From the Graphics Editor: THE NIGHT OF THE FESTIVE XENAFEST
From the Coding Editor: FRIENDS AND NUTBALLS (FANS): THE BATTLE OF THE SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS
From the Graphics Editor: The Night Of The Festive Xenafest
I've pretty much dropped out of XENA fandom these days.
I've unsubbed from all the mailing lists, stopped checking message boards, and pretty much stick close to home, at least figuratively speaking. WHOOSH! is the only fan thing I continue to participate in on anything like a regular basis.
Part of that is just the necessities of life. To borrow a quote from Queen Elizabeth II, 1999 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. This applies to fan life as well as real life. Real life has been very trying, and fan life has taken its toll with the increase of various squabbles in one form or another.
As regards fan life, however, there is still the occasional high point which reminds me of why I got into fandom in the first place, and one of those high points was the Pittsburgh Xenafest which was held on 17 April.
It was a small gathering. I doubt if more than 30 people attended in total. But quality certainly has a lead on quantity as far as this group is concerned.
There were many familiar faces present, those I knew by name and those I knew by sight but whose name escaped me. I'll not mention any names, lest I inadvertently embarrass any of them by association. There were also some I met for the first time and had never seen before.
Everyone was the quintessential personification of all the good things Xenites should be. We all talked about many things. Many of us were dejected over the cancellation of YOUNG HERC, many more were despondent over the apparent end of HERCULES, and we all wondered, fretted, exulted, or pondered, in various combinations, what the future held for XENA. Joxerphiles coexisted quite peacefully with Joxerphobes. Pro and anti subtexters broke bread with one another. THE WAY and all the controversy surrounding it was briefly touched upon by a few attendees, blissfully unheeding of the torpid waters in some circles of fandom regarding the issue, and most often summed up in the phrase "Get over it". There wasn't even the slightest hint of animosity on any level I could detect. Even amongst those with differing points of view there was a "Sure, that's cool," attitude, demonstrative of fandom of old.
People talked. People listened. People interacted.
It was an absolute pleasure and delight to be a part of it.
In the morning, there were a couple of competitions and games that involved everyone, from a "name that episode clip" event to a 3-team match of "pin the scar on the warlord" in which the teams had to come up with the most unique injuries Xena had received in the course of the show. People had fun, and were more in competition with themselves than anyone else. It was certainly a bond-conducive experience.
One of the big highlights of the day was a guest appearance by Tom "Atrius" Atkins. He talked about his general experiences in acting and with the XENA episode he was in. We viewed the episode and he sat with us in the audience, VCR remote in hand, and paused at various places to tell us about what went on in this scene or that. We were delighted with stories about how the crew would have to beat the trees to silence the cicadas, but how the whole episode had to be looped anywise because the bugs were so loud. We saw one scene that looked for all the world like Tom riding a horse, but he explained he was actually on the back of an ATV to make it look that way. He was thoroughly charming and a wonderful guest, made us all feel very relaxed, and if he thought a room full of Xenites was weird, he certainly didn't show it.
There were other events, including a charity auction, that took place later, but I couldn't stay for those and will have to leave a description of what came later in the afternoon to someone else.
But the one thing I did take away from that experience was the feeling that XENA fans can sure be good people. I can't think of too many better ways to spend a Saturday.
20 April, 1999
From the Coding Editor: Friends And Nutballs (FaNs): The Battle of the Special Interest Groups
The following is probably news to no one: because of the protests of a small group of Hindu activists (started by the World Vaisnava Organization), USA Studios decided to remove THE WAY from the airwaves. There are no plans to show it in reruns, and for those countries that didn't get a first viewing, they won't see it at all.
There's a lot of things wrong with this. First and foremost, I don't care how valid the complaints are, the annoyance of one group of people shouldn't be cause for banning something from public view. Just ask Howard Stern or the creators of South Park. I'm a little surprised that only one group chose to protest - there were things in The Way that can validly offend a lot of religious groups. How ironic that the group that protested chose bogus reasons for it. (Appearance on Xena means a character is fictional? Julius Caesar is going to be bummed to hear that.) My gut reaction is that those bogus reasons show the protestors to be more interested in flexing a little special-interest publicity muscle than in any offense to their beliefs, which makes me more annoyed at their success.
I don't like that an episode has been removed from the air because of the ill-informed protests of a small group. I like it even less because it's an episode that has important plot points in my favorite TV show. So my question becomes: what can I do about it? Those of us who'd like to see the episode continue to air are at a disadvantage: it's much easier to protest against something than it is to support it. Studios would rather play it safe and not offend an active group. Offense means loss of advertising dollars, and that makes them quake in their designer boots. So we're left in the tough position of protesting the protests.
Here's what I think are the most important points to remember if we tell Studios USA that we want to see THE WAY reinstated:
* WE SHOULDN'T CARE ABOUT THE REASONS. Yes, I'm advocating avoiding the issue. Studios USA no more cares if people were offended at an improper portrayal of Krishna than they would if the color blue was used too often. Aall they care about is that people were protesting. Arguing whether their protests are valid doesn't mean a thing to them. The job of the people who want to protest the protestors is to make the protesting group look commercially insignificant. Not to prove them wrong.
I think it's worth mentioning that the protests are based on incorrect information. It's definitely good information for the media who have covered this tiff. But that shouldn't be the center of our argument to the studios. The center should simply be that we support the show and support the episode. It's not as sexy as "They're wrong!", but it's more pertinent.
* THIS IS NOT ABOUT CENSORSHIP OR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. Censorship is a governmental decision to control content. The First Amendment prevents the American government from banning people from speaking their mind. Privately-owned corporations are free to show or not show whatever they darn well please. This is a business decision, not a right. Let's not get the issue confused.
* WRITE. ON PAPER. Email and phone calls are cheap, easy, and simple to get misrouted or never seen. Postal mail packs the biggest punch. Studios tend to respect the amount of effort and time it takes to scribble a note, put a stamp on it, and mail it. If you want to say something about The Way, put it in a letter to get it heard the loudest.
Most of what I'm saying here isn't new. There's a good web site at
that gives background about the issue, addresses to write your local stations and Studios USA, and has an online petition you can sign if you want to add your name to a long list that's being printed (note the above about how print material gets more attention) and placed in front of studio executives.
Lastly, I urge everyone to remember that the protestors against THE WAY are a teeny clique, one that no more represents Hinduism as a whole than the Save the Crimson Land Slug Society represents American politics. Happily, I haven't seen many Xena fans try to make this a campaign against Hindu beliefs. But I couldn't let an editorial about this topic go by without adding a reminder that the protest isn't a personal insult, and despite what the protestors are saying, it isn't about the Hindu religion. This is about which small group of people - the WVA or the Xena fans - can show the most support for their cause. Anyone who wants to chip in to the "hey, we buy stuff too, and we'd love to see the commercials that get shown during THE WAY" gang should put in their two cents, and then move on. Annoying though it may be, it's not worth losing sleep over.
Coding Editor, Episode Commentator
April 30 (what a procrastinator!), 1999