Whoosh! Issue 30 - March 1999


IAXS project #427
By Mike Buckley
Copyright © 1998 held by author
1246 words

Why? (01-02)
The Search (03-05)
A Series of Balances (06-14)
So Why Again? (15-16)

Serious or Silly: What Show Are We Watching, and Why?

T.J. Scott drops the camera again

Another promo shot for XENA


[1] This began with the simple question I asked of a friend, "Why do you watch Xena?" She replied, "Why do any of us watch Xena?" I pondered this a moment, then asked, more to myself, "Why do any of us watch Xena?"

[2] I read up on it. Casual fans, as well as diehard Xenites, all had different reasons. Most of this had to do with what they perceived the show to be about. Some said it was adventure, and some called it a love story. Others considered it a comedy, and still others, a social commentary.

The Search

[3] I realized that I would have to go to the source, the show itself. I knew which episodes were considered to be representative of the series as a whole, and I had watched several of them myself. I made it a point to watch either the episodes, several of which I had taped, again, or at least look up some episode guides. I discovered something interesting: all the afore mentioned perceptions of the show were, at various times, correct.

[4] I saw episodes wherein much was made of the personal devotion and love between Xena and Gabrielle, balanced by episodes where they were obviously "just friends". I observed stories that were very moving, and others that were out-and-out slapstick comedy. I even saw one, that I considered to be more science fiction than anything else, about a very funny time loop [BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)].

[5] Then, I immersed myself in fan fiction. I noticed that in some cases, the same author... excuse me, bard... could alternately make cases for serious or silly. There were parodies, plays, and musicals side by side with dramas and tragedies.

A Series of Balances

[6] I realized that this is the direct result of the producers of the series. They have created a series of balances. The most obvious balance is between Xena and Gabrielle. Each is portrayed as either light (Gabrielle) or dark (Xena), yet neither is as clear cut as we might think. There is a little of each in the other, gently closing the balance of polar extremes the characters started from.

[7] Then, there is the balance of their relationship. Lovers or friends? Everyone, it seems, has an opinion. It is not uncommon for people of opposing views to quote not only the same episode, but the same scene, to make their respective points!

[8] Competence vs. incompetence. Okay, bluntly, Joxer. There have been fierce battles waged over whether he belongs in the series at all. Perhaps he also provides a balance, something separate from just Xena and Gabrielle.

[9] Good and evil, or if you like, war and peace. Sometimes Xena has to do things the "old" way to survive. Other times, it is Gabrielle who shows the way. Neither character is right all the time. An episode I recently saw where Gabrielle's daughter Hope is killed [A FAMILY AFFAIR (71/403)] was moving to me.

[10] Life and death. There are times when the line between the two is certainly blurred, if not erased altogether. The series and this theme in particular also seem to symbolize the idea of having a second chance. It is a balance of the failure of the "first try" against the opportunity of "doing it over, right this time".

[11] Finally, to refer to the title of this work: "serious or silly?" Again, it is a balance. Life, for most people, is rarely all one or the other. Some dramas wear out their welcome for being unremittingly dark. Some comedies become noticeably unfunny (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, anyone?) over time.

[12] At a glance, one might say this means the series is directionless. In reality, it is a deliberate plan. It is a means of showing a conflict of ideas, values, and situations on many levels, and providing at least something for everyone in the process.

[13] That leads to the final balance. Should they do whatever comes to mind one week, or pick an approach and stick to it? Again, the producers strike a balance. They have created a series by interspersing dramatic episodes with lighter fare. It is a symbiotic relationship. Each difference goes hand in hand to make a whole that everyone likes. Very few shows with such a substantial following work on so many levels at once.

[14] It shows in the way the fans write about the series, for surely fan fiction is one of the more accurate views of fan perception. After all, why put the effort into writing something if it is not what you believe? With so many differences, it is inevitable that the fans will disagree with each other. Some like Gabrielle better than Xena, some like Joxer, and some think Autolycus should get his own series.

So Why Again?

Xena refused to stop and ask directions, so our heroes walked
long into the night

Argo, Xena, and Gabby walk off into the sunset.

[15] So, why do we watch this show? Because whatever it does, it does it well.

[16] Serious or silly? Maybe we just say it is a balanced view of life: a balance carefully maintained and a means of showing tolerance though balance. There is no absolute good, or absolute evil. Maybe, in the end, there's no point in the concept of "absolute". It is all in the balance. Xena: Warrior Princess is one of the best balancing acts I have ever seen.


Mike Buckley Mike Buckley
Mike is a longtime freelance comics writer (who is, in fact, supposed to be doing that instead of this, but writers are notorious for procrastination). He's lived all over the place (there doesn't seem to be a place on the Eastern Seaboard he hasn't at least visited), but is currently in Florida with the support of two cats (or is that the other way around?), and all the chocolate he can get his paws on. He's an avid reader of all kinds of books especially SF and mystery. He's one of the few people he knows who likes Star Trek and Babylon 5. He's known to be an occasional royal pain in the butt; however, his friends and family have come to expect that. He's somewhat new to Xena, and its attendant mystiques, but he's slowly figuring out who's doing what.

Currently, he's developing projects for various companies, including DC Comics, and trying real hard not to spend too much time writing fanfic, which he began writing way back when there were still mimeograph machines. He will likely fail, as there are too many good ideas to write about out there (unless, of course, he gets more paying work, in which case, he'll quit his day job, and have more time to write). As you read this, he's probably eating chocolate again.

Favorite episode: WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Your flying parchment is stuck in a tree." A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
First episode seen: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302). I love a good time travel story, and watching Xena get more and more frustrated was priceless.
Least favorite episode: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216). It just didn't work for me. No particular like or dislike, it just didn't send me.

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