Whoosh! Issue 70 - July 2002

XENA: LOOKING AT THE SIX YEARS
By Ila Ottinger
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
2596 words


Prologue (01-03)
Review (04-12)
Women as Friends (13-18)
Breaking the Rules (19-23)
The Farm Perspective (24-26)
What I Would Have Liked to Have Seen (27-29)
What Other Questions Would I Like to Ask? (30-34)
Biography



XENA: LOOKING AT THE SIX YEARS



Just let me tag along.  It's not like I'll do anything stupid or drastic, like cut my hair, shorten my skirt and top, and turn my back on everything I believe in.
Xena and Gabrielle came a long way from their SINS OF THE PAST days.

Prologue

[01] Who we are affects how we see the world. I do not expect many of you to see the series Xena: Warrior Princess like I do, for several reasons. Foremost among them are that I am a farm girl and a geek. There are not many of us in the world.

[02] To clarify, I do not consider myself a nerd because they create or build technology. A geek loves technology and will use it intensely or in ways for which it was not originally designed.

[03] I started watching the show in September 2001. I became fascinated with the first episode, SINS OF THE PAST, and a portion of the director's cut of A FRIEND IN NEED, all in the same week. I wanted to see how the characters had made the dynamic journey between those two episodes. I am still "catching up" and I have only seen about three-quarters of the shows. However, I have a good overall feel for the series.


Review

[04] If I had to describe Xena: Warrior Princess to someone who had never seen it, I would tell them that it was a combination of various modified mythic legends, Greek tragedy and Gilligan's Island on steroids. From show to show one never knew what to expect. That was one of the most endearing things about it. I relished the unpredictability and did not have any issues with the fact that continuity discrepancies existed. This show was not about teaching historical fact. I always enjoyed it when they took traditional stories and added a twist. It surprised me how many historical, political, cultural and movie/TV references they packed into each episode. I found that I had to keep my eyes open or I would miss half of the references and jokes.

[05] The geek part of me watched the show and found most of the fight scenes very funny. My physics teacher would have had a difficult time watching the show because reality did not exist when they fought. It was great that the writers and stunt crew came up with so many different ways to "defeat the bad guys." A classic example was when Xena used a frying pan as a weapon. It was also amusing to watch Gabrielle chastise Xena for destroying their cookware. I was laughing so hard that it brought tears to my eyes. The fact that Xena relished finding different ways to fight added to the fun.

[06] Watching the development of the characters over the series' six years was fascinating. I was glad to see that the writers were aware that you become more like the person you spend your time with. The show did a good job of making Xena and Gabrielle become more like one another over the years, while maintaining their individuality. Xena softened, became more caring, open, philosophical, while Gabrielle became more realistic, capable and beaten up by life experience.

[07] At the beginning of the series, characters on the show (and people on the web) talked about the "annoying" young blonde. I did not see it. I guess those who were saying that were expecting Gabrielle to be a mature adult but that would have been a poor portrayal. Renee' O'Connor was playing a young girl. How many 16 or 17 year olds do you know that don't talk too much, aren't idealistic or naive, who often make things worse when they try to help and who are overly emotional and judgmental. If you think those personality traits are annoying then you must despise teenagers. This teenage stage is a necessary part of growing from a child into an adult. Gabrielle had to start there because of her age and lack of life experience.

[08] The way in which O'Connor handled the character's subsequent development is impressive. Just as in life, the transition from adolescence into adulthood was not linear and some areas of her development progressed more quickly than others. Kudos to O'Connor for portraying this so well.

[09] In addition, O'Connor's Gabrielle created an interesting counterpoint to Xena. Despite all the changes, there was a part of Gabrielle that did not change. She had sureness about her place in the world that was only shaken a few times. When she chose a path, even when she did not know how to achieve it, she seemed sure she could follow it. She embraced it totally and focused completely on the goal. That kind of certainty is very appealing because in our uncertain world, we are attracted to those who seem sure of their place or their view (right or wrong).

[10] I read an interview with Lucy Lawless on the web, in which she said that she used the X-Files character Mulder as a starting point for the character of Xena. My first impression was that she had used several of Clint Eastwood's tough guys as models. When you think of powerful characters on TV or in the movies, they do not talk much. Their actions speak for them and they are often reserved or restrained. When it is done well, it can give the impression that great power is being held back. Lawless did this well and without appearing masculine. It is a skill I do not understand. Maybe it was simply because she is a stunning looking woman that she was able to keep it from being a just a man in woman's clothing. I do not know, I have not figured it out, maybe I never will.

[11] Like Gabrielle, Xena also had at her core a certainty, but hers came from a different source. Xena's was based on experience, while Gabrielle's was more idealistic. I enjoyed the way that Xena was a thinking warrior. Xena did not just jump in and start fighting but instead used what she knew to out think and out fight the enemy. Xena was portrayed as a woman that was smart, strong, capable, dangerous, passionate, and loyal. We should all aspire to those things.

[12] I got the impression that Xena always enjoyed a battle, yet was so distraught by some of her haunting memories that dying was the not a concern. Because she was not afraid to die, it made her an even more dangerous and frightening character.


Women as Friends

[13] Traditionally TV has portrayed women in limited categories like b*tch*s, nymphos and bag ladies who always want someone to rescue them. The way relationships between women are represented on TV is even nastier. Mother and daughter relationships are some of the worst. Women are usually portrayed as having relationships in which they are constantly backstabbing, shopping, or talking about their families. None of those fit the relationship between Gabrielle and Xena.

[14] For me, how someone describes the Xena/Gabrielle relationship is a wonderful insight into how he or she views the world and women. Do you see them as true friends, smart, powerful, inventive, committed, focused, lovers, partners, cartoon characters, super heroes, comical, silly, tedious, idealistic, emotional, stoic, amazing, unrealistic, hopefulů

[15] Recently there have been several programs featuring World War II vets talking about their experiences. When they talk about the parties they went to or the women they were dating, you can see a glint in their eye. When they talk about their war buddies, you can see that they are struggling to handle the waves of emotion. For whom would you die? I know my list is very short. However, for those who are on my list, I would not hesitate to lay down my life. I love them truly, deeply, and completely. Some people might think that the only way to have that depth of emotion about someone is to be in love with them. I disagree with that limited view.

[16] How important must someone be to you for you to give up your life? If someone sacrifices himself or herself for you, how does that make you feel? Are you worthy of their sacrifice? Even if no one dies, but someone puts himself or herself in a life-threatening situation for you, that has a profound impact. It begs the question, what do they see in me that makes me worth that sacrifice? Can I live up to that? Repeatedly, the characters of Xena and Gabrielle have put themselves at risk for one another. This created closeness and a bond that could not be created in any other way.

[17] There is a large contingent of fans that think of the characters as lovers. However, passion is too fleeting to satisfy me about their relationship. Do you know of any couple that has sustained passion over six years? They might start out madly in love; however, the passion can easily turn into hate. Look at couples that marry for passion and end up in court and trying to kill each other, legally.

[18] The World War II vets, although they may not have seen their buddies for twenty years, still share a profound connection. That is why I prefer the vets relationship as an example, it is more enduring and in some ways, maybe more profound than romantic love. For whom would you die? Who would die for you?


Breaking the Rules

[19] I enjoyed the fact that the show broke the rules. It kept it from becoming predictable or stale. What is even more amazing is that the show did not loose its audience by breaking the rules.

[20] How many shows use unique ways to have episode reviews? Traditionally "review shows" have the characters just sitting around reminiscing about the past. Then they do the foggy wavy scene and you get to see a clip from a prior show. Everyone of the review shows I saw was interesting because of the unique way they integrated previous shows into the plot.

[21] How many shows would make fun of themselves or their fans? How many shows use the credits to make jokes?

[22] How many shows would allow the main characters to:

  1. Play several alternate characters
  2. Be disguised as several alternate characters
  3. Jump the show to a totally different story line, in the future
  4. Be killed, not once but several times
  5. Skip a big chunk of timeline in the series
  6. Have characters switch bodies with several different characters (both main and supporting cast)
  7. Travel the known world
  8. As women, rescue themselves and not have a man to do it
  9. Let the story be from a woman's point of view, not a man's
  10. Allow bodily functions and sickness to be talked and joked about. In most shows, no one ever goes to the bathroom or gets sick.

[23] Not many shows would allow the supporting characters to:

  1. Have a theme song. (Joxer has a theme song but Xena does not have one just for herself) The show has a song but not Xena - it is great how they do not follow the rules for TV.
  2. Be the main character (How many supporting characters became Xena?)
  3. Be the leading character in one of the shows
  4. Have Argo be a contributing individual on the show (not since "Mister Ed"!)
  5. Kill a supporting character and bring them back later, what could be better?


The Farm Perspective

[24] I have worked outside in all sorts of weather. I am amazed every time I see a scene in which Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor are working in nasty weather. They were seldom dressed properly for the situation. I would love to know how they avoided hypothermia. I once got a minor case of frostbite and do not wish to repeat it. I know that the revealing costumes are to attract that group of the audience who love to see beautiful women half dressed. All I can do is shiver and say, "burr".

[25] They are both amazing women to have done all that acting, so underdressed. How do you act casual when all you want to do is stop your teeth chattering and find somewhere warm to hangout? You will notice that almost everyone else is dressed much more appropriately. In addition, what is the water temperature in the winter in New Zealand? I have been in the ocean near San Francisco and if the New Zealand ocean is the same, it is takes your breath away.

[26] Xena and Gabrielle were wet a lot: rain, rivers, ocean, and baths. It may look sexy but I am not sure I would like to have that experience. Just surviving it would be my goal.


What I Would Have Liked to Have Seen

[27] A large number of fans did not like the ending of the show. For me, the fact that Xena died was not the problem. I liked that they again broke the rules and killed off a main character. Because Xena was a warrior, I am not surprised. What is the saying? "Live by the sword, die by the sword." It was kind of expected. The costumes and special effects were stunning. Nevertheless, FRIEND IN NEED stopped short. In the first show, Xena becomes a mentor to Gabrielle. For the FRIEND IN NEED story to go full circle, Gabrielle would no longer be the student but would become a teacher/mentor.

[28] We always carry with us those who are important to us and who have died, that was an obvious ending to the story. I would have preferred that Gabrielle end the story by starting the next cycle by becoming a mentor. That would have made it seem like the end was a beginning.

[29] It would be an interesting conversation to talk to the writer, director, and producers and ask why they chose that story and that ending. Maybe they will put that on one of the DVD's alternate audio tracks.


What Other Questions Would I Like To Ask?

[30] Why did you seem to crucify the characters so much? What was the significance?

[31] Why did it seem that everyone was falling in love with Gabrielle?

[32] What story did you not get to tell during the series that you wish could have told?

[33] What would you have done differently?

[34] These are not all the questions I have to ask, and as usual, I digress. The show has at times been fun, thought provoking, a great conversation piece, and a nice memory. I would like to personally thank everyone involved with the show for creating something that is a wonder, to me.


Biography

an ottinger of mystery I. Ottinger
I was raised on a small farm in Washington State. Graduated from college Currently work in the satellite broadcast industry on the tech side. I am a single old f-rt with way too many opinions.


Favorite episodes: Drama: WHEN FATES COLLIDE and ONE AGAINST AN ARMY; Comedy: IF THE SHOE FITS and FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS
Favorite line: (If I Have to choose, grump) Gabrielle: "Joxer it pains me to tell you that all day long I have fantasized about ripping your heart out!" TEN LITTLE WARLORDS
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST
Least favorite episode: GABRIELLE'S HOPE

 

 

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