To write to the editor regarding your comments, observations, and questions about Whoosh!, send an e-mail to email@example.com and mark the subject "Letter to the Editor". All letters with the subject "Letter to the editor" are subject to publication and may be edited. Due to the volume received, some letters may not be answered individually or receipt acknowledged.
The Lesbian Gaze
Hades' Pending Paternity Suit
The Boy Scouts And Tony Todd
A Response To The Lord Nelson Letter
Origins Of The Name Xena
More Ponderings On The Third Season
The Last Embers Of Searsapalooza?
Whoosh Contributes To Fan Negativity
USA Channel Avoiding Episodes?
Hope And Alcmene
Why Do You Cover Hercules?
A Friendly Visit
Preaching To The Choir?
And the Debate Continueth...
The Lesbian GazeTuesday, September 01, 1998
Subject: Letter to the Editor
When I examined the table of contents of the newest issue of "Whoosh" [Whoosh! #24], I was delighted to see that someone was finally examining the issue of "The Lesbian Gaze." However, after reading the article, I have to respectfully disagree with Ms. Stein's methods of establishing the importance of the Lesbian Gaze within "Xena: Warrior Princess" and how queer viewers may access it.
Indeed, by beginning her paper with the invocation of Mulvey's "Visual and Other Pleasures," Ms. Stein goes right to the heart of the issues of cinema and spectatorship. And while Mulvey has been rightly taken to task by many subsequent Queer Theorists for her sometimes exclusionary analysis, what Ms. Stein fails to establish for the reader here-- and it is *essential* for her argument-- is both the context of Mulvey's article and Mulvey's perhaps ulterior motive.
Succinctly put, "Visual and Other Pleasures" posits that the "triple gaze"-- i.e., that of camera (directors and studio heads), subject (the actor on the screen), and spectator (the person in the audience)-- has historically been controlled at all axis by men. If you enjoy statistics, please note: less than 2% of members of the Directors Guild of America are women, to my knowledge, only one woman is currently in charge of a major studio (and she's one of two or three historically). Financially speaking, these are the folks who have the authority to "greenlight" a film-- i.e., get it made. In terms of "subject" power-- look at the discrepancy between male and female acting salaries. The folks who can "open" a film and guarantee an audience are the ones who get the big bucks. Who are they? Willis, DiCaprio, Pitt, Travolta. Even Stallone still commands a $20 million dollar salary and when was the last time he had a hit? Demographically, the majority of movies are targeted towards men, aged 18-34. (Although the Titanic phenomenon may change that some, but it's doubtful).
So, it's logical to argue that 99% of all "mainstream" movies-- i.e., those that have a plot, characters, etc.-- are made in a heterosexist, patriarchal atmosphere. Loosely translated, all that means in everyday terms is that in this point in our historical evolution men control most of the toys and money. Thus, Mulvey was, in a sense, right (if only by her omission). Queer viewers (gay, lesbian and everything in between) *DO* approach cinema from a dispossessed and marginalized position.
This was the point in Ms. Stein's article that I expected her to outline the work that Queer Theorists have done, springboarding from Mulvey's work. This is where her article begins to go astray and becomes locked in a misleading and ultimately pointless exercise in a falsely binary comparison. I'll take a minute to briefly summarize (and, no doubt simplify) the general basis of Queer Theory. (There are a number of outstanding texts that do this better than I such as "Fatal Women" edited by Lynda Hart, "Immortal Invisible" ed. by Tamsin Wilton, "Queer Looks" ed. by Gever et al, "Perversions" by Mandy Merck, and "A Queer Romance" ed by Paul Burston and Colin Richardson to but name a few.)
Queer Theorists by and large argue that the subconscious (excuse the Freudian term, I realize that most Queer Theory is rooted in Lacanian analysis, but it best identifies all those nasty unrealized/unvoiced impulses we have) influences everything we do-- so naturally, when one is a filmmaker, it will appear somehow on screen and conflict with what is supposed to be the "maintext." (In Xenaverse terms, this would be the manifestation of Subtext in spite of the explicitly heterosexual relationships depicted on screen). Queer viewers consciously or not, pick up on these conflicts and they become points of identification. (Xena and Gabrielle as a butch-femme couple for instance). These points-- known as points of disruption-- are the means by which a queer viewer can then "enter" a film and begin to identify with the subjects. It's how we position ourselves when we go to the movies, knowingly or not, and find something pleasurable in the experience.
What this rather long-winded explanation leads me to in terms of Ms. Stein's article is-- rather than taking the many and varied points of disruption within the text of "Xena: Warrior Princess," Ms. Stein instead sets up a false binary analysis, where she "establishes" the legitimacy of the Lesbian (queer) Gaze in the show and Xena as a feminist heroine by knocking down the straw dogs of Ellen Ripley in the "Alien" cycle and Sarah Conner in the "Terminator" cycle. Not only is this false analysis unnecessary, it seems to me that Ms. Stein either misses the point of both historically important series of films or simply decides to bend it rather untidily to her purposes.
I realize that the pages of "Whoosh" are not the place for an analysis of these films, but I must say that it is important to recognize that both series of films are about *humanity* in crisis-- and yes, I recognize that this necessarily creates parallels with our current state of gender crisis.
In gross terms, the journey that Ellen Ripley takes is not that of a woman who attempts to become a man because being a woman isn't good enough. Rather, Ripley finds herself in a situation where what it means to be "human" radically changes, and she finds herself both the "creator" and the first "citizen" of this new species. In "Alien" the entire crew is placed in a "feminized" position as they are stalked by the predator. Humanity's crisis begins. The much-vaunted "underwear" scene at the end of the film only serves to highlight the victimization of her *crew* not just the women. Indeed the first victim of this "rapist/murderer" alien is a man.
In "Aliens" Ripley, facing her second battle with this new species, attempts to reclaim her humanity-- indeed reaffirm her *life* by forming a traditional family with Hicks and Newt. This is the main option that has been traditionally open to women to validate themselves. Her attempt is in direct opposition to the way the "mother" alien (and this is where most of the Monstrous Feminine imagery comes from) is perceived. Ripley is (in simple Lacanian terms) trying to establish *who she is* by pointing at the Alien and saying, "I am not that." Humanity's crisis deepens-- because by saying, "I am not that," there is an identification implied.
Ripley's attempts at identification fail at the start of "Alien 3" because of the crash that kills her "family." She then forsakes trying to identify herself as human *through her gender* and becomes an androgynous martyr figure whose only purpose in life is to eradicate that which threatens humanity. But the evolution has already begun... She has been impregnated with another alien-- another queen, and once she realizes it, she identifies herself as one of the alien's "Family" even as she tries to kill them. Knowing that to kill the alien is to kill herself as well-- she has become something that is not human, nor is it alien. A new species is being gestated-- and the site is Ripley's body itself, not what is inside that body.
Birth is not longer biological in a sense. It is interesting that this is the only film where Ripley has sexual intercourse... her last attempt at human identification, and it evokes a curious combination of homosexual and heterosexual images because of the circumstances. By the end of the film she has become a combination Christ/Madonna figure (she is both male and female, both human and god), flinging herself into the lava while at the same time cradling the newborn alien that has just ripped through her chest.
"Alien Resurrection" lives up to its name as a new species is born-- and it's Ripley herself. The crisis between alien and human exists... but Ripley is the solution, as the aliens and the humans are destroyed. Call and Ripley-- the most explictly non-human/non-alien pair. This film is where the question of what it means to be human is most explicitly called into question. Yes, Ripley is a clone who has both human and alien characteristics-- but she still feels the same rabid protectiveness of the human body and need to eradicate the traditional alien as she did before. Call (Winona Ryder) is a replicant, but she has the greatest love for humanity-- she has come to the base explicitly to continue the "human" Ripley's quest to destroy the alien. Indeed, in the most grotesque parody of what it means to be human, the scientists were attempting to make the alien *more* human, and thus malleable to their (the military's) purposes. Their efforts result in the biggest horror of all.
I won't go into "The Terminator." I've rambled on far too long. But what is important to note is that in each instance in Ms. Stein's analysis, she cites ways that Ripley and Sarah don't "measure" up to the feminist call to honor... and that Xena does. Thus she is a "more worthy" icon for Lesbians to gaze upon. This is a curious analysis... and I don't believe the visually conflicted texts of the "Terminator" and the "Alien" films make them a *less* important site for Queer extrapolation, but indeed more so... because they are so evidently wrought with trauma. Queer Theory attempts to position itself as "post-gender" just as these films position themselves to be "post-human." Donna Haraway has done some outstanding work in the concept of the "cyborg". Additionally a wonderful book called "Projecting the Shadow" that also examines these conflicts.
To return to Xena: What I believe is a more productive line of argument, is to instead, look at the text of "Xena: Warrior Princess" itself, find those points of disruption and argue from there. The largest example I can think of is to examine the difference between Xena's explicitly sexual relationships with men and her implied sexual relationships with women. The text of the show has explicitly stated that Xena has slept with Borias, Caesar, and Marcus. She has had undeniably (but only questionably sexual) relationships with M'Lila, Lao Ma, and Gabrielle. The place where the queer viewer can slip into the text is to ask the simple question: What have the relationships meant to Xena? What have each of these people taught Xena about love and caring? This is the conflict of maintext (the sexual relationships with men) versus subtext (the "close" relationships with women) personified. And it is undoubtedly where this queer viewer lives.
Atara Stein Responded:
Ms. Bowers argues that most mainstream films are "made in a heterosexist, patriarchal atmosphere", a point I don't deny, although I question her figure of 99%. However, I don't have the statistics to provide an adequate analysis. Interestingly, despite this claim, her letter goes on to defend the _Alien_ films and _Terminator 2_, films directed exclusively by men and aimed at the very audience she mentions in her third paragraph ("men, aged 18-34"), as sites "for Queer extrapolation". She argues that the Alien films depict Ripley's situation in "human" terms, and cites "post-gender" possibilities for reading those films. In this case, I believe her reading is one of many possible ways of weighing the scenarios in the films. She emphasizes different aspects than I do, and I'm the last person to insist that such complex films can be interpreted in only one way. I'm a fan of Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley, but I do believe that Xena is indeed a more successful feminist icon.
What I do wish to argue is her application of Queer Theory and Lacanian psychoanalysis to XWP. First of all, I do not believe that Queer Theory is any more a monolith than feminist theory is, and her attempt at providing a single definition of Queer Theory strikes me as misleading. Ms. Bowers describes the subtext as an unconscious disruption of the "explicitly heterosexual" maintext, which she locates in Xena's relationships with Borias, Caesar, and Marcus (and I might add, Hercules). I do not believe that the subtext is an unconscious disruption of anything; it has been a deliberate element introduced into the series since the first season, one originally treated as a joke, and then later taken more seriously.
I also do not believe that Xena's heterosexuality is the main text of the series. Instead, I would argue that the main text is Xena's relationship with Gabrielle. In fact, the series' creators have confirmed in numerous interviews that Xena's relationship with Gabrielle is the focus of the series. This focus has been particularly made main text in the third season, with the development of the Rift story arc (which achieved its climax in THE BITTER SUITE, an episode that was all about the characters' relationship), the declarations of love and lifetime commitment, and the jealousy theme developed in FORGET ME NOT.
What is *sub*textual is whether that relationship is sexual, and as Ms. Bowers notes, Xena's sexual relationships with men are explicitly portrayed, while sexual relationships with women are only implied. Yet, such episodes as A DAY IN THE LIFE and FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS introduce a type of sexual innuendo that used to be typical of television shows in which a *heterosexual* couple had an ambiguously sexual relationship ("Remington Steele" and "Moonlighting" are examples). Despite her citations of third season episodes, Ms. Bowers' discussion of the subtext seems to apply primarily to the first season, where it can be argued that subtextual elements were not deliberately inserted into the episodes. By the second season, however, there is nothing unconscious about the subtext.
Ms. Bowers draws a binary distinction between a heterosexual main text and a lesbian subtext in XWP, but I think it is more accurate that the controversy arises over the nature of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship--are they friends or lovers? I have yet to hear a fan claim that the relationship, however defined, is not absolutely central to the series. In fact, Xena's relationships with men are usually disposed of in one or two episodes and are included, I believe, at least partially to placate conservative advertisers and viewers. Within the overall context of the series, such relationships are peripheral to the main text, the relationship (whether sexual or not) between two women.
Hades' Pending Paternity Suit
Friday, September 11, 1998
Subject: Letter to the Editor
I would like to comment on Margaret Matthew's article in the Sept. Issue of Whoosh!,"Is Xena's Father a God?" [http://whoosh.org/issue24/matthews.html]. What a brilliant, well-thought-out and researched piece of work! It is by far the best and most convincing of any of the articles discussing Xena's parentage so far, including the accompanying article by Grant McFarland in the same issue.
I do not want Ares to be Xena's father, mainly because of his attitude toward her (a definite sexual tension, which would bring up an incest issue. I cannot imagine that TPTB would depict this type of relationship, while shying away from showing a simple kiss between Xena and Gabrielle)and toward Cyrene (no chemistry, he even looked repulsed by her in THE FURIES). Ares also tries his best to make Xena's life as difficult as possible, which is not very father-like.
The Hades theory works nicely. The relationship between Hades and Xena has always been fatherly, or at least big-brotherly. I could see Hades on the surface sowing his wild oats in the early days, before settling down with Persephone. Xena has never failed to come to Hades aid, with nothing asked in return. And, Xena has free access to the underworld, a privilege granted only to demigods such as Hercules. Xena has the powers of a demigod, with only Hercules being stronger than she. Ares calls her "the only mortal who can sense when I'm around". Since he calls her a mortal, he thinks that she is not a demigod, in spite of her powers, only because he knows that he is not the father.
As far as Xena being a demigod, in THE QUEST, it was interesting that her body did not deteriorate one iota after several days in a Sarcophagus, and also that Xena did not go to Hades, but rather was in a netherworld, a dreamworld, and her spirit was able to exist in the real world. It is hard to explain a mere mortal accomplishing this.
So I believe that Ms. Matthews is right on the money with her theory in a well-done article.
The Boy Scouts And Tony Todd
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998
Subject: Tony Todd interview
Thank you for saying such good things about Boy Scouts in the Tony Todd interview [Whoosh! #24 (09/98)]. It was wonderful to read positive things said about Scouts these days. It seems that the media only wants to put down the Scouts as being silly or out of touch.
Bret Rudnick Responded:
Thanks very much for the kind words about the Tony Todd interview.
Even as far back as when I was in Scouts (yes they did have Scouts back then) it seemed fashionable for some people not involved with it to bash it for one reason or another. There are some legitimate complaints about the organisation and a lot of frivolous ones, but overall, I was very grateful for the Scout experience and, growing up in a single parent household (mother), it supplied an extension of family and opportunity that was badly needed.
Not only did Scouts teach me how to camp safely, how to tell poisonous plants from benign ones, how to apply first aid, how to cook, how to maintain good health and fitness, how my actions impact on society at large, how to keep my clothes clean, how to find my way by the sun and stars, how to tie the right knot at the right time, how to conserve wildlife and the wilderness, how to respect my fellow human being and his or her culture and history, Scouts also taught me how to basically "be nice" and helped mold (or at least confirm) a basic set of values.
If that's "silly" or "out of touch" I'm glad that I was a Scout, and a part of me still is and always will be.
Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1998
Subject: Karl Urban interview
Well, I've said it many times before, but you seem like a nice down to earth guy, so I'm sure you won't let it go to your head;) Your interviews are the best! The questions you ask are so well thought out and generate some really interesting responses.
Its reassuring to me that a fan such as yourself is, in a way, representing a large portion of fans to these stars. As you brought up in your editorial, some fans out there are downright scary! But I feel comfortable knowing that the stars are getting a taste of positive fandom=)
And as for Mr. Urban, well, you need not go any further than my site to find my opinions towards him and his talented performances. So, I'll refrain from gushing about him...for the time being *L* Seriously though, I'm happy to see he is also a nice down to earth man. It's amazing how different the acting biz is treated between our two countries. I find this the best part of the location shooting of Herc/Xena. You're very unlikely to find a Hollywood "bighead" on either show. They all just seem to be having fun, as Karl pointed out in the interview. Thanks again for another great interview. I'm already awaiting the next one =)
Wednesday, September 02, 1998
I am always happy to come across evidence that Shakespeare is still part of our cultural heritage, but when cR@clear.net.nz wrote that, "There's no criticism I've seen (or read) about the 'Rift' episodes that couldn't be levelled with equal or greater force at Shakespeare. In fact the 'Rift' could almost be the plot for a Shakespearean tragedy," I must admit I wondered if this correspondent had the same Shakespeare in mind.
In Shakespeare's defence, may I point out that he never encourages his audience to admire and cheer on butchery, cruelty and selfishness. Indeed, I am sure he would have taken a very dim view of dragging people behind horses (or, for that matter, cars), and would have been most disconcerted had members of his audience risen to applaud such acts (as some fans of XWP proudly declare they did).
Nor does he assume that his heroes are beyond criticism. "Coriolanus" exposes its "hero" mercilessly, for example. Even "Hamlet" is objective about its central character's faults.
And when horrible things happen to his characters (and they do, usually to the defenceless, and often as a consequence of the flawed nature of the "hero" of the play concerned), then the horror and the harm are fully acknowleged and not swept aside with a song and a dance.
In other words, Shakespeare had a fully functioning moral sense, and so did the worlds he created. It is a pity that the same cannot be said about XWP during much of season 3.
If you like Shakespeare, be sure to read Gregory Swenson's "Xena Does Shakespeare: The Callisto Episode Arcs" Whoosh! #14 (11/97)
A Response To The Lord Nelson Letter
Friday, September 11, 1998
Subject: Letter for Whoosh!
If I may refer to an excerpt from Lord Nelson's Letter to the Editor Whoosh #24 (September 1998):
"I think it's become high time for web page operators and list managers to get the uncivil out of Xena fandom. If this is censorship, so be it. Speaking one's mind is not the same as being deliberately insulting. The uncivil are a loud minority trying to usurp our fun. I want criticism to be cognizant of the professionalism, competence, and comitment to Xena of the writing staff and the performers. Honest disagreement can still be expressed WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF LOVE OF THE SHOW. But this disagreement MUST recognize that the producers owe us nothing but their vision of Xena. I want the fear, loathing, conspiracy theories and soapbox standing to end. Most of all, I want those Xenastaffers who were on the net having fun along with the fans so long ago back on to do the same thing.With regard to Lord Nelson's call for all website owners and list managers to censure or purge dissenting voices from the fora of XWP, I must wonder just which fans or groups of fans he includes among the "uncivil" who must be purged from Xena fandom? Is it those people who object to the idea of a Joxer/ Gabrielle romance? Those whose political and ethical sensibilities differ from those presented in third season XWP? Subtexters? The fans who pointed out XWP's drop in ratings over the past year? Although all of these groups are listed among those which Lord Nelson considers to harbor the "uncivil", the voices of dissent within this fandom are comprised of more than just some invisible but vocal minority wishing to usurp his fun.
"To paraphrase Xena, "BE NICE" or move along."
I would like to point out that some of the most cogent critics of XWP's third season have also been among the most intense fans of seasons one and two, among its most creative, and many have also been - like Lord Nelson - around since the very earliest days of XWP. These are the same people who fly across the country to attend cons, who write wonderful tomes of fan fiction, who build and maintain websites dedicated to XWP. He puts out the clarion call for webpage operators and list managers to stage a purge, but perhaps unknowingly directs his crusade at some of the very people who are either among the dissenting voices, or who are at least unwilling to pay the price of censure in order to prove themselves as "true fans".
Would he purge Barron Chugg, who is the web operator for Barron's Xena Page, or RagnaROC, the web operator for the ROCzone? How about Lunacy, who authors Lunacy's Fan Fiction Report for the benefit of all fans? Perhaps Clan MacConnor should shut down both its list and website, because we will not exile dissenters - yes, some of us are among those same "uncivil" and disloyal fans who tried to usurp his fun by staging such things as the ROCstock Arts Festival this summer. Perhaps blacklisting fans like Penth, former co-warlord of the Xenaverse, from any list participation would help to make the fora safe for the "true fan" of XWP.
So I ask, where does it begin, and where does it end?
Laird Emeritus, Clan MacConnor; Editor, the Gabberish Lexicon
Melissa "Hawkeye" Blake: Co-Laird of Clan MacConnor
Roger "RagnaROC" Duarte: website owner, The ROCzone! and Chief ROCvocate for Clan MacConnor
Alan Bolick, aka EmperorPenguin: fanfic author
Lunacy: author, Lunacy's Fan Fiction Reports
Ella Quince: fanfic author and website operator for The Blue Quill
Mary Morgan: fanfic author
Ally Veal: fan and former digest archivist for Xenaverse
Titan, aka Tracy Barnett: webmaster of The Broken Sword; Clan MacConnor Advisory Council; Xena Online Resources WebTeam member
Pam Dunn: Clan MacConnor Tanist; webmaster for The Bard ROC Cafe
Barron Chugg: webmaster for Barron's Xena Page
Penth (aka Carole Breakstone): former Co-Warlord of Xenaverse; current administrator of a mailing list for Xenites with dissenting opinions
PB "Psycho Bunny" Lipscott: fanfic author; fan artist; webmaster, Pink Rabbit Productions
Arlene Bolton: fanfic author
Robin Lombard: Clan MacConnor List Steward (MacGab list manager)
Michael Evans-Layng, aka xenaphile: Keeper of the Netforum FAQs, Whoosh author
Dana Cory: fanfic author
ICZBLUE: Zoncon organizing committee
Chita Jing: Keeper of the FAQ for the alt.tv.xena-subtext.misc newsgroup.
TazzLuvr: fan and Whoosh! contributor
Laine Lawless: fanfic author
bardeyes: Webmaster of The Xenaverse Codex
Mickisix: Webmaster: FLawless Space
Della Street: fanfic author
Jodi "Buckeye" Norman: co-Laird Clan MacConnor; website owner/operator,Gabrielle's Place
Jenny: listress, DCdroolers (Danielle Cormack) mailing list
Date: Thursday, August 27, 1998
Subject: Your Whoosh editorial
RE: "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." [from "The Night of the Cancelled Conspiracy", editorial by Bret Rudnick, Whoosh! #23 (08/98).
I don't really know what the brouhaha was about which precipitated the subject of your editorial, but I feel compelled to comment on behalf of those who believe in conspiracy theories. On some, I am a bit skeptical. I don't believe there is some cohesive "master" plan to, for instance, keep women and religious and ethnic minorities in the category of lesser "other." Yet because of the way capitalism and skanky, selfish, rich, white males of European decent-media moguls operate (a slight bias may be in evidence here ) that is precisely what DOES happen to women, minorities, etc. Having met people (yes, fans of "The X Files") who truly believe we are not alone based on their personal experiences I take exception to your labeling them as "lazy." Perhaps this was not your intended meaning?
Perhaps if I were the sort to email wildly about with righteous indignation about your maligning people who believe the government is trying to cover up instances of alien visitations I could fall into the subject matter of your "The Rumors Have it" editorial. Thankfully, I am not that sort. The sort I am is to wildly ramble, and now I am done.
Bret Rubnick Responded:
To focus on one of your comments in particular, you wrote:Having met people (yes, fans of "The X Files") who truly believe we are not alone based on their personal experiences I take ecception to your labelling them as "lazy." Perhaps this was not your intended meaning?
Don't get me wrong, I'm an X-FILES fan too. I just don't believe they are real. Fluke-Man and alien spaceships in the Antarctic or desert are entertaining stories, but those are fiction. Four years as a Peace Officer for the State of California and several years experience in state-of-the-art aerospace projects have, by way of personal experience, taught me that real life is far scarier than television, and no visiting aliens need to be involved. (: It seems to me that of course it's quite likely there is life beyond this planet, and I've even worked on NASA projects looking for it (VIKING and PIONEER to name two), but as far as I know we haven't found any yet.
I said this was my own personal opinion, meaning that it is my opinion, not a statement of fact. I also said "often" not "always", meaning that I believe there are, on occasion, actual conspiracies of one sort or another, again in my opinion, worthy of merit. But I did not feel the two examples cited earlier in the same paragraph fell into the "worthy of merit" category. I think context is also important, and the above quoted sentence ends a paragraph, it doesn't start one.
I like the point you make about some groups being oppressed by others. If not a conspiracy, it's certainly a serious social deficiency. Whether conspiracy or deficiency, it's a subject defintely worthy of merit, and indeed is one of the the issues XENA deals with from time to time.
Your opinions and beliefs are important to you and I respect that. It's certainly your right to express them, and I thank you for sharing them. Our opinions might not coincide, but I would never "malign" you for having one, especially since there is no malice or hatred in my heart, which is the basis for the definition of the word.
Date: Wednesday, August 05, 1998
Subject: Topless women talk about their lives by Mark Allen
I understand that, since Xena guest stars appeared in this series, a review of it was included in Whoosh. But what was the purpose of showing an anonymous "topless woman"? ["Topless Women Talk About Their Lives" by Mark Allen, Whoosh! #23 (08/98).
It's hard to see the comedy in this article or the series it discusses when one thinks of the circumstances that lead women into the strip club industry. There are a wide range of factors that contribute; certainly educational and economic environments play a role. Women with little education have few employment options available to them which can sustain them (and any offspring they may have). We live in a society that drives home the message that women's bodies are commerce in a way that men's are not. (And please, no emails about playgirl and male strip clubs. The context for those is entirely different.)
It is not uncommon for women in this industry to be surviving (how well I cannot say) victims of childhood sexual abuse. A nurse practitioner friend, who works near a "red light" strip joint district, describes how an overwhelming majority of her patients who work there experienced incest or other sexual abuse as children.
Thus I fail to see the humour in "Watching a number of topless women speaking some of the lamest dialogue ever written."
Editor Bret Rudnick Responded:
I feel somewhat compelled to defend Mark Allen's article, partly because I have seen the film TWTATL, and partly because this is one of the very rare cases where I had nothing to do with the graphics for the article. Nowadays, 99% of the time, I'm the guy who selects pictures to go along with the articles. But Mark Allen's article was one of those rare cases where it came as a complete package -- he had done both the text and the graphics. So I was actually able to just sit back and enjoy it rather than have to look at it with any sort of critical or editorial eye.
Having said that, I have to say his choice of pictures and captions were emminently representative of the film. He did a good job capturing what I felt were both the spirit and intent of the film.
TWTATL is not a simple film. It is very complex and has quite a few plot threads running through it. One of them, however, is the title itself. TOPLESS WOMEN TALK ABOUT THEIR LIVES is indeed not only the title of the Harry Sinclair film, but of the fictitious film one of the lead characters in it is responsible for.
In the film, the script is abandoned on a New Zealand beach only to be found by a German tourist who is also a film maker. This is why in the "topless" film we see, all the "topless" women are speaking in German and we have to have English subtitles. It is a mixture of irony, satire, and sarcasm that some might not like, but I myself truly appreciated. Since this is a key scene in the film, it is only appropriate for Mark Allen to include that graphic in the article. As a graphics editor, I would have done the same.
It's hard to see the comedy in this article - or the series it discusses - when one thinks of the circumstances that lead women into the strip club industry.The one has nothing to do with the other. How do we go from a review of a film that itself parodies film, to a discussion of the strip club industry? They are mutually exclusive in this case. There are no strippers in TWTATL. The film that Ian Hughes' character makes has relatively normal, everyday scenes of women talking about their lives who happen to be topless. In the film TWTATL we see that part of this is because Hughes' character has a breast fixation and he's more than a little dotty. So we have what would be a normal scene made "artful" by simple having the women go topless. So the theory goes, apparently.
Thus I fail to see the humour in "Watching a number of topless women speaking some of the lamest dialogue ever written."I would respectfully suggest you wrote the above not having seen the film. I don't see how anyone who had indeed seen the film could make the bridge between it and strip clubs. This is not an easy film to watch -- it's complex and very fast-moving. Parts of it are very intense and not for the feint of spirit. Personally, I think it's best viewed as it was originally created; a series of short subjects. But "exploitive" isn't an epithet that can be applied to it.
Origins Of The Name Xena
Wednesday, August 26, 1998
Subject: Origins of the name Xena
To the editor:
I am recently converted to the ranks of rabid Xena fans, and have combed the internet sites related to the show looking for info I missed on episodes that aired prior to my conversion, etc. Your site is one of, if not the most informative and interesting I have found. Congratulations and thank you for doing such a good job.
I just wanted to write to point out a couple of things about the name "Xena." The other day, relevant to some other work I was doing, the word "xenophobia" came into my mind. I already knew that it meant "fear of outsiders or strangers", and is often used in connection with the current anti-immigrant trend in certain sectors of the U.S. But this time, being a new XWP fan, I was struck by the similarity of the word xenophobia to the name of my favorite hero.
So I looked it up in the dictionary to check on the origins of the word. This is what I found: "xenial", a word pertaining to hospitable customs, especially as practiced in ancient Greece, comes from the Greek word "xenia" which meant "the rights of a guest or friend". "Xenia" was derived from the root word "xenos" meaning guest or friend.
"Xenium," plural "xenia," is the newer version of the ancient Greek word "xenion," plural "xenia," which meant "a gift to a friend".
Then there's "Xenophobia," which is a combination of the ancient Greek "Xenos", this time defined as "strange, foreign, a stranger", and the ancient Greek "phobos" meaning fear. Thus, the modern meaning, "fear of strangers".
The origins of Renaissance Pictures' character of "Hercules" are obvious, even though the play fast and loose with Greek mythology in the "Hercules" series. But I've always wondered where they came up with the idea of "Xena", and how they decided on that name. You folks at Whoosh seem to have some connections with the staff of the show, so maybe you could find out about that, and if the Warrior Princess' name is in any way related to the ancient Greek "xenos". In my opinion, it would be a fitting name, whether based on either xenos as friend, or xenos as stranger.
Please note that I took my information from the "Webster's Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary: Second Edition," copyright 1979.
Friday, August 21, 1998
Subject: Letter to the Editor
In the minds of viewers the content of the show is rarely divorced from the context of its medium. Is it so surprising that some fans of XWP interpreted the Dahak/Gabrielle scene in THE DELIVERER as sexual, given that we know we'll never see the anatomical act (consensual or otherwise) on 'family' TV?
In MORTAL BELOVED, Xena and Marcus had sex; at least I interpreted their scene that way: night falls, they draw close, we fade out to romantic music... the moon sets, the sun rises... and we interpret: Xena and Marcus have made love.
In THE DELIVERER, Dahak's fiery yet physically tangible tendrils grab Gabrielle by the ankle, drag her to an altar, suspend her on her back - she cries out in pain... and viewers interpret: Dahak has raped Gabrielle.
I wasn't one of them at that point (although Gabrielle's subsequent pregnancy seemed to confirm it later) but I'd read spoiler-ish reassurances from Xena-staff that there would be no rape and perhaps that coloured (or shielded?) my interpretation. The scene left me thinking 'Well, I believe you because you said so.' But viewers' awareness of the nature of the medium also affects interpretation, and in a show in which this kind of scene is the nearest to an anatomical rape we're likely to be allowed to see, that's exactly how many folk will interpret it.
More Ponderings On The Third Season
Tuesday, September 01, 1998
Subject: Letter to the Editor
With the XWS [XENA Withdrawal Syndrome] at a screamingly crazy high this point in the summer...and the raging debates and speculation reaching a fever pitch... I can only thank Whoosh! for giving so many people an outlet to share their views, opinions and passions in such a creative environment.
For my humble opinion... I disagreed with some of the choices that TPTB made in the 3rd season and I wildly enthused about others. Ultimately I rather enjoyed 3rd season and while there were a few clunkers, (King of Assassins, anyone?) one can certainly NOT acuse TPTB for resting on their laurels. They enjoy taking risks and taking our heroines where no heroines have gone before. I for one am grateful that the show doesn't get too 'fanfic'.
It's one thing to read about X and G and their tender moments but too much of it on screen rather dilutes the effect. Think how many times they said, "I love you." during 3rd season. I was quite startled and pleased the first time G stated in no unequiviocal terms her feelings for Xena...and the shrugged, "Luv ya too, Gabrielle," from Xena. True, I felt they were using the statement as a bandaid on what would later become a major wound, but at least it was said. However by the time When in Rome aired...I found myself rolling my eyes at the mutual declaration. Don't over do, people.
I like to be surprised...I like formulas shaken up. I like that they killed off Jadzia Dax in DS9...I had my interest rekindled in ST:Voyager when they got rid of Kes and brought in the fascinating Seven of Nine. With Xena I've watched with interest the gamut they put Gabrielle though. I thought they went too far in some episodes...but frankly, BAD things happen to GOOD people...and it's how they choose to react that ultimately determines character. It was easy for Gabrielle to moralize and pass judgments when she was still an innocent...(and I'm not just talking blood here...) but if she could still do that AFTER having experienceing the horrors she had...THEN she would be a character worthy of respect.
All the great philosophers and people who have changed the course of history for good experienced dramatic cruelities. (Think of what Jesus of Nazareth experienced. The agonies of the Garden aside...Xena really dumbs down how horrific crucifixion really was.) The experiences made these people stronger, helped them understand `the nature of the beast' as it were and ultimately shaped them into the phenomenal people they became. If we were to believe that Gabrielle was to be destined for such greatness, and it has been hinted at, hen we have to also accept that she would have to experience some dramatic horrors.
I'm hoping in 4th season we have a tougher, more capable bard... a more sensative bard and one that is going to be profoundly affected by her experiences. There have been rumors that Gabrielle is going to be discovering and researching different religions. What a worthy topic for our Bard to pursue. I would like to see Gabrielle ask herself some deep questions that I think everyone ultimately asks themselves.
Xena can race around and have all the flashbacks she wants, getting into some serious b*tt kicking along the way, but I think I will find myself more interested in Gabrielles exploration of The Meaning of Life. Basically I have been and continue to find myself fascinated by this series. Here's to 4th season, may it serve to surprise, delight, entertain and yes, horrify us!
Jeanette Atwood T.G.
The Last Embers Of Searsapalooza?
Monday, August 24, 1998
Subject: letter to the editor
i enjoyed the recent steven sears article very much ["An Interview with Steven L. Sears" by Bret Ryan Rudnick, Whoosh! #22 (07/97). i was glad that he blatantly stated xena and gabrielle are not having sex. i do wonder how many men the lead characters have to sleep with before people realize they are friends and not lovers. i watch this show and i see subtext that is sexual, but i don't take it as lesbian sex.
i think the powers that be at XWP are divided as to how they see the characters.(i.e. liz friedman, josh becker, steven sears, rob tapert). if they are divided, no wonder there is so much controversy amongst us viewers! i think controversy is what they wanted. they wanted to tease the audience and some how it got out of hand. i think the one responsible for all this is the head man, rob tapert. he was the one who envisioned xena, he is the one who knows who she is. he knows what kind of a character he created, and what he created on the show to get people to watch it. somewhere along the way subtext was created and xena got lost. who the characters were and what heroic deeds they were doing became less important than what they did sexually. did rob get away from his vision of xena, only he knows. did he envision her as a lesbian? did he put in gabrielle to be xena's lover? i think he answered that when he said they like men.
i love this show for the friendship between the characters. i watch it to see the lives of two very different people who are friends. i watch it to see them do good in the world. i agree with sears about joxer in forget me not. the whole point was that joxer did not take advantage of gabrielle. at first he thought about it but decided to do the right thing, that was the point! there was no attempted rape. if he had wanted her she was right there and willing, he stopped it. i think most of season three was a big mistake. i will wait to see season four to see if they can rectify some of the colossal mistakes they made. if all the powers that be at XWP (rob tapert, cast, and crew) got on the highest mountain top and shouted that xena and gabrielle are not lesbians, would all the viewers get it? unfortunately, i don't think they would do it anyway.
Whoosh! Contributes To Fan Negativity
Tuesday, September 01, 1998
In the articles posted on Whoosh!, they list not only their favorite episode and characters, but also their least favorite. I feel this adds unnecessary negativity to an already heated Xenaverse.
Rob Lent Antiwolf@aol.com
Tuesday, September 15, 1998
Subject: Letter to the editor
Re: Gabrielle Toy figure from Toy Biz
I'm in agreement with Kathy in last month's [letter] column in regards to the ToyBiz Gabrielle figure. I am a longtime member of Clan MacConnor and was advocating for Gabrielle action figures when the original set of Xena's came out with the Herc figures. Imagine my dismay when I FINALLY get what I had be clamoring for well over a year and they package her as the ancient Greek version of Arnie the Commando.
Kathy and anyone else who is miffed over this, here is my suggestion: put all those unnecessary accessories in an envelope and mail them back to ToyBiz with a short note explaining that the staff is the only proper accessory they packaged with Gabrielle. Tell them what they should have packaged- tell them how you feel! Then start scouring the net and cons for creative folks who can make you the proper accessories to make yuir 6" Gabby complete and authentic!
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