From the Editor-in-Chief: Curiouser And Curiouser
From the Graphics Editor: The Night Of The Lesson
From the Editor in Chief: Curiouser And CuriouserIn a recent online chat, actor Ted Raimi made comments that there would be a romance between Joxer and Gabrielle and that Joxer would probably resolve his relationship with Gabrielle by either officially going out with her or terminating the relationship forever. Raimi stated he did not know which, if either, would be pursued.
Later, a fan posted this question on one of the mailing lists: "Any thoughts on this, anyone? Do you think he's throwing us a red herring, or genuinely giving away a plot line? If it's true, I know many of us are going to be seriously alienated."
On May 12, 1998, Sharon Delaney posted in response to the fan's question: "Here's another log to add to the fire. Renaissance has been concerned about leaks of upcoming stories and is now putting out false rumors! What an interesting summer this is going to be - separating the wheat from the chaff."
Many fans interpreted this as a statement that RenPic would be combating their apparent leak problem by leaking false information. However, on May 30, 1998, XWP co-executive producer, Steven L. Sears, posted on the XWP NetForum the following:
I saw that message. This is what she said:
"TPTB will be busy putting out rumors..."
What Sharon meant is "TPTB will be busy STAMPING OUT rumors..."
See? Putting out, in the sense of putting out fires. Not distributing rumors. Sorry to all the conspiracists, but rumors, true or false, are not being spread by the Xenastaff. And the list of previous "rumors" that someone posted were never confirmed OR denied, to my knowledge.
Everything appears to hinge on what "putting out" means. However, in context of Delaney's post, how can one "put out", as in "stamp out", false rumors without either denying them or releasing "true" information? So how would they combat these rumors?
Sears' position is that they are saying nothing, true or false. Yet why would employing a policy of silence make it more difficult to "separate the wheat from the chaff"? Again, how does one stamp out rumors without denying them specifically? One cannot "stamp out" without releasing counter-information.
Another problem with this whole scenario is that the people who have been most vocal about the next season have been Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell, two people who could not be closer to being insiders in RenPic (Bruce Campbell is a founder of RenPic and boyhood pal of Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert; Ted Raimi is Sam Raimi's brother and another boyhood pal of Robert Tapert).
Campbell has stated several times, plainly, that "Keys to the Kingdom" would be the first aired episode. However, it is looking like that information was erroneous (e.g., at press time, that information had been removed from his website). In addition, Ted Raimi has a bad track record for getting information correct (e.g., he stated that Joxer would free Callisto, among other things).
The information emanating from Campbell and Raimi appears to support the idea that a deliberate plan of disinformation is being pursued. This interpretation is problematic, though, because it compromises the integrity of people closely associated with RenPic. Usually, if a production company pursues a disinformation campaign, they do it through third parties in order to keep the ugliness of the practice as far as possible from the production company itself (this has been how Star Trek, Star Wars, and X-Files have dealt with this very same problem).
Again, it is difficult to figure out what is happening with RenPic. If they are indeed pursuing a disinformation program, then they are doing it at their own detriment by using sources too close to their home camp. If they are NOT pursuing a disinformation program, then they are still in trouble, because they are not really stamping out any of the false rumors. This is especially bad because all the false rumors appear to be coming from people who should know better, and when the truth becomes known, many frustrated fans will be mad because they will feel they have been lied to or manipulated. Not a good position for a show that is still trying to build a viewer base.
This brings us to another point. Most shows that pursue a disinformation campaign usually do so to protect an event, which, if the information were leaked, would affect the success of the show. XWP and HTLJ really need a positive ad campaign, not a "trick the fans" type approach.
Here's what I mean: What would make you look forward to the next season? Would it be news that the first episode(s) of the season is/are going to resolve the cliffhanger from last season and explore how Xena copes without Gabrielle and what she has to do to bring Gabrielle back, OR that the season opener will be a farce with Meg, Auto, and Joxer? That the fourth season will explore the results of the third season problems between Xena and Gabrielle, OR that the fourth season will offer more comedies and a possible romance between Gabrielle and Joxer? (To be fair, Sharon Delaney has consistently stated disbelief that "Keys to the Kingdom" would be the season opener, even when Campbell had news to the contrary posted to his website and stated so in an online chat.)
XWP ended the third season in a ratings decline and with less online fan enthusiasm. These are not times to waffle or spread misinformation or allow it even look as if they are, but it is a time to galvanize the fans and make them look forward to the new season. We have had the sturm-und-drang, now is the time to tend to the wounds and to try not to p*ss people off.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was floundering its third season but it did something daring: it ended the season with its first cliffhanger. It was the now legendary "Best of Both Worlds" where they took the Borg, who were introduced as a one shot deal in the second season, and brought them back. This episode almost single-handedly saved the show. They used the cliffhanger as a way to engender more viewer interest. They had a successful campaign of prepping the audience for the conclusion of what looked to be one of the best, if not the best, Star Trek episodes.
Just imagine if RenPic were doing this. What if the fans were given just enough information to know that the cliffhanger would not only be resolved but also given bits and pieces of little teases about how this would be resolved? Thus would ensue an entire summer of people talking about how they are looking forward to watching XWP and eagerly anticipating the resolution --instead of indignation that an unrelated comedy would open the season, or skirmishes and name-calling about Joxer's use and abuse or how they are shafting Gabrielle or how abusive Xena has become.
Kym Masera Taborn
June 23, 1998
To further clarify what was stated above, I offer this addition. The point of my editorial was *not* to promote the idea that TPTB are involved in a deliberate misinformation campaign against the fans, but rather to point out how various conflicting statements may have contributed to the origin of this "conspiracy theory". Personally, I do not believe there is a "conspiracy". I find the problem more symptomatic of inexperience, unintended results of strategy, and the luck of the draw. But, in this case, my opinion is neither here nor there. My point was simply that if the TPTB are concerned about fan respect, they should be more careful to avoid apparent contradictions in what they say, or not act so surprised when these contradictions lead fans to make their own conclusions which are not beneficial to RenPic. This applies not just to the producers and TPTB, but also to those who are close enough to be considered "insiders" by the fans. RenPic holds the most power to form public opinion on the upcoming season and, in my opinion, whatever that is worth, they have apparently decided not to use this power to their best advantage.
July 7, 1998
From the Graphics Editor: The Night Of The LessonSensei: What have you learned?
Sensei: You have been watching this Xena: Warrior Princess. What have you learned?
Student: Um... I didn't know I was actually supposed to learn anything. It's not on PBS.
Sensei: We learn many things not on PBS. Television is a window to our own souls based on our viewing choices. You chose this show. Why is this?
Student: [thinks: Amazons] Um...
Sensei: Do not fear the truth. What in this show attracts you?
Student: [thinks: Amazons] Well...
Sensei: Let me ask this another way. What is the sound of a Warrior Princess?
Student: I think it's YI-YI-YI-YI-YI but I'm not really sure how to spell it.
Sensei: And why does she make this sound?
Student: I suppose it's to strike fear into the hearts of her enemies. A herald of her approach, that sort of thing. When you hear it, you know someone's b*tt is going to get kicked.
Sensei: So you fear this Warrior Princess?
Student: Only if you're a bad guy. If you're a good guy or distressed villager she tends to be very helpful.
Sensei: So she helps the worthy and punishes those who do harm?
Student: Well, most of the time. It was pretty cut and dried the first couple of seasons but there are some issues in the third season that are a little problematic.
Sensei: Such as?
Student: Well, it's kinda complicated. There was this demon seed thing that upset people. A devil child came out of that, killed Xena's child, which was pretty unsettling. Gabrielle couldn't decide who or what she was for awhile. I would've liked to see more of Meleager and Salmoneus. Xena and her best friend Gabrielle had a falling out. In fact, Xena sorta killed her friend Gabrielle or wanted to. That was pretty messy as well. I bought a lot of antacid this year.
Sensei: This show upset you?
Student: Well, sorta. It wasn't really the show, though. I mean, these are fictional characters here. I guess it got me thinking about a lot of things. I thought about relationships, motives, possible alternative outcomes. Don't get me started on those, though, oy-vey!
Sensei: Do you talk about this with others?
Student: Oh, sure. A lot of fans talk about this stuff. They're a pretty good bunch face to face but things can get a little tense online sometimes.
Sensei: How so?
Student: Well the thing that springs immediately to mind is this Joxer deal. People get downright nasty sometimes. Instead of logical, respectful, constructive arguments it can degenerate into people getting "the last laugh" and that sorta stuff. Xena's thing has always been "Be Nice". That's pretty cool -- kinda like The Golden Rule but with fewer syllables. A real 90's appeal, y'know? Makes me wonder if people who talk about the characters really watch the show. Not that people don't have their favourite characters or moments, or have things they don't like, but it is, after all, only a TV show. No excuse for being rude.
Sensei: And Xena taught you this?
Student: Well, sorta. I mean, I always knew about the concept, but the show and the people I've met through it have made me think about it a lot more. In fact, there are a lot of interesting things about the show. It makes me think that a person can redeem themselves and turn around if they really want to and really work at it. It makes me think about relationships and friendships. I've also learnt a lot about double entendres as well. And I've learnt to watch for bloopers -- oops, sorry -- continuity errors. It's even more fun when you watch with a room full of people. Everybody gets something out of it.
Sensei: So this has been a positive, growth experience for you?
Student: By and large, yeah. You know, sensei, I've noticed you end every line with a question.
Sensei: Does this bother you?
Student: See? There you go again! I just thought answers wouldn't be in the form of questions.
Sensei: Have you never watched JEOPARDY?
Student: Oh, yeah. Funny, that. I guess asking questions can also mean getting answers.
Sensei: Indeed, it is the way of things. Did you know it is time for you to go?
Student: [aghast] You mean... I'm enlightened?
Sensei: No, I mean it is time for you to go. I have another class starting in five minutes.
June 24, 1998