Understanding With Stories (01-06)
Are You Being Served? (07-08)
Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries (09-11)
Stories Of Heterosexuality (12-15)
Stories Of Homosexuality (16-19)
Stories Of Other Sexuality (20-23)
Stories That Push The Norms (24-27)
People Behind The Stories (28-33)
What Do These Stories Tell Us? (34-37)
The Junior, 1979, 701
Miss Artiphys, Warrior Queen.
Masculine women, feminine men
Which is the rooster, which is the hen?
It's hard to tell them apart today, that way
Sister is busy learning to shave
Brother just got a permanent wave
It's hard to tell them apart today, hey-hey
Girls were girls and boys were boys
when I was a tot.
Now we don't know who is who or even what's what.
Are You Being Served?: New Look (1975, 308)
Honey, I'm no princess. I'm a queen.
-- Miss Artiphys, XENA Warrior Princess: HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS (35/211)
Understanding With Stories Stories tell us who we are, and what our truths are. They make known the unknown, and are a way to explore difficult topics. Using stories, we can better understand Xena's and Gabrielle's changing relationship.
 One central issue of Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) is whether Xena and Gabrielle are a committed couple or close friends. Fans of the lesbian subtext point to episodes such as THE QUEST (37/213) or ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313) for evidence that Xena and Gabrielle are a couple. Fans of the main heterosexual text rebut that Xena had several male lovers and that Gabrielle is a widow.
 One way to explore this question and our response is to compare XWP with another TV show that has sexually ambiguous characters. Does such a show exist? How would comparing it to XWP help us to understand the controversy about Xena's and Gabrielle's sexuality?
 Many people have claimed that STAR TREK (TV, 1966-1969) had sexually fluid characters. Captain Kirk had an unusually close friendship with First Officer Spock. Although he had a girl in every port, Kirk was on intimate terms with Spock. The lines between gender and sexuality became blurred when Spock remained emotionally close to Kirk in spite of his Vulcan physiological urge to mate with his promised female companion or die. However, Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator and producer, had stressed firmly that these two characters were heterosexual males.
 By contrast, the producers of XWP have said that fans could find a lesbian subtext to Xena's and Gabrielle's relationship if they chose to interpret things that way. The British comedy, Are You Being Served? (AYBS) is more similar to XWP than STAR TREK because Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, the creators of AYBS, wrote one character as sexually ambiguous -- Mr. Humphries in Men's Wear. In addition, John Inman, the actor who played Mr. Humphries, has remained silent on his character's sexual orientation.
 How could comparing XWP and AYBS help to understand the controversy surrounding Xena's and Gabrielle's sexuality? AYBS, which aired twenty years before XWP, has dealt with the same questions of undisclosed sexuality. Comparing fans' reactions to AYBS with XWP will aid in understanding the dilemma over ambiguous sexuality on television.
Are You Being Served?
Left to right, Miss Brahms, Mrs. Slocombe, Captain Peacock, Mr. Grainger, Mr. Lucas, Mr. Humphries. For more info on ARE YOU BEING SERVED, see Jeff Rice's website (who kindly allowed the AYBS pics) at http://www.clever.net/rice/www/
 Set in Grace Brothers department store in London, AYBS highlighted the tension between various people within a business hierarchy. Any slight deviation from this power structure (such as the style of hat each salesman wore to work or the number of frills on the blouses of saleswomen) set off ripples of infinite repercussions within the hierarchy. Adding to this tension were controversial topics, such as the sexuality of older women, and serious subjects, such as Britain's energy crisis of the 1970's.
 The cast of characters included:
Young Mr. Grace the eighty-something store owner. Mr. Rumbold the clueless senior manager of Men's and Ladies' Wear Departments. Captain Peacock the floor walker with a fondness for younger women.    Sales staff of Ladies' Wear: Mrs. Slocombe the senior supervisor, an older woman in search of a good time. Miss Brahms the junior saleswoman    Sales staff of Men's Wear: Mr. Grainger the senior supervisor, who has worked at Grace Bros. since 1926 Mr. Humphries the senior salesman with an eye for fashion Young Mr. Lucas the junior salesman, who pursues sex with Miss Brahms.    Mr. Mash and
the building support staff
Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries
In some episodes, it was suggested Mrs. Slocombe had a 'thing' for Mr. Humphries.
Quite a lot of ladies thought twice about me. It's the second thought...
Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe, 1981, 807
MR. RUMBOLD (on the phone) Well is he or isn't he? YOUNG MR. GRACE (on the phone) How should I know? People have been asking me that question for years.
 In the show's premiere episode, Mr. Humphries had only two lines, but he quickly became a favorite of viewers. Dressed in his natty three piece pin-striped suit, Mr. Humphries caught people's imaginations. When asked, "Are you free?", he usually replied in his high tenor voice, "I'm free!" However, when he answered the phone in his department, Mr. Humphries would speak in a deep bass, "Men's wear".
 What was striking about Mr. Humphries was his effeminate characteristics. Off duty, he dressed flamboyantly in bright colors. When he walked, he wiggled his hips. In social situations, he was apt to take the role of the woman. In The Clock (1974, 201), he descended the stairs from the elevator to the department floor while holding Mr. Lucas' hand.
 While they prepared for the store's opening, Mr. Humphries would regale his sales mate (either Mr. Lucas or Mr. Spooner) with tales of his adventures of the night before. Both men assumed that his partners were men. Piqued, Mr. Humphries would retort, "Now, why are you always supposing that?"
...XENA [Gabrielle] believes that everyone has a soul mate on earth made just for them. ULYSSES Yes, yes. That's exactly how I feel. Like I've found my soul mate.
XENA Gabrielle, you've been so good for me. I don't think I would ever have let myself feel the way I feel now about Ulysses if it wasn't for you teaching me how to love. GABRIELLE Did you say love? XENA Yeah, I guess I did. GABRIELLE I guess we'll be staying on a while in Ith...
GABRIELLE So, you and Rafe, huh? He's not too bad, is he? XENA You mean for someone who makes his money cheating others out of theirs? Yeah, he's a prince. GABRIELLE I didn't say he was perfect, but you saw him with Joxer. You have to admit, he's smart, he's funny, he's handsome-- XENA Arrogant and self-centered. GABRIELLE Your typical bad boy. Just your type.
RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205)
GABRIELLE Perdicus... I know what love is now... it's life. Everything's united by love alone.
Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe
MR. HUMPHRIES Put in `Male companion of the opposite sex'. MR. KLEIN That's a waste of print and money! MR. HUMPHRIES In my experience, it's better to be safe than sorry.
A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
MINYA The whip is mine. The frying pan is yours. Hower is mine! (Pointing to Gabrielle) She's yours.
PALAMON Is your friend really worth all this? XENA I'd give my life to save her. PALAMON You see? Friends make you vulnerable. That's why I don't have any.
FORGET ME NOT (63/317)
ARES There is no point to living. Don't you get it, Gabrielle? Maybe that's the Source for all your pain. All you've been through with Xena, all she's put you through, maybe you finally realized that it all adds up to a big, fat, zero. GABRIELLE I know, it's because of what I did; it's because of why I did it. ... ARES Well, there she goes without you. Kinda makes you feel second best doesn't it? Yep, Lao Ma must be important alright; Xena would never do anything like this for you. Funny isn't it? You give up your family, your home, your blood innocence, your daughter, all because of Xena. And yet, it's like nothing compared to the debt she owes this woman. ... GABRIELLE I wanted to betray her. I gave her everything, and it meant nothing to her. I hated her for loving someone else. I wanted her to hurt, I wanted her to be punished. And I almost got her killed. My hatred and jealousy almost destroyed my best friend.
Cold Comfort (1974, 104)
Reporting to work, Mr. Humphries spies Captain Peacock still bundled up. Mr. Humphries (opening his racoon coat) Masked Stranger, take my body but leave my jewels alone. Captain Peacock (unwinding his scarf) Good Morning, Mr. Humphries. Mr. Humphries (realizing it is Captain Peacock) Well, in that case, I withdraw my offer.
XENA The cure is Egyptian Senna. You can get it in Athens, but by the time we get there it will be too late. VIDALIS Egyptian Senna? I have that growing in my garden. Well, can't make a good face cream without it. ... VIDALIS You know, he and I dealt with those guards quite handily. I think I might follow him and see if he needs a sidekick. GABRIELLE It's pretty good work if you can get it. VIDALIS Gabrielle, you are a great lady. GABRIELLE Thank you, Vidalis. VIDALIS Shame about the hands though.
MR. LUCAS That gorgeous woman? Your friend? MR. HUMPHRIES He's much more settled since he had the operation.
Mr. Lucas (to the customer) Will that be all? CUSTOMER (gestures to Mr. Humphries) Buy the same for my friend here. MR. HUMPHRIES What? CUSTOMER I'm rich. I'm alone. And I want you to come up to my apartment for a drink. MR. HUMPHRIES (shakes his head) I don't think I can afford that.
 In Happy Returns (1978, 606), Mr. Lucas is assigned to play Little Boy Blue for a company ballet production. Because the costume is too tight, he is embarrassed to take off his raincoat. But then Mr. Humphries dances in as the Fairy Prince, in a tighter costume. Flinging off his black raincoat, Mr. Lucas exclaims, "Oh, well, if he can, so can I!"
 During her session at the first Xena/Hercules convention (Burbank, California, January 1997), Ms. Friedman addressed the subtext issue, "What we intend about the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle is irrelevant. It's really your show and how you want to take it is fine".
 Robert Tapert, the executive producer, echoed her sentiments in his interviews: the relationship was "whatever you [fans, individual and collective] want it to be".
 In an interview in STARBURST #228 (UK), Renee O'Connor (who plays Gabrielle) discussed the subtext issue: "I think we play our characters very true to each other; we have an honest friendship, and we love each other; that's all there is to it. People just read into it what they choose to see. . . It's sad that people have to pigeonhole our characters, because our relationship is so multidimensional that you can't really place it into one mind or another".
 In an interview by the BBC online magazine OI ("John Inman, An Androgynous Sex Symbol" [March 1998]), Mr. Inman was asked what he thought of being called an "androgynous sex icon". He replied, "Well, if that's what I am, it feels wonderful!! I'm very happy being me. I don't really want to be anyone else".
A satisfied team is an efficient team. To increase sales in his department, Mr. Rumbold must inspire the assorted group that he manages to function as a team. The group of people ranges from the overly sexed and sarcastic Mr. Lucas to elderly Mr. Grainger, who resents the intrusion of the Ladies' Department on his floor, to Mrs. Slocombe, the head of the Ladies' Department. Mr. Rumbold needs to convince these people to set aside their differences and join together. Humorously, however, when they actually do join forces, it is to thwart Mr. Rumbold.
-- Mr. Rumbold: Our Figures Are Slipping, 1973, 102
 For example, to increase sales, Mr. Rumbold opened the store early. The sales staff so resented coming in early that they sabotaged his scheme by refusing to sell to the afternoon customers. (No Sale, 1976, 402). When he had security cameras installed, the staff plotted to convince him that the cameras were bad for his health. (Big Brother, 1974, 204). In their plans to thwart Mr. Rumbold, the staff did not care about anyone else's gender or sexual orientation.
(Shedding The Load, 1978, 604)  Mr. Lucas was commenting on Mr. Humphries' sexuality. Although he regarded him to be a homosexual, Mr. Lucas is still not quite sure. Mr. Humphries' answer was the one that he expected since Mr. Humphries summed up his point of view as, "Just because I have an affectionate nature, I have all sorts of friends -- sizes, shapes and sexes". (Fifty Years On, 1976, 405)MR. LUCAS You still on the fence? MR. HUMPHRIES Why yes. That way you can see what's growing in both gardens.
 What AYBS tells us is that fluid sexuality is not that unusual. Since society's definitions of sexual norms change often, fluid sexuality is quite common. Perhaps we can regard Xena's and Gabrielle's relationship as fluid, and see what Mr. Humphries sees -- what is growing both gardens.
Subtext for AYBS
Interview with John Inman
XWP maintext focus, Gabrielle and Joxer Romantics Society
Xenaquest's Xena Subtext Page
My goal is to be a garden variety human being. My friends know me as a squirrel. I am, however, a card carrying member of the Squirrel Lovers Club, and do squirrel studies. The FRB.GOV means that I am in U.S. Federal Government Service, and proud of it. My husband, the Civil War Buff, introduced me to things military. Together, we have visited every Civil War battlefield in PA, DEL, MD, W. VA., VA, and NC. I am also a disability activist. My family watches XWP for the marvelous things Xena does and for Joxer, the warlord with autism. (Yes, we all have various disabilities.)
Favorite episode: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
Favorite line: Xena to Gabrielle: "Are you alright?" Gabrielle: "I just had to get rid of my squid friends." LOST MARINER (45/221)
First episode seen: WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109)
Least favorite episode: Most of season three