Whoosh! Issue 60 - September 2001

By Philip Tracy
Content © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2001 held by Whoosh!
3776 words

Never Watch (02-08)
Betrayal (09-31)
How Could They? (32-37)
What Is To Be Done (38-43)


I knew I should have turned left at Toledo
Gabrielle spends a lot of time alone in the finale.

[01] Of all the possible reactions I thought I might have to the ending of the show, it never occurred to me I might regret ever having become involved with it. Yet here I sit, weeks after watching the 2-part finale, with a sadness and regret I could not have imagined, and that is precisely what I feel. What a miserable, niggardly, despicable ending to the only television show I allowed to fully captivated me.

Never Watch

[02] I have spent most of my adult years avoiding commitment to watching any television series. I never watched MASH. I never watched All In The Family. I never watched any TV show with regularity because I believed they were manipulative instruments. No matter how entertaining they were. I did not wish to be manipulated by people who thought so little of me that they would sell my attention to the makers of toothpaste or underarm deodorants. The better the show, the more I avoided it.

[03] I remember in particular, I would never let myself watch Cagney and Lacey. That was a show I knew right away I could deeply fall into. It was a New York show and I am from New York. It was a cop show, so I knew it would not be boring. It starred Tyne Daly, a woman with a good, honest face, and whom I knew as a fine actor. The show was about two women. I like women. On television and in life.

[03] I circled around Cagney and Lacey, checking it out for five minutes at a time, sometimes watching the ending, sometimes just the opening segment. I even watched an episode or two of the first season. Otherwise, I steered clear. I did not want to be drawn in. I did not want to be hooked so that I would become dependent on seeing the show. That I was living in Los Angeles and were friends with several people in the industry had something to do with it as well. The makers of television sneer at their audience. In fact, they refer to them as mice.

[04] Instead, I watched sports. Sport is a different kind of television. The TV is merely a medium with sport. The event you watch takes place in real time, before real people. The purpose of sport is to win the contest, not garner people's attention. That may be the purpose of the television station showing the sport, but it is not the purpose of the men or women on the field. They are there to win.

[05] In sport, people's attention is a side product. With television shows, it is the only product that counts. Not the story line you follow, the characters you love, or the entertainment you gain from watching them. People's attention is what is sold to the advertisers and to get that attention the makers of television will manipulate its audience with utter disregard and disrespect.

[06] I knew all this and for scores of years, I used that knowledge to protect myself from having my emotions manipulated.

[07] Until Xena. Until my eyes fell on Gabrielle and her together in that hot tub in A DAY IN THE LIFE. Until I got a taste of the funny, somewhat sexy, altogether captivating relationship the two women were throwing off. I was intrigued.

[08] I was also getting old and had a lot of time on my hands. Sport was growing increasingly irrelevant to me. I forgot the posture of a lifetime. I took up the show with a passion. Came home and watched it every night on the Sci-Fi channel. Discovered the first-run episodes were being broadcast on the Warner Brothers channel. Began taping every episode. Discovered the Xenaverse. Fell as deeply under its spell as anything I have ever experienced, save the love of a woman. Yet now to my profound regret.


[09] The image that haunts me, the one I wake up with each morning, is the last image the show gives to the world. It is the image of Gabrielle.

[10] She is alone, standing on a ship in the middle of a vast ocean, clutching Xena's ashes. Her family, save possibly an aging sister, is dead. Her closest friends, Joxer and Ephiny, are also dead. The woman she devoted her life to is dead. She has been transformed from a winsome bard, whose smile could light the darkest room, into a Xena clone. She is muscular, she is honed, she is tattooed for war, and she is deadly. When Gabrielle killed that last war chief with Xena's chakram and you could see the glint of revenge in her eye. The same glint you saw in the eyes of Conqueror Xena as she sat on her horse each week in the opening credits. All that awaits her now is Ares' call. Then we can have Gabrielle, Destroyer of Nations! Without a Gabrielle to redeem her.

[11] Make no mistake! She is utterly alone. Tapert tries to cop out by offering us a ghost Xena to travel the world with Gabrielle, but I have news for Tapert. Ghosts do not offer companionship. You cannot make love to a ghost. All you can do is get a little bit more psychotically involved with it, until at some point, you become unhinged. Then begin killing for the sake of killing. Thus does Gabrielle get her opening episode wish. "You've got to take me with you and teach me everything you know." She has become exactly like Xena.

[12] This ending represents a betrayal of everything the series Xena: Warrior Princess has stood for. For the series was never about Gabrielle becoming Xena. It was about Gabrielle maturing, from a young girl into womanhood, under the tutelage of one of the world's most formidable warriors. That warrior redeeming her haunted, hateful past by acts of courage and bravery performed in front of the one soul on the face of this earth she knew loved and honored her.

[13] Xena betrays Gabrielle. She breaks the promise she first made in the middle of the second season, when at the end of THE QUEST, Gabrielle asks her "Xena, promise me you'll never die on me again." To which Xena answers, "I promise." Nevertheless, the promise is betrayed in the scene at the top of Mt. Fuji.

[14] Xena's hands halt Gabrielle's, as they are about to pour her ashes into the fountain. "Xena, the sun is setting," Gabrielle tells her. "I have to bring you back to life." "Not if it means condemning the souls of the 40,000 who burned at Higuchi," Xena tells her.

[15] "Condemning" turns out to be something of a strong word, actually. What we are talking about is "souls to be released into a state of grace". To achieve that graceful state, these souls "must be avenged". Therefore, we are not talking about sacrificing for the greater good or redeeming an evil past but giving in to old-fashioned vengeance and abandoning the one person who has dedicated their life to you.

[16] We are asked to believe that Xena's promise to her soul mate "to never die on me" is less important than 40,000 souls that died in a Chicago-like fire that happened by accident. This after Akemi has just told Xena "You've redeemed me. You've redeemed them [referring to the 40,000 souls]. You've redeemed yourself."

[17] B*llsh*t. Xena's death is b*llsh*t! Plain and simple.

[18] Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor betrayed their own characters in this ending. In a remarkably frank and open interview Lucy Lawless did with Michelle Kort of The Advocate, a Los Angeles-based national gay magazine in March of 1999, she answers the question of whether she and Renee O'Connor were ever embarrassed by playing any of the subtext themes. "We are pure actresses," Lawless answered. "When we have a script, we want to fulfill it. It's not really about our own concerns very often, unless you think this is not part of my character's nature. Unless it's a threat to our character, we will play the lines and try to fulfill them."

[19] Brave words. Yet, there was never more of a threat to Xena and Gabrielle's nature than that last scene on Mt. Fuji. Both Lawless and O'Connor tanked it. Lawless has Xena stand there and tell Gabrielle "if there is one reason for our travels together, it's because I had to learn from you enough to know the final, the good, the right thing to do. I can't come back." That final, that good, that right thing being Xena throwing her life away and leaving Gabrielle to walk the earth alone, you understand. O'Connor has Gabrielle lean back and watch the sun set on her partner's life after weakly saying "You're all that matters to me!" She sat there and watched Xena die. Shame on both actors for betraying two characters who, if acted with integrity, never would have behaved this way. Not in a million years.

[20] This ending contrasts from so many other scenes that have defined this series and the relationship of Xena and Gabrielle. Consider the farewell scene from ONE AGAINST AN ARMY. Xena has just sent Argo away as 300 Persian cavalry descend on the area where the Warrior Princess plans to make her last stand. Xena is preparing for a battle she does not believe she will survive. Gabrielle is dying from a poisoned arrow for which there is no antidote available. Gabrielle objects when Xena tries to change the poultice on her wound. "Please don't bother with that," she tells her, surrendering to despair. "I can't fight. I can't be of any help to you. So please, I'm just distracting you."

[21] To which Xena answers, "But you're my source, Gabrielle. When I reach down inside myself and do the things I'm not capable of doing, it's because of you. Don't you know that by now?" she asks. Then applying the poultice to the wound anyway she says, "Let's just see this one through together."

[22] Xena carries Gabrielle up the ladder and lays her in a makeshift bed, as the sounds of the approaching cavalry grow louder. Gabrielle warns Xena of a dream in which a man who comes through the roof kills her. "Always looking out for me," Xena answers. "Always!" Gabrielle replies.

[23] Gabrielle then apologizes for her betrayal of Xena in Chin, to which Xena says, "That's all in the past. All I want is to be with you. You're my best friend. My family. I love you, Gabrielle!" To which Gabrielle responds, "I love you, Xena!" "Until the other side then," Xena clutches her lover. "We'll be together!"

[24] Or, the prison scene in THE IDES OF MARCH in the last moments before their crucifixion. Xena is paralyzed and Gabrielle must turn her head so Xena can look into her friend's face. She kisses her on the bridge of her nose. "I'm sorry for all the times I didn't treat you right," Xena tells her. "Xena, you brought out the best in me," Gabrielle contradicts her. "Before I met you, no one saw me for who I was. I felt invisible. But you saw all the things that I could be! You saved me, Xena!"

[25] Or, the scene in the sarcophagus at the beginning of CHAKRAM, after Eli has raised them from the dead. Gabrielle looks at Xena with wonder. "We're back," She states with evident disbelief. "Together." Xena looks at Gabrielle with obvious love in her eyes. "Always!" she assures her.

[26] Or the final scene from WHEN IN ROME, as complicated a dialogue about responsibility and staying true to one's own moral code as any you may ever find on television. They are on the ship, headed back to Greece and Gabrielle is leaning over the railing, holding the ring of Crassus in her fingers. The ring, that, had she given it to him, might have saved Crassus' life. Xena walks up and Gabrielle addresses her. "I don't know what's happening to me, Xena. I did something that I never thought I'd be able to do. I played judge, jury and executioner." "You only did what I told you to do," Xena answers. Gabrielle had followed Xena's plan.

[27] "You said Crassus' living or dying wasn't the point." Gabrielle had made a conscious decision not to give him his ring. "I had a choice. I made it." "Gabrielle, I put you into a situation I had no right to." The look of concern grows on Xena's face. "I expected you to understand my logic and ignore your own heart."

[28] "But I know you were right," Gabrielle explains. Xena had counseled her against giving Crassus the ring. "It wasn't right for you," counters Xena. "That's not who you are. If I had it to do over again…." "You'd still do it," Gabrielle completes the sentence.

[29] "If I couldn't find another way I would," Xena admits. The plan called for Crassus to take the place of someone Xena was intent on saving. "But I wouldn't … but I wouldn't include you." "Yeah, but I'd be hurt if you didn't," Gabrielle explains.

[30] "How many more times are you going to follow me into battles," Xena asks, knowing Gabrielle's revulsion towards killing and the added danger that makes for her in battle. "How many more times am I going to hurt you?" Xena reaches over and cups Gabrielle's head in her hand. "You are the most dear thing to me in all the world and yet, instead of protecting you …." "I'm here because I want to be here," Gabrielle cuts her off. "I love you Xena." "I love you Gabrielle." And the ship sails back to Greece.

[31] Each one of those scenes played honest and true. Each one of them added to the rich pattern of love that was the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. What did the FRIEND IN NEED ending add? What purpose was served by substituting a loving friendship with a ghostly apparition? What was insight obtained from replacing redemption through service with salvation through death? They had fought so long and so hard together. It would have been more honorable to have killed them both.

How Could They?

[32] The question is fairly asked. Having created such a ground-breaking series, having crafted a complex, emotional and moral relationship between Xena and Gabrielle that lasted through ups and downs over six long years, how could they kill it off so cruelly, so arbitrarily?

[33] The answer is through arrogance and indifference. The arrogance that they, the producers, the writers and the actors, made the show and they could decide to end it any way they choose. Their indifference to the reaction of the vast audience of devoted followers whose outpouring of affection toward the two characters was well documented and understood by those same producers, writers, and actors.

[34] The arrogance is of course, justified to some degree. If you create something like a fictional character, you should certainly have the right to decide what happens to it. Yet I would argue Robert Tapert's arrogance is only partially justified because the creation is only partially his.

[35] The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are different than any other set of characters on television because the fan fiction it created is both quantitatively and qualitatively stronger, more elaborate, and possesses greater thematic difference from the show itself, than any other fan fiction published to date. I am talking about subtext. The injection of a romantic lesbian relationship into the lives of Xena and Gabrielle was purely an invention of the writers of Xena fan fiction. I know the show made illusions to it. I saw the same episodes as you did. Nevertheless, they were illusions to it, never the actual thing.

[36] The story of Xena and Gabrielle is and always will be a romantic tale of lesbian love: but not by virtue of the show. By virtue of the fan fiction writers who created the overt love theme and refined, sexualized, and even procreated that theme into the imaginations of whatever number of fans danced back and forth between the show and the stories. It is that group of people to whom this ending is most anathema. It is that group of people who should also act to address the hateful ending of this show.

What Is To Be Done

They get *how much* for this?
A boycott would certainly cut into merchandise sales.

[37] The show has ended and there is no way to unmake the ending Bob Tapert constructed for it. The only thing left to us, the fans of the series and its two main characters, is to exercise the power that we have. The product that Tapert and the other members of Renaissance Pictures sold each week of their six-year run was not the episodes that were airing but the attention that we paid to them. That is the product of television, the thing that causes the money to change hands. The sponsors pay the TV stations because they want our attention. The proper way to make a statement about the ending and, through inference, the misogyny implied in the way it was ended is to withdraw our attention. In a word, boycott.

[38] Now it would be better if Tapert had a new show going up and we could direct our energy against it. New shows are like babies, at the most vulnerable stage of their lives. The idea of an active, determined group of people trying to sabotage your budding new effort is one to keep television producers up at nights. If we can establish the principal here, that a large group of people exists who actively wish Robert Tapert ill will, we might even manage to limit his future employment prospects. But for the moment, if we want to organize a boycott in response to the finale, the target will have to be Lucy Lawless. She is set to appear in the first two episodes of the X-Files, scheduled to air in November. The ratings for the 9-year show are presumably predictable. The producers of the show have hired Lawless because they anticipate a boast in their opening show ratings as a result of her fans joining their audience. If we can instead drive those ratings down a few points, Lawless will not be offered future roles in the series and more importantly, she and her husband will be made aware that they have made an incalculable blunder. And that is what I propose we should be working towards. Making them aware of that fact.

[39] Many people will disagree. Members of my message board are already heartily embracing the X-Files, some who were once fans of the show and had stopped watching ready to return, others who had never watched, planning to take it up. They have every right and we should wish them good luck. But for those who feel saddened over the finale, for those to whom that last scene with Gabrielle alone on deck is heartbreaking, for those who found Tapert’s statement that our reaction to his finale was “exactly what we thought it would be,” arrogant in the extreme, then striking back is the only option. And if Lucy Lawless happens to be the first one to get struck, then so be it. Her comment at the Museum of Television that "she didn't understand why people wanted Xena and Gabrielle to walk off into the sunset together" reveals she has no more sympathy for the fate of her character than her husband. She deserves whatever befalls her.

[40] The mechanics for organizing such a boycott are fairly simple. On the most personal level, go to the Fox website and write them an email saying you won’t be watching their series opener because they’ve hired a dishonest actress who you will never watch again. And then, of course, don’t watch. Nor should anyone who was outraged by the finale be watching the Oxygen channel reruns. I suppose you shouldn’t even watch your tapes of the show, if you have any, although that’s becoming a bit obsessive. Besides, I haven’t had the heart to watch an episode since the reality of the finale sank in.

[41] The second step is to enlist aid. Ask a friend who normally watches the show not to watch the season’s two-part opener. And ask them to email Fox to that effect. Remember, we are not boycotting the X-Files, just the two episodes that will feature Lawless. In this regard, we are fortunate to have such an established show as the X-Files as a target. It has lots of fans and everybody knows about it. There is nothing worse then to have to explain the premise of a show you’re asking someone not to watch.

[42] The third step is take it to the Net. Email everyone in your address book and ask them to boycott the two shows. Sure, you are going to get lot of snide replies and questions about your sanity. But as members of the Xenaverse, you should be inured to such brickbat by now. If you own a website, post a banner showing you support the boycott. This is especially important for those whose websites host fan fiction, since they have the most traffic and will be seen by those most involved with the show. If you like, you could even put in a click-through and copy these humble suggestions for action. If this thing is going to work, it will have to go beyond the readership of Whoosh. And whatever you do, do it with love. Any enterprise based on anger and hate deserves to fail. The purpose of this boycott is not to hurt Lucy Lawless and Robert Tapert but to educate them to the travesty they have committed. Let them apologize for it and we should call it off immediately.

[43]We have an opportunity to be more than a passive consumer of images. The very existence of the Xenaverse is predicated on the fact the Xena: Warrior Princess was far more than a set of entertaining images. It was romance, it was drama, it was high moral purpose. By engaging in this boycott, you can reinforce the message that the show was greater than its creators. They have sullied and dishonored its memory with the finale. We can rescue it with this boycott. Don’t let Tapert win. He thinks your spineless mice. If you doubt me, go look at “Soul Possession” and “Bring in the Clones.” That’s what Tapert thinks of the show’s fans. Prove him wrong. Boycott!


Philip Tracy. Armageddon For The Xenaverse In Pasadena. WHOOSH #56 (May 2001)
Philip Tracy. Pasadena Diary. WHOOSH #57 (June 2001)


philip tracy Philip Tracy
The author was a full-time journalist for 20 years but has worked for a San Francisco nonprofit for the last 15. He is seen here in his second calling as a confronter of graven images. He stumbled onto Xena: Warrior Princess while surfing during a commercial break for a baseball game. Xena and Gabrielle were taking a bath together. He never went back to the baseball game.

Favorite episode: FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Believe me. If I have to go the rest of my life without companionship, knowing myself will not be a problem." THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER
First episode seen: A DAY IN THE LIFE
Least favorite episode: You shouldn't have to ask.



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