Author's Note: I read Kym's article in Whoosh! [July Whoosh! #10, editorial "Common Knowledge?"] with more than a bit of incredulity. It angered me for the most part. Not necessarily Kym's reactions (though she is also off by several degrees), but by the fact that many of the fans have succumbed to paranoia and rumor.
In the interest of that, I have decided to interview myself. I want to focus in on some things and this is the best way to do it. You might think that this is also a way for me to focus attention away from things and to the areas that I choose, but I think you'll feel differently when you read the article. I'm not holding back. There are things in this article that may insult some people, may make people angry, may make people look foolish, but the point is to tell the truth. And I recognize that not all are guilty of what I am addressing, but those who are will know it.
Right now, my opening paragraph.
RAPE. I wrote it in capital letters so we would all see it and not mistake what I am talking about. RAPE. It isn't any cute acronym for an empowerment organization, it isn't the punch line of some funny joke. It is a violent act that is intended to dehumanize a human being in order to make another feel superior. By far, it is a crime that is perpetrated on women by men. It is a crime that allows society to hold the victim guilty and bestows a macho credibility on the criminal. Anyone who has experienced RAPE will never forget it and has survived more than most people can imagine just to be able to function again in society. As a man, I cannot possibly understand the fear that someone would have at a touch or a voice just because of its male gender. But a RAPE victim has no choice, was given no choice. All trust has been stripped away, including self respect and dignity. I don't joke about RAPE. I've seen its effect in too many ways. And, because I have never exeprienced it firsthand, I have only experienced a grain of sand in the Sahara. Just so you know where I stand.
On to the interview.
Q: On the Universal Chat, why did Rob Tapert say make the reference to Gabrielle's child in the way that he did?
A: I don't know. You'd have to ask Rob that. But that there was a casting session for an actress to play the role is not a secret. I assumed at the "exclusive" nature of the comment was in that he was confirming it.
Q: Why can't you tell us definitively there was no rape?
A: When the episode that prompted the rumor finally does air, I can then tell you why I can't say anything now. Keeping in mind that it's my policy anyway not to reveal plotlines. At the moment, that's what it would require. However, consider this; anything anyone says can be interpretational. For example, the idea of Gabrielle's Blood Innocence is important. Well, what if someone had posted a message saying that they knew that Gabrielle was going to kill Velasca (reference "The Quest")? And if I had said "No". Well? Did she? Certainly the body of Gabrielle was trying to defeat Velasca, even if that meant killing her. But to have said a definitive "No" would then lead to people saying "Hey, you were playing fast and loose with semantics". There would be no way I could win. My advice is to calm down and wait for the episode. Speculate if you will, but don't go crazy. If we committed an evil sin, then lambaste us when you have the facts.
Q: So there is an episode that lead to the press release?
A: It wasn't a press release, it was someone's gossip article. There is a difference. Our PR department sanctions press releases. And, yes, there is an episode that this misinformation can be traced back to.
Q: Why use the word "Misinformation"?
A: Misinformation is designed to lead people into making their own assumptions by basing its validity on partial logic. Light the end of the fuse, the gunpowder will take care of itself.
Q: Was it a deliberate "leak" to jerk off the fans and flame the fire?
A: No. We were taken by surprise and immediately tried to figure out how it happened.
Q: Were you surprised by the effect it had on the fans?
A: Yes and no. As soon as I saw the word "Rape", I knew that people would react strongly (rightly so, in my opinion). What surprised me was how quickly the story was given validity and the abuse I was subjected to because of it.
Q: Your abuse?
A: I got a lot of hate mail. At least one was threatening.
Q: What about the conflicting comments from you and others?
A: You haven't heard any from me. I sent some mail to a few people and asked them to let people know what I said in order to reassure them. In at least one case, the person got it wrong and drew some conclusions from my statements that were not correct.
Q: Why are the statements ambiguous?
A: As I said, we can't give away the plot lines. Why watch the series if we do?
Q: What about the homophobic rumors?
A: I find this laughable. That we would be homophobic is absurd. And, worse, it's an insult that requires me to refrain from using an invective right now that really wants to emerge from my keyboard. That we were told to adjust our story lines to pull back from the lesbian inference is simply not true at all. A lie. Incorrect. Stupid. Is this any clearer?
Q: Have you ever been guilty of pushing the subtext for the sake of the audience?
A: Yes. Aside from the fact that I like it, I think that it adds to the characters. And, also, it doesn't diverge from my interpretations of who Xena and Gabrielle are or what their relationship is.
Q: Back to the rumor in question, what about these people who have quoted "their sources" that contradict you or say they definitively know the truth?
A: What about them? I have it on good authority that a clan of Bigfoot really built the Sphinx. Seriously. I have this "source" that told me. And the same "source" let me know about the conspiracy to frame Mother Teresa for the O.J. murderers. Why are people so quick to believe "a source"? Is it the air of conspiracy and mystery that makes it more believeable? Face it, I am a source. And what I say doesn't come to you second, third, fourth or fifth hand. There are people out there who quote "sources" because they get their jollies by driving people crazy.
Q: What about the contradictory response to your comments?
A: There is, unfortunately, nothing that I can do about that. That has nothing to do with me. If I say "A" and a discussion breaks out about whether I said capital "A" or small "a", and where I meant "ay" or not... what am I to do? Understand, people, there are too many of you out there to answer individually. I am not in the business of interpreting words for anyone. To satisfy everyone we would have to, again, explain the plot in detail. Better yet, let you read the script. Even better, allow you to watch the episode. Which is what we plan to do. And I can bet you that, even then, some people will then discuss our motives for doing things. Like we were coerced or are responding to merchandising/studio execs/Christian Right/Liberal Left/whatever. It will be something.
Q: Have you deceived us?
A: No. I have toyed, teased, played with, and tap-danced with you. But I have not lied to you. I have no reason to. We have not been playing, as some say, "cat and mouse" with you. It wouldn't get us anywhere and, believe it or not, we're not like that. It's a waste of time and energy.
Q: Should we trust you?
A: I can't answer that because I don't think it applies. You can only trust what you have seen so far. If it works for you, then you'll hang around for the ride. If something comes down the pike that upsets you or offends you, then you'll factor that into your decisions about the show. Nobody should trust blindly. But that's what you do when you give credibility to unsubstantiated "things" and rumors on the net.
Q: Have you ever changed a story line or idea or episode because of the fans opinions?
A: No. We are staying true to what made this show a hit; the combination of a unique group of people who want to tell a story. The moment we allow ourselves to be manipulated or when we start second guessing what we should do based on fan response, we will lose the magic that has made this show special. We feel incredibly lucky that we have such loyal fans. Especially on a show that we love so much.
Q: Same question, except in regards to the Studio or Sponsors?
A: Universal has been really good with us. I can only think of twice that we changed an episode that had already been shot due to sponsors and once time an idea was nixed by the studio. CALLISTO (#22) required a last minute editing to the opening to tone down some of the war footage. IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (#24) required a couple of snips due to blood spillage. And a possible story idea concerning Xena's father had been dismissed... for the time being.
A: Well, you got me there. Yes, I do remember Rob saying the Warrior...Princess was going to be good if they ever started a line of Xena clothing for halloween. That's it.
Q: Is there a cover-up?
A: No. This has all gotten out of hand and you have to look at where it started: One article. Everyone decided to take it at face value. We did not plan any of this and we haven't been taking advantage of it.
Q: Are the fans guilty of making assumptions?
A: Yes. Sorry, folks, but that's the case. Not one of you out there has definitive knowledge of what you are talking about. You are being assumptive and reactive. And, if any of you actually has figured it out, it's only by accident.
Q: Why did you withdraw from the Internet contact with the fans?
A: A number of reasons. I was getting pretty busy with work and wasn't allowed the time to get to them (my social life is a bit of a mess for the same reasons). I left the Xenaverse because of a pledge I had made to leave if my presence ever influenced discussion, or if I ever became a topic of discussion. Both happened and I kept to my word. I still show up now and then on the IRC or AOL, though not a lot lately. But that was all going on before the flap over this rumor. The problem since then has been that everything I was saying online was being interpreted to each individual's perspective. I will repeat this: I can't win. No matter what I say, it will be reworded or misinterpreted or, in some cases, be accused of being merely the company P.R. I have made a few commments on this subject and become angry at how certain people use the information to inflame others. Or, that they then use it to accuse me of things. Why wouldn't I withdraw? Why would anyone put themselves through that? Being on the internet and associating with the fans is not in my job description. I did it because I made a lot of friends and, hey, I like the fans. Those friends I have made still keep in touch.
Q: Was there a real attempt to rectify the problem?
A: Within our bounds, yes. And it wasn't to rectify a problem, it was to reassure people and tell them not to go crazy over rumors. But some people didn't want to hear it and, for most, it just wasn't enough. Again, we are restrained by the secrecy involved in doing a series.
Q: What about the "teasing" issue?
A: I requote a letter in the Whoosh article:
"The teasing, as you so properly put it, has gone from good-natured ribbing to downright cruelty. Rape is an extremely serious subject -- not to be taken lightly."
When did we ever tease about rape? When? Give me the quote and the name of the person.
Quoting another letter:
"One of my opinions is that RP thought they had the Internetties eating out of their hands"
Wrong. We've certainly had opinions about certain people on the internet, but never that they were willing sheep. I quote any number of discussions between myself and Carmen and others to illustrate. But going on....
"RP should be held accountable for their actions".
So true, so true. But, what, exactly, are we talking about? Which actions would those be? We should be accountable for rumors? Things that we had nothing to do with? Again, going on...
"RP needs to remember that we hear everything, we remember everything -- and we can put the puzzle pieces together if need be."
Only if you have the correct pieces for the correct picture can you get a clear image. You don't have that yet. And you won't until the new season.
Q: Will we ever know the whole story?
A: Yes. You will when the episode in question airs. The real question is whether you will believe the truth. I can tell you the truth, but there are those who love a good conspiracy and won't believe me.
Q: I've heard that there is a lot of disagreement and fragmenting of the Staff. And that Lucy and Renee are not happy with the way the show is going.
A: So incredibly wrong. We are not fragmenting and becoming divisive. I refer frequently to our Staff as being a dysfunctional family. We have as much, if not more, fun during our meetings as we ever did. Yes, there are differeing opinions and arguments, but nothing that has us sulking in a corner and backbiting each other. And Lucy and Renee have been just as supportive as ever about the show. The last time I talked to Renee, she was very excited about the upcoming episodes.
End of Interview. I hope that helped a few people. Sorry for the blunt nature of things, but I want there to be no doubt as to what I am saying. There are those who will refuse to understand and there is nothing I can do about them. The rest of you, I hope, will have a better understanding of this situation. I would only ask one thing: That nobody repost or quote from this interview unless they specifically request the readers to come to this site and read the entire article in context. Without that, this runs the risk of becoming just another source of misinterpretation.
Steven L. Sears
Supervising Producer - Xena: Warrior Princess