The Hollywood Reporter sent a generation of young adults into a tizzy on social media this week with their report of a Xena the Warrior Princess reboot from NBC and NBC Universal International. Despite star Lucy Lawless’ later tweet about the reboot remaining a rumour, the response definitely proved that in a time where ancient male gods, warlords, and kings remain the mainstream face of science fiction/fantasy, viewers still cry out for a hero like Xena.
We at Women Write About Comics are no different. Some of our staff members shared their fondest memories of a show that was formative for many young women in the 90s.
How did you discover Xena?
Ginnis Tonnik: OMG, Hollywood Reporter is so mean, boo on them! But, anyway, my mom watched Hercules and then started watching the Xena spin-off. Xena still is one of my mom’s favorite shows. She can even do the Xena warrior cry, so my feelings of Xena are very much tied in with my mom.
Claire Napier: Also via Hercules! I’m sure Xena must have been on terrestrial UK TV at some point, but I have no idea when. Hercules was on channel five in the afternoons or evenings on the weekend, i.e. at the perfect time. So sometimes Xena was on that, because, that’s where she came from I guess. More importantly people loved her on livejournal.
Amanda Vail: I don’t know, exactly … somehow it feels like Xena has always been there for me! Xena and Hercules are my chicken and the egg; I’ve no idea which came first, they just seem to play off one another in an infinite loop. I recall watching it on lazy weekend, days when I was home sick from school, late nights when I couldn’t sleep, you name it. Xena was a constant.
Also, Ginnis: your mom! What a cool lady!
Angel Cruz: I remember watching Hercules at 4 pm every Saturday, and then just not turning off the TV one day and finding Xena. I was absolutely riveted. She was probably my first female hero.
Insha Fitzpatrick: I found out about Xena through a friend because she knew I was into all things mythology so she was like WATCH THIS. COOL CHICKS. SWORDS. CREATURES. (Yes… it was shouted at me exactly like that). I didn’t have a clue that Hercules existed until I saw Xena, which is very backwards and I am incredibly sorry to Kevin Sorbo, but I don’t regret a thing about it.
What aspect of the show kept you watching?
Ginnis: It was such a fun over-the-top romp with two female leads. Campy, mythology, what’s not to love?!
Claire: (whisper) I could never be a regular viewer. I saw that groundhog day episode a million times, because of course, and also the one where Xena is dead, and then Xena is Autolycus, and then she kisses Gabrielle (with a double handful of her bum)? Many times. For me, this was enough. I just like to know that she exists.
Amanda: Well, like I said: she was always there! I’ve never watched the show in sequence or as it was airing, but if I stumbled across it during my channel flipping I didn’t flip away. There’s camp, there’s action, there’s drama, there’s romance, there’re monsters and gods and cool weapons. And there’s Lucy Lawless. It’s a near-perfect recipe, if you ask me! (This is not to say that the content is perfect, of course. We all have our flaws. But the RECIPE, it is good.)
Angel: I watched because Xena did so many things that I had never seen women do before on TV. She was tough, she was loyal, she was committed to her cause. She knew who she was, and who she wanted to be, and she didn’t care what people thought of her. Having her story be so infused with mythology only made me love it more.
Insha: I watched on and off for many years until they started doing significant re-runs to help me keep up then Hulu helped a lot. I mainly kept watching for Xena and Gabrielle because every banter or long eye glance kept hearts in my eyes. Also like Angel, I stayed on for the mythology of it all. How could you go wrong with mythology and Lucy Lawless?
What was your favourite episode?
Ginnis: It’s one of the earliest episodes where Xena and Gabrielle are tossing a baby back and forth. It just sets the tone for what the show is going to be about.
Amanda: I always like the ones where Xena goes back to her roots and tussles with the Amazons. More ladies, more better!
Insha: There was one particular episode that hooked me called “A Necessary Evil” where Velasca transforms into a Goddess and wants to completely destroy Gabrielle. That episode stuck with me for awhile because I loved the way they put the mythology together in a way where it becomes interesting and people understand it.
I particularly loved that episode because they threw Callisto in the ring. I also loved how easy it was to get your hands on some Ambrosia and become a goddess.
Angel: “Forget Me Not” from season 3 has stayed with me for over a decade. I remember being on the edge of my seat during that entire episode, wondering if Gabrielle would actually choose to give up both her good and bad memories of Xena. It was a great episode because it brought viewers back to the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, which has always been at the core of the show.
Xena’s story is tied to Greek/Roman mythology. What was your favourite mythological plotline on the show and why did you like it?
Ginnis: Ack, it’s been so long since I watched it, but I always liked Xena’s interactions with Ares. Fortunately, the show is in US Netflix so I can rewatch anytime.
Amanda: I … liked … all of them? I’m a mythology fangirl, and I loved it when they incorporated that into any episode. Even when they, you know, bent the myth or distorted some of the “factual” details, I still enjoyed it, because then I could be all fangirl and tut tut them and have outward rage and inward glee.
Angel: Like Amanda, I was riveted by every single mythological plotline, but I always really liked seeing Xena’s interactions with the various gods/goddesses. It was cathartic watching her defeat Ares, and gain his respect, even if she never needed it to be comfortable with herself.
Xena/Gabrielle: did you ship it? Why or why not?
Ginnis: I was a little too young to get the subtext, but I totally ship them now. They have such great chemistry, and I love the sort of riff they do on the hero and the sidekick.
Claire: I mentioned the bum-grabbing kiss, right? Are they NOT together?
Amanda: Totally! Even before I knew I was queer, I thought they should be together. They have such chemistry, such passion! And they’re great, supportive partners. There’s definitely something other than friendship there.
Insha: Those long eye glances man. Those long eye glances say so much with so little context attached. I completely and utterly ship them.
Angel: Tiny Angel did not realize shipping was a thing when she was watching the show. That said, I don’t know that I ever shipped them romantically, but their relationship was very important to me. I watched the show because it was about two women who respected and cared about and protected each other, and there wasn’t enough media with that to make it anything but extraordinary to my younger self.