THE DECLINING BODYCOUNT ON
XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
IAXS Research Project #052
By Brad Williams
Copyright © 1997 held by author
Xena addresses her troops before making a major mess
in THE PRICE (#44)
 There has been a discernible decline in bodycount on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. Observation does not require one to actually count the kills. The truth can be seen in a battle where everyone gets beaten silly or knocked unconscious instead of being run through. I present five possible reasons for this occurrence.
 The first possibility, though unlikely, could have to do with the supporting actors in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. Many of these actors played varied parts in both XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS. This has led to a small problem. These characters are killed once or twice a week for several weeks in a row. Even starving actors might tire of this treatment. A good example of this is the actor that played Darphus, Matthew Chamberlain (THE GAUNTLET, #H12; UNCHAINED HEART, #H13). How many times did we see him as the warlord leading an army or as some warlord's lieutenant? How many times was he bashed, stabbed or sliced? I cannot recall seeing him in any recent episodes. It could be that the casting folks now have a larger pool of actors to work from, but maybe not.
 The second possibility could concern a slight change in the target audience of the show. XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS began with a target audience already available. This was the HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEY's crowd. It was reasonable to assume that the same group that watched one would continue to watch the other afterwards. I, myself, fell into that camp, though I must admit that I was very happy to see Lucy Lawless get her own series for the character of Xena, and I would have watched it at whatever time it came on. We all like to see the impossible kicks, flips, and punches that were thrown by this woman, but we also like her darker side that did not let her enemies walk away. She was a vigilante, fighting for good, who would not let a little bloodshed keep her from completing her task. Now, she seems to have been turned into something more like a superhero. She still fights like the old Xena, but does not kill as much. This could be an attempt to garner more support among the family settings in which this show is watched. After all, a character who fights evil and does not kill her enemies will win support from many Moms out there.
Callisto leaves her calling card
in CALLISTO (#22)
 The third possibility is that the villains themselves may have something to do with the decline in the bodycount. Those such as Callisto (CALLISTO, #22; RETURN OF CALLISTO, #29; INTIMATE STRANGER, #31; and A NECESSARY EVIL, #38) and Velasca (THE QUEST, #37 and A NECESSARY EVIL, #38) are capable of creating plenty of death and mayhem for the audience watching, but there is a problem with the villains. If Xena keeps killing them off, sooner or later all Greece will be free of crime and villains in general. If that happens, what would Xena and Hercules do? Some of the villains must survive in order to cause havoc another day, especially ones that have a personal bone to pick with Xena. It makes it so much nicer when there is a personal history between the Xena and the bad guy/girl during the conflict. If everybody is dead, there is no one left to fight.
 The fourth possibility could be that neither Xena nor Gabrielle has had a love interest who lasted over a few episodes, if that. Any time they show interest in someone, mayhem is sure to follow. Not that all the love interests are killed, but they would definitely fit on the endangered species list. Hercules has this problem too. Okay, this one may not be a valid reason, but it is one heck of a coincidence.
 The fifth and final possibility is that the writers may have decided that Gabrielle has been an incredible influence on Xena and the declining bodycount is the direct result. Gabrielle began the show as a pacifist and an observer of Xena's deeds. She soon was forced to fight, but never developed a taste for it. Although Gabrielle did buy the breast dagger in an attempt to make herself a little more like her idol, it is Xena who now carries that weapon while Gabrielle carries her blunt Amazon staff. Even when angered to the point of seeing red when her newlywed husband, Perdicus, is murdered in front of her, Gabrielle still cannot kill. This surely has an effect on Xena's character. Between this influence and the exorcising of many of her personal demons, Xena may have changed from the bloodthirsty warlord to a kinder, gentler Xena that could care for others and be understanding, instead of vengeful.
 The bodycount is declining and there are many possibilities as to why. I have presented five reasons, which is not to say that they are exclusively responsible for the change. Also, I am not ready to classify the lack of kills as good or bad. I would like to wait and see if this is a phase, or if not a phase, where the writers are going with it. It does have possibilities, but that is another story.
Gabrielle has the chance to up the body count by one
in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29)
but passes up the opportunity.