Whoosh! Issue 60 - September 2001

By Nora Manzanares
Group Therapy Project
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
2889 words

Dearest Xena (01-18)


Dearest Xena

Xena finds out all too late that when it's cold, her tongue will freeze to Gabrielle's head
Xena's spirit gives Gabrielle one last kiss goodbye.

[01] There you were in the final scene of the final episode. Gabrielle was standing on that boat, urn in hand, alone. Yes, the illusion of you, Xena, was added, but was it a figment of Gabrielle's imagination or a true soulmates spiritual place by her chosen one's side? That debate will go on for a long time. In the meantime, what of the effect left in our hearts and minds of that heartbreaking impression?

[02] At first, there was the inevitable question: Why? Mine was asked in thought, for had I attempted to speak it, the wail stuck in my throat would have exploded. There is an old Spanish saying that is repeated often at wakes or funerals, it states, 'Me dolor es tan grande quiesera que esta las piedras sientieran'. Translated it says 'my pain and grief are so great I wish that even the stones could feel it'. That reflected the overall sense of your fans at that time, and it certainly was mine.

[03] The pain and grief was overwhelming that first day. I felt like my heart had been ripped out, literally. My chest was heavy and a burden as I walked around in total dismay for a week, attempting to make some sense of it all. I kept asking more questions. Why do I feel this about characters on a TV show? Your show! This is madness. Then the questions turned to the show itself. Did the end justify the last six years? Was there more here than met the eye? Was it stupid to feel the pain of Gabrielle left alone in the surreal world of Greek mythology created in the Xenaverse? Why did we feel the pain of loss that mirrored the look on Gabrielle's face as she realized she was without her soulmate? I rambled and grasped at every possibility. Even now, the thought brings tears to my eyes.

[04] Why share such emotional and intimate feelings with anyone let alone a TV show? I need to defend the idea of me writing a letter to Xena, a character on a TV show. Who in their right mind would do such a seemingly crazy thing? What makes you so unusual that it would warrant such an interesting concept? Your show is distinctive and special, and the list of justifications could go on and on. You are an entity unto yourself. An idea. A fairy tale. A star. A champion. An empire. A love story. A luminous journey. A Friend. The stuff of legends! A marvel that will live on for years and years to come and continue to bring much more enjoyment and adventure for those that have, and have yet to discover you.

[05] Your place in TV history is sealed and confirmed, Xena. The demographics for your audience was and continues to be something to be envied. No single focus group could capture your overall fan base unless you included one of every type of person known to the universe. Yes, I would venture to add that there are perhaps some extraterrestrial fans out there as well. Why not? They probably became fans when they discovered Xena put the North Star back up in the sky. They are probably still wondering though, what it had to do with the fish. Your appeal reached everywhere. Your lead actor Lucy Lawless called you a silly show for smart people. If that were true then smart people from over 112 countries could not be wrong. They came together every week to agree on one thing: they loved Xena. It is hard to fathom what in the world could make that many people agree on one thing. However, you did.

[06] We all saw something in you that touched us. The reasons go deep and are all over the map, but they are real to each one of us. Each person found something appealing in you maybe even a part of themselves in the characters and stories. They were profound and poignant. We connected to something in Xena and Gabrielle. Their adventures gave us something to look forward to and we waited anxiously through five summers for the start of a new season. We loved these characters. We truly loved them. They became a part of us week to week. We developed and nurtured our relationship with them much like one would with our own best friend. We cared about them as we would our own family, friends, lovers, spouses, or any significant others. However, what was the formula that allowed this level of reaction? What was it that transformed a simple syndicated action show into the phenomenon it is today? If we could define it and bottle it, I suppose we could share in a great wealth. However, it is not that simple.

[07] For something, anything, to be a true success, it must embody all the elements of a champion. By its true nature, success or victory can only be achieved if the necessary essentials are aligned and forged on one path. If by design or accident, those pieces came together on your show to form a formidable entertainment commodity. However, that in itself is too simple. The same way that saying 'it's just a TV show', is too simple. Yes, it is true that all the parts came together but how were they maintained and expanded for six seasons? There are those who would argue that you suffered many set backs during the middle of the series but again there are others who would then refute them. That was the beauty of your show. It allowed for debate on all levels and among anyone with an opinion to voice. There was also the unprecedented inclusion of the fan perspective on your show.

[08] For the first time, probably ever, a fan was asked to write an episode based on her merit as a writer of Xena fan fiction. Missy Good went on to write two more episodes that captured the essence of the characters from a fan's perspective and we loved it! "What she said!" Writers expressed their desire to write a story for Xena and Gabrielle. Katherine Fugate did, and in doing so created one of the most stunning episodes ever produced. WHEN FATES COLLIDE will go down in Xena history as the most fundamental embodiment of the core and depth of Xena and Gabrielle. She will be forever linked to you and as a fellow writer, I cannot imagine a better confirmation of her talent than that. Fan forums were set up, encouraged, and supported by the show's creators and cast. In one of the most fervent and ongoing efforts ever associated to a TV show, there has been more than one million dollars raised for various charities in the name of the show and the lead actors. All these things took place because of the ideals set forth by this silly show. They have forever changed us.

[09] Two lines from the show's introduction provides the visionary message of your show. The first is "A land in turmoil cried out for a hero". We are all searching for ways to be inspired. The ability to find good in others and ourselves. Chaos, confusion and uncertainty show up in our lives sometimes on a daily basis, so is it any wonder we look for comfort and support elsewhere. Our hero metamorphasized as you, Xena, and the TV show. It gave us a solace we craved for and fed us emotionally. We discovered so much about ourselves through this show. Many took strength through the characters and actors portraying them to fight their own personal battles. There are many instances of individuals fighting tragic and destructive circumstances with valor and vision taken from the experience of your show. Psychologists could have a field day in analyzing why this is the case but do we have to be so quick to question or dismiss the positive effects a TV show would have on us as human beings? The message was relevant no matter the timeline of the stories and that will make you forever timeless. We found that we could relate to Xena or Gabrielle in some sense and we relished the adventure they took us on. What of the actors who portrayed these strong and vibrant women?

[10] Lucy Lawless, the Kiwi from New Zealand, took the idea of a female action hero to unknown heights. She has set the standard for how these heroes will be developed and presented in the future. The bar has been set high. She portrayed Xena as a total character. She was funny, tough, sensitive, and cunning all rolled into one. The perfect combination of good and evil. Yet, Lawless made flesh all we could relate to or strive to be as Xena. Not perfect by any means but a flawed human being with only the best intentions and a heart to match.

[11] Renee O'Connor, the Texan from America, on the other hand probably showed the most outstanding growth as an actor we have ever seen. In the six years she portrayed Gabrielle she thoroughly convinced us that we had witnessed the growth of her character from innocent to warrior. She endeared Gabrielle to us and by that virtue, they became the same. By the last season O'Connor proved that an actress hired for a few episodes six years earlier had worked her way into becoming half of the team in Xena: Warrior Princess. No one can now imagine Xena without Gabrielle or the other way around. Lucy and Renee with their talent, love, and loyalty for the characters lead us to believe that without even the slightest doubt. There is no justice in the fact that show's that fall into the category that Xena does, cannot be recognized for any major industry awards. That these often-brilliant actors may never be truly acknowledged for their talents and contributions in this endeavor is the true travesty.

[12] The second line, "Her courage will change the world" was also foreboding. Your show showed much bravery in its approach. It also maintained and strategized that courage as it moved through its changes in its six years of filming. The producers attempted new and innovative approaches to presenting the lives of these strong characters. In doing so, they allowed them to grow and be seen in so many different ways to so many different people. There was something for everyone to see. For example, where else could the villains be despised and adored at the same time? How can that be? No other show can claim that during battle scenes between Xena and enemies Callisto or Alti there were legions of fans cheering on the villains. They did not necessarily want Xena to be beaten or hurt by them but we wanted to see them return another day for another delicious battle. Of course, full credit for the allure and distinction of that fan appeal has to go to the actors portraying these villains. Claire Stansfield and Hudson Leick have taken female kick-*ss bad girls to another level. Their sensual flirtatious nature and delivery made their appearances on the show highly anticipated. Their talents as actors are truly underrated, as is the case with all of the actors on the show. It would be a dishonor to her talent, and unfair in general not to mention that Leick's controlled-lunatic portrayal of Callisto in the IDES OF MARCH was exceptional and should garner a place high atop her resume.

[13] Another interesting concept of the show was the ability to tamper with history in so many creative ways. The moves were daring and the fans accepted them with humor and realistic integrity. We did not know that Xena had invented the kite! The intelligence of the audience proved itself in both their positive and negative responses to the show and all its changes. The strategy to maintain its appeal to all audiences had to have been an impossible task as times. However, we have to give you huge amounts of credit for the attempts. Those had to have been internal battles that could only be rivaled by the one's taken on by Xena herself. In addition, what of those battles?

[14] One of the greatest aspects of the show had to be the fights that Xena took on, morally and literally. She went into many conflicts, many of them against the odds. If you were to ask what the one true element of the battles that touched us most was, it would most likely be the image of Xena fighting while knowing instinctively where Gabrielle was. She fought calling out her name always ensuring she knew where her 'light' was and if she was protected. Even after Gabrielle became a proficient warrior in her own right, Xena always knew where she was and kept her in sight. I have a lump in my throat merely thinking about it. However, all those images have become even more profound and significant if we take into consideration the final battle Xena fought in the finale. Again, she fought screaming out Gabrielle's name. However, this time she cried out for her and it was heartbreaking. She knew her fate that day at that moment. With a sorrowful heart, she died mourning her true loss on that field, her Gabrielle. It would be unspeakable to imagine Gabrielle there, but then Xena would not have died if she had, at least not alone. That is a given. That is what they were to each other and that is what they became to us.
Um, who's steering this thing?
Gabrielle sails off into the sunset alone.

[15] Therefore, that brings us back to that stirring final scene. Gabrielle standing on that boat headed towards Egypt. With Xena's chakram symbolically placed on her hip and her gentle hands holding the urn containing her soulmates' ashes, she contemplated her future. We contemplated it as well. My heart ached for Gabrielle. My heart ached for everything that urn stood for. I cried that day for all the reasons everyone else did. However, as I looked back those first few days, I also realized that I cried and grieved for something greater. That urn held more than Xena's ashes. It carried in it all the people and things that made you magical.

[16] It held all the adventures, fights, tragedies, losses, loves, life altering events, and insights of six years. It held all those that had crossed our path because of your extraordinary show. I saw the faces of Callisto, Cyrene, Ares, the scrumptious Aphrodite, Joxer the Mighty, Meg, Alti, Minya, Lila, Tara, Hades, Athena, Virgil, Varia, Autolycus, Livia/Eve, Solan, Hope, the Furies, Argo, Julius Caesar, Ephiny, the Amazons, Cyane, Eli, Amarice, Yakut, Borias, Lao Ma, Najara, and so on and so on. Their faces continue to flood my mind along with the wonderful memories they have left behind. It made me realize that we followed Xena with the same passion that Gabrielle did because of the immeasurable joy she received from it. We did it because we came to anticipate and long for their next adventure. In the enduring words of Gabrielle, "any path is okay Xena as long as it's with you".

[17] How do we move forward after this? We can remain true to the message and lessons of the characters we grew to love on your show and to all the special people who brought them to life. They would say, remain true to yourself, follow your heart, and never pass up the adventure down the road. The words of French poet Alfred Guillaume capture the essence of who you are and who you will remain better than any other I could choose.

"Come to the edge," he said.
"We can't. We are afraid," they said.
"Come to the edge," he said.
"We can't. We will fall," they said.
"Come to the edge," he said.
They came.
He pushed them.
They flew.

[18] Xena, you gave us wings and I for one intend to fly as long and as far as I can!


Nora Manzanares Nora Manzanares

I currently am State Director of Adult Basic Education for the State Department of Education and oversee the adult literacy programs for the state of New Mexico. It is as fulfilling a job as anyone can have. The decision to move on to more heartfelt work came after stints in the military and corporate America. There is a huge creative side to me though, and as I continue work on my ever-elusive book, I indulge in other creative efforts such as photography and poetry. I love to travel, discover new adventures, and just adore my family and friends. I have a college degree from the University of New Mexico in Psychology and Communication and strive to continuously educate myself on anything and everything I can get my hands on. When we stop learning - we die!
Favorite episode: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
Favorite line: Xena: "Gabrielle's Gonna Freak" ANIMAL ATTRACTION
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST
Least favorite episode: KING CON

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