Whoosh! Issue 50 - November 2000

XENA FANDOM IN EUROPE
By Petra de Jong
50th Issue Project
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
2389 words



European Fandom (01-02)
British Fandom (03-07)
German Fandom (08-15)
Dutch Fandom (16-25)
Other Countries (26)
Articles
Biography



Xena Fandom in Europe




European Fandom

[1] It is general knowledge what American Xena fandom looks like, because it is the predominant form of fandom on the Internet. Almost all official publications come from the States. But they are also being read outside the US, and they tend to focus on the American fandom, with hardly any mention of what is going on outside the US.

[2] This article focuses on another segment of Xena fandom, namely fandom in Europe. How did it develop? What is going on at the moment, and does the future hold? To answer these questions, this article looks at British fandom, German fandom, and Dutch fandom.


British Fandom



Ripping!

A UK XENA page can be found at http://www.fandom.com/xena


[3] As with many other American TV shows, Xena: Warrior Princess was introduced to the British audience first. The show premiered mid-1996 on UK television. Soon, the UK XenaNet was founded by a group of fans looking for other fans to chat with about Xena. Although the show does not have high ratings, due predominantly to the fact that it is being aired by 'minor' networks and cannot be seen by the majority of viewers, the 'cult mindedness' of the British quite makes up for the lack of visibility. A large group of loyal fans supports the show and sponsors different events.

[4] The first gatherings started as small-scale meetings for local groups and then were soon followed by the infamous 'By the Gods' events at a sci-fi bar in central London. At those events it became obvious that there was enough interest in the community for larger events and events with guests. In 1998, the first Hercules/Xena guest, Robert "Salmoneus" Trebor, set foot on British soil. In 1999, the first big European Xena conventions took place in Britain: Starfury and Chariots of War with guests like Ted "Joxer" Raimi, Bruce "Autolycus" Campbell, and Robert Trebor attending.

[5] The year 2000 saw an explosion of British conventions. First, there was the Olympiad Con with Claire "Alti" Stansfield and Danielle "Ephiny" Cormack. Panathenaea followed these with Kevin "Ares" Smith, Willa "Lila" O'Neill, and Dean "Orion" O'Gorman. Finally, Starfury II is scheduled to have Hudson "Callisto" Leick, Ted Raimi, and Paris "Athena" Jefferson later this year. For 2001, there is already a convention planned, Panathenaea 2001 with Michael "Iolaus" Hurst scheduled as the main guest.

[6] The differences between European fandom and American fandom become obvious at the conventions, especially in the way the actors are treated. In the US, the actors are placed on a pedestal, with fans almost religiously following them and gushing over them. In Europe, the fans tend to be much more down to earth, treating the actors as human beings and chatting with them, without crying or freezing up. The guests also mingle with the fans, something that does not generally happen at the official cons in the US. Of course, there are always exceptions.

[7] Judging from the conventions, British fandom is blooming. The conventions draw big crowds not only from Britain but also from the rest of the European continent. With the official magazine now based in England and published by genre veteran Titan Magazines, the future of British fandom looks rosy indeed. There is excellent co- operation between official sources and the fan clubs, enabling them to do a lot for their fellow fans. This cooperation appears to be unique in Europe. Other European fan clubs barely get the time of day from official sources. This is something Kevin Smith noticed during the Panathenaea convention, and said that he really wanted to come to the convention because he felt the European fans were being ignored by the powers that be.


German Fandom

[8] In the second half of 1996, Xena: Warrior Princess started on German network RTL+ and was dubbed into German. RTL+ reaches a big audience. It can be seen in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and in parts of other neighboring countries, like the Netherlands. Thanks to its early afternoon Sunday time slot, the show became popular rather quickly, and in 1997, a German Xena fan club, the Deutscher Xena Fanclub (DXF), got started. The club soon got over 800 members from the German speaking countries in Europe: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

[9] The DXF publishes a newsletter, the only publication on Xena in the German language, and organizes yearly camps, which can be compared to Xena Fests, with over 200 people from all over Germany and other countries attending the weekend. As with other European clubs DXF does not have the money to bring any Xena actors as guests of the camp/fest. Fortunately, they have proven to be quite resourceful and have had live telephone calls from RJ Stewart, who did a Q&A session for the German fans. In addition, thanks to the good cooperation between the club and the German TV network, they have had the actors who dub the voices of Xena and Gabrielle as guests at a camp.

[10] German sci-fi convention organizers seem to have finally caught on to the fact that Xena is quite popular in their country. This resulted in Ted Raimi being the first Xena guest at a German convention during the first weekend of September 2000. Unfortunately, it coincided with the fan club's yearly camp where Alexandra Tydings made an appearance by telephone so many fans were not able to attend the convention.

[11] The good cooperation between DXF and RTL+ seems to be unique in Europe. There is a constant dialogue between the two parties, with the fan club lending its Xena expertise to RTL+. For example, DXF has given RTL+ good German titles for the episodes. In addition, thanks to DXF, RTL+ now airs the uncut version of the episodes in the middle of the night. That way the fans can tape them and watch the entire episode. This is important because when the show is aired in the afternoon, a lot of the violence is cut out of the episode.

[12] It appears that RTL+ cares about Xena and its fans. They not only air uncut versions after airing the cut versions, they also promised that they will keep airing the show as long as it is produced. They even sent a crew to New Zealand once to do an exclusive behind-the-scenes report.

[13] There is also cooperation between the German fan club and other European Hercules and Xena related fan clubs. Since it is almost impossible to organize a convention with guests on their own, the European clubs have had plans to do something together. Unfortunately because of time constraints, distance, and language barriers, it is difficult to actually get together and start organizing an event. There was a Dutch/German Hercules/Xena Fest in 1998 that celebrated the Hercules/Xena exhibition at a local Dutch museum, but so far that has been the only time the two clubs organized an event together.

[14] The German fan club is not an official fan club, but it does have some ties with the writers and producers of the show. Interviews with actors are arranged through the actors' fan clubs. As with the Dutch club, access through official sources, the official XWP fan club, and the agents, stay closed -- that is, they have had no help at all from them.

[15] At the moment, German fandom seems to be going through the 'regular' stages of Xena fandom: a lot of fans participating in the German club in the beginning of the show, i.e., the first two seasons, with those numbers declining after the third season. There are now about 600 fans in the fan club, with season 5 to air later this year. The expectation is that the membership will stay around 600, with the fans being a 'small' but loyal group.


Dutch Fandom



Ja, gut!

A Dutch XENA page can be found at http://www.dahx.demon.nl


[16] In the Netherlands, some fans saw Xena on RTL+ before it officially started airing in Holland. The Dutch commercial network RTL4 started airing Xena and Hercules on Sundays early in 1997. The shows became popular quickly. Around 500,000 viewers tuned in each week. This is a phenomenal amount of viewers for a foreign TV series.

[17] A group of fans began to discuss the show over the Internet. This group also decided to start a Dutch Hercules and Xena fan club. They shared the information they found on the Internet through a newsletter for the Dutch fans who did not have access to the Internet. Soon the fan club, Dutch Association of Herculeans and Xenites (DAHX), became the focal point of Hercules and Xena information, not only for the fans of the series but also for the Dutch press. Staff members appeared on radio, television, in newspapers, and in magazines to talk about the shows, with the emphasis on Xena since that show proved to be more popular than Hercules.

[18] Unfortunately, during 1997/1998 RTL4 stopped airing Xena and Hercules. Dutch network Veronica picked up both series but put them in bad timeslots, 5pm weekdays. Their schedule also became erratic with seasons stopping in the middle, reruns thrown in between, and long stops without knowing if the shows would be back. Although Veronica knows that the shows have a loyal fan base and are proven hits when put in the right timeslot, it seems as if they do not care about the shows.

[19] The series lost many viewers, but retained a small group of loyal fans. The members in the fan club stayed at 200 members. This is still the case at the moment.

[20] 1998 marked the first European appearance by a Hercules/Xena actor. Robert Trebor visited the Benelux Gen Con in Tiel, the Netherlands, thanks to Wizards of the Coast, who wanted to promote its Xena and Hercules card games.

[21] The following year was a quiet one with just two Dutch Hercules/Xena fests. These fests consisted of showing new episodes from the States, probably the most popular event during a fest, and a charity auction. When there were enough contestants -Dutch Xenites are not much into dressing up- a fancy dress competition was held. For years, the popular dealers' room has been the only way for Dutch fans to get merchandise of the show. About 150-200 fans attended these fests.

[22] There were discussions about trying to get an actor to attend a convention, but those plans were futile due to financial constraints. The club cannot afford it, because there are not enough sponsors and the risk is too great. Dutch companies are not interested in sponsoring sci- fi/fantasy conventions. In addition, Dutch fans tend to 'sit on their money'. They would love to have an actor over, yet they do not want to pay for it.

[23] Fortunately, a Dutch organization called Utopia took it upon itself to organize the first Dutch SF/fantasy convention ever, combining actors from different TV shows. The convention will also have a Xena guest, actress Claire Stansfield. Utopia is doing its best to get assistance from all of the fan clubs for the upcoming event. They also managed to get some hesitant sponsors. Those sponsors will keep a close eye on the convention. If the convention is a success, then getting larger sponsors for another convention will not be a problem.

[24] The Dutch fan club is not an official fan club, so help from official sources has been practically non-existent. However, with the help of the German fan club, the Dutch club has gotten some access to the crew of the series. These crewmembers have given interviews, without them having to be arranged by agents. Only recently has there been some official help from the agents, but that is mainly because the fan club is associated with the Dutch SF/fantasy magazine SF REPORT and is, therefore, being taken more seriously than before.

[25] The future of Dutch Xena fandom depends on the network's plans. They have just started airing Season 4, which at least brings Xena back into the limelight and might bring in some new fans. The network has also bought Season 5, so we still have some time to go, if they do not decide to cancel the show. If they also buy Season 6, and if they continue to start each new season of Xena in September, the show will still be on the air in 2003. It will be hard to keep the fan club running after 2001 though, since Xena's 6th season will probably be the last. There will not be many new things to report to the members.


Other Countries



Sauna & tango?

A Finnish XENA page can be found at http://www.saunalahti.fi/~sidoroff/xena


[26] The last two years also saw the start of smaller European clubs, like the Belgian Hercules and Xena fan club and the Italian Xena fan club. Increasingly, European fan clubs are being formed in Denmark, Spain, Portugal, and Norway, with the Norwegian fan club currently battling the censorship of Xena in their country. These small clubs and fandoms face the same challenges the other European fandoms have had: dealing with local networks that tend to see Xena as a kid's show, trying to get merchandise, and trying to get some help from official sources. Will these fan clubs grow, or will they disappear before they have a chance to even start? The future will tell.


Articles

Petra de Jong, "Xena Fandom in the Netherlands: The Undiscovered Country" Whoosh! #4 (January 1997)



Biography

Petra de Jong Petra de Jong
I'm currently working as a cartographer with a civil engineering firm. In February 2001 I will start training at the military academy, to become an Officer Terrain Analyst in the Dutch army. In my spare time I run the Dutch Hercules and Xena fan club and write for the bi-monthly Dutch sci-fi magazine SF REPORT. When I'm not doing all that, I'm playing on the internet or playing board games with friends.
Favorite episode: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), THE QUEST (37/213),ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), IDES OF MARCH (89/421)
Favorite line: Xena: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206)
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (105/515), LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510)

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