march edition, 1998                                                                         [German original]


the Warrior Princess 

In a time of stupid guys and German shepherds controlling the television, watching women in turmoil cry out for a heroine, who with all her passion for suspense, humor and entertainment makes, in less than an hour, amends for all that's been ruined by TV-series producers over the whole week.


When, in 1995, the first season of the fantasy series Hercules in the States came to an end, the warrior princess Xena (Lucy Lawless) appeared in one episode, ravaging and looting through the country. She and Hercules (Ken [sic should be Kevin] Sorbo) went on a fight for life and death. Of course the Good won over the Bad and the Bad became good.
Audiences showed so much interest in the character of Xena the producing company decided to shoot a spin-off. That is nothing uncommon in the production of TV-series or movies. The character of Catwoman from Batman, for example, has been so popular that she got her own series as well.

To understand plots and biographies of all characters in a whole, both series have to be watched. A clever move of the producers.
Due to this crosscasting, fans of one series are also bound to the other. No matter which one happens to be the audience's hit series, both get watched. This concept paid off by all means. Meanwhile Xena has outstripped big brother Hercules by far, as measured by audience approval and TV-ratings. Star Trek, X-Files and American Gothic are equally facing a blank TV-screen in the presence of the Warrior Princess.
Nobody really expected such a big success. But with Xena [XWP - the German name of the show is just 'Xena' without 'Warrior Princess'] producer Sam Raimi hit the 90s audience's spinal nerv, so to speak.
Xena and her companion Gabrielle roam through the episodes in a feministical, political correct, esoterical, minority friendly, and head over heals way.

What makes them both charming is they do not want to serve the classic ideal of perfect beauty. Despite a flat belly and being scarcely clad, they are no Barb Wires or Emma Peels. Violence is a more surreal matter, hardly any blood, hardly any corpses, but heaps of wonderfully choreographed fisticuffs, a mix of martial arts and jumps who unmask every gravitation as narrow minded mathematics.


Those monsters they meet are mostly mistaken creatures who come along like social underdog metaphors. Injustice becomes justice, enemies like each other very much in the end, villains had a sad childhood and the mean interference of bored gods and goddesses against mortals gets easily pushed back down their throats. All this in 45 minutes full of entertaining, funny dialogue and with little moral draught.

In their stories Hercules, as well as Xena make use of ancient greek mythology, that even un-adapted reads as a soap-opera itself.
Intrigue, envy, fatal affairs, bored wifes, unsolved kinship, very bad excuses for amorous escapades ("It wasn't me but some by-paddling swan."), and small to great miracles are on the every-day schedule of  ladies and gentlemen divinities of Mount Olympus.

  But the production team of both series take a rather broad view of the mythical discourse. Xena happens to get entangled with Julius Caesar or she searches together with Gabrielle as their own descendants for the legendary Xena Scrolls in an Indiana-Jones skit. Hercules, too, prooves to be a demi-god during the French Revolution.

In Hercules' fourth season it is getting totally weird then. Like in Star Trek, there is a parallel universe in which the heros and heroines exist in a total mirror-inverted manner. There Hercules turns into a bearded clod and Xena is allowed to play a mean, lascivious slut with a Luise [sic should be Louise] Brooks haircut.

Xena [XWP] becomes alive through those characters who have a constant part in the series. Like Hercules and Iolaus, Xena has a friend who is steadfast and independant enough to support the Warrior Princess in every adventure and who can master a whole sequel on her own, if occasion arises.
Already during the first season Bard Gabrielle (Réene [sic] O'Connor) gets a Warrior training by the Amazons, a totally likeable bunch of lesbians, straight girls, and friends of bizzare games with Centaurs, who can live peacefully side by side in a small village. If any internal problems occur it may at most be nerve-racking small questions of authority, properly considered unable to break up the tribe.

Xena has to blame herself for her arc-enemy Callisto (Hudson Leick).
As a worlord her army burnt down the village and killed her whole family.
Callisto, a child at that time, swore eternal revenge to Xena and mutated to a kind of sarcastic killer-Barbie. Psychopathic Callisto is as popular among viewers as the Warrior Princess herself.
Wholly insane, bloodthirsty, and as immortal as an ex-lover who still wants to get payed off, she deliberately crosses Xena's and Gabrielle's way to spoil their days. But different from devoted ex-lovers her lines are witty and pointed. In A Necessary Evil Xena apologizes in public to Callisto for her wrecked life. She is obviously touched and helps Xena to drop Amazon queen Valesca, who has become immortal, into a stream of lava.

Killer-Ken a.k.a. the God Of War Ares, half-brother to Hercules, cannot accept Xena having swapped the sides and wants her back as a gruesome warrior.
The group becomes complete through a laconic Hades whose work with the dead is always too much for him and who would rather go on vacation with his wife Persephone, Aphrodite, the vain Goddess Of Love and her son Cupido, who is just lacking the white tennis socks to look like a gay porn star, the nerve-wracking Joxer, of whom nobody can say why exactly he is nosing about in the series, except that he is the producer's brother and once drowned with the flopping series Sequest [sic means: SeaQuest].

It's certainly her tough eroticism that makes Xena a real heroine. Dressed in leather and metal dirt and sweat do not look strangely painted but authentic.

Only Linda Hamilton, who could competently wear the lubricating oil of her machine-gun in Terminator 2 could manage this as well. Male fans like to see both characters alongside Barbarella, Vampirella or even Barb Wire - who but smell strangely like intimate body deodorant in the direct comparison.
Lucy Lawless: "Whenever in the past a woman has been inserted into an archetypical male narrative, she often became too feminine. Wonder Woman, for example, was always perfectly styled, had great nails and fresh dryed hair. She obviously cared more about her appearance than about a successful hunt for villains. If Xena were in the middle of a fight, and would get rid of her top, no way she would cover her breasts but surely would break every single bone inside this guy's body."

Xena already gets celebrated as a new dyke-icon in the USA. The New York nightclub Meow Mix, no doubt the most prominent stylish place for lesbians in town, presents sword fights amongst two lesbian Xena-lookalikes three times a month, right after the audience got put in tune by selected episodes shown with a videobeamer.
Prominent lesbians like Ellen DeGeneres and Annie Sprinkle are Xena fans, too.

That's not at all surprising to the observant female viewer, because Xena and Gabrielle are the most equivocal couple since Batman and Robin. Not only the unique chemestry between the two actresses leaves room for speculations, as well the gayfriendly atmosphere of the series itself.
Hercules as well as Xena [XWP] are produced in New Zealand, offering the whole staff, including both gays and lesbians, far more freedom than the prudish WASP-America. The episode Here She Comes... Miss Amphipolis, for example, has a real queer plot. Xena with her free spirit clobbers an entire beauty contest, the models rebel in rows against the yoke of commercially exploit of their bodies and the winner is Miss Artiphys (a pun made of artificial and artiphysical), who already during the show opposes the mutinying jury: "Honey, I'm no princess, I'm a queen.". At the end Xena and the beauty queen stand together on the stage and celebrate their triumph with a provoking kiss, that looks very lesbian to the event's visitors. Of course, Miss Artiphys is a transvestite, who is desperately longing to be acknowledged as whom s/he is.

Certainly Xena and Gabrielle do have their little heterosexual affairs from time to time in the show, but these are always shortlived. At the end of nearly every episode, the two heroines saunter together into the sunset and assure themselves of their friendship with confessions like "Xena, I'll always stay with you, no matter which body you're in.", or when Gabrielle regrets to have no present for her, Xena replies with a loving look: "Gabrielle, you are the most precious gift to me."

In some episodes the two are allowed to kiss. When Xena in one episode kissed Gabrielle passionately on the mouth, the lesbian audience started to cheer in their tv-chairs.

Shortly afterwards, this scene was 'cleared up'; a man got stuck in Xena's body (episode 37). [no translation-error, obviously the author hasn't seen this ep herself]
A plot device to avoid an annoyed straight audience, that already worked well at the intense moviekiss between Demi Moore and Whoopy Goldberg in Ghost.
The Power Of Destiny [i.e. the episode 'Destiny'] contains a summary of all scenes showing the one believing to have lost the other. This sequence of sampled weeping and gnashing of teeth makes only sense when you lose a lover.

Certainly the most exiting and homoerotic episode has not been broadcasted by RTL [TV-station] in the usual time-slot. The FSK ["voluntary self control" the German organ that rates movies etc.] would not let this episode approach little kid's brains uncut. Dark Powers, that with its original title Girls Just Want To Have Fun gives far more ambiguous insights on the plot, is an hommage to the genre of vampire movies.
The god Bacchus kidnaps young women from a village to let them become immortal dependants by means of his blood. Xena and Gabrielle try to destroy him and see themselves confronted by a whole bunch of female vampires, dressed in tight black and massive dyke-appeal. On a party that rather resembles a hip gay and lesbian party, Gabrielle gets into the lecherous fangs and becomes a bacchae herself. During the showdown however, Gabrielle hesitates to make her girlfriend a vampire. Xena begs her for the probably most final and sexiest kiss of all kisses. "Go ahead, Gabrielle. Do it." and obviously enjoys it.  Dip me in blood and throw me to the Bacchae!

Lucy Lawless on the relation of both heroins: "We won't even claim that they are heterosexual characters. In fact we don't even really touch the topic itself, but leave the unanswered questions up to the viewers and their imagination. I suspect for myself though, that Xena and Gabrielle indeed feel more than pure friendship for one another."

Of course there is a great number of rumors about the passions of both actresses. Lucy Lawless is reported to be still in search for prince charming. She lives - together with her nine-year-old daughter, whom she had as a twenty-year-old in a very short marriage with a friend from sandbox-times - alone in New Zealand, and refuses any particulars as to her private life. As for Renée [sic] O'Connor one only knows that she lives in San Francisco - alone too.

Well, happy speculative and cosy Sunday afternoons!

Stephanie Kuhnen

For those Xena-fans, above all the ones having a VCR, RTL aires the episodes at night in an uncut version.

Copyright ©1998 lespress [German lesbian magazine]

Used and translated with permisson by the editor.
(translated by Susan )

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