. The Jedi have a very specific worldview, with strict rules of behavior. Anakin had more intellectual and emotional freedom as a slave. He has questions but the Jedi preach faith. Trust the Force, trust his feelings – but he’s internalized that his feelings are wrong, so how can he?
Third, Anakin’s feelings are not wrong, but they are intense and unstable. Again, call it an overabundance of the Force (or midichlorians) or a personality disorder, Anakin suffers from intense sensitivity in relationships, difficulty regulating emotions, a confused sense of identity and morality, and impulsivity. His ability to clearly articulate his feelings to Padmé (or anyone) is hampered by his trauma, his training, his anxiety, and his desperation to feel better, more secure in himself and his relationships.
And on top of all that, he’s a teenager, and he has a crush.
As an adult (a very young adult), Anakin’s attachment to Padmé is insecure and specifically ‘anxious-preoccupied’. The attachment itself is not unhealthy, but the pressure of the secrecy, the lies, the separation, and the war take their toll and he is unable to handle the stress. He becomes paranoid and possessive and afraid to trust anything but power.