Whoosh! Issue 69 - June 2002

XENA AND THE SEVEN- YEAR ITCH
By Bradley Danbrook
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
2502 words


A Difficult Loss to Accept (01-03)
Where To Go From Here (04-07)
A Refreshing Program (08-10)
The Genius of the Show (11-14)
Le Morte D'Xena (15-17)
A Major Motion Picture? (18-21)
The State of Fandom (22-25)
A Cut Above the Average (26-28)
Kevin Smith (29-32)
Articles
Biography



XENA AND THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH



A Difficult Loss to Accept



There are never any marshmallows when you need them.

Xena had a thing for burning villages from Day One.


[01] It has been a year since we felt the unique thrill of new Xena: Warrior Princess adventures. The escapades of Xena and Gabrielle brought us all immeasurable enjoyment. The old adventures, like old friends, will always be with us. They quell the thirst, but not the craving, for new stories featuring our two favorite ancient heroes. Even as Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor seem to have happily moved on to other challenges, perhaps we all hold on to the meager hope that somehow, some sort of revival might take place. Certainly we wish them, and all members of the cast and crew, great success in the future. All fans greatly appreciate the incredible effort and sacrifice that the members of the cast contributed. Yet the yearning for one more show, one miraculously discovered lost episode, or a movie, persists. Had the show not been so original and fascinating, the loss would be easier to accept.

[02] Speaking of loss, no essay concerning the end of Xena: Warrior Princess would be possible without discussing the terrible untimely loss of Kevin Smith. Being a mere fan like any other, I never had the pleasure to make his acquaintance. If I may, I would like to offer a brief encomium. If the love of friends and colleagues is a fair evaluation of a man's worth, then surely Kevin Smith was a man of Olympian proportions. Having watched Lucy Lawless' fitting heartfelt tribute to Kevin Smith, one cannot help but imagine that the world will be a sadder place without him.

[03] The selfless person is a rare individual, one who seeks happiness in the joy of others. Kevin Smith seemed to be this sort of rare bird. The outpourings of love, in the form of letters, memorials, and other tributes, have been monumental. Not only was he an actor of talent, he displayed a true love for his fellow actors. Kevin Smith brought an intelligence and joie de vivre to the show that makes his absence seem inconceivable. If Ted Raimi as Joxer was the third musketeer, then surely Ares was just as indispensable a character. "The candle that burns half as long, burns twice as bright." We will all miss the bright light that Kevin Smith brought to the world.


Where To Go From Here

[04] Where do Xenites go from here? Thanks to great websites like Whoosh! and many others, the spirit of Xena: Warrior Princess seems to have survived her corporeal end. Ardent fans continue to produce interesting fan-fiction. People are still interested in reading it. Conventions continue to be well attended. Xena merchandise seems to be as expensive and rare as ever. Thanks to the fantastical nature of the show itself, and the formidable imagination of fans, it is not difficult to imagine that somewhere, Xena and Gabrielle are waiting patiently for their triumphant return. Sure, Xena lost her head, but who amongst us has not from time to time?

[05] Xena may have been temporarily removed from the imaginary landscape of our collective psyche, but her return is still anticipated and even expected. This conjecture has no evidentiary basis. It is based upon an intuitive sense that we have not yet seen the last of our beloved Xena and Gabrielle.

[06] Like many other science-fiction/fantasy classics, Xena: Warrior Princess has spawned numerous tributes and imitators. In Chicago, a musical, Xena Live! Episode Two: Xena Lives, is playing through May 2002. At various websites, "virtual episodes" continue to be written (Xena Virtual Season 7, Xena Virtual Season 7, Xena WP Virtual Season, Subtext Virtual Season 7, and Xena Virtual Season, to name a few). At Sword and Staff, the charitable works of the fans are still tallied. At Brilliant Digital, 3-D Xena animations can be viewed on the computer (warning to all: the digital Xena at "b3d" is frightening: she seems more vampire than princess). The success of Xena: Warrior Princess has spawned many programs with female protagonists. Black Scorpion, Dark Angel, and Relic Hunter are some of the more popular of these. Yet having watched them, I find that my craving for Xena is sated not one bit.

[07] This only underscores the fact that it was no single factor that made Xena such a great success. It was a true collaborative effort that cannot be reduced to any mere television formula. Certainly, Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor deserve the lion's share of the credit. Yet, let us not dismiss the unique contributions of the writers, tireless crews, and the pristine beauty of the New Zealand landscape.


A Refreshing Program

[08] It is said that absence makes that heart grow fonder. We have all heard the expression "you don't know what you have until it's gone". Both of these remarks are apt descriptions of our feelings toward Xena: Warrior Princess. Perhaps similar to our experience of new love, we all feel that the pleasure will never end. Such was the nature of our appreciation of Xena.

[09] The program was so consistently fresh and interesting, that it seemed that it might simply continue indefinitely. I recall vividly the day that I first heard of the show's imminent demise. It was rather akin to the sadness one feels upon hearing that a close friend is moving far away. Xena was that sort of touchstone. It represented an escape certainly, but the genuine appeal of the heroes seemed to afford a familiarity that engendered emotional warmth.

[10] Perhaps one of the lasting legacies of the program is this. Xena: Warrior Princess was able to bring together an enormously diverse collection of different segments of the public. Xena was a program that united all age groups, nationalities, races, religions, and sexual orientations. It was a truly multi-level forum, which offered something of interest to almost everyone.


The Genius of the Show

[11] Looking back from the distance of a year, it is more difficult than ever to fully understand the genius of the show. The unique chemistry that existed between Xena and Gabrielle was certainly the show's heart and soul. Episodes that lacked a consistent presence of either woman always seemed somehow unbalanced.

Inspired by Long Island hairstyles

MARRIED WITH FISH STICKS is one of those eps you either love or hate.


[12] The writing was consistently excellent (okay, MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS was a mistake). The vast range of moods and themes -- from light and comedic, to dark and serious -- left the viewers in a state of constant anticipation.

[13] Let us not forget the unique appeal of the historical framework. This Ancient Grecian time is in itself quite fascinating. Xena had an undeniable intellectual appeal. Although legendary mythological names like "Tartarus," "Hanuman," and "Odin" were employed rather capriciously, to those with any scholastic knowledge, the monikers were rather amusing.

[14] Would a return of the show succeed without either of the principals involved? With all due respect, to the very talented Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell, I do not think that "The Amazing Adventures of Joxer and Autolycus" would work. In my opinion, the producers should never consider a revival without the full endorsement of both actors who played Xena and Gabrielle. That being said, I hope that we have not seen the last of Renaissance Pictures.


Le Morte D'Xena

[15] Did Xena: Warrior Princess end at the appropriate time? Could the show have gone on for another season? To answer that, we must examine the themes that were consistently prevalent.

[16] One of these motifs was the dark religious symbolism. From Dahak to Eli, serious theological issues became more popular. As soon as any program decides to tackle ponderous moral conflicts, it leads inevitably to increasingly dark episodes. This path that the writers of Xena plotted out, could only continue for so long. Eventually the dark theological path leads to an end. The fifth season saw this dramatic shift towards dark themes. In retrospect, one can clearly see that Xena's untimely end had been implicitly preconceived.

[17] One of the appeals of Xena, on an intellectual level, was the logical nature of the characterization progression. Xena and Gabrielle seemed always to be working together towards a common goal of spiritual enlightenment. This moral and ethical struggle was central to Xena: Warrior Princess. Yet, every worthwhile goal must eventually succeed or fail on its own merit. In the end, perhaps we may state it was spiritual reverence and the characterization-driven nature of Xena, which made its abrupt cancellation inevitable.


A Major Motion Picture?

[18] Realistically, what are the chances of a Xena movie being made in the future? One has to wonder whether Lucy Lawless would ever commit again to a major television role, considering the enormous time demands involved. With an ever-growing family, she cannot be faulted for wanting to spend as much time as possible with them.

[19] What does the future hold for Renee O'Connor? With a new husband and son, she would also be seemingly reluctant to accept time-consuming roles, at least for the near future. It would be unfortunate to never again experience O'Connor's talent. Perhaps only the passage of time holds the answer.

[20] Let us not forget the sentiments of an actor who brought to life a role of similar cultural impact. After the final episode of Star Trek in 1969, William Shatner never imagined that his role would be reprised in film form ten years later. I am not attempting to compare Captain Kirk to Xena, although, considered realistically, it would make for the ultimate fantasy battle. Kirk and Spock versus Xena and Gabrielle; phaser versus Chakram. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

[21] Lucy Lawless may well have tired of the leather and bronze look, but five years from now, she may reconsider. We all wish Lucy Lawless great success, whatever she might choose to do. Please though, no T.J. Hooker roles. Xena would not stand for it.


The State of Fandom

[22] Has Xena: Warrior Princess fan support dwindled after the demise of the program? That is a difficult judgement to make. In researching this essay, I visited dozens of Xena websites. All were still very much current and well visited. Many Xena fans came late to the show. This was likely because Xena was not aired on the major networks. Such is the nature of the syndicated show. Many discovered Xena only after the second or third season, or even on Oxygen after the production of the show had long ended.

[23] Like me, these people missed much of the energy and camaraderie that is so evident amongst loyal hardcore fans. Many of these same people are being drawn to the websites and conventions. Fan conventions clearly exist in order to sell merchandise, yet they also provide a wonderful opportunity for people from all lifestyles to interact.

[24] I wish that I had been there from the very first episode. There is however, one positive aspect to having arrived late to the Xena: Warrior Princess party. Every once in a long while, I see an episode in reruns which is new to me. I think that I have seen them all, but there is always the chance that I have missed one. For a true Xena fan, there can be no thrill greater than the never-before-seen episode.


A Cut Above the Average

[25] Xena represented the ultimate imaginary escape. An escape from what, I wonder? It is obvious from communications and observations that Xena devotees seem to be an intellectual cut above the average hero enthusiast. What particular aspect of the show appealed to this intelligent group?

[26] Let us consider the following. How would our intrepid duo have fared in today's world? Initially, Xena and Gabrielle might well be impressed by the amazing technological advancements of our age. Yet, eventually, they would come to recognize the grave spiritual shortcomings that are so inherent in our world. Neither Xena nor Gabrielle, I fear, would fare well in our landscape of limitless duplicity and moral ambiguity.

[27] Our heroes' physical battles mirror our own collective present-day spiritual battles. Perhaps we all secretly long for a time when battles were won with swords and staffs, as opposed to litigation and subterfuge. In Xena's mischievous grin and Gabrielle's warm smile, we comprehend a simplicity and innocence that we have lost as a society.

[28] I wonder then if an American actor could have so accurately achieved Lucy Lawless' state of guileless boundless charm. I do not wish to generalize, but I have always found that New Zealanders seem to have the most wonderful positive attitudes towards life. Lawless was able to directly project this magnanimous warmth into her characterization of Xena.


Kevin Smith



Can I get dressed now?  It's drafty!

Kevin Smith gave life to Ares.


[29] I will end with one final thought concerning Kevin Smith. It is said that those who have passed on, live on in the hearts and minds of those that remember them. Certainly, we may all honor the memory of Kevin Smith by continuing to show support for his lasting legacy. His family and friends are fortunate enough to have a living memory of the man. For the rest of us, we must be content with recalling his performances and appearances.

[30] His role of Ares would surely have been the first of countless memorable international roles, had his life not been so tragically cut short. By remembering Ares, we also recall the man, Kevin Smith, who will never perish in our memory.

[31] The indigenous Maori people of New Zealand have a unique appreciation of the spirit-world. They believe that the dead live on in the collective psyche of those who remember them. Carvings of these spirits may be found in the architecture of their tribal meeting houses.

[32] We too have carved the image of Kevin Smith permanently into our own cultural meeting places. This forum exists as a meeting place of the mind. We spiritually connect through electronic communication. By honoring Kevin Smith in this way, we grant him immortality.


Articles

Bradley Danbrook. Examination of Xena as Nietzsche's Uberbabe. Whoosh! #68 (May 2002)


Biography

the author Bradley Danbrook
I am a 37-year-old who has recently relocated to Nova Scotia. The past twelve years were spent at the Toronto Star newspaper. I now work occasionally in television production, and am working on a novel. I am still lamenting the loss of our beloved heroine Xena. I am presently hard at work devising a clever means of re-attaching her head in a fictionally realistic manner.


Favorite episode: WARRIOR…PRIESTESS…TRAMP
Favorite line: Xena: "I like to be creative in a fight. It gets my juices flowing." (A DAY IN THE LIFE)
First episode seen: REMEMBER NOTHING
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS

 

 

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