I love the water. | I don’t like sand.
This much maligned exchange is actually dripping (pun intended) with symbolism. Anakin, like Luke, like Rey, grew up on a desert planet where water (a building block of life) is a commodity (the Lars family has a moisture farm) and scarcity the norm. Padmé grew up on a lush blue and green planet where water is plentiful, a planet shared by a race of aquatic beings. Anakin’s life plays out with imagery of bright suns, a raging volcano, a succession of explosions, and a bonfire. In contrast, Padmé’s visual story has a clear and present connection to water, especially in relation to Anakin.
Water is everywhere on the planet of Naboo, and particularly in the two places most associated with Padmé: the capital city of Theed and the Lake Country where her family has a private retreat on an island.
Water is not only a free flowing constant across Naboo, it is highlighted, used in architecture and for transportation. It even drives the plot: with no army of her own, Padmé recruits the aquatic Gungans, representatives of the natural world who live in underwater cities and treat with her in a swamp. Anakin and Padmé share their first kiss, fall in love, and marry in the Lake Country, and make plans to return to its idyllic paradise to raise their family. Naboo’s waters are a thread through their love story.
And Padmé is introduced as the representative of Naboo. She is inexorably tied to the planet and all its beautiful and plentiful water.
Padmé’s wardrobe is extensive, expensive, and multi-colored, but on Tatooine, Anakin’s water-starved sand planet, she wears blue.
Blue that absolutely pops against the washed out background of desert.
Prior to the prequels, Tatooine’s main association with blue was its milk, notably provided to Luke by his mother figure, Aunt Beru–
–also wearing blue. In fact, the only time Padmé does not wear blue on Tatooine, Beru does.
Beru also wears blue while holding baby Luke.
And the Organas wear blue with baby Leia.
Padmé also wears blue in Coruscant, mainly with Anakin and in her apartment, the closest place they have to home.
Padmé’s blues remind us that she represents the water to Anakin’s desert.
Her final costume is known as ‘the water gown’ and designed to reflect Shakespeare’s Ophelia, who drowned.
‘Padmé’ is a word for ‘lotus’ or ‘water lily’, a flower that grows in water, just as ‘Luke’ means ‘light’ and ‘Vader’ is the German word for ‘father’.
Blue R2-D2 is initially her droid. Artoo later belongs to each of the Skywalkers, and introduces Luke to Leia, as a blue hologram.
“Your presence is soothing,” Anakin tells Padmé by the lake on Naboo, facing the water. They decide to return to Tatooine. She wears blue, with a pop of yellow – like young Anakin’s pod-racer.
Her presence is soothing.
Which brings us back to the beginning.
“We used to come here for school retreat. We would swim to that island every day. I love the water. We used to lie out on the sand and let the sun dry us and try to guess the names of the birds singing.”
That’s Padmé’s childhood. A privileged paradise, surrounded by water, where sand is a warm bed, sun is a comfort, and she can spend hours doing nothing but listen to nature. Meanwhile, Anakin–
“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.”
Anakin cannot fathom lying out on the sand. If you do that on Tatooine you die. Either the harsh suns, or the sandstorms, or the wild animals, or the various criminals will kill you! And Anakin’s job is to clean and fix things. Sand makes it harder! Sand makes it harder to walk home, and to race his pod. Sand is the worst!
Anakin does not know how to explain to Padmé how completely different his life was to hers, even once he became a padawan. He doesn’t have the vocabulary to describe his history or express his feelings. Slaves and Jedi don’t do either. “I don’t like sand” is neither expressive nor romantic. It’s awkward and cringe-worthy and it’s supposed to be. Anakin is NOT smooth. He is coarse and rough and irritating!
“Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.”
Here is Naboo, here is water, here is Padmé. She is soft, and smooth, and soothing. Without her, he is bright suns, a raging volcano, a succession of explosions, and a bonfire.