Whoosh! Issue 35 - August 1999

Xena and Gabrielle Go Camping:
Artifice, Exaggeration, Parody, and Masquerade


Note 01:
[89] Whoosh #15 (Dec 1997) article "Lucy Lawless' Acting: Is It Good? Bad? Do We Care?" by Darise Error, IAXS project #362. Error describes XWP as "...a sophisticated blend of creativity, pastiche and post-modernism. It's fun too..." [Paragraph 01]. She also says that "...much of the show is camp..." [Paragraph 04]
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Note 02:
[90] Robertson, Pamela (1996) Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna, Durham and London, Duke University Press. Robertson refers to Susan Sontag in 'Notes on Camp' (1964) which describes Camp as "...failed seriousness, a love of exaggeration and artifice, the privilege of style over content, and being alive to the double sense in which some things can be taken." p 282

[91] Susan Sontag also says camp is extravagant and over the top.

[92] Medhurst, A 'Camp' in Medhurst, A & Munt, S.R (eds) (1997) Lesbian and Gay Studies: A critical Introduction, London and Washington, Cassell. Medhurst says camp ".... revels in exaggeration, theatricality, parody." P. 276
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Note 03:
[93] Robertson (1996) referring to Joan Crawford movies says "... for an object to become camp, it must seem anachronistic and out of place." p97
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Note 04:
[94] http://whoosh.org/epguide
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Note 05:
[95] A Medhurst in 'Camp' (1997) said "camp...eludes a single, crisp definition."
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Note 06:
[96] Susan Sontag 'Notes On Camp' in Against interpretation and Other Essays (1996), New York, Dell. Sontag says "...načve, or pure Camp...is a seriousness that fails...[,] that...has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate, and the načve." p 282
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Note 07:
[97] A Medhurst in 'Camp' (1997) p290. Medhurst discusses camp as a gay male strategy in response to homophobia.
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Note 08:
[98] Robertson (1996) p16. Robertson says that Camp can challenge and reinforce conventional attitudes, partly in the different ways people can interpret what they are seeing; that 'camp spectatorship' is also "complex and contradictory".
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Note 09:
[99] A Medhurst 'Camp' (1997) p 286. On lesbian interpretations of mainstream Hollywood films as having a lesbian subtext, Medhurst says, "So lesbian appropriations of texts can indeed be 'disruptive and gender-destabilizing - but not camp'".
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Note 10:
[100] A Medhurst 'Camp' (1997) says about P Robertson on feminist camp "... as a "series of cultural maneuvers using irony and masquerade through which women have subversively commented on normative gender roles. These maneuvers undoubtedly exist...and can certainly possess a dynamic political potential, but why call them camp?" p 290.
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Note 11:
[101] Susan Sontag 'Notes on Camp' p 281. "To camp is a mode of seduction - one which employs flamboyant mannerisms susceptible of a double interpretation; gestures full of duplicity, with a witty meaning for cognisenti and another more impersonal for outsiders."
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Note 12:
[102] This seems similar to Robertson's (1996) analysis of Mae West's Camp performances in movies, though I think West performs a different version of femininity from the one Lucy Lawless performs in MISS AMPHIPOLIS.

[103] Robertson says: p 78 "...her masquerade entails a camp recognition of herself as a stereotype and her manipulation of her own stereotype for her own ends. She not only camps, creating an artificial masquerade, but perceives herself as camp, as enacting the serious joke that is her life."
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Note 13:
[104] Butler, Judith (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York & London, Routledge. pp 33, 134-41.
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Note 14:
[105] Butler, Judith (1990) op cite p 47. Butler questions the notion that the performance of feminine roles is a masquerade, because this suggests that it is a mask, or disguise, that covers some innate feminine/female qualities. Butler argues that all gender roles are a performance and there is no natural gender behind the disguise.
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Note 15:
[106] Robertson (1996) p 34 says that Mae West "....reveals that feminine identity is always a masquerade or impersonation."
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Note 16:
[107] Creekmur, C.K. & Dotty, A (eds) (1995) Out In Culture: Gay and Lesbian, And Queer essays On Popular Culture. p. 120 discuss this in connection with BLACK WIDOW and how the lesbian audience gaze at Debra Winger with desire, while the film shows her character (Alex) gazing with desire at another woman (Reni). P127 on how the Reni and Alex relationship is eroticized so that each gazes at the other with desire.
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Note 17:
[108] Landry, M (ed) (1991) Imitations of Life: A Reader On Film And Television Melodrama, Detroit, Wayne State University Press. p. 27 Bourget in this book looks at star text "...to open up an area of study that has been only feebly investigated, namely the filmic and extrafilmic contributions of the star to the style and meaning of melodrama.
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Note 18:
[109] In the Whoosh article Xena Warrior Princess and the Masochistic Ideal by Elisa Deyeka (IAXS project #181, Issue 14, November 1997), Elisa refers to the dominatrix as "..the category of women who revel in their femininity and their power, and who, for one reason or another, use their sexual allure and innate strength to dominate men." [Paragraph 03]
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Note 19:
[110] As explained by Simon Schama (1995) in Landscape and Memory, pp. 81-93.
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Note 20:
[111] Richard Dyer 'Lana Turner: Four Films of Lana Turner' in Landry (1991) Dyer says, "The star phenomenon depends upon collapsing the distinction between the star-as-person and the star-as-performer". Dyer says that incidents in movies are not the same as ones in the star's life, but that these movie incidents ""reveal" or express the personality or type-of-person of the star." P410

[112] Dyer also says that star images are at least partly manufactured but usually this is disguised. Therefore, it is my opinion that it is difficult for us to know exactly how much of a star's public image is the representative of the private side of the person.
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Note 21:
[113] Chris Straayer (1996) deviant eyes, deviant bodies: sexual re-orientations in film and video, N.Y., Columbia University Press. Straayer discusses this archetype on P124. She says that "baby-butch" is a term viewed affectionately by lesbians. In films she sees the most usual characteristics of baby-butch as being exemplified by "dark hair, physical activity, body posture, and tomboyishness".

[114] Straayer also discusses this archetypal character as often being involved with a scenario where she is attracted to an older woman as in MAIDENS IN UNIFORM (Leontyne Sagan, 1931) and kd lang in SALMONBERRIES (Percy Adlon, 1991). p 128.

[115] To me, Gabrielle has a baby-butch streak that seems sometimes obvious to some lesbian fans. However, the Wynona Ryder character in Alien Resurrection is more fully like the type that Straayer discusses.
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Note 22:
[116] Susan Sontag 'Notes on Camp' p 282 "...Camp rests on innocence, that means Camp discloses innocence, but also, when it can corrupts it."
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Note 23:
[117] For an explanation of this influence see the following Web site, The Xena + Hong Kong Connection: http://www.slip.net/~redbean/xena/xena_hk.html
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Note 24:
[118] David Bergman, 'Strategic Camp: The Art of Gay Rhetoric' in Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality edited by David Bergman (1993) Amherst, University of Massachusets Press. Bergman discusses carnivalesque as being similar to camp. He refers to Bakhtin's original formulation of three types of carnivalesque as 'the ritual spectacle, comic verbal composition, and various forms of abuse such as curses and oaths." p 101
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Note 25:
[119] Landry (1991) states that many people seem to like movies where they can identify with the main characters. p 102
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Note 26:
[120] Creekmur & Dotty (1995) p 3. Philip Core is quoted as saying, camp "is the lie that tells the truth"
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Note 27:
[121] Charles Affron 'Identifications' in Landry (1991) says that the close-up is something unique to movies and this creates an effect that is different from the melodramatic elements cinema uses, and makes it seem more naturalistic. That is one of the things that makes watching movies satisfying. pp 110-111. These close-ups help to make the characters seem like individuals as opposed to the more melodramatic types.

[122] Raymond Dugnant in 'Ways of Melodrama', in Landry (1991) says that movies present realistic characters in melodramatic situations; p 136 and that, "...as soon as melodrama begins to investigate character, it becomes - partially at least - drama." p138.
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Note 28:
[123] Darise Error in IAXS project # 362 (Whoosh! #15 Dec 1997) above also says that Lucy Lawless succeeds in playing the camp element in XWP because she plays it 'straight' without 'mugging', by delivering "the most amusing lines with sincerity and seriousness" [Paragraph 04]
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Note 29:
[124] Saturday January 30 1999 (No 50,362) Good Weekend section pp 14-18 "Ai yi yi yi yi !!!" by David Lester.
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Note 30:
[125] As discussed by John Willett in The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht, (1977) London, Eyre Methuen, such as on p166
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Note 31:
[126] Naomi Greene "Coppola, Cimino: The Operatics of History" in Landry (1991) discusses some lack of narrative continuity in movies like APOCALYPSE NOW (Francis Coppola, 1979) and HEAVEN'S GATE (Michael Cimino). She says that traditional storylines in American movies that have a sense of ordered continuity and progress, have been linked by critics "to an ideology of progress." P397 she says that the 1970s movies that showed a lack of continuity and coherence can be linked to an "ideological shift" in American post-VietNam society towards a "sense that the individual can no longer control his life." P 393
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Note 32:
[127] Medhurst in 'Camp' (1997) describes gay male use of camp as "a survival mechanism in a hostile environment" and as "defensive offensiveness". P 276 Richard Dyer in Robertsoon (1996) p. 4, describes Camp as a tool of gay male political resistance, before the rise of gay liberation.
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Note 33:
[128] Robertson (1996) p 110 In her discussion of the camp elements in Johnny Guitar, Robertson says that though the character of Emma may not be lesbian, lesbians have 'read' her as a lesbian character. This is often how lesbian subtext has been identified in movies in the past.
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Note 34:
[129] I am indebted to Call, who in an on-line discussion, did an excellent post that pointed out the way specific details of the music worked within THE BITTER SUITE.
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Note 35:
[130] Creekmur & Dotty (1995) p 3
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Note 36:
[131] The book Imitations of Life: A Reader On Film And Television Melodrama, edited by Marcia Landry (1991), has various articles that demonstrate how melodrama developed in 19th century novels (Dickens, Harriet Beeches Stowe, and Henry James) and came from a stage form based in pantomime and incorporating music. These forms are seen as having the most pure form of melodrama. Some articles show how American movies particularly developed the melodramatic form along with more realistic aspects of drama using music and spectacle like some of the earliest stage forms of melodrama.
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Note 37:
[132] Landry, M (ed) (1991) p15-16 "One can identify the strategies of melodrama in its dichotomizing of the world, its inflation of personal conflicts and its internalization of external social conflicts."
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Note 38:
[133] Robertson (1996) p 4, refers to Jameson's discussion of postmodern pastiche as being camp that "...lacks the satiric impulse of parody, and equalizes all identities, styles, and images in a depthless ahistorical nostalgia."

[134] Robertson also refers to Linda Hutcheon who apparently "...argues that postmodernism effects a denaturalizing critique through parody that is not nostalgic or de-historicizing, but critical and subversive."

[135] Robertson however feels that they both differentiate "...between high post-modern parody and the "ahistorical kitsch" of camp.

[136] I believe that THE FURIES in particular uses the imitated representations from other sources as parody, anachronistic play, and critical comment. XWP generally can use postmodern pastiche as a kind of empty parody, e.g., the Stonehenge image at the end of THE DELIVERER (50/304) is probably blank parody, without much real meaning beyond the fact that it is a widely recognized image.

[137] Whoosh article in Issue 13 October 1997 The Female hero, Duality of Gender, and Postmodern Feminism in Xena: Warrior Princess by Rhonda Nelson IAXS project # 173 [06] identifies relevant postmodernist aspects in TV and film as "(1) the appropriation of images from previously created images, (2) the fragmentary nature of these images, and (3) their opposition to a single logic or subject."

[138] Nelson also says that YAXIs (Yet Another Xena Inconsistency) is part of the postmodern dimension in XWP.
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Note 39:
[139] Peter Brooks 'The Melodramatic Imagination' in Landry (1991) gives the connotations of the word 'melodrama' as including, "...the indulgence of strong emotionalism; moral polarization and schemization; extreme states of being, situations, actions; overt villainy, persecution of the good, and final reward of virtue; inflated and extravagant expression; dark plottings, suspense, breathtaking peripety...) p 58
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Note 40:
[140] Landry (1991) p36 on need for comic relief in melodrama: "...the ideal vision of melodrama with its fundamental principle of a supremely just universe often seems too much for its audience to accept without some sense of basic evil or comic ridicule lurking in the wings."
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Note 41:
[141] Landry (1991) p 94 says with respect to Affron's chapter in the book that: "Cinema, because it is a visual medium, requires attention to specular activity. The Italian opera offers a better analogy with film [than previously discussed 19th century melodramatic novels] in its solo/choral emphasis, uses of ensemble, and hyperbolic performance." P 94
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Note 42:
[142] John G Cawletti 'The Evolution of Social melodrama' in Landry (1991) p 35 & p 39 says that moral melodrama had a religious element in the 19th century, but this became lessened as Christian views came into increasing contact with secular views. p 45 So in contemporary melodrama there is less basic religious content that has been replaced by a "quest for order", "...a search for transcendent significance in a secular, naturalistic age when religious faith has lost its power to inspire a basic belief in the benevolence of the world order and has become seen only as a complex psychological phenomenon. In order to fulfill the archetype of melodrama with its basicaffirmation of moral significance and order in the universe, the contemporary social melodramatist has had to turn to other sources of transcendence. The most important area he looks to is that of human relationships and sexuality." Hence "the contemporary social melodramatists seek to integrate new ideas of sexual liberation with traditional conceptions of romantic love and monogamy. The ideal of a full and satisfying sexuality based on a deep and lasting romantic relationship is one moral cornerstone of the new melodramatic vision" re novelists like Wallace, Susann, Robbins, Hailey.

[143] Peter Brooks in 'The Melodramatic Imagination' , (Landry, 1991)also talks about the way melodrama originated at a time when Christianity was losing its dominance in Western society, so that myth-making became much more personal and centred on the individual; and that the personality came to be seen almost as sacred. He says that "from amid the collapse of order principles and criteria, the individual ego declares its central and overriding value, its demand to be the centre of all things." p 61 Furthermore he says that melodrama also has a nostalgic desire to return to religion as it was in earlier times; to recreate its sacredness. Perhaps this may explain the fascination that the makers of XWP have with a variety of forms of religion. P61
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Note 43:
[144] Landry (1991) p 14 "melodramatic narratives are driven by the experience of one crisis after another, crises involving severed familial ties, separation and loss, misrecognition of one's place, person and propriety. Seduction, betrayal, abandonment, extortion, murder, suicide, revenge, jealousy, incurable illness, obsession, and compulsion.."
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Note 44:
[145] I am indebted to comments by Laura Irvine for pointing out some of my inaccuracies. Any remaining inaccuracies on this or other points I make about XWP and Hong Kong movies are entirely my own responsibility.
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Note 45:
[146] Naomi Greene 'Coppola, Cimino: The Operatics of History' in Landry (1991) In THE DEBT II, the scene where Xena covered in black emerges out of the water with her knife in her mouth is deliberately copied from the movie APOCALYPSE NOW. This in turn was based on Conrad's novel HEART OF DARKNESS. There is strong echoes of both in THE DEBT I & II and elsewhere in XWP, and have obviously been a strong influence on some key people who make XWP. Naomi Greene's chapter is about APOCALYPSE NOW, the 70s GODFATHER movies, THE DEERHUNTER, and HEAVEN'S GATE. She says that "...cinematic melodrama...developed in the 1970s, variously described as 'historical,' 'operatic,' 'choral' or 'epic,'... deeply theatrical and pessimistic...dominated by a sense of history and a taste for spectacle which are interwoven with each other and with the narrative in unprecedented ways." Greene says that these particular movies used "...heightened theatricality, characters greater than life, powerful emotions and extreme actions, startling scenic effects and elaborate mise-en-scene, as well as a penchant for great contrasts on both the moral level...as well as the scenic one... [L]astly, they attribute a pivotal role to music...." p 388
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Note 46:
[147] Landry (1991) p14 "...the content of melodrama: a constant struggle for gratification and equally constant blockages to its attainment."
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Note 47:
[148] Landry (1991) mentions this device p 94, which can serve "as a means of recognition in the final moment". She writes that "The use of secrets is fundamental for providing tensions in melodramatic composition." She also says that melodramatic narratives use "character reversibility, the role of chance in providing new narrative twists"
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Note 48:
[149] Charles Affron "Identifications" in Landry (1991) uses this phrase to refer to the way the techniques of movies draw viewers into identifying with emotions and experiences that seem similar to those they have experienced in real life. P 99
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Note 49:
[150] Peter Brooks 'The Melodramatic Imagination' in Landry (1991) p51 "shows how Balzac uses melodramatic style, "...to go beyond the surface of the real to the truer, hidden reality, to open up the world of the spirit." So Balzac uses hidden relationships, masked people and occult powers, because his true subject is "hidden and masked". His underlying true subject is the ""moral occult", the domain of operative spiritual values which is both indicated within and masked by the surface of fragmentary and de-sacralized remnants of sacred myth."
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Note 50:
[151] Steven L. Sears stated this in an American Online Xena Digital words chat February 13, 1998. An extract of which is included with the Whoosh Episode guide on THE BITTER SUITE [http://whoosh.org/epguide].
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Note 51:
[152] Landry (1991) p15. In melodrama, "[t]he external landscape is a correlative for an internal landscape of hysteria, schizophrenia, depression, obsession-compulsion and misdirected desire. In most instances, tensions in personal relationships are generated from power and domination which take the form of class, property, generational, sexual and racial struggles. The narratives generate emotional intensity involving not only the figures in the melodrama but the external audience, and effect is conveyed gesture, music and iconography." Landry, p 22 says, "Brooks characterizes melodrama as verbal and visual excess..."
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Note 52:
[153] Robertson (1996) says, "Like camp, the musical is artificial and unnatural, highly aestheticized and stylized. Whereas camp archly promotes the frivolous, the musical, as Gerald Mast observes, "paradoxically proclaims its own worthlessness"" p 60 "..the musical genre expresses a camp sensibility and those committed to camp often express themselves in and through the musical."

[154] Naomi Greene in 'Coppola, Cimino: The Operatics of History" in Landry (1991) says that, "In general, cinema, with its links to popular culture and its mass audience, its ability to create spectacles, has been seen as the twentieth-century counterpart of both melodrama and opera." And that "...the portrayal of historical events in the cinema inherits opera's emotional intensity in the emphasis it has always placed on violence and spectacle." P 389
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Note 53:
[155] The Russian formalist Tomashevsky, apparently said that melodrama did not so much have character types, as that, "...its silhouettes are sharply drawn with only a minimum of character traits, as required by the plot." This is according to Daniel Gerould'Russian Formalist theories of melodrama' in Landry (1991) p 130
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Note 54:
[156] Cawleti discusses the transformation of 19th Century melodrama's aristocratic villain and lascivious seducer of the embattled virgin, into 20th century capitalist. Pp 36- 41. The 'embattled virgin' also has been transformed. "Zane Grey... elaborated still further on this combination of wildness and femininity in his heroines." P42. In the 1930s and 40s a particular feminine stereotype that became a favorite was "...what has been labeled the 'good-bad girl', a heroine who appears at the beginning of the story to be wild and even immoral but who is eventually revealed to be a truly chaste and loving woman." p 43 John G Cawleti 'The Evolution of the Social Melodrama' in Landry (1991)
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Note 55:
[157] This symbolism is identified and discussed in two Whoosh articles in Issue 19 April 1998: Tarot Imagery of the Bitter Suite by Victoria Meredith, and Redemption and Tarot Symbolism in The Bitter Suite.
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Note 56:
[158] Peter Brooks 'The Melodramatic Imagination' in Landry (1991) says that originally melodrama meant, "..a drama accompanied by music.". p 59. So in a way TBS is taking melodrama back to its original roots; maybe its most pure form.
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Note 57:
[159] Landry (1991) p. 14 says that in melodrama "...the victims are most often females, threatened in their sexuality, their property, their very identity."
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Note 58:
[160] ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE also reminds me of the operatic qualities Naomi Greene (Landry 1991) describes as being present in some 1970s U.S. melodramatic movies. She says, "In these films, history is often transmuted into myth as it becomes a springboard for general comments involving human destiny, good and evil, the tragedy of power." (p. 390) Greene also says that these films have towering villains, and "...powerful emotions (fear, passion, revenge), violent actions (betrayal, fratricide, suicide, murder,) and tremendous contrasts (the cross-cutting between church ceremonies, and the bloodied mob-murders in GODFATHER II).." (p. 391) Her description of the beginning of Apocalypse Now as operatic overture is strongly reminiscent of the opening sequence of ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE. (p. 392) Then Greene describes how in APOCALYPSE NOW "Psychology and verisimilitude have been displaced by symbolism and myth; the journey up the river, which makes little sense in terms of modern strategic warfare, is a mythic journey to the deepest realm of the self, to the ultimate horror." (p. 392)
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Note 59:
[161] Robertson (1996) p. 16 Quote from Meaghan Morris "Banality in Cultural Studies.' "[P]eople in modern societies are complex and contradictory, therefore people using them produce complex and contradictory culture"
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Carolyn Skelton Carolyn Skelton
I started my life in Auckland, NZ. Moved to London, England in my mid 20s and lived there for many years. I've lived in Sydney for the last 3 and a half years. I've worked in various sectors of Education. Since being in Sydney I've been teaching on a casual contracts, mainly in a TAFE college and occasionally I do a little bit of University tutoring and lecturing. Sometimes it seems like I teach just about anything people will pay me to teach, but actually various subjects within Humanities, Social Sciences and Education. Academic qualifications: BA (Auckland); MA Language and Literature in Education (London); MA Communication, Culture and Society (London)
Favorite episode: Very hard to choose just one. ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE 1, gave me a Wow !! reaction at first viewing, and remains a strong favourite. IDES OF MARCH and many of episodes mentioned in this article strong contenders too.
Favorite line: Again, hard to chose just one but right now I'll go for Xena talking about Najara in CRUSADER: "She's a tough girl. But she's got a weakness: it's the same one I've got." Not just the line, but the way it's delivered and filmed. Xena's line just before that is pretty good too: "I got my butt whipped didn't I?... Well it serves me right for trusting someone who talks about being good all the time."
First episode seen: By chance the first Hercules episode I saw was WARRIOR PRINCESS (its first Australian broadcast) where Xena first made her appearance. I saw the rest of the Xena Trilogy, then SINS OF THE PAST and every episode of Xena since.
Least favorite episode: Hmmm... well there's more than one to chose from here too. Perhaps GIANT KILLER and A SOLSTICE CAROL. They were first shown together in Australia on the same night, and I found it a dissatisfying experience. Two episodes for the children.

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