Whoosh! Issue 49 - October 2000

By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
3354 words

Amazons and More Amazons (01-02)
The First Amazons (03-07)
Velasca, Enter Left (08-09)
The Middle Years (10-13)
The Beginning of the Fall (14-17)
Confusing Past (18-21)
Chaos and Destruction (22-23)
Party Amazons (24-25)
Evolving Thunderdome Amazons (26-27)
Devolving Thunderdome Amazons (28-29)
Amazons, We Hardly Knew Ye (30-32)

Amazons, We Hardly Knew Ye

Amazons and More Amazons

Casting call: Amazons needed. Must be under 5'6

Xena flanked by a bevy of Amazons.

[01] Some of the most beloved characters ever created on Xena have been Amazons, and indeed, the Amazon concept itself has always proved to be very popular on the show. Debuting with a healthy showing, the Amazons were presented as strong, independent, and fiercely protective of their lifestyle. Over time, this image eroded and the Amazons declined into what has been less charitably referred to as "Thunderdome Amazons" in that the once proud Amazon nation has been more recently shown to consist of giggling teenagers and teeny boppers who are more boy crazy than fierce independent women.

[02] This article explores that evolution and calls out some of the highlights and contrasts of Amazon portrayal, mainly on Xena but also on Hercules, and also how the departure of their creator resulted in a less than favorable interpretation of the Amazon Nation in Season Five.

The First Amazons

"The Amazon world is based on truth and a woman's individual strength."
   -- Terreis

Does YOUR mask smell like cheese, too?

Amazons use ornate bird masks when on official business.

[03] If there is one Xenastaffer to be credited with the creation and portrayal of the Amazon Nation on Xena: Warrior Princess, it would have to be Steven L. Sears. He wrote the seminal Amazon episode, HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110). HOOVES AND HARLOTS was the first Xena episode to present the Amazons and their way of life on the series. It introduced some of the most beloved secondary characters of the entire series.

[04] Amazons first appeared in the "timeline" on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as far back as the initial telemovie, Hercules And The Amazon Women (1994). We are told in this episode that "Men will never dominate these women". The Hercules Amazons are more notable for their differences than their similarities. The Hercules Amazons reported to Hera, not Artemis as in later Xena Amazon works. This episode also focused on the struggle between Zeus and Hera and expanded that to a more generic struggle between men and women. Steven L. Sears seems to have drawn out the strength and independent qualities of the Hercules Amazons and dropped some of the more stereotypical and overt man-hating elements.

[05] Indeed, the HOOVES AND HARLOTS Amazons keep to themselves and want to preserve their way of life as a matter of their own choice. As Terreis says to Gabrielle, "It is a man's world, Gabrielle. Not because it should be, but because we let them have it. It's based on a woman's weakness." The HOOVES AND HARLOTS Amazons are not man-haters, they are simply not male dependent. Any contact they have with males is voluntary but not an everyday part of their lifestyle. They live in a village of fellow women and no males are seen there, except the centaur Phantes, who is a prisoner.

Wicked Spice Fiery Spice Ginger Spice Poodle Spice

Queen Melosa, Solari, Terreis, and Ephiny. All dead by the end of the 4th season.

[06] In their Xena debut episode, the Amazons are being drawn into a conflict by an evil warlord who is planting false clues that implicate the Centaurs in recent conflict with the Amazons. It is hoped that the Amazons and Centaurs will finish each other off or cause sufficient attrition such that the warlord can walk in and take over the lands. Were it not for the restraint of Queen Melosa and some quick detective work by Xena, the plan might have worked.

[07] HOOVES AND HARLOTS introduced several strong female characters, one of whom became a beloved recurring character. At Beth Gaynor's Rate-a-Xena website, Ephiny came in fifth in a list of 46 popular recurring characters. Several other Amazons lived on in fan fiction even after only appearing in one episode: Melosa, Eponin, and Terreis. The Amazons were all business and no giggle. They let their hair down and danced, but they were very strong, very independent, and very secure in their lifestyle and personal choices. They were not overt man- haters but simply preferred to live without them on a day- to-day basis. It was a very positive portrayal and one that was extremely popular, making Amazon-themed episodes among the highest rated of the series.

Velasca, Enter Left

"It's not whether you die. It's how you die that counts. Let me tell you something about myself. I like pain. I like what it does to people, and I like what it makes people do. And I'm not bragging. I'm just explaining."
   -- Velasca

Little known fact: She can eat a pound cake in 1 minute flat.

Velasa did not warm up to Gabrielle like many other Amazons did.
From THE QUEST (37/213)

[08] The Amazon Nation takes center stage again with the second season episodes THE QUEST (37/213) and A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214). As regards the Amazons, they are in civil disarray. Melosa is dead, killed by Velasca in combat. Though ruled a "fair combat" by Amazon officials, there is dissent in the ranks. Some Amazons, particularly Ephiny, think that Velasca is too violent and does not have the appropriate temperament to be an effective Amazon leader. Velasca wants to re-take land that formerly belonged to the Amazons but is now occupied by Centaurs. It is even possible that Melosa granted the Centaurs that land after the events of HOOVES AND HARLOTS but that is not expressly mentioned in the episode. Ephiny, and Gabrielle as well after assessing the situation, feel that Velasca and her warlike ways are not good for the Amazons. Velasca has her followers and Ephiny and Gabrielle have theirs.

[09] The interesting thing about the Amazon friction is that it is an age-old conflict. One group of people believe they have been wronged and look to a strong leader to retrieve their dignity and former glory. The other side venerates temperance and compromise, being no less strong but seeing violence as a last resort rather than a first one. The scene could just as easily be fascist Europe between World War I and World War II. That it is Amazons involved in the power struggle is almost secondary. It is disappointing we do not see the outcome resolved in these twin episodes. It is another season before we visit the Amazon Nation again.

The Middle Years

"Amazons! Attack!"
   -- Ephiny

Is it 'thrust, thrust, parry' or 'parry, thrust, thrust'?

Amazons attempt to defend their Queen Gabrielle from the wrath of Xena.
From THE BITTER SUITE (58/312)

[10] We briefly see Amazons in their natural habitat in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312). After the events of the Dahak arc and Hope and Solan are killed, Xena and Gabrielle have temporarily parted to sort things out in their own minds. Xena opts for solitude and Gabrielle has returned to the Amazons to undergo a purification ritual. The scene is very reminiscent of a sweat lodge, and sweat lodges have been traditionally used as a place of healing by Native American tribes. This is the first episode in which Amazon culture has elements readily identifiable as Native American in nature. Even the music in later Amazon episodes is evocative of a Native American style, whereas heretofore it was not.

[11] Although on screen for only a few moments, it is obvious that the Amazons in general and Ephiny in particular are supportive and protective of Gabrielle. Not only did she become an Amazon herself from the "ground up" but also she is at the top of the Amazon hierarchy. Amazons have great respect for their traditions as we saw in HOOVES AND HARLOTS, but more than anything else did, Amazons support and aid one another at all costs.

[12] Even when Xena storms into the Amazon camp looking for Gabrielle, Ephiny is protective and stands her ground, knowing Xena can be a formidable opponent. Indeed, Ephiny has an arm broken in her attempt to defend Gabrielle from Xena. The commitment to Amazon Sisterhood is strong.

[13] Joxer is the only male in the Amazon camp and he is a guest because he is an associate of Gabrielle, who herself is regarded highly in the Amazon hierarchy. It is obvious to Ephiny that Joxer's concern for Gabrielle is genuine and so Joxer's presence is not even disputed while Gabrielle suffers through her personal torment. No Amazons pass by with "disgusting male" remarks and he is treated as any guest would be. Aside from Joxer, again there are no males and the Amazons are simply attending to their own personal business. They are portrayed as nothing but the strong and capable people that they are.

The Beginning of the Fall

"Tomorrow we take the next step in reclaiming our ancestral lands. And when we take back our valley, we'll be sending a message to the whole world. Amazons want what is rightfully ours. And we'll fight our righteous war until we get it!"
   -- Mayhem

[14] So far in the timeline, the portrayal of Amazons in general on Xena has been universally positive. The same cannot be said of the sister show, Hercules. In Hercules' Fourth Season, running in parallel with Xena's Third Season, the episode PRODIGAL SISTER (H66/407) portrays some Amazons as wearing black hats rather than white.

When you forget your line, a simple scream will do

Mayhem dispatching another unlucky obstacle.

[15] To be entirely fair, however, it is pointed out that not all Amazons are bad. Some "renegade tribes" that have broken off and act as laws and communities unto themselves. One of those tribes has been raiding a village and killing the citizens while kidnapping some girl children to raise as Amazons.

[16] Indeed, the events of PRODIGAL SISTER mirror those in THE QUEST and A NECESSARY EVIL as regards Amazon internal strife. One very aggressive leader, Mayhem, is quite Velasca-esque in her determination to assert Amazon dominance over the area and to take back lands that she feels belong only to Amazons. There are also words of broken treaties which imply the Amazons may actually have a case, but in the world of television we must have our villains clearly delineated, and Mayhem is made out to be more homicidal maniac than Amazon stateswoman.

[17] In the end, Mayhem prefers death to concession and the more moderate (and Ephiny-esque) Surrie takes leadership of the tribe and calls off the "righteous war" with the villagers. Also noteworthy in this episode, Hercules ominously predicts that a divided Amazon Nation will fall. How right he was.

Confusing Past

"I understand your anger with her, Cyane. But Xena's not like you and me. She thinks with her will-- not her reason. You must have warriors in your camp with the same weakness. It would be terrible to let the peace be destroyed by one wild act."

You have an opening in CLEOPATRA 2525? Do I have to be dead in it too?

Cyane in the Amazon Land of the Dead

[18] ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402) gives us a glimpse of not one but two Amazon communities. One of them, a Northern (Thunderdome) Amazon tribe is young and without experienced leadership. It is almost an extended family of sisters in that while these Amazons are committed to an Amazon identity, they do not have a very good feel for precisely what an Amazon is. They are nomadic and kept on the run by enemies. This has been their situation since their leadership was destroyed several years ago.

[19] This group is contrasted with another that did have competent leadership a few years ago until Xena killed their queen, Cyane, a name that is a title as well since many Amazon queens began to adopt the name Cyane upon taking the crown. She is a diplomat as well as a warrior. Cyane arranges an alliance with Borias and feels that at least for the moment she can rely on him to keep his word. She is an undisputed leader of her people.

Temple of the Tattered Ewok

Thunderdome Amazons, also affectionately referred to as the Ewok Amazons by fans.

[20] As Xena is learning Amazon secrets to use against them, Cyane still recognizes greatness in Xena and tries to veer her from her dark side. Cyane tells Xena, "You're a murderer because you still think and act like one. Join us. We can teach you a new way, a new code to live by. We live for each other, not ourselves. We'll be seeing a lot more of you, now that we're allied with you and Borias. Think about my offer."

[21] Cyane shows that the communal spirit of the Amazon Nation is what keeps them strong, but we also see that without strong leadership and direction, Amazon communities do not survive. After Xena killed Cyane and the tribal leaders, the Amazon Nation in this part of the world disintegrated and left only a few rag-tag survivors, the "Thunderdome" Amazons described earlier.

Chaos and Destruction

"Ephiny is dead-- and we need our queen to lead us."
   -- Amarice

My God! She's not wearing a wig

Gabrielle says good-bye to her good friend, Ephiny.
From ENDGAME (88/420)

[22] The last episode dealing at length with Amazon society during Steven L. Sears' association with Xena was written by him. In light of Amazon episodes to come in Season Five, this episode is virtually an epitaph to the Amazons we have come to know and love during the series. ENDGAME (88/420) is the episode in which two of the leading stars of the Amazon Nation, Ephiny and Solari, are extinguished. Recognizing lessons learned from the past, mainly the equation "No skilled leadership equals dead Amazons", Gabrielle is sought to take her place as Amazon Queen. Gabrielle and Xena help preserve what is left of this Amazon tribe. Gabrielle mourns the loss of her friend and queen, Ephiny, and Xena vows that the Amazons will not go quietly into the night.

[23] The portrayals of the Amazons as a people continue to be respectful and dignified in this episode, and Gabrielle does her best to find the most promising leader to take her place and impart some last-minute wisdom, "What would Ephiny do?" However, at the conclusion of the episode, leadership is left in well-meaning but inexperienced hands. We have seen before that a strong and effective leader is the determining factor in whether or not an Amazon tribe survives.

Party Amazons

"If I were you, I'd leave now, because after the spell is lifted-- my Amazon sisters and I are gonna kill everyone who saw us like this."    --Kayla

Next, on E! True Hollywood Stories...

What could possibly be worse than a bunch of lovesick Amazons?

[24] Season Six of Hercules, which paralleled Season Five of Xena featured one Amazon episode, LOVE AMAZON STYLE (H105/602). In terms of portrayal of the Amazon Nation, it was less than complimentary. Mainly a bonehead comedy, this episode was more on the level of teenage male fantasy. The Amazons were zapped with a spell that made them do whatever men say. We are back to the early Hercules days of Amazon portrayal in that the male versus female dynamic is given center stage, as opposed to the group of strong, independent women who simply chose to live with their own kind as portrayed on Xena. Aphrodite refers to the Amazons as doing their "man-hating mantra". We hear comments from Amazons that imply they spend much of their time hating men, when it would be more accurate to say from seeing Amazons on Xena that they probably do not spend much time thinking about men at all.

[25] For those who watched both Hercules and Xena, this episode would have been encountered first in the broadcast schedule during Xena's Season Five run. Those who saw this episode might well be understandably nervous about what was to come on Xena.

Evolving Thunderdome Amazons

"She will lead us in our quest for vengeance."

I don't care what high school you came from, you're not going to join my tribe!!!It's so wonderful to be named Cyane and still be alive at the end of an episode

The first Cyane (also known affectionately as "The Utma") being "roughed up" a tad by a proto-Ephiny, and the latest Cyane
From LIFE BLOOD (106/516)

[26] The Fifth Season Xena episode LIFEBLOOD (106/516) was a vehicle to show clips of the unaired Renaissance Pictures pilot Amazon High, which later morphed almost unrecognizably into Cleopatra 2525. In addition to killing off two more high-profile Amazons, Yakut the Amazon and Amarice the Amazon wannabe, the Amazons depicted in this episode display little of the sisterhood evident in Amazon episodes past. Perhaps it was the necessity of wrapping a Xena episode around a pilot or perhaps the story elements, though well intentioned, just did not fit together properly, but this Amazon episode displayed very little in the way of "Amazon soul".

[27] The episode did explain a few things, such as the tradition for naming Amazon queens Cyane. It also fixed the origin of Amazons in the Xenaverse. However, in the details of Amazon society and philosophy, things got a little muddled. Is there really one Amazon Nation that is a patchwork of scattered tribes, and if so, how many and how do they all inter-relate? Amazon laws and customs seem to change like the wind to suit the circumstances of the moment, but this is not something limited to Amazons on Xena. This is not the first time Gabrielle, as Amazon Queen, has left things in hands she thought suitable only to find an ever-downward spiral in Amazon circumstances upon her return.

Devolving Thunderdome Amazons

"Tradition is important."
   -- Gabrielle

Fight Club for women

Even the Amazon's entertainment went downhill.
From KINDRED SPIRITS (107/517)

[28] The most recent Amazon installment, the bonehead comedy KINDRED SPIRITS (107/517), continues the tailspin of Amazon culture. In previous Amazon episodes, even back to Hercules And The Amazon Women, if an Amazon desired a relationship with a man, physical or otherwise, that was at the discretion of the Amazon herself. Men did not have a role in Amazon society on a day-to-day basis, but Amazons certainly were not precluded from relationships with men. Ephiny married a centaur while she was still an Amazon. The "Thunderdome" Amazons of KINDRED SPIRITS were either gender-reversed members of the "Little Rascals He-Man Woman Haters Club" or boy-crazy giggling schoolgirls.

[29] Continuity takes another holiday, since in the previous episode LIFEBLOOD, originally aired the previous week, Gabrielle decides that if traditions are bad, new ones should be made. This episode she becomes a slave to so-called "Amazon tradition". Joxer, who previously conducted himself with dignity and decorum in THE BITTER SUITE while in the company of Amazons becomes a jerk when dealing with Amazons in this episode.

Amazons, We Hardly Knew Ye

"I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know. I'm working!"

And then she invented flubber.

In retrospect Velasca was not that bad of an Amazon.
From A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214)

[30] The first episodes depicting Amazons on Xena (HOOVES, QUEST, and NECESSARY EVIL) showed them as strong and capable. By the time we get to the last two Amazon episodes in Season Five the Amazons have been reduced to "Thunderdome" status: confused, inexperienced, and more often than not, victims. I do not think the latter was ever the intention of their creator, and it is a pity that communities of strong and independent female characters have been relegated to such a status.

[31] If Xena and Gabrielle are individual examples of strong, independent, dignified female characters, the Amazons are, or at least were, a group equivalent. I am given to understand that Amazons figure heavily in the Sixth Season opener for Xena, and I believe they and their society are treated with respect and dignity. This would be a good omen. Amazon characters have been very popular with many fans, as well as the early concept of the Amazon Nation in general as it was depicted in Season One and Season Two.

[32] Many popular Amazon characters have given their "lives" for the Amazon cause. Here is hoping that was not in vain.


Bret Ryan Rudnick Bret Ryan Rudnick
Whoosh! Staff
IAXS Executive Committee
"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons"
When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art.
Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite line: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP, 30/206; Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A A A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

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