From the Editor-in-Chief:
The Summer of Our Discontent
From the Graphics Editor:
The Night of the Advancing Armies
From the Editor-in-Chief:
The Summer of Our Discontent
We are past the watershed mark of summer. The re-run season is maturely upon us. We can safely ponder what has been the past and what may be the future. Season Five of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS has been remarkable in its ability to have challenged and to have disappointed almost across the board the various fan demographics. Usually some group or groups have been put out one way or another since the third season, but this appears to be the first year where almost ALL the sects of XENA fandom have been angered at some point in the season. You have the subtext fans who were looking forward to at least a continuation of the 4th season, but discovered that Xena and Gabrielle were on completely different planets from each other. You have the friendship lobbyists who saw Xena and Gabrielle become less emotionally interactive. You have the Gabrielle/Joxer Romantics who saw their storyline tossed out the window. You have the Joxer fans who were denied the object of their adoration.
Even fans without an agenda were confused. They saw Xena as a self-righteous and self-centered mother who was always annoyingly right. They saw a Gabrielle who was slicing and dicing and whacking and bashing for no apparent reason other than some thin wisps of motive that the fans had to piece together on their own. They saw Joxer dead. They saw Ares turned from a slimy villain you loved to hate into a pathetic sexual predator. They saw a society moved from the Greek gods into something to do with Eli that resembled an offensive and fundamentally squicky form of Christianity. They saw Xena beating up everybody in sight but God himself, and amassing a body count that is staggering, even for Xena. Basically the hard core and loyal fans became shell-shocked, with more than one fan wondering "huh?" at the line that closed out the season, a reaction that in many ways typified other reactions at various points throughout the 18 episode pregnancy/baby arc. Gabrielle alone set a record for number of deaths in a single season, both suffered by her and inflicted by her. There was not much to recognize from a year ago, let alone two years ago.
The anger of the fans at perceived betrayal of storyline, characterizations, and quality culminated in MORE protest websites coming on-line. True, this has been the case since season three's Rift experiment, but this season's sites were more conciliatory and begging for TPTB (the powers that be) to make the show fun to watch again and not be untrue to itself. They were not as cocky as the previous sites, and the anger was turning into a sniveling acquiescence.
The good news? The Xena/Ares matchmakers were happy. They got to see implied off-camera oral sex and some on-camera nipple wrangling between Xena and Ares, even though it really meant nothing to Xena, or Ares as well, apparently. The bad news? Many fans were confused by the amorality of still hyping Xena as a hero. Among other foibles, Xena seems to have this bizarre habit of turning on Gabrielle at unpredictable moments. And we are not talking mean words, but attempts at homicide. These issues are difficult to ignore IF you take the show seriously. The fanbase of this show has demonstrated a preference to taking the show seriously, and has overlooked and tried to justify continuity gaffes accordingly (my favorite one is that the comedies are not part of continuity at all). The fifth season has given the serious fan a true challenge.
As this summer finishes, many long-time fans will try to figure out whether they still like the characters or not. There is a strange feeling of sadness in watching a show you were once so passionate about go down the drain right before your eyes and not be able to do a darn thing about it other than turn off the TV. But one thing XENA fans have in surplus is hope. There is a hope that in the 6th season the show will revive itself. TPTB have shown some remorse. There are interviews popping up all the time with the producers saying, "Oops, we made some mistakes". They have hired a popular XENA fan fiction writer to pen two scripts (maybe three...stay tuned!). There are rumblings that the big stories which started in the third season will be shelved (and the residual ones resolved quickly in the new season) and that the 6th season will feature more little stories about Xena and Gabrielle working together as they did during the 1st and 2nd seasons. These actions hopefully are not too late and will reward those fans who have decided to stay with the show.
Kym Masera Taborn
July 25, 2000
From the Graphics Editor:
The Night of the Advancing Armies
Atlanta in the summer. Nothing like it. Hot, humid, dirty, congested. Made all the more so by the two major groups that descended upon it during the end of June, first of July. Not only was Atlanta host to DragonCon 2000 this year, but it was also temporary home to the World Conference of the Salvation Army. Quite the contrast, seeing the Army of God on one side of the street, and the Army of Darkness on the other. Still, even though the two groups didn't associate much, they were both personable and friendly.
Having been to numerous conventions in the last few years, both fan run and "official", DragonCon was an amazing experience. I thought I'd attended conventions before, but DragonCon was what a convention should be. It was well-organised, with a plethora of events and exhibitions. If you were a sci-fi fan, a fantasy fan, a horror fan, a comic book fan, or just a plain general fan, you'd find a host of things that were interesting. There were large events held in a number of auditoriums that seated hundreds and more intimate gatherings held in rooms fit for a few dozen.
Most of the XENA events fit into the second category. One panel hosted by Claire Stansfield and Alexandra Tydings was put on in a larger auditorium room, but the rest of the XENA-specific events took place in the more intimate setting of a smaller room downstairs. In virtually all of these fans could interact with panel members to ask questions or state their opinions, and the whole gathering had a very friendly and congenial feel to it.
Not least of all the events were the opportunities for fan fiction enthusiasts to chat with one of the giants of the genre, Missy Good. She in fact hosted the XENA "track" in general as well as appeared throughout the day either participating directly in various discussion groups or making herself available for individuals to ask questions or express their feelings about her work. It would be difficult to find a more gracious host. Missy made everyone feel welcome and treated each opinion or question or problem very seriously. Her talks were informative and the knowledge that a fan of the show had been able to rise to the position of writing episodes and contributing to a series in a meaningful way was very sobering. Missy was obviously quite grateful for such an opportunity. Where some people might take advantage of a similar situation to use as an excuse to gloat, Missy was quite humble and respectful. Renaissance couldn't have found a better representative for such an experience if they tried.
Speaking of good representatives, Claire Stansfield and Alexandra Tydings are two others who fit into this category. These are amazing women. They are gorgeous, talented, bright, and witty. Their appearances were entertaining and informative, discussing not only their own personal experiences on XENA and HERC but also with a keen and discerning eye on the topic of women in the media. Make no mistake, these are not Hollywood bimbos. These women are smart and savvy. They sometimes have to fight an uphill battle to contribute meaningfully to the entertainment industry, but they are more than capable of doing so. Claire and Alex make an awesome team on stage, and if their professional products come to fruition, media consumers will be better off for the choices. If you haven't already seen their websites, they are worth a look at: http://www.clairestansfield.com and http://www.alextydings.com.
Another very busy person at DragonCon was Karl Urban. He not only talked about XENA and HERC but was there to promote and discuss his new projects, not the least of which is his appearances in THE LORD OF THE RINGS films as the character Eomer. He has a new series he's working on called THE PRIVATEEERS as well. Most recently, he was in the kiwi film THE PRICE OF MILK with Danielle Cormack and Willa O'Neill. Karl is always worth listening to during his Q&A sessions. Not only will you learn a new little tidbit about some past role (yes, there's always a little something extra about Cupid and Caesar, Julius Caesar) but Karl is passionate not only about his acting but also about the environment and the role of people in it. He's an interesting person and a fascinating speaker.
Ted Raimi made appearances at DragonCon as well. He did a Q&A session for the XENA track that was standing room only and overflowing into the hallway! For those who think Joxer is last year's news, Ted had a very large fan following at DragonCon who were interested in all aspects of his work ? XENA, SEAQUEST, DARKNESS, and more.
Those who have been around XENA fandom for awhile would recognise Steve Sears as he walked through the halls of DragonCon. Steve was there to participate in writers' panels, not to talk about XENA or SHEENA. He did stick his head in the XENA room for a moment to say hello, just as I tripped over a wire. Thanks, Steve.
But big names aside, the best part of DragonCon was just being there, immersed in all the interesting things to see and do, as well as having the opportunity to chat with many other fans of various genres. Here you can find someone to talk about LONE WOLF AND CUB who is as enthusiastic about the story as you are or who purchased the series in Japanese and struggled through the translation as much as you did. You can find those BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fans you heard rumours of. You can chat about SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND until you're blue in the face and commiserate with others about what a raw deal it was that this or that show got canned before its time (or not canned soon enough). There were people who admired UFO or CAPTAIN SCARLET or FIREBALL XL5 as much as you did when you were a kid, and also those who hid behind the sofa at the mere sound of a Dalek, even though you never admitted it yourself. You actually could find yourself admitting that SILVER SURFER was your fave comic long before it became fashionable. You could find just about anything you could imagine (and with all the things to purchase that's about all I could afford to do ? imagine) amongst dozens and dozens of dealers. And the costumes! Imaginative could only begin to describe some of them!
DragonCon was just plain F*U*N. It was a relaxed atmosphere and took place amidst a general feeling of camaraderie that I've found rare or lacking in many XENA gatherings these last couple of years. Although any convention can be pricey, admission was a great deal for what you got for your money. Want an autograph? Stake out the "Walk of Fame" and be patient ? no need to pay additional ticket money. Many of the guests were signing autographs for a few bucks (and for some this is how they make their living nowadays -- shades of GALAXY QUEST) and many signed for free. All you had to do was decide which ones you wanted and find out when they'd be there. If the lines were short (and they often were) you could chat away for a moment or two without being chastised. Need food or drink? The whole downtown was available to you a short walk away.
Having to leave DragonCon was a disappointment. I just wasn't ready. But I did promise to spend the 4 July holiday with some family, so I had to leave when I did to get there on time. The evening of the day I left DragonCon, there I was, hundreds of miles from Atlanta, sitting outside my hotel room watching hundreds of fireflies illuminate the area as dusk merged to night, thinking, "Man, I wonder if I can be in Atlanta next year?"
Claire graciously acknowledges WHOOSH! at DragonCon.
Hermosa Beach, California
18 July 2000