From the Editor
Whoosh!! #13 (October 1997)
YEAR ONE AND STILL STANDINGAfter 150-plus Xena articles and way too many woman (and man) hours, Whoosh! officially enters its second year of existence! We are no longer a rookie. We have arrived! We are mature. We have the keys to the car!
Whoosh! has seen much success, personal and public, this past year. It started as an experiment between Betsy Book and I and now, 12 months later, it is quickly branching out into a behemoth which would be rather scary if I were not already insane.
It takes about 20 staff members and 10-12 member authors (say, a village) to throw together a single monthly issue and to maintain the web site. We do not do this for money, but for pure Xena glory and maybe some Xena altruism. Okay! The love of this show inspires us to devote ungodly amounts of time, energy, and personal wealth to furthering the idea that XWP might actually have some significant worth in our society, age, and daily lives. The fact that our readers grow in numbers each month tells us we might be on to something!
I cannot over praise the staff and writers. Simply put, without them there would be no Whoosh!. The world can only stand so many articles and personal reminisces by Kym Taborn.
I firmly believe that the macrocosm can be found in the microcosm and likewise the microcosm in the macrocosm. Whoosh!'s philosophy has been and shall remain, at least while I still guide the helm, that XWP is of a valid artform which by study, rumination, and discussion can explicate a world of knowledge, understanding and appreciation while at the same time exemplify a mood and temperment which mirrors much of the confusion, paradoxes, and complexities of our post-modern sensibilities. And not only that, it is simply a hilarious show on many levels. If Whoosh! can convey any part of this, then we will be doing our job.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS SHOW?I have come to the conclusion that either you get the show or you don't. Some get it within 5 minutes, others a half a season, but most take 2-4 shows until turning into a foam-at-mouth fan -- if indeed they are destined to do so. At this point my only theory is that some people have a gene which disposes them towards hard- core nutballism. I have raved about and explained and shown the show to many people. About 30% of them get it and happily skip along the path of obsessiveness (proudly four of them have been journalists who interviewed me), but the remainder linger in that gamut consisting of the idly amused to the totally indifferent.
But that is neither here nor there. Do we really care about those who "don't get it"? Let's face it, the 80's are still alive and well in Whoosh! when it comes to focusing on those ideas that interest us, especially that one which says that XWP can be a religious experience if we allow it to be! There are many aspects to this show which makes it stand out to its many and varied fans. Let's review a few.
Very few shows highlight a significant relationship between two women characters. Xena and Gabrielle talk to each other, interact, work together to solve problems, respect each other, and only rarely ditch the other to pursue a man. True, this borders on fantasy but also taps into a deep longing of many viewers to have a significant relationship with another human being based not upon power, social convenience, or fear. It is a strong social cliche for women to abandon female friendships after finding a romantic relationship with a man. In fact, not only being a great subject for art and drama, this action is culturally supported and encouraged.
From this standpoint, is it any wonder that so many people are attracted to the aspect of XWP which illustrates that two women can find satisfying emotional and intellectual companionship with each other without the apoxy glue of a man? This could be why some fans react so strongly and negatively to the Bonanza-wife type relationships the characters find themselves in periodically and might even in part explain the perceived intrusion of Joxer.
If XWP does anything, it exhibits a creative approach to the proverbial seven basic types of stories that supposedly exist. Its quirky embracement of anachronism, its insistance upon a melting pot of cultural environments, its diversity of casting, and its irreverent attitudes to history and tradition, all add up to an amazingly pleasing mix of camp, high drama, wide-band width comedy (subtle to slapstick), and at times simplistic yet needed social commentary.
This point was driven home in a rather strong way when I watched an episode of Time Cop, a new ABC television action/adventure/SF show which was based (ironically enough) upon a movie produced by ... tah-dah! ... Renaissance Pictures (Raimi and Tapert et alia). [BTW, Renaissance is not involved in the TV show (unfortunately)] The episode involved Jack the Ripper. When watching this episode (apart from problems with the writing and acting, and an eerie resemblance to Time Traxx), I was mortified that they have this brilliant and rich with potential concept (time travel! law enforcement! technology!), and what do they do? They do a Jack the Ripper episode. DUH! Jack the Ripper episodes were stale even when the original Star Trek did Wolf in the Fold back in 1968!
This overuse of Jack the Ripper storylines exemplifies the creative bankruptcy that exists in television today. [Amazingly enough, the TV Guide October 4, 1997 issue has a feature about the creative bankruptcy crisis that is extent in comedy writing for television. The article is called "The Comedy Crisis" by Danial Howard Cerone, and although about comedy, it does mention the general malaise which seems to be all too extent in modern television.] It all too often appears that television producers are churning out the same old stuff. XWP, although to be honest has had their bad story days, often rises above the crowd because of their mining of classic, biblical, and traditional tales and putting an interesting and canny spin on them. For example, just take a gander at ALTARED STATES (#19). In that show they retell the story of Abraham and not only represent the views traditionally illustrated by the story, but add some modern sensibilities to it as well. This is a story that could not have been done even ten years ago, and yet it is about a timeless story. Sadly, the stable of XWP clones (Tarzan, Sinbad, Robin Hood, etc.) have not grasped that this is one of the critical differences between them and XWP.
XWP is a quirky show which uses high drama as a foundation, yet winks at the audience on one level while using running jokes and gimmicks on another. The gimmicks include the cultural hodge-podge of set designs, the world mix of hair styles and clothing, the lush New Zealand backdrop, and the ever present intrusion of sound effects. The most pervasive sound effect is the "Whoosh!". That is my favorite. That is why this magazine you are reading is called "Whoosh!". Think about it. The 'whoosh' is used for any type of moment, from a sword swish to a head turn...it is everywhere!
Perhaps the most blatant and involved rip-off of the XWP style was seen in the NBC miniseries, THE ODYSSEY. Since then many other shows have gotten into the act from minor mentions to entire scenes of dialogue constructed around the reference. The most recent rip- off I saw was from this past week. I watched the season premiere of Clueless on UPN, and what do you know ... while one of the characters was getting dressed for the first day of school, she turned her head quickly to look at something AND THERE IT WAS... a whoosh worthy of Gabrielle!
XWP has created a style that is ripe for mimickry on many levels. However, when other shows try to mimic it, they often fail. Why? Because XWP is not creatively bankrupt, and the audience at large is attracted to it for this reason. That it also has an identity which can be evoked by a mere sound effect and head turn attests that XWP is a force to be reckoned with in our popular culture.
Use Of Women
Yes, I admit it, XWP uses women. Just look at those Amazons! PLEASE! But then, in contrast, look how Star Trek: Voyager is using their new female borg? Hmmmm. Subtle? I don't think so. The difference is that XWP uses the sexual aspects as trappings, whereas Voyager is using it as the main focus.
Voyager is one of the few programs on TV that could learn from XWP (and vice versa) without having to completely re-write itself. It has some of the more interesting female characters on TV, that is female characters who were not originally designed to flesh out another characters or to further plot devices. They are motivated not by shopping, their relationships to men, and neither to their family but by problem solving, character exploration, and drama. The story of VOYAGER, however, is not centered around the female characters specifically, as it is in XWP.
The introduction of 7 of 9 on Voyager was an attempt to add some adult sexual tension to the series (how else can we explain 7 of 9's "regulation" leisure wear). XWP will be attemting to "adult-up" the program this season as well but by introducing mature storylines concerning taboo and controversial subjects. XWP already has skirted the tasteful sexual tension bounds and deals with the topic like they do the violence. Violence has a tendency in XWP to be over the top and "cartoony". So goes the sexual innuendo, which exhibits itself usually as double entendres, awkward situations, and costumes. Not really college-level stuff. However, it is still interesting to see how these two programs are approaching their use of their women characters in trying to make the programs' content more adult and hence watched by more adults (everyone wants to be the NYPD Blue of its time and genre!).
These were just a few aspects which I have noticed viewers either get or don't get. You can always see XWP as a cheesy, campy, silly, scene-chewing comedy; but there is something more. This something more is the impetus for Whoosh! and hundreds of other fan endeavors, be it on-line or off.
THANK YOU RENEE O'CONNOR!In what was the best TV interview ever seen of a XWP castmember, Renee O'Connor appeared on Vibe, September 26, 1997. Among the many things that transpired, and oh there were many, Ms. O'Connor attempted to defend her internet fans! What a woman! She would have been successful had her host not interrupted her and then changed the subject. But we know she was defending us! Thank you, Renee O'Connor!
This interview was so good in the annals of XWP media coverage that I actually thought about joining the Rene O'Connor fan club. I would have, but I pledged not to join anything new for the rest of the year (running major Xena publications and attending zillions of fan functions really use up the discretionary funds), but watch out 1998 (and if the ROC Fan Club wants to give me a comp membership I WILL NOT REFUSE IT). If she makes more appearances like this, I may join that soon- to-be forming group that follows Renee O'Connor to all of her interviews! Move over Lucy Lawless!
FOLLOW UP ON PARTY MONTH: SEPTEMBERSeptember was a bear of a month for me. I did lots of traveling and lots of editing. No peace for the wicked apparently. The Amazon issue broke all of our records for readership and exceeded our expectations. Strangely though, not many people wrote any letters to the editor about it. Amazon appreciation must be a personal kind of thing.
I survived my week in NYC. It included dining with a WORLD FAMOUS Xena fan fiction authoress and then attending GREASE; being in the audience of the latest Rosie O'Donnell appearance of Lucy Lawless (and let me tell you, ROD is mega-better at prepping than either Letterman or Leno...they could learn a few things from that woman); attending a dinner in honor of Whoosh!'s first year; and just riding a lot of subways and checking out office space in Silicon Alley.
My seat at GREASE was front row almost center (right of the orchestra pit -- I could see the antics off-stage on the conductor's video-remote and the MST3K figures on the monitor watching along with me), and I had to dodge some tires, hoola hoops and tossed cigarette butts. I met quite a few Xenites for the first time and saw many more old-timers. It was a very pleasant way to end the summer.
Unfortunately due to circumstances BEYOND MY CONTROL, I will not be able to make any conventions or fests for the rest of the year, so the Whoosh! dinner was my last official act of 1997. And what a year it was! I am still spinning from it. I only assume more velocity is in store for the next year.
Finally, I have to thank all of you, the readers, IAXS members, and other supporters we have had over this first year. We could have never achieved as much as we did without your help and encouragement. Knowing that 20,000+ people read Whoosh! per month makes us try harder and to always work on improvement. We want to make this an interesting and fun stop for everyone.
WHOOSH! Webmaster, Betsy Book, with Lucy Lawless, re-enacts a scene
from THE QUEST (#37)
at the NYC Xena Convention, September 28, 1997
Kym Masera Taborn
Chairman of the Board,
International Association of Xena Studies
September 30, 1997