In her July editorial, Kym talks about an issue that some in online fandom have been discussing in recent weeks. In light of some recent events, and in the interest of sharing opinions and knowledge, I wanted to share some thoughts and conjecture important to me.
Xenastaff doesn't lie. That's a strong sentence, but it carries a strong meaning. It also covers very succinctly the point that I believe they don't deliberately spread false information or misinform people. I am not on the "inside track" by any stretch of the imagination, but I have gotten to know some of the Xenastaff to the point where if they tell me something, I trust and believe them without reservation.
Let me explain how things work as I understand them.
Xena starts at the top with the man who runs the show: Rob Tapert. Sam Raimi is also up there as well, but the major storylines we see (e.g. DEBT and THE BITTER SUITE and many others) begin with Rob Tapert's concept. He's the guy who ultimately decides the direction the show will go.
How to get the show to that point falls under the auspices and major influence of the top producers, R.J. Stewart and Steve Sears. These guys are a major force in taking the high concept and working out how things will in fact get there via script. They also contribute very significantly and very heavily with ideas and stories all their own, along with other permanent writing staff such as Chris Manheim. All these people are near the top of the Xena "food chain" and they are aided by other staff such as Liz Friedman and a cadre of writers who, while they may not have permanent office space at Renaissance, are regular contributors.
Other people have their input as well. Principle actors always have the ability to make suggestions regarding their characters. Actors who are close to the Renaissance "family" will naturally be more privy to what is going on at any given time than other guest stars, but even so by virtue of distance and function, they are farther removed from the decision making and production process.
I've seen firsthand that all along the production chain, those who make the show have their own inputs and extent of artistic freedom. I think it is a plus that Rob Tapert allows such an exchange of ideas and I personally believe that the product is better for the ability of the "Renaissance family" to contribute so much of their individual talents and suggestions.
But nevertheless, the farther away we go from the top people who make the show, the more likely information is to get garbled, confused, or changed.
Let me cite an example.
Earlier this year, we heard via online chats and, reportedly, on his website, that Bruce Campbell was going to direct the season opener to the fourth season. It was taken for granted as truth when we heard it, considering the source. Recently, we discover that the actual season opener has just been filmed. Were we deceived?
I say we were not deceived.
More likely, Bruce did direct the first episode to be filmed for Season Four, but that does not mean it will be the first episode aired. Further, given the information available at the time, I'm sure he gave out the information that was correct as far as he knew it.
Things change over time, too, even at the production level.
I have seen scripts prior to an episode shooting that were vastly changed during the shoot.
It is quite possible that when Ted said earlier in the year that Joxer would free Callisto in MATERNAL INSTINCT, it was likely from what he heard that was either the plan as far as he knew, or an idea that was being tossed around at the time, or even something that someone told him he took for granted. I have no doubt that at the time he said what he said, it was the truth as he knew it. But things change or can get distorted the farther down the chain one goes. Further, sometimes people can say something in jest or idle speculation that fans take entirely too seriously.
Let everyone take their own place of work as an example.
How many times in your place of employment have you heard a wild rumour, only to find out at the end it bore little or no resemblance to the ultimate truth? How many times removed from the original source did the story get distorted, misunderstood, or misrepresented?
On the one hand, we are fortunate that as Xena fans, so many of the people connected with the show choose to share their thoughts and experiences and plans with us. But we also have to understand, as fans, that things change or get distorted or lost in the translation as much by our own wild enthusiasm or personal paradigms as by legitimate error on the part of the messenger.
When someone from Xenastaff remarked at the Burbank convention "Some of you people watch this show way too closely," I was amused, not offended.
There will always be people who like to think Oliver Stone documents history rather than wild conjecture and/or fantasy in films like JFK. There will always be people who think the "X-Files" are real. The thought of widespread conspiracy often appeals, in my own personal opinion, to those who are too lazy to find their own answers or ask their own questions.
But a conspiracy of disinformation on the part of Xenastaff? I think not. In all my dealings with anyone from Xenastaff at any level, no one has ever lied to me, misled me, or failed to give me a straight answer when I asked a question. On very rare occasions I've been told I could not get an answer to a question or request, but even then, half the time it was because the person I asked didn't know. And as far as the other half of the time in concerned, hey, it's their show and it's their prerogative. I respect that, and I respect them.
You can make the argument that perhaps TPTB could develop a more cohesive strategy about publicizing future episodes and general plans, but that's another subject for another time.
It's just not credible, as busy as I know these people to be, that they'd sit around and plot complex strategies to "fool" fans or fake them out. The fans do entirely too good a job of that on their own.
When you think of the possibility of such widespread conspiracy, think of yourself at your own job, working hard in your cubicle or office or other workspace, concerned about making your next deadline or finishing your work before quitting time and ask yourself "If I don't have time for this, what makes me think others do?"
The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.
July 3, 1998