Whoosh! Issue 50 - November 2000


By Edward Mazzeri
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
2281 words

Xena And Television (01-04)
Xena Around The World (05-06)
Xena And History (07)
The Xena Effects (08-09)
Xena's Performers (10-11)
Xena And Production (12-13)
The Gabrielle Effects (14)
Xena And Word-Play (15-16)
The Action-Xena (17)
Xena And I (18-21)
Gadgets, We Have Gadgets (22-24)

How Has Xena: Warrior Princess Changed the World?
Let Me Count the Ways

Xena And Television

[1] Archaeologists uncovering ancient female skeletons buried with swords generate headlines about Amazons in Siberia. Reports of recently discovered Chinese flushing toilets make the Xena version historical and less anachronistic than first thoughts several years ago would have suggested.

[2] When the clarion call for Whoosh! 50 went out around the world, the episode of Buffy (TV, 1997-present) that was being repeated locally at that moment was, coincidentally, the Halloween one where Willow wishes Buffy had dressed as Xena. A worried sociologist has observed school children playing a Xena-based game called "kidnapping babies". A genetically modified piglet has been named Xena (the connection must have been via the concept of Babe, and an eagle called Xena). As this article is being written, a program on TV about Roman Britain is describing Boudicea's attempt to protect her home village from the cruel Roman invaders. It sounds so much like the old Xena of Amphipolis, especially as told by Callisto of Cirra, that the reincarnation begins to enter the realm of the probable. And last week there was a documentary about how cooling the blood by a few degrees helps preserve the brain when there has been an accident and injury. The cooling increasing the chances of survival (not by twenty years, though).

[3] You cannot even turn around these days without bumping into a Xena-reference with your elbow.

[4] The depth and layers of even simple scenes, like Xena and Gabrielle sitting by the water just talking, carry unexpected resonance beyond the frivolity and surface froth of producing an enjoyable TV show. With so many ripples spreading in so many directions, reading between the lines becomes a full- time and enjoyably productive occupation.

My karma determines how stupid a hat I have to wear

Alti's incarnations are always looking out for Xena incarnations.

Xena Around The World

[5] An acquaintance from Auckland mentioned picnics and school excursions in the national parks, and how such things were accepted everyday fare. In Sydney, by contrast, you have to travel 100-200 km before you come across substantial sources of chi, unless you really like scuba diving or boats of various sorts-then you have got the Harbor and the coastal beaches to play in.

[6] The ease with which the natural world and its denizens form a part of the landscape of the stories, and even interact plot-wise with the characters in some episodes, is refreshing to see when so many other shows depict humans living in and around concrete structures. "Nature" in these shows means storms and floods, lightning, and bush fires, landslides and mudslides, volcanoes and earthquakes, and snarling things with lots of teeth. (Although Xena has its share of those, too.) Or perhaps I just like the giant tree ferns, and forests.

Xena And History

[7] The other pole of possible representation is the completely artificial one, of holosuites and indoor sets. When done well, and Xena does some of them surprisingly well for its budget, they become like the luscious sets of Desperate Remedies (Stewart Main & Peter Wells, 1993), which masquerade as landscapes of the heart, and are a treat to watch the characters walk about in.

The next Uber incarnation appearing on a webpage near you...

The color Red is never the same after experiencing DESPERATE REMEDIES.

The Xena Effects

[8] The gentle humor interwoven into the stories, like the pet rats on dawn patrol down at the seaport, the cat sound-effects whenever Joxer falls over, the clam bake jokes on the beach, the "nice sword" passing reference to Excalibur while hiding from banshees, the chakramed rooster's flying feathers, the great squid-octopus debates, and so on, add a layer of foam to the waves and clothe the undercurrents. (Not to mention the Gabrielles a-go-go).

[9] Consider the imagination and creative effort that has gone into the costumes and choreography. Do not forget the armor and the real leather. The closer you look at the armor, the less there actually is of it (too much staring is not polite, though).

Xena's Performers

[10] Unable, due to circumstances, to make a promised visit one year, it was a joy to see Lucy Lawless arrive in town (albeit, too briefly!) the following year and add to the local festivities. She brought a friend, too!

[11] The other actors share the dedication and enthusiasm as well. Danielle Cormack, for example, helped in adding Siam Sunset (John Polson, 1999) and Via Satellite (Anthony McCarten, 1998) to the entertainment vocabulary. In the latter film, her demonstration to the Karl Urban character of how to mix a vodka and orange was priceless.

Xena And Production

[12] Other hallmarks? Photography and editing, plot and by-play, direction and script. A dewdrop on a fern frond in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys adds atmosphere and encapsulates the mood of a bright fresh morning in a transition between scenes. The same dewdrop and fern frond on Xena: Warrior Princess performs above and beyond scene-transitioning, becoming a vector of expression of unbounded horizons, like meeting a Vorlon outside of its encounter suit for the first time. The texts and subtexts interweave and interplay, maintaining their separate identities throughout, yet augmenting each other. Oak and poplar, yin and yang, tortoise and hare. Color of the tortoise, darkness of the oak leaf, height of the poplar, a haring mind = Xena. Sturdiness of the oak, brightness of the poplar leaf, height of the oak, are we saying that Gabrielle has a tortoising mind? Or better still, a steadfast heart? An interesting yin-yang juxtaposition, probably (but not necessarily) unintended, occurred when Perdicus appeared from behind an oak in one episode, and the messenger about the Green Dragon appeared from behind a poplar in another.

Must... reach... director's chair...

Renee O'Connor as Gabrielle
[13] The detail abounds. The effort and the commitment are seen in the detail. The props, the razzle-dazzle of the contraptions. Even when the actors are acting a character who is acting, they do not look it.

The Gabrielle Effects

[14] In thinking about the way the concepts touched on above are interlinking, it is slowly becoming clearer that the Gabrielle character is at the center of the Xena universe-one pole of every magnet, one axis of every graph: Gabrielle and Xena (of course), Gabrielle and Joxer, Gabrielle and Autolycus, Gabrielle and Aphrodite, Gabrielle and Ares, Gabrielle and Draco, Gabrielle and Ephiny, Gabrielle and the Crusader Najara, even Gabrielle and Argo, Gabrielle and Minya, and "Gabrielle and the Four Seasons", to borrow a coined phrase. Pairing any two non-Gabrielle characters does provide interesting dynamics and valid storyline developments, but it also emphasizes the strength of the centrality of Gabrielle.

Xena And Word-Play

[15] Echoes and icons abound, references, too. Some are probably not consciously intentional, while others arise most likely through a sort of osmosis of the mind. Chakotay, for example, alone in the forest in a Star Trek: Voyager (TV, 1995-present) episode, is accompanied, briefly, by background music of the LoDuca school. Laconic Xena itself has become iconic: one reviewer recently presented the Hercules-Xena spin-off development as the precursor example of how BUFFY and ANGEL (TV, 1999-present) compare to each other.

[16] As a secondary adjunct on that last point, and in a different direction, though Hercules has (or had) more beefcake and cheesecake, Xena is the meatier (and frothier), and it's deeper, and wider. In Hercules, the myths and legends are encountered and referred to. In Xena, they are lived and breathed.

The Action-Xena

[17] Swordplay, singing, acrobatics, horseback riding ability (both backwards and forwards), agility, and inventive dexterity with a whip. Herbal wisdom. Sewing. Rat-tossing of various sorts. Chakram hurling. And many other skills besides. Who would not follow someone like that all over the countryside?

Lucilla DeVille... If she doesn't scare you, no sexy thing will

What are you doing this weekend?

Xena And I

[18] There has been great fun, on the part of this author at least, in attempting to create self- modifying browser skins, electronic self-contained postcards, audiovisual booklets, version one script generators, and other paraphernalia. Some of them look like they could even work, one day. Before you can write on the parchment, you need to visit the parchment-maker's stall at the markets, and that means, for the script generator, for example, building a linguistic object model, one component of which is a syntax object, which can string words together. Another component would be a word selector to start a phrase or sentence, receiving input from a unit that would contain the idea that was intended to be conveyed, and so on. Lots of fun. None of it would have come into existence without you-know-who.

[19] This is to say nothing of the sights and sounds: the beauty of the New Zealand countryside, the evocative soundtrack.

[20] The multi-layered structure of Xena allows points-of-entry for all sorts of participants. One of my favorites is Gabby Millgate's send-ups on a local comedy show last year: Xena in armor made from tea-strainers and other utensils, roasting a frozen chicken over the campfire with an adoring and adoringly naive sidekick, meeting up with Hercules, adventuring in Hades' realm, and so on. Send-ups are worth an article in themselves. Send- ups would not work if there were no common, shared, central core of meaning and reference.

The hills are alive...

Perfect for the campfire sing-around.
[21] On the one hand, we have the prototype Praetorian guard figure [called "Jaffar" on Stargate (TV, 1997-present)], working under the unadvertised aegis of Cleopatra (it is the only historical hypothesis that makes consistent sense, or does it?), accompanying the pilgrim walker figure (Cleopatra's niece, perhaps?) on surveys and journeys of discovery (or recovery?), weaving together the folklore strands of Robin Hood of the forest and The Lone Ranger of the plains. It is interesting that Gabrielle's father is named Herodotus. The ultimate indignity for Gabrielle would be that others deem her stories to be "lies", like ancient people did with the historical Herodotus.

Gadgets, We Have Gadgets

[22] On the other hand, we have gadgets, plenty of gadgets, enough for an Inspector, in tandem with various royal secret services, spies and lookalikes, double takes and disguises, reminiscent of a Hellenic Secret Squirrel and sidekick. Combine both hands together to get a Get Smart (TV, 1965-1970)/Wild, Wild West (TV, 1965-1970) with a con or two and plenty of action. And did not Autolycus embody Xena's spirit once? It is good to see someone clad in Lincoln green, and who is such a master at everything he does, be rewarded with a holiday in the Caribbean somewhere.

[23] There is also a persistent thread of the figures of the prophet and her scribe, the spiritual parchment and the down-to-earth writer-where, in ancient days, the visions, dreams, and experiences of the one were written down and preserved by the other, for the contemplation of those who would come that way. A bit like walking along a riverbank, and meeting an old friend, or being reminded, by a glint on a pebble in the water, of a conversation with them long ago.

The TV screen needs cleaning again

Interesting mosaic restored at Pompeii.
[24] Where once there were Amazon villages, now there are a few remnant foundations and post-holes melding back into the green. The centaur tracks on the hillside are now overgrown and slowly fading from the sight of the sun. The songs that were sung and the games that were played exist now only in the memory of places like Laurel and Poteidaia, and, across the Strymon, Amphipolis.


Edward Mazzeri, "Chakram Levels" Whoosh! #41 (February 2000)

Edward Mazzeri, "Mirror of Virtue, The" Whoosh! #43 (April 2000)

Edward Mazzeri, "Word Count and Meaning in Xena: Warrior Princess" Whoosh! #47 (August 2000)


Edward Mazzeri Edward Mazzeri
It is obvious I like stories about innkeeper's daughters, especially as told by peripatetic bards from the village next door. Sometimes I read the newspaper, and count the references to Xena. I have long ago given up using search engines on the web: it is physically impossible to catch up with all the references in cyberspace. Some of the pages are beautiful, much better than anything I could even imagine doing. There is a lot of talent out there. In the meantime, I have made graphics, MIDI files, and applications that stream both, and many others projects, like XML/XSL/CSS editors, that would take many pages to describe. Several of them, needless to say, are Xena-related.
Best episode not yet seen: LYRE, LYRE, HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510)
Least favorite unseen episode: Umm?
Favorite song: "Tara's Dance"
Best intro teaser: whenever the girls are fishing.
Best haiku: "The ultimate fantasy" - Gabrielle, ostensibly referring to herself, in FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318).

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