But the Female Lead Theme Music…

I have a little bone to pick with John Williams.  I love him, you know I do and I’ve written posts about the PT music vs. OT music.  I think he is THE greatest composer of this day and age.  While I love Lord of the Rings and its soundtrack, I really don’t think it should have been voted by the BBC as the best soundtrack.  Though it has great themes and music, it’s a little repetitive, whereas Williams’ tracks are always original.

My bone to pick with Mr. Williams started small, but it has lately been gnawing at me a little more: the female themes in Star Wars are lacking, or worse, get forgotten.

There are so few female leads in the saga, but because of that I feel like the main three should get some stellar treatment from Williams.

  • Prequel Trilogy – Padmé Amidala Naberrie
  • Original Trilogy – Princess Leia Organa
  • Sequel Trilogy – Rey (as it stands now)

padme-amidala-coruscantWhen looking at the themes for the PT, I have to ask – what about Padmé?  Why does she not have her own theme?  Padmé is just as an important character as Anakin.  In fact, without Padmé, we would not have Darth Vader – the reason for the saga and why we’ve been following the Skywalker family.  I think John Williams could have done an amazing theme for her and I believe some of her theme, if she had one, shows up in Across the Stars.  The theme is tragic, beautiful, and dark all at the same time.

But unfortunately, and this is where my annoyance also gets stronger in the OT, Across the Stars is a blend of Anakin and Padmé, not Padmé by herself.  It pulls in hints of Anakin’s downfall, a doomed love, and Padmé’s beauty with indications of foreshadowing.

Princess Leia does have her own theme in ANH, which is a step up from Padmé and her lack thereof.  It’s a beautiful theme and really pretty – but we rarely hear it.  There is a snippet of it before she is stunned right in the beginning, but other than that, most of ANH is dominated by brass and some of the Force theme.

I look at the Force theme as Luke’s theme because, obviously, it shows up whenever he is present.  It is similar to the Imperial March being construed as Vader’s theme because it starts playing whenever he looms into the camera.  You’d think that Princess Leia’s theme would also show up when she’s on screen and into the next two films as well.

Unfortunately, Leia’s theme dissolves while the Force theme still rears its head whenever Luke is around for ESB and ROTJ.   What bothersluke-leia-han-gif me more is not the fact that her theme is no longer present – but the fact that Leia’s theme gets pulled into other themes.

Within ESB, there is “Han Solo and the Princess” and in ROTJ there is the beautiful “Luke and Leia”.  Don’t get me wrong – I love “Luke and Leia”.  It’s one of my favorite pieces of ROTJ, but that’s not the point of this post.  It’s like Leia can no longer stand on her own and she becomes interlocked with the two men in her life.  I find it a little jarring because that’s not how I view her character (thankfully) but in terms of the music, the fault lies with Williams.

I do believe that musical themes should evolve – but they should not lose their core identity.  Just like we, as people, evolve through our lives, we still have a core of ourselves that is the same.  Luke’s Force theme shows up interwoven in different pieces throughout the OT and I wish I could see the same with Leia’s.

Water under the bridge at this point.

…Or is it?  Can this pattern be changed with Episode VIII and Rey?

I may like Rey’s theme even more than Leia’s.  Of course I’m biased because my daughter’s middle name is Rey, but the spunky, light-hearted, slightly wistful theme has become part of the weekly repertoire of music I listen to.  It touches my core and brings out something inrey-star-wars me where I almost feel like her at times; an understanding for Rey even though I have no idea what her life is like.  Williams’ music has the power to do that.

Williams said that one of his main reasons for coming back to compose music for Episode VIII was because he didn’t want any other composer writing music for Rey.  I love hearing that and it gives me hope that he keeps the essence of her in the upcoming movie within the score.

My main question and fear is: as Rey evolves as a character, will Williams keep her theme at the core?  Or will he forget it entirely?  Worse, will he blend it with other men?

I never thought I’d have an issue with Williams and his music, but here it is.  I’m also curious to see if Jyn Erso has a theme and if so, what it will sound like.  Or perhaps Michael Giacchino will not have any themes since it’s a standalone film and he’ll break the cycle.

Has anyone else noticed what I wrote about? 

 

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9 thoughts on “But the Female Lead Theme Music…

  1. Like you, I have often found myself bothered by the fact that Padme lacks her own theme music in the Prequels. While I was ignorant and unaware of this when I first watched the films – I was in 8th grade when TPM came out in 1999 – now that I am older, I often look at the Prequels and cannot help but feel that Padme is often overshadowed by the men around her. A lack of theme music is just another example of this, and it is really disturbing when one remembers, like you say, that without her there is no Darth Vader. And, by extension, there is no Luke and Leia….or Kylo Ren beyond that. More often than not, I think people presume Across the Stars IS her theme – it is, as you say, a beautiful and tragic piece – but it’s a love theme that is doing something entirely separate from what a character-centric theme is to accomplish.

    As I have been writing this comment, I also went back to TPM soundtrack to listen to “Queen Amidala and the Naboo Palace” and I just realized that the core of the piece is “Anakin’s Theme” from TPM soundtrack. Obviously, Williams was connecting the two characters in the film by doing this, but that just underscores what you are saying: Padme doesn’t have anything independent of male characters, even when the male is a 10-year-old boy!

    • I do love the naboo palace piece though. Padme, as a whole, is unfortunately overshadowed when she is such a great character. I understand that the saga is about Anakin but it’s still hard to see a lot of her best scenes get cut. Like all the deleted scenes in ROTS! Those are sooooooo good and lend so much more insight into her and her relationship with Anakin, loyalties…

      For me, I couldn’t understand what bothered me more, no theme for Padme or that Leia’s get combined with themes for men in ESB and ROTJ. And that her theme is barely played in the movie to begin with.

      We are close in age! I was in 6th grade when TPM was released.

      • First off, yeah us for being close in age! Is TPM what brought you into Star Wars or were you a SW junkie before the Prequels came out, reading the EU novels and enjoying the Special Editions of the OT?

        Anywho, I totally agree, Padme is entirely overshadowed. I was discussing this with someone the other day, in fact, and mentioned that I have always been disturbed that her character-arc is completely thrown under Anakin’s in ROTS. I hate hate HATE that she has such a minute amount of independent agency in the film. She basically just sits around waiting for Anakin to do stuff then reacts to Anakin doing stuff. Even when she heads off to Mustafar, her action is entirely driven by Anakin. Ughsauce! Like you, I wish many of those deleted scenes had been maintained, but it is pretty obvious that Lucas wanted ROTS to be fully and entirely centered on Anakin, with other arcs weaving in/out of his story-arc.

        And as for the themes, I think there is reason to be bothered by both equally. Plus, I really hope – like you – that Rey’s Theme doesn’t end up being overshadowed by a male character’s theme down the line. I want to believe that Williams wanted to control Rey’s Theme because, unlike the other trilogies, SHE is the main character and he wanted to ensure she was not thrown under the masculine bus.

        • Yes actually TPM brought me in! I had seen star wars before but it was TPM that got me addicted… Or more specifically (and interesting that we are discussing this) Queen Amidala. I think it was the first time I saw a female who was “strong”: leading a planet, sneaking around with a decoy, fighting, etc. I wanted to be her! I also loved Qui Gon and thought he was the perfect person.

          • That is so cool that TPM was what really brought you into things. TPM definitely was a turning point for me, although I had already been enamored by SW for years. I was reading EU novels when I was 7 (I worship at the altar of Admiral Thrawn and Admiral Daala). Still, TPM, just by virtue of it being a SW movie that was new, definitely propelled me into a whole new type of fandom. And, like you, I was enamored by Padme, a girl around my age who was leading a planet! THAT was awesome. Plus, full disclosure, I had a crush on Natalie Portman at the time so it was a double-dose of admiration.

  2. Rey’s theme for me (and I think a lot of people) was the bright spot in the otherwise “meh” Ep VII soundtrack. (But plenty of Williams’ soundtracks are “meh,” and the whole movie was an exercise in playing it safe, so I really wouldn’t complain about it specifically.) I agree that the music reflects the roles of the female characters in the movie (Amidala overshadowed, Leia only in conjunction with other, Rey standing on her own).

    I can’t wait to see what Giacchino does in Rogue One. In my mind he’s basically the heir to the John Williams style of movie music.

    • I like march of the resistance! And the Jedi steps is, omg, goosebumps. I want to hear that section all made into one track instead of the end piece. But Rey’s theme is def my fave. The more I listen to the VII soundtrack, the more I like it actually. More than when I first saw it, that’s for sure.

  3. I didn’t notice this cycle, but mostly because when I watch the movies I don’t focus on the music so much. I love the music and often listen to pure Star Wars, but the story is what I focus on.

    I like to think of this plight in this way; Padme, Leia and Rey don’t need the music. All the men have music to boyster some aspect of their character. Imperial March makes Vader more menacing; Lukes theme brings out the sense of hope he represents. The females are such strong characters that they don’t need music to help the audience understand who they are. This could just be me trying to justify what happened, but its how I like to look at it.

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