BACCHAE AND THE SUCCESSFUL MIXING OF TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY VAMPIRES
IAXS Project #187
By John H. Beckwith (76715.2512@CompuServe.COM)
Copyright © 1997 held by author
GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN was XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS's first seasonal episode. It celebrated the holiday of Halloween. In an uneven yet interesting fusion of vampires and Bacchae, the creators wove the myths of Orpheus, Bacchus, and the undead into a climax where Gabrielle was successfully seduced by the darkside and Xena had to succumb in order to save the world and her beloved.
Mr. Beckwith's article explores the apparent fusion of the concepts of the traditional and the contemporary vampire which created the Xenaverse Bacchae.
The hills are alive with the sound of Bacchai
 In the XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS episode, GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (#28), the viewer was introduced to the Bacchae. The Bacchae in classical Greek mythology were the women followers of the God of the Vine, Bacchus. In the Xenaverse, however, the Bacchae were essentially vampires.
 Vampires have a rich history in our culture in both literature and myth. Vampires apparently have always fascinated us and still do, as the novels of Anne Rice testify. It appears that every generation re-defines what a vampire is. Because of this, the ideas associated with "traditional" vampires sometimes conflicts with those of "contemporary" vampires.
 In this paper I would like to compare and contrast the traditional vampire with the contemporary vampire, and explore how the episode, GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN, successfully mixed these concepts into the characters of the Bacchae.
Dating Dracula can be a dangerous occupation
Photo Courtesy Bret Rudnick Collection
 Traditional vampires are usually one of or a mix of the following: (1) Bram Stoker's original Dracula; (2) an Advanced Dungeon & Dragons vampire; or (3) the easy-to-recognize Halloween window decoration with the cape, bloody fangs, candelabra, and a widow's peak. The traditional vampire is the standard design that we have seen during all Saturday morning cartoons when we were kids. They are always antagonists and villains. If you are watching a program and the thought of being "brought across" by that vampire frightens and repulses you, then you are most likely watching a traditional vampire.
 Contemporary vampires are of the Anne Rice mold and the White Wolf game system: basically the sleek and hip immortal wanderer who wears shades at night.
 Contemporary vampires are identified in fiction by being more suave, more honorable, more deadly, and occasionally more heroic than the hero(ine). If you are watching a program and the thought of being "brought across" by that vampire appeals to you, then you are most likely watching a contemporary vampire.
 The mood of the episode, GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN, is that of traditional vampires. The entire episode had an air of horror rather than XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS' usual action/fantasy/adventure/mythology. >From the moment Orpheus' decapitated head opened its eyes and started screaming, the audience started screaming too. From that moment on, combined with Gabrielle's description of Bacchae and the rushing wolves, those members of the audience who had stopped screaming would piece together what the Bacchae truly were: vampires.
 As a side note, it was impressive how the writers darted around the "V" word for no reason, as if it were under copyright infringement.
 The Bacchae from the beginning were portrayed as a successful cross between traditional and contemporary vampires. When they changed from wolf to woman, their features did not melt from one to the other. Their features frenzied and shook. It was akin to watching a wolf that just happens to be able to assume the appearance and posture of a human. Many of the Bacchae were so uncontrollable and uninhibited under the surface that even speech was difficult for most Bacchae and impossible for the initiates. Those characteristics are traditional.
 Bacchae may walk and have the poise of the sleek and deadly contemporary vampire, but watch the expressions on each of their faces throughout the episode. They gained immortality and incredible powers like flight and strength, but they lost their free will. As Gabrielle put it, Bacchae were "soulless", and that terrified the villagers. When Gabrielle arrived to partake in the ceremony, Ms. O'Connor's drugged stare was one of exquisite and serene beauty, yet it was a stare of being lost in an overwhelming new world where the only voice that offered to guide you was the voice of Bacchus himself. That again is a characteristic of a traditional vampire: master and slaves, not parent and children.
TRADITIONAL VS. CONTEMPORARY
Xena, being bitten
 In Bram Stoker's original DRACULA, the vampire myth is that only those mortals with vices and loose morals would allow themselves to be caught in a situation where they would be embraced by a vampire. In XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS' timeframe, this legend still stands, as evidenced by the quivering in Gabrielle's voice at the very beginning of the episode when her definition of Bacchae is told. Back then, you did not WANT one of the vampires to get hold of you. Today, most folks put up with a greater degree of "looseness", thus contemporary vampires are more popular, more seductive, and more intriguing.
 Times and fans being what they are today, who among us did not shudder in both fear AND AWE as Gabrielle turned Xena into a Bacchae? I would wager that most of you, like me, watched Joxer's earlier discovery of the blood at Xena's neck and began imagining what would become of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS history if the warrior princess was turned irreversibly towards evil. I would also bet that the same taint of evil that originally attracted many of us to the Xena series' storyline thrilled each of us tenfold when Xena opened gold- tinged eyes and lips filled with fangs. It was a sinister touch that Xena developed double pairs of fangs on her upper jaw instead of the usual single pair.
 The point being? GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN was a traditional vampire tale, but the promise of Xena turning eternally evil, and the ever-perpetual hint of sexual innuendo, allowed Xena fans to let that small dark part in our hearts to enjoy the elegantly forbidden way in which Xena was brought across. None of us wanted the forces of good to lose in the end, of course, and that's why GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN was a successful mix of both traditional and contemporary vampire tales.
 If it had been completely a contemporary vampire story, Xena would have come in every week and we would have heard no other dialogue than Bacchus' laugh and the screams of countless innocents. However, Xena looked upon being brought into the fold as a necessary evil, not as an attractive offer to power, thus this was primarily a traditional vampire tale. Nonetheless, the forbidden aspect of giving in to one's wild side and the visual beauty of the Bacchae are a mark of contemporary vampire stories.
 It would not be difficult to imagine that this episode's finale was rewound and rewatched many many times by many fans just to watch Xena slip back into her former beliefs of uncontrolled destruction for a few seconds. Do not kid yourselves, had that dryad bone not struck home into Bacchus' heart that second time, not even Xena could have kept control over her own free will for another attempt.
Although it was brief, Xena was a memorable Bacchae