Many thanks GlasOwl for the transcript

Windy City Times
(Chicago IL USA)

27 June 2001

This is the sixth and final season of Xena -- or as her side-kick, partner, soul mate and possible lover, Gabrielle, the Battling Bard of Potideia, might say: “That’s Xena, the Warrior Princess.” I adore this show, its tongue-in-cheeky irreverence as it ransacks history, myth and legend, its reckless mix of humor and drama, its unswerving commitment to flashy, trashy outfits.

Fun aside, and Xena is high good fun, this show is a milepost on the road to new possibilities for women in entertainment. Xena broke more than one mold, creating images, relationships and situations that were unprecedented. Foremost is the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. Kept deliberately ambiguous sexually -- have they or haven’t they, would they or wouldn’t they -- on an emotional level there is no ambiguity. In stories delivered with an intensity that transcends the impossible plot situations, episode after ep isode has been about the bond uniting these two women, a bond that has been tested and strained, betrayed and reaffirmed. Xena and Gabrielle may flirt with being out, but they have said “I love you” to one another in words, actions and on-going program arcs for years.

As Xena and Gabrielle enact images of loyalty, courage, intimacy and humor, they radiate with the romance of legend, the mythic aura of purpose and consequence that surrounds heroic figures. The warrior and the bard go where they will through a dreamscape of ancient lands, as women, asking no one’s permission. Xena inhabits her world as confidently as she inhabits her own body. And it’s important that her world is the historic and legendary past since so much of what we believe in as possibility is authorized by The Past. History, real or invented, legitimizes the present. Xena also claims the centuries of mystique that have accrued to weapons in general and swords in particular. Along with their phallic associations, swords have symbolic power beyond gender; they allude to purpose and authority, such as “sword of righteousness” or “sword of justice.” No less amazing than Arthur laying hold of Excalibur and drawing it out of stone is Xena as she draws her sword free from the weight of male prerogative.

I like the fighting on the show. A woman warrior disrupts stereotypes of what women can and cannot do. I don’t know any men who wield swords or fight warlords, but those images go unquestioned. You don’t have to believe that Xena actually did stop the Persian army from invading Greece to appreciate that she fights with a wholehearted will to win. And Gabrielle evolved from a helpless sidekick into a capable partner in the adventure business. A host of women characters including Amazons and queens have not only fought but also accepted the blows and bruises of fighting. Screen heroines of yesterday had to rely on men for their safety and survival because they feared pain and violence so excessively that the mere threat was often enough to render them paralyzed and harmless. On Xena, women get hit and keep going.

One might say that Xena is a most manly woman and thereby explain just how disruptive the show has been to several culture-bound definitions of woman. Xena doesn’t act like a man, she acts as she pleases and, seeing her do so, we get an idea of the extent to which women have been emasculated. The women of Xena disturb the patterns that assign certain propensities, capabilities and desires exclusively to one gender or another and reveal how the assignment is about divisions of value rather than biology.

Dramas are rehearsals in imagination. In the end, it isn’t the unexpected plot twist that is important to any story, it’s the extent to which a narrative confirms or transforms a culture. Xena: the Warrior Princess has entertained us for six years, but it has also added to the images of possibility for women, strong and powerful images that will be missed. I imagine the chakram will still sail through reruns and internet fan fiction for years to come, but there will be no more new official stories from a time of ancient gods, warlords and kings. Here’s my suggestion for one last disclaimer: patriarchy was harmed in the production of these episodes. Farewell, Xena.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx by Angela Koenig

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