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RJ STEWART INTERVIEW
XENA: FEMINIST ICON
RJ STEWART: AGENT OF EVIL?
GABRIELLE: CHOPPED LIVER?
XENA: A WARRIOR BORN OR MADE?
MORE DISGRUNTLED READERS
DISGRUNTLED & UNDISGRUNTLED AT THE SAME TIME
CHINA BEACH REVISITED AGAIN!
RJ STEWART INTERVIEW
[WHOOSH! No. 09 (June 1997), "An Interview with R. J. Stewart", by Bret Ryan Rudnick (firstname.lastname@example.org)]
Date: Sun, 01 Jun 1997
From: Rita Schnepp (email@example.com)
Subject: Excellent Interviews in Whoosh
Congrats to Bret Rudnick and the 'Whoosh' staff for another superb issue, June, 1997.
Bret's interview with RJ Stewart was a most entertaining bit of journalism! I LOVE this...I'm so glad a group of pro's who represent the fans so well -- who ACTUALLY ARE true fans of the show -- are doing this.
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 1997
From: Cindy Campbell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Your interview with RJ Stewart
Just read your interview in WHOOSH! and had to let you know how much I enjoyed it. While much fan banter focuses on our favorite leads, the real heart of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS starts with the writers, and it is obvious from your article that RJ Stewart enjoys his job whole heartedly. Nice to see that he gives credit to all. Stewart's comments remind me that I often fail to appreciate the brilliance of Rob Tapert. He can create, sell, and manage. The loyalty of Tapert's crew to each other and their creation is inspiring. Can't wait to see Stewart's writing in the third season. Also, if his new Amazon show features Velasca and Ephiny, I'll be watching.
Keep up the good work with WHOOSH! Can't wait to see your coverage of the California XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS convention.
From: Cathy (CFH32756@aol.com)
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 1997
Subject: Re: Whoosh #9-Check it out!
Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy WHOOSH! The interview with RJ Stewart was very well done. Enjoyed the report on the Pacific Coast XenaFest, and seeing pics of some regulars-- Deb 7, Simahoyo, etc. You are doing a fantastic job!
Date: Mon, 02 Jun 1997
From: Jeanette Atwood (email@example.com)
Just read the interview you conducted with R.J. Stewart. I wanted to say, THANK YOU for asking intelligent questions. So many interviews these days are just...so...for lack of a better word, so fanboy cheesy that it was refreshing to read an interview conducted by a good INTERVIEWER. Two thumbs up and kudos and all that.
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 1997
From: Deborah Frohman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I read the interview with R.J. Stewart. It's ok. I wish those people would stop using words like "the audience gets it." I know it feels very good for a writer to feel that his or her work is appreciated and liked. But, I think it is pretty clear that this audience can "get" anything they can come up with. I really do think that if you look at the people who are writing for WHOOSH!, it is clear that if anyone doesn't get something, it is the cast and production people, not this audience. Someday people in that business are going to learn that.
I saw that one of the upcoming pieces [research projects] is on "Why Do They Keep Riding Past the Same Tree?" Again, it looks like it will be another good, nonkissy article.
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997
From: Carmen Carter (email@example.com)
Subject: WHOOSH Letter to the Editor
I share Deb E McGhee's regard for R.J. Stewart as a writer for XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (WHOOSH #09). He has contributed some of my favorite episodes to the series: SINS OF THE PAST (#01), A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39), and THE TITANS (#09) (the latter choice putting me in a distinct minority). Ironically, however, he has also written some of my *least* favorite episodes and has forged a story arc for Xena and Gabrielle that I find increasingly unsettling.
Bret Ryan Rudnick's intriguing interview with Mr. Stewart (WHOOSH #9) revealed some of his basic attitudes and illuminated why I part company -- sometimes rather violently -- with his dramatic narrative on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. The most telling comments were contained in the following passages.
"I have some general statements to say about that. Obviously, they [Xena and Gabrielle] like men. That is an obvious thing if you watch the series. That they would be in an exclusively gay relationship is pretty far-fetched given the data we have given about the characters."
Certainly a good argument could be made that Xena is incapable of maintaining an exclusive relationship with *anyone* since the series has established a rather impressive list of lovers for the warrior princess. The same is not true for Gabrielle, who has displayed a strong tendency toward traditional values by marrying first, then losing her virginity. I could easily see Gabrielle in an exclusive relationship, remaining faithful to any person who had captured her heart.
However, Mr. Stewart seemed to make a point of specifying that an exclusive *gay* relationship was unlikely. Why does the thought of a committed monogamous relationship between two women seem so far-fetched to Stewart? The issue is not whether Xena and Gabrielle "like" men, but whether they like each other enough to make a commitment. Currently, I am in a committed relationship with a woman who has in the past been involved with men. It was insulting to my partner to imply that our decision to remain monogamous is "far-fetched" because she "likes men". How absurd! In a heterosexual marriage, the wife presumably "likes men" too, but this in no way gives her license to continue pursuing sexual relationships with men other than her husband.
Stewart's comments suggest, perhaps unintentionally, that same-sex relationships cannot be held accountable to the same set of moral parameters that are expected of heterosexual relationships. I would beg to differ with his views. The past romantic involvements of my partner and myself -- with men or women -- are irrelevant to the monogamous, loving relationship we have *now*. If either of us were to engage in sexual encounters with other people, such an action would be a betrayal, an infidelity.
To propose that Xena and Gabrielle may be attracted to each other, may even be in love with each other, but still feel free to pursue heterosexual relationships confuses bisexuality with non-monogamy. Stewart's comments to the contrary, they are *not* the same concept. However, his lack of distinction between these two issues may explain the emphasis he has placed on forging heterosexual romances for Xena and Gabrielle.
"As writers, we spend very little time talking about that. It is not that it is not important. Every human being has a sex drive that they need to deal with, but there are other issues we are addressing as well. It is an interesting discussion -- we feed it. There is no doubt we feed it to a certain extent. But it is really a relatively minor thing in our talks about the series."
During first season I delighted in watching the subtle undercurrents of attraction that had developed between Xena and Gabrielle. In this context, the occasional double entendres in their dialogue were playful and teasing. If this dynamic had *remained* subtle, I would have no trouble reconciling their close, but essentially platonic, friendship with the knowledge that they would also develop romantic relationships.
However, Xena and Gabrielle's kiss in THE QUEST (#37) brought a new emphasis to this aspect of their friendship. This escalation of their romantic/sexual interaction has created, for me, a dilemma of perception. Unlike Mr. Stewart, I place a premium on fidelity. To accept his premise that Xena and Gabrielle are attracted to each other, yet consider themselves free to seek romantic attachments with a parade of other partners, creates the impression that they do not value their own relationship or each other. As a result, I no longer find their flirtatious behavior with each other to be amusing; on the contrary, I find it rather distasteful.
"Certainly that so many gay people have found it to be a series they relate to strongly -- we love that, that is something we celebrate."
At one time I would have shared Mr. Stewart's assumption that it was mostly gay women who were drawn to the hints of a romance between Xena and Gabrielle. However, after two years of immersion in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS fandom, I've been pleasantly surprised to learn how many heterosexual men and women are also captivated by a rousing good romance, regardless of the gender of the two people involved. This is not an issue of two *women* in love; it is the story of two people who care for each other deeply. And story lines that diminish their respect for each other ultimately devalue the series as a whole.
BRET RUDNICK RESPONDS TO THE LETTERS AND COMMENTS UPON A PERCEIVED MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT THE INTERVIEW:
Thanks very kindly for noticing the interview and responding. I am glad you liked it. I cannot really make any claims to being a "good" interviewer, though -- I am not a journalist nor do I have journalistic aspirations. If anything, I try to engage people in "chats" and bring out from them their part in the series we all enjoy so much. Even though my name is on the piece, this interview and all the work I do is as much the result of the work of Kym, Betsy, Tom, Cynthia, Rita, Debbie, Diane, Karen, and all the contributors to WHOOSH! because I draw on them all for inspiration and assistance. We are a diverse group and all of us, magazine producers and readers, may focus on different elements of the show, but we should never forget we are all drawn together by the show for whatever reason. To that end, and in the interest of sharing with other people who appreciate XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, we all do the best we can.
It was brought to my attention that some people have objected to parts of the R.J. Stewart interview based on responses he gave that were considered by some to be "insensitive" or were interpreted similarly. I should add here that Mr. Stewart displayed nothing but courtesy and consideration throughout the interview. He responded thoughtfully to questions, and at no time gave any indication or hint of disrespect to any question. He was very generous with his time, and answered every question asked. He never asked for any response to be "censored". In fact, his greatest concern was to make sure everyone who deserved credit got it.
Interpretation of printed sentences can sometimes be difficult, depending on where emphasis is placed on words.
Consider the sample sentence: Obviously, I hate broccoli.
If I say: *OBVIOUSLY*, I hate broccoli -- The emphasis on the first word indicates the audience addressed is less than intelligent in the opinion of the speaker. It suggests the reader should have *got it* before.
If I say: Obviously, *I* hate broccoli -- I am comparing and contrasting my likes and dislikes with someone else.
If I say: Obviously, I *HATE* broccoli -- I only amplify my distaste for the vegetable.
If I say: Obviously, I hate *BROCCOLI* -- I imply I do not hate something else that may well be similar.
There were no such interpretive emphases on Mr. Stewart's sentences. Where a word was highlighted in speech, it was highlighted in the text, but this was rare. Readers should not put such emphasis in where none exists. If there is a question about how something was meant, perhaps we should ask those questions rather than jump to any premature or unfounded conclusions.
We at WHOOSH! who work to create a quality product try our best to be fair when presenting material, and will always endeavour to give readers the advantage of background and pertinent environment whenever possible. If anyone has an attitude or demeanour that is negative, disrespectful, impatient, or otherwise unpleasant regarding any portion of the subject matter, it will be conveyed. So far, with over half a dozen interviews "in the can", nothing even close to this has been the case. Xenastaff have been nothing but courteous and generous with their time and thoughts.
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997
From: Kate Emblom (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Re: [chakram] Regarding the WHOOSH #09 Stewart Interview
I read Bret Rudnick's interview with R. J. Stewart in WHOOSH #9, and have heard that some people on the 'net have accused Stewart as being insensitive. I thought I would respond by pointing out that I don't see the insensitivity (possibly exposing myself to the charge of being insensitive). In addition, I thought that the interview was fairly well-written, the questions were a little different than the ones normally asked of Xenastaff, and I appreciated Stewart's candor. Kudos to your e-zine for a good job.
One of the things about the interview to strike me was the degree to which Stewart alluded to the market forces behind XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS production. For example, the production team's conscious effort to write a Xena character different from the one we saw on HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS shows a real concern to establish the show as an independent production, able to compete on its own merits. The fans appreciate the distinction between the two shows, but Stewart's comments help us to understand the causes of the character inconsistencies we may sometimes see.
At the same time, I think that the interview helped fans gain more insight into the development of the different characters. Here, I am thinking of the lengthy discussion of the Callisto episodes, which Stewart indicates grew out of the realization that Xena was allowed to transform herself into a do-gooder without having to face lasting consequences of her past actions. Of course, I do realize that several first and second season episodes make reference to Xena's inglorious past, but only Callisto is depicted as having a personal reason to hate Xena.
My sense is that people may have taken offense at Stewart's remarks concerning the subtext. (sigh) Let me state here that I am a big fan of the subtext. It's fun (in all the best and most positive senses of the word), and I enjoy the variety of ways in which the production plays with it. For me, the value of the subtext is fairly complex. For one, it provides an acknowledgment that love is not exclusive to relationships between the sexes, and that "sisterly love" (to use the term of the non-subtexters) is not necessarily platonic, at least in the sense of being devoid of all physical dimensions. For another, the acknowledgment of commitment in same-sex pairings not only reflects a growing belief that such relationships have value, but also helps shape future attitudes toward such relationships. That XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS develops the subtext says a lot about the beliefs of the production staff.
I do think that there's a fairly vocal crowd of folks who are disappointed that Stewart's comments suggest that the subtext will remain just that -- a secondary consideration. I suspect that some of the response might be based upon Stewart's observation that both characters have had heterosexual love interests, so the idea that the two could have an exclusively homosexual relationship would not be consistent. I think that if I were a member of that group, I'd focus on the use of the word "exclusively." It's not a denial of the validity of subtext readings, but it is an affirmation that the relationships on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS are somewhat complex.
Oh dear, I see that this reply has grown quite lengthy. My apologies for getting carried away. It's probably a result of delurking for a moment.
Keep the good work with WHOOSH!
XENA: FEMINIST ICON
[WHOOSH! No. 09 (June 1997), "Xena: Feminist Icon" by Suzanne Sheldon (email@example.com)]
Date: Wed, 4 Jun 97
From: Jason Alleman (PORSCHECLAUS@msn.com)
Greetings from an English major at Western Washington University! Congratulations are in order to you if this paper you wrote which I found titled "XENA: FEMINIST ICON" was for a class. I won't critique your writing because I believe that as writers we should be allocated a certain amount of literary freedom to express ourselves as we find fit to. What I do want to comment on is the topic. I whole heartedly agree with you on the concept of subtextuality and would offer you to look at the blatant amount of intertextuality regarding all of the classics. I have just written a rather lengthy paper that goes about tackling the intertextuality that exists in Francis Ford Coppola's movie Apocalypse Now, regarding T.S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, Sir James Frazer, and others. I too have noticed the hidden lesbian tendencies that are very prevalent in XENA. I would be interested to see how this affects how the viewing public in becoming more numb towards the lesbian lifestyle. Especially with the events at ELLEN, it would appear that certain groups are attempting to narcoticize the public towards such issues.
RJ STEWART: AGENT OF EVIL?
[WHOOSH! #09 (June 1997), "R. J. Stewart: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", by Deb E McGhee (firstname.lastname@example.org)]
Date: Sun, 01 Jun 1997
From: Debra Myatt (email@example.com)
Subject: A few comments.
I do not often visit the WHOOSH! site, but I did today and did a bit of reading, including your views about R.J. Stewart's episodes and various comments relating to them.
In reading the comments about THE TITANS (#07), I agree this is not one of the easiest episodes to sit through, but a large point was missed not only by you, but by many fans. That point being: Friendship or any relationship is not all a bed of roses. There are times when people, being capable of almost anything, just clash, even in the closest of situations, and particularly in the closest of situations. In nearly any family, kids, siblings, brothers and sisters, will fight with each other at least a third of the time. Part of growing closer in a relationship, is to be able to express one's self openly. This was a major step in the friendship of Xena and Gabrielle in THE TITANS, as I see it from the standpoint that it is the first time we see Xena and Gabrielle dealing with conflicts in their friendship. It opens the door for future steps in closeness and open communications of all kinds, including the heartfelt campfire scene in CALLISTO (#22). They communicate honestly and openly, even if they disagree. They talk it out, hash it out, and come to some sort of compromise or understanding, which comes across from a psychological standpoint as a great example of how relationships grow in a positive way.
I refer you to a book, called "Between Women" that explores how and why friendships between women seem to have difficulties and do not seem to last. What Xena and Gabrielle show us about relationships, could have come right out of the pages of that book.
In A FISTFUL OF DINARS (#14), I did not see that Gabrielle was deliberately going behind Xena's back, or at least in a way that was rejecting Xena. Gabrielle has an insight to people and it is what brought her into Xena's life in the first place, an insight and intuition, just as Xena has an uncanny intuition about approaching danger or changes in her environment. Gabrielle followed her own instinct, and in the end, was proved correct about it. I really do not think Gabrielle was interested in Petracles as a lover, since she backed off when he tried to push the issue and kissed her.
Personally, I admire the fact that Gabrielle and Xena tend to each remain true to themselves, even if it means they do not necessarily agree. I do not see that either has lost respect for the other because of it. In fact, I would venture to say, the respect has grown. I admire the way they give one another space at times, which is often misunderstood by fans as some sort of rejection or abandonment of one another.
From a psychological point of view there are many positive messages in the show. It is unfortunate that so many fans tend to object to the very messages and lessons, that deep down on a intuitive level they admire and seek in their own lives.
Over all as a writer, and student of literature and drama, most people will interpret things through their own experiences. They may come close at times to what a writer means to convey, consciously and unconsciously, but very few interpretations really match the writer's view completely. I am not sure comparing extremes worked well toward finding that matching point, which most likely lies somewhere in the middle.
It was an interesting read. I may pay more attention to the WHOOSH! site after this. A lot of thought provoking stuff there. Keep up the good work.
Subject: Whoosh #9
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (PJ Wylie)
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 1997
I am absolutely delighted with the interview of R. J. Stewart in your latest issue of WHOOSH!
I must take issue with the article about Mr. Stewart, however. I think the problems with THE TITANS was not with the script, which had a lot of nice chuckles about Gabrielle's misguided attempt to help the world. The mischief was caused, I think, by the difficulty of getting special effects to work with giants. This same problem can be seen in other episodes with big guys, whether on HERCULES or XENA. The suspension of disbelief takes a hard hit on these episodes.
I also wish to express my extreme regret that you are not going to rename WHOOSH! "The R.J. Stewart Fan Magazine." But if you keep interviewing writers, I will somehow hold up all right and continue to read your great electronic publication. Thanks!
Subject: RJ Stewart
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 12:20:22 -0400
From: Bret Rudnick (email@example.com)
Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion. And Deb McGhee's opinions as regards R.J. Stewart's work are very well constructed. I should say here and now I enjoyed reading her article, and after much hand-wringing and thinking about it, believe that we're all much better off with it than without it. There are places where I think there is factual error, however, and some places where my opinion strongly clashes with hers, and in the interest of fostering constructive dialogue, I wanted to bring those items out into an open forum. In preparing for the companion interview, I viewed several R.J. Stewart episodes in an effort to get a "feel" for what the writer wanted to convey and how he wanted to do it.
In her first paragraph, Ms. McGhee cites Beth Gaynor's "Rate-A-Xena" website as the source for statistical data showing R.J. Stewart episodes were rated at the top and bottom of the scale. When I visited this site on 9 June, I found that the lowest rated episode was, in fact, GIANT KILLER (5.73), and *not* the R.J. Stewart episode THE TITANS (5.89). So to say his work is lowest rated at the site named above is false (though it is entirely accurate to say it is the second-lowest ranked as of 9 June).
A further, perhaps more interesting, statistic from that same site remained untold. There is a section where writers of episodes are ranked, and in that section, R. J. Stewart comes in third, close behind number one ranked series creator Rob Tapert (8.13) and number two ranked Steve Sears (7.97). R.J. Stewart got a rating of 7.88, and considering his output and different themes (from high drama to comedy and areas in between) that seems a very high ranking to me indeed. Therefore, "best-of-the-best" I can support, but "absolute worst" seems, to me, unjustified and perhaps unnecessarily harsh.
I had a simple disagreement with parts of paragraph 9, specifically where Ms. McGhee says the writer "'makes mistakes'", and "he does things that could be seen by his audience as undermining the integrity of his characters, thereby alienating the audience and diminishing the power of his message." This is certainly one interpretation, however I think it is quite subjective. What some may view as "making mistakes" others can view as "taking chances". And in television, there is a limited amount of time one has to get one's point across. Sometimes a time line is speeded up to bring a point home faster, for example. And while I myself may not fully trust or agree with the actions of a character as portrayed by a writer other than the creator of that character, as a writer myself I have to believe that the person who created the character knows that character best. We as viewers may have our own interpretations of a particular character's motivations, hopes, dreams, desires, but this could very well be a far cry from anything the author intended. Not that it's a "bad" thing, just "different".
As I read through paragraphs 16 through 19, I was somewhat surprised there was no mention made of the fact that, like Gabrielle, Joxer has matured and evolved over time. Like many people, I absolutely could not stand the guy when he first appeared. But my opinion of him has moderated over time, and it's not just because we're stuck with him, it's because he has demonstrated (to me, at least) an ability to improve, or at the very least, recognise he has a "problem". As someone who was quite the computer geek when he was a kid, I am rather embarrassed to say I resembled Joxer in part back then. But I grew out of it by age 16.
Even though R. J. Stewart did not write all the episodes in which Joxer appears it is not fair to suppose he hasn't had a hand in that character's evolution. Television writers have meetings, discuss strategy, characterisation, and so forth. Speaking from experience, I can say that just because your name may appear on the script, it doesn't mean you wrote every word that appears in it -- not by a longshot. But as regards Joxer's character and evolution, how can anyone fail to be moved, even a little bit, by Ted Raimi's portrayal of him in COMEDY OF EROS and FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS? Better make that a rhetorical question, I'm sure some people would be only too keen to explain it.
My next comment stems from a section in paragraph 23. I can't recall anywhere that Callisto directly referred to Gabrielle as Xena's "soul". I do recall Callisto saying she was going to first destroy Xena's soul, but I never took that to mean it was expressly Gabrielle. Gabby may be part of Xena's soul, but I interpreted the line to mean much more than that. Again, subjective differences.
In the same paragraph, Ms. McGhee also asks, perhaps rhetorically, "which writer's idea was it to include that kiss" (referring to QUEST)? Well, we'd have to ask him directly. Three writers are credited with that episode. And as regards the larger discussion of "subtext", the province of such things is by no means exclusive to writers. Many people can push those buttons, from writers to directors, to editors, to music and effects people, and points in between. And I happen to know sometimes they *all* do.
And I didn't understand the unnecessary pejorative phrase "believe it or not" at the end of the sentence "Yes, there is gold in Stewart's Scripts..." If there were no gold there, would he have written the most popular episode among fans in the series to date: A DAY IN THE LIFE ?
In paragraph 24 Ms. McGhee discusses a portion from the interview where Mr. Stewart talked about sexual issues regarding the characters of Xena and Gabrielle. She says, "Stewart asserts there are more important issues than sex -- implying to some that to wonder about Xena and Gabrielle's sexuality is to belabor a trivial point." I couldn't disagree more. Mr. Stewart is directly quoted as regards this specific issue, "It is not that it is not important." To me, he is simply saying that in a list of priorities to discuss on the show, it's not at the top of the list. I find that a most reasonable position, given the vagaries of television, ratings, and the fact that one only has a finite number of episodes to tell all the stories one has to tell.
As I read through paragraph 25 from the preceding paragraphs, keeping in mind we are in a section that discusses the "subtext" versus Xena and Gabrielle's heterosexual demonstrations, I was put in mind of Kirk and Spock from the classic Star Trek days. Here were two characters that, over time, developed a very close and emotional attachment for one another. Yet did anyone imply there was a sexual attraction between the two? Not that I ever heard about. Perhaps Kirk and Spock are the most successful example (prior to Xena and Gabrielle) of a very deep and committed friendship -- a love, if you will -- without necessarily having to have a sexual attraction go with it. Kirk could go from relationship to relationship (somewhat like Xena has), and Spock can mate once (somewhat like Gabrielle has) but that doesn't have to be the defining thing about their relationship. As it has been said many times, by many people, there is enough subtext present such that if you want to see that and you like that sort of thing, it's there, but you don't *have* to interpret it that way.
Finally, I interpret it as disapproval when I read, in paragraph 26, "Hundreds of selections in the romance and romantic comedy sections of one's local video store should suffice to support this assertion: the 'love was right under their noses all the time' story has been done to death." I would submit that the story has "been done to death" because it *sells*. People *like* it. If they didn't, they wouldn't keep *returning* to it.
In conclusion, let me say that each of us will interpret what we see in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS differently. Those differences may be slight or great, but as individuals, we all have our own unique motivations, likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, and desires. We can be grateful that XWP lets us all express them in such a diverse and civilised way, and no matter what may be in store for us in episodes ahead, we will all tune in and watch with anticipation.
Even though I may strongly disagree with some of Deb McGhee's interpretations (for example, she viewed Xena allowing Callisto to sink into the quicksand as "vaguely out of character" while I thought it to be completely consistent with Xena's character), I am very grateful for them and very glad to share my thoughts about them. No matter what Ms. McGhee may think of the words above, I genuinely *liked* the article. She got me to think and respond more to a piece than anyone else to date, and that is not an easy thing to do. I'm sure there will be much more to talk about in future articles.
MS. McGHEE RESPONDED:
I welcome Mr. Rudnick's invitation to open dialogue about my article reviewing R.J. Stewart's work. Although I tried my best to be fair and objective (insofar as that is really possible), I fear I may have created the unfortunate impression -- in opening the article with that nasty statistic from Rate-A-Xena and by using such words as "threatened" and "annihilate" -- that I think some of R.J. Stewart's work is downright awful. Later remarks may have therefore come across more harshly than they were intended.
Before turning to more subjective issues, let me first address the matter of "factual" errors. The Rate-A-Xena site is updated frequently -- usually more than once per week. There most certainly had been changes in the ratings between the time that I collected my final data (May 20 -21) and when Mr. Rudnick collected his on June 9. Mr. Rudnick also raises that point that R.J. Stewart's overall rating for writing was third highest among all (multi-episode), writers but what is not discussed are the variability of these ratings. Without going too deeply into statistics, suffice it to say that the ratings of the collection of Stewart-credited episodes show a high degree of variability, such that if one were to rank the writers -- with the writer whose episodes show the most flux from episode-to-episode at the top, to the writer who is most consistently rated one way or another at the bottom -- then Stewart would be near or at the top of that scale. That was the point of paragraph 1: That R.J. Stewart's episodes have elicited both very positive and very negative fan reactions.
On matters of interpretation, it is harder to argue specific points -- but there are places where I think Mr. Rudnick and I disagree because my purpose and intent were unclear. Regarding Joxer, for example: Although I may agree that Joxer has changed over time and been characterised differently by the various writers, when it came to writing the article, it became very clear to me that I had to limit my scope to only those episodes for which Stewart was given writing credit. Indeed, as "Head Writer", one might argue that *all* of the main and recurring characters in all of their appearances can be traced back to the work of R.J. Stewart. Had I taken that tack, however, the article would have become a dissertation about the series as a whole, rather than a critique of Stewart's work in particular.
Where Mr. Rudnick and I disagree most strongly are on matters involving the "subtext". It is important to make clear that my remarks were based on observations of the reactions of many online fans to (1) the fact that the majority of Stewart's episodes prominently feature a heterosexual love interest for one or both of the main characters and (2) my own arguments in various fora that Stewart-penned episodes are "subtext-rich". Indeed, I think it would be fair to venture that many fans feel that Stewart is either "anti-subtext" or just indifferent to it. In any case, the fact remains that the implied or overt depictions of heterosexual love interests in what amounts to every other of Stewart's credited episodes, lends support to the theory that asserting Xena's and Gabrielle's attractions to men is *indeed* a priority. Meanwhile, the nature of their feelings toward *one another* remains a matter of wide-open speculation.
The message I was trying to convey in Paragraph 26 is that Xena's and Gabrielle's obvious attractions to men say nothing about their feelings toward one another and, in fact, are irrelevant to Mr. Rudnick's original question regarding whether the two are "more than just good friends". Specifically, I was attempting to differentiate bisexuality from non-monogamy because Stewart's answer can reasonably be read as erroneously confounding the two. In effect, I was -- rightly or wrongly -- trying to "save the subtext". In light of Stewart's (very strongly-worded) remarks, few interpretations of "what's going on between the lines" are available: Either (1) Xena and Gabrielle have unacknowledged feelings for one another, (2) they are engaged in an "open" relationship, or (3) there is absolutely nothing "going on" whatsoever. Because the last negates subtextual readings completely, I chose to highlight the other two possibilities. (As a side note, I want to point out that more than a few people have suggested that Kirk and Spock were sexually attracted to one another: The term "slash fan-fiction" originated to refer to depictions of just such a scenario.)
In closing, I thank Mr. Rudnick for opening this dialogue and for giving me the opportunity to clarify my earlier remarks. Bis spater, mein Kollege.
GABRIELLE: CHOPPED LIVER?
[WHOOSH! No. 09 (June 1997), "Why Doesn't Renee O'Connor Get More Credit? Or What Have *They* Got Against Gabrielle?"
, IAXS Project # 230, by Stacey Robillard (XENAadict@aol.com)]
Subj: WHOOSH ISSUE NINE - JUNE 1997
From: Donna (DJMHB@aol.com)
I just finished reading your article (Why Doesn't Renee O'Connor Get More Credit? Or What Have *They* Got Against Gabrielle?) in Whoosh Issue Nine - June 1997.
I had to drop you a note and congratulate you on a job well done. You said exactly everything I feel about "Renee/Gabrielle" and could never put into words the way you did so eloquently.
Like you, I love Lucy Lawless (our wonderful Warrior Princess), BUT, without Renee/Gabrielle in the show I WOULD STOP WATCHING. As much as I hate to say that. But without them BOTH there would be no show!!!
I also learned something I didn't know from your article...that it was Lucy who insisted Renee get opening credit. That's true friendship, which I think they really share in their personal lives. I know they can't change THE NAME OF THE SHOW (I don't think even I would want them to), but they sure can give her "more" of that opening credit...(instead of the one-second clip she now has!!!)
Thanks Again for a Fabulous Article and thanks for the WHOOSH site. It's one of my favorite places to visit!
[WHOOSH! No. 09 (June 1997), "Joxer from a Disability Perspective", IAXS Project #229, by Virginia Carper (carperv@FRB.GOV)]
From: Rita Leverett (rlevere1@SMTPGW.IS.HFH.EDU)
Subject: Letter to the Editor
Date: Wednesday, June 18, 1997
I can't remember when I've had my perspective change so drastically on a subject in such a short time. True, I've been guilty of "Joxer-bashing" on more than one occasion, but after reading "Joxer From a Disability Perspective" by Virginia Carper all I can think about is how Joxer has time and time again rescued (or attempted to rescue) Xena and Gabrielle, not to mention Argo.
Now I understand why my 12-year-old son seemed so shocked and disappointed when I told him I didn't like Joxer because "he's an idiot." I think my son understands that Joxer is just a little different in some very superficial ways.
Like Xena says, "You got a good heart, Joxer." Thanks, Virginia.
MS. CARPER RESPONDED:
Thank you, Rita.
When I first saw Joxer on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, I realized I was watching 'someone I knew'. Several of my friends and my family, who have mental disabilities, have Joxer-like characteristics. We see Joxer as our hero because he is *independent*. We (myself included) have been called idiots and other things because we act different. But as you have noted, Joxer can be relied on to 'do the right thing'. That is what is the most important thing in life -- being good and doing good.
XENA: A WARRIOR BORN OR MADE?
[WHOOSH #09 (June 1997), "Is Xena a Warrior Born or a Warrior Made?", IAXS Project #124, moderated by Richard LaFleur (firstname.lastname@example.org)]
From: Richard LaFleur (email@example.com)
Date: Sun, 01 Jun 97
Subject: Re: WHOOSH #09 preview
I took your advice and checked out the "IS XENA A WARRIOR BORN OR A WARRIOR MADE?" page for Whoosh! #09. I am amazed at how your graphics and section headings help organize what could be a pretty esoteric discussion into something much more readable!
What you and your crew at IAXS are doing strikes at the very heart of what elevates XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS above the generic television "action" genre. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to express my thanks to you and your staff for providing a medium that helps us all get more out of what XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS represents.
[WHOOSH! No. 08 (May 1997), "Xena and the Challenge of Destiny," IAXS Project #264, by Ian Rentoul (IRentoul@msn.com)]
From: Jim Gordon (JGordon262@aol.com)
Sent: 30 May 1997
Subject: Your WHOOSH! Article
Bravo on your Xena Destiny article! Well written and indicative of a deep grasp of the subject matter, and most importantly, it was not boring! You did a very good job fleshing out the Xena timeline.
To my mind, there is a large timeline gap left unexplained -- that is, who taught Xena how to fight and then how did she gain the power and prestige to amass an army? She must have been very young. This observation is based on the fact that Callisto was a little girl when Xena pillaged her town. Assuming Callisto's age as a woman is around 20, then at least 10 years have gone by, maybe more, which puts Xena's age back then somewhere under 20 years old (assuming Xena is 30 in current timeline). What do you think? Could a teenage warrior princess command an army of older men to do her bidding? And this was before she was "forged in the heat of battle".
Your article has helped me fill in a lot of gaps in my Xena awareness. I missed most of the first year's episodes. I certainly hope the opportunity arises to view these past stories, perhaps through repeats this summer for instance.
In the meantime, IAXS scholars such as yourself are doing the Xenaverse a great service by shedding light on sometimes obfuscated subject matter.
BTW, I want to compliment you on your magazine. Besides the great content, I find the layout of the pages to be well organized, intuitively arranged, and refreshingly lacking in graphics. This results in snappy downloads and zippy page call ups. In other words, your magazine has great "handling"! I wish other sites could be like this.
[CHANGING TIMES is an exclusive monthly WHOOSH! Series by Debbie White]
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 1997
From: Arafel Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Whoosh article
Re: Xena's changing personality in the June issue of Whoosh (#09).
I really enjoyed Debbie White's paper. My business is the study of literature, so reading good interpretations of XENA episodes is a real treat for me. I thought Debbie White handled the BLACK WOLF (#11) analysis particularly well. I look forward to reading more of her work.
I have also been meaning to express my appreciate for the scholarly efforts that make up WHOOSH. I am a graduate student who spends large chunks of every day pouring over literary journals much like yours. These are the "accepted" academic journals, and I think WHOOSH stands with them in every respect. Except that it is a h*** of a lot more fun to read.
I've only seen the June issue, but I read the whole thing. The quality of the articles just amazed me. My favorites were Debbie White's "Changing Times," Suzanne Sheldon's "Xena: A Feminist Icon," and Stacey Robillard's "Why Doesn't Renee O'Connor Get More Credit." Even the articles I didn't agree with were well constructed, thought provoking, and more than adequately supported by actual text.
What impresses me most is the passion people feel for XENA. People in my profession, English, should check this journal out to remember what true love of their subject matter means.
MORE DISGRUNTLED READERS
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 1997
From: Nicole Gibb (email@example.com)
Subject: The new Whoosh look
Sorry Kym, but the new look has got to go. I have to agree with DJMHB@aol.com [WHOOSH! #09 (June 1997), Letters to the Editor, "The New WHOOSH! Design"]. The old look was bright, flamboyant and cool, just like XENA!! I actually find the new look hard on my eyes. It is too pale. Most of all I agree that the new logo is just a shadow of it's predecessor.
No offense Tom, you are a talented artist, I love the look of your site. YOU CAN DO BETTER!!! If it is one thing that Xena is not, it is soft.
Maybe you should do an online pole [sic]!?! Maybe there are only two of us who do not like the new look. BUT!!!! Maybe there are MORE!!!
Thanks for listening. Hope I didn't offend anyone.
From: "kathleef fox" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Article suggestions - an epic
Date: Sun, 08 Jun 1997
I wrote you last month to report about being unable to read some of the copy in WHOOSH! due to the insipid light blue background on some of your pages? Well, I am pleased to report that I had no trouble reading every last word of your fine 'zine WHOOSH! in the June 1997 issue. I don't know if it was me or is my new computer, but everything looks just dandy now. By the way, WHOOSH! seems to just be just getting bigger and better with every issue. Kudos to you and the rest of your fine writers and editors of WHOOSH!
Which brings me to my next point. You asked your readers in the editors section for article suggestions ...Well, I have one dream, wish, or is it hearts desire? What about a bona fide interview with the hottest warrior in the b***-kicking biz, the mistress of the universe, the woman who rocks my world, the one and only Lucy Lawless herself?!!! I think it's high time that Ms. Lawless speak directly to her minions - i.e., her hard core nutballs - instead of being interviewed by non-nutballs who keep asking her the same boring questions, or even worse, questions that show the interviewers complete ignorance and lack of interest in the show itself! I think Ms. Lawless should be interviewed by WHOOSH! since the show exists mainly due to her sheer charisma and power that Ms. Lawless portrays as her alter ego - Xena Warrior Princess (and with a little help from Renee, the writers, and other studio execs). Really, who would be better suited than WHOOSH! to ask all those questions we hard core nutballs have been dying to ask, hmmm? If it weren't for Ms. Lawless, I really couldn't see myself believing and admiring such a creature as Xena because I would probably be laughing my head off in derision.
Lucy has made Xena a real person, and somehow I just can't see anyone else doing as fine job as portraying her. I admit when I first watched the show, I did it so I could sneer and scoff at what I thought would be a T & A show. Because of Ms. Lawless bravo performance, she immediately showed me that her character Xena, and the show were not to be taken as a piece of eye-candy like BAYWATCH. XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS instead has become a show which inspires, entertains, and most of all questions who and what real women are.
We thank you for your endorsement of WHOOSH! and we are pleased that our interview features are going over as well as they are with the fans. At this time we do not have any thing concrete or even "near" concrete about interviewing the Big Kahuna herself, however, if given the opportunity, I can assure you, we will not be sitting on our hands. I can also tell you that she is "on our list".
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 1997
From: Kimberly Dull (email@example.com)
Subject: Letter to the editor
I wanted to tell you I think WHOOSH is terrific! I thoroughly enjoy reading everything. The members and contributors are wonderful writers and come up with some very thought provoking theories.
I did want to comment on the "Recurring Characters" section of your XENA FAQ. For Joxer, COMEDY OF EROS (#46), needs to be added. Also, I believe that Cupid could be considered a recurring character by now, and I would *love* to see him included.
Thanks, and keep up the good work.
Good point about Karl Urban, the poor man has appeared as three different characters in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (Maell in ALTARED STATES (#19), Caesar-Julius Caesar in DESTINY (#36), and Cupid in A COMEDY OF EROS (#46), and will be appearing again as Caesar in the soon to be infamous Stonehenge episode). And thank you for bringing the COMEDY OF EROS omission to our attention.
DISGRUNTLED & UNDISGRUNTLED AT THE SAME TIME
From: Virginia Carper (carperv@FRB.GOV)
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 1997
Subject: Re: WHOOSH
One nit in general -- I noticed mistakes that could be avoided by proofreading in WHOOSH. Is it the problem of too little time and too few people or the same people looking at the same piece all the time?
One compliment -- Thanks for making WHOOSH in large print with a light background. I have difficulty reading and have many things printed off line to read. At least with WHOOSH, I can read on line with less difficulty.
We try our best to present as error free a journal as possible. I would like to announce the addition of a Proofreader to the staff of WHOOSH! Chris Clogston will now be the typo whipping gal.
The redesign of WHOOSH!, which was unveiled in issue #08 (May 1997), was the project of Betsy Book and Tom Simpson, two critical staff members whose hard work and constant attention to detail and design make me proud to be associated with WHOOSH!
CHINA BEACH REVISITED AGAIN!
[WHOOSH! No. 08 (May 1997), "Trial and Triumph of a Fan Club," IAXS Project #235, by Anita Louise Silva (LoisAnne@concentric.net)]
Subject: CHINA BEACH
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 1997
From: Kim (TrekOZ@aol.com)
I kept meaning to write and tell you how much I enjoyed the article, "Trial and Triumph of a Fan Club," WHOOSH! issue 8. I have been, and always will be a CHINA BEACH Fan. Had I known that there was such a Fan Club, I surely would have been there! A few years back, I tried writing to several video clubs to ask (pleaded!) if CHINA BEACH would ever be put out on video. I even went as far as to write to John Sacret Young but my letter was returned. Thank to the re-running of this show on Lifetime, I was able to get most, but not all, on tape. I just don't understand that if STAR TREK (various series), X-FILES, MASH, etc. can be put on video for the fans to buy, then why not CHINA BEACH??
My only theory is that these companies feel that there wouldn't be a market for such a drama, that no one would want to buy these tapes, that maybe they think a show on The Vietnam Experience would not interest the public. WRONG! I for one (and I know others) would be VERY interested in owning this wonderful drama -- from first episode to last!!!
A few weeks ago, I dug out my old tapes and watched "The World Parts 1 and 2" and I cried!!! THEN, I had to watch "Tet '68". Then, of course, I HAD to watch "Cherry" after that! I cried all over again! My point is, it is simply amazing to me that this show can STILL bring out this type of emotional response in me after so many years!!!
Yes, I will always be a avid China Beach Fan!!! Thank again so much for your article! Also, your web site is STILL my favorite...even with all the new ones sprouting up. I look forward to every issue of WHOOSH!
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 1997
From: Mark Blackmer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Congratulations to WHOOSH! [Actually it is IAXS -ed.] on its first year anniversary!! I only started reading it about six months ago and have *REALLY* enjoyed the wit, the sarcasm, the analysis, the analogies......... I'm still a "lurker" but may someday, with inspiration from your articles, break the bonds of "lurker-dom"!
Also, congrats on your birthday. I'm ahead of ya' by only two years. It's good to hear of us "not so young anymore", not born with a computer types leading the way!
Also, my family is from MI [Pewamo, Ionia, St. John's area]. Everyone up there are is great.
Keep up the great work -- I know I'll continue to be an avid reader and "recommender" to others!!
San Antonio, TX
Be proud of the Michigan connection. Is it any accident that both ROBERT TAPERT and SAM RAIMI hail from Michigan? And then there is me too. And now you. Can you say....conspiracy?