Whoosh! Issue 42 - March 2000

A VIEW OF XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
IAXS project #750
By Xiomara Suro
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
2256 words



Viewing Xena (01-06)
The Action-Hero (07-08)
The Friend (09-10)
The Relationship (11)
The Dark Side (12-13)
The Actress (14-20)
Watch the Show (21)
Notes
Biography



A View of Xena: Warrior Princess




Viewing Xena


From the aborted Chakram infomercial

Xena, the series.

[1] History has had many princesses, but none quite like Xena, the Warrior Princess. The Action Pack syndicated show has, from its first season, captivated audiences worldwide. It has become one of syndication's most watched shows and catapulted its star, New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless, to the status of pop culture icon, feminist, and Internet queen. There are over four hundred Internet sites worldwide dedicated to the show and its characters.

[2] The character of Xena has crossed national, cultural, and language barriers, just as the program has done. For Xena, there are no timelines. She goes back and forth in history like an accomplished time traveler.

[3] For those of you who have never seen the program, and I am sure are very few of you, I will describe the show the way its star described it on her first appearance on the David Letterman show: "Xena is a bad *ss, kick *ss gal who traverses timelines" [Note 01].

[4] But what is the real attraction that compels so many to watch the show? The character of Xena was first introduced in a trilogy of programs on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (TV, 1995-1999). Xena was an evil warrior woman with a dark past, who was determined to kill Hercules at all cost. By doing so, she would be able to conquer the world. So what made her change her ways? As Lucy Lawless once said in an interview, "It just took one encounter with Hercules to change her" [Note 02].

[5] In reality, it took a little bit more than that. The character began her transformation from evil to good on the second show of the trilogy, which was called THE GAUNTLET (H012/112). She saves a baby from being killed by her evil lieutenant, and, because of that first good deed, she faces a gauntlet of her men, a ritual not even the strongest of warriors can survive. But she does survive and this is the beginning of Xena's path toward redemption. Xena proceeds to join Hercules in a battle against her own army and defeats them. In doing so, she helps save a village from total destruction and helps Hercules to rid the world of an evil monster that could have destroyed the known world. This is Xena's first fight against the dark forces, and it is her first step to redemption.

[6] By the end of the third episode of the trilogy, UNCHAINED HEART (H13/113), the audience was taken by this beautiful, dark character and was demanding her return. It was this demand by the audience that led Robert Tapert, Executive Producer of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, to develop the series Xena: Warrior Princess (TV, 1995- Present). The program is about a female hero with a very dark past who is trying to overcome her evil side with the help of her trusted friend, Gabrielle.


The Action-Hero

[7] Although the premise of the show is that of a hero fighting on the side of good, there are some factors that have drawn the mass audience toward the show. One factor is that Xena is one of the first true female action heroes on television. Some would say that the show has its predecessors, such as Wonder Woman (TV, 1975- 1976) and The Bionic Woman (TV, 1976-1979). However, Wonder Woman was an Amazon Goddess sent to save the world from evil and the Bionic Woman was scientifically and mechanically enhanced. Xena draws her strength from within. She is not a god or a demi-god, and she has not been scientifically enhanced. Her strength comes from her desire and will to fight and survive (a strong appeal for the audience who has to fight daily to survive in a not-so- friendly world.)

[8] When Xena's star, Lucy Lawless, described Xena as "kick *ss", she was not kidding. Xena can take on anyone or anything the producers of the show throw at her: from flying monsters to complete armies, or even a crucifixion, as is the case in the fourth season's cliffhanger. It is this inner strength and constant struggle without the help of a man that has made Xena a feminist icon.


The Friend


It's a black and white picture, Gabrielle.  Your hair doesn't
have any colour at all, so don't ask me which shade is best

Xena and Gabrielle, the early years.

[9] Yet, Xena is not alone on her journey. She is accompanied by her friend, Gabrielle, who is portrayed by actress Renee O'Connor. Gabrielle is a character who has developed from a wide-eyed, načve young woman, following Xena and retelling Xena's adventures, to Xena's best friend and trusted companion. By the end of the fourth season, Gabrielle has become a secure and independent woman who has chosen to be with Xena out of love and friendship, and who is a hero in her own right.

[10] Gabrielle has changed and grown a lot from when we first saw her in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), the first Xena episode. She has gone from learning to fight evil with her staff to a philosophy of total love and peace that she wants to share with everyone she meets. By the end of the fourth season, Gabrielle has decided to die next to her friend rather than to leave her. It is this dedication to friendship from both characters that has also been a strong attraction for audiences to the show.


The Relationship

[11] The relationship between these two characters has generated a huge amount of comment on the Internet, with two very strong contingents: one group firmly believes the two characters are lovers, while the other believes they are just friends. Whatever their relationship, the one sure thing is the love they share for each other. This has also served to attract people to the show. This relationship is not something we see everyday on television and the program's producers have dared to show it. Once again, the producers touched on something that might be lacking in today's busy society: the ability to make friends and to love others. We live in an electronic, closed world, afraid or unable to make friends. This program shows us that even two totally different people can be friends and share some common things in life.


The Dark Side

[12] Finally, the strongest part of the character of Xena is her dark side. Xena's dark side has, at times, scared Gabrielle, but she has learned to live with it because Xena's dark side has pulled them out of many critical situations. We know Xena travels the world fighting evil and making things right where they were wrong, but her main fight is her daily battle with her dark side. It is this dark side that made her the "destroyer of nations", as one of the characters in the second season described her.

[13] Xena's dark side is the same dark side we all have to fight with every day. For some, the dark side is something as simple as fighting the urge to take a cookie from the cookie jar when you're on a diet. For others, it is much deeper than that. This is one of the main appeals of this character. Xena is a beautiful, strong, sexy, intelligent woman who fights her inner demons every day, just as she fights the outer demons to keep the world safe - not your everyday, stereotypical hero.


The Actress


How much am I bid for this signed thingy?

Lucy Lawless, as herself.

[14] After taking a look at the character of Xena, we have to wonder what the actress who plays her, Lucy Lawless, is like. So many things have been written about her. There have been several books written about Lucy Lawless and the character of Xena. The story of how she was not the Executive Producer's first choice to portray Xena has been told so many times, in so many interviews and articles, that I am not going down that path in this article. But that story is one of the many attractions that has set this 31-year-old woman apart from other actresses. How her dream came true when she was not even in the running is an inspiration to many. Also, Lucy Lawless' tales of her escapades and travels throughout Europe and her work as a gold miner in Australia create an image of a very uncommon person. These are not the normal tales of a struggling actress, but they could serve as the basis for the story of an action hero, someone very close to the character she portrays, someone who likes adventure, takes chances and is not afraid to be different.

[15] In one of her early interviews, Lucy Lawless describes herself as a "bit goofy", and that may be true [Note 03]. Her cunning sense of humor, her ability to make light of her own stardom, and her simple, down-to-earth manner are all part of the attraction the audience has for this bright, energetic actress. But, the one thing that helps keep her grounded is, according to Ms. Lawless herself, "my family, husband, friends, and a daughter who does not see me as a superstar, but just mom".

[16] There are also different levels that help this actress attract the attention of the audience and create such a huge following. Lucy Lawless, at 5'11", is a beautiful, soft-spoken woman, with a Kiwi accent, who has a tendency to speak her mind and is not afraid to act "goofy" during interviews. This gives her an air of reality and accessibility. There is also Ms. Lawless' simple, self- effacing way of approaching her stardom. She enjoys her job and has fun with what she does for a living. She is, however, first and foremost, a wife and a mother. This has become very obvious now that she is pregnant and expecting her second child. This is something of a bold move considering the ratings of her show and her popularity. Many other actresses might have put off having a child, but not Lucy Lawless, who has stated several times that being a mother is one of the most important things in her life.

[17] Another thing that has made her a bit different from other "fast track" stars is her willingness to be accessible to her fans. This was very obvious when she played Rizzo in the Broadway revival production of Grease. She took time every night, before and after the show, to sign autographs for her fans. While appearing on several daytime talk shows, she also took time to acknowledge some of her fans who were in the audience. This type of unselfish behavior goes a long way with fans.

[18] Another interesting aspect of this actress is the way she expresses herself about her co-star, Renee O'Connor, who portrays Gabrielle. Her respect and admiration for O'Connor have been apparent in almost every interview Lawless has given. This relationship of respect and friendship is also apparent in the show. When the two actresses are together, the love and admiration come through to the audience. The very special chemistry between these two actresses helps make the show what it is today.

[19] In one of her latest interviews on Live With Regis And Kathy Lee, Ms. Lawless talked about how daring her daughter Daisy was when, on her tenth birthday, Daisy jumped out of an airplane. Like any normal mother, she was not only worried, but also proud of her adventurous offspring. The reality is that "the apple does not fall far from the tree", since Ms. Lawless' reputation for being daring is well known. She might not jump out of an airplane, but she dared to take Broadway by storm when the opportunity arose. And after her much publicized fall from a horse during the filming of a skit for the Tonight Show With Jay Leno (a fall that could have ended her career), she came back stronger than ever.

[20] Once Ms. Lawless was asked if there was any part of her in the character of Xena. She stated that there was a little sliver of her in Xena. Maybe that is true, but it is that little sliver that makes the character extremely appealing to the world.


Watch the Show

[21] So, for those of you who have never seen the show, take a look. You will like what you see. And for those of you who are fans, keep watching. It gets better with every episode.


Notes

Note 01:
April 4, 1996
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Note 02:
The Mike And Maddy Show, February 1996
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Note 03:
Ibid.
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Biography

Xiomara Suro Xiomara Suro
Xiomara Suro (Beboman) was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After retiring from the military and a 10-year stint in law enforcement, she went to hide in Nevada and now works in the surveillance department of a casino in a Nevada hotel. When she is not writing short stories, poetry, or commentaries for Xena episodes, she enjoys riding her Harley-Davidson in the company of her husband "Wolfman". She is the mother of two and the grandmother of two.
Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) and IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)
Favorite line: Xena: "Be Nice". THE GREATER GOOD (21/121)
First episode seen: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) (after a bad spill on a Harley)
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

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