Special to WHOOSH!
By Catherine M. Wilson (cmwilson@wildestdreams.com) and Joanna Sandsmark (JSandsmark@aol.com)
Copyright © 1997 held by author
3559 words

Part One of the article, WOMEN AT THE CONVENTION: A SURVEY, appeared last month in WHOOSH #05, the Convention issue. That article was a survey of lesbian fans of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.

This article is a survey of heterosexual women fans of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. The views reported in this article represent the views of 17 women who identify as heterosexual. This is by no means a scientific survey nor is it intended to reflect the views of all heterosexual women fans of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (XWP).

The numbers that appear in parentheses indicate the number of women who held a particular view.



A bold title for a bold gal

Every woman who answered my questionnaire stated that XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, was her favorite television show. (In one case there was a tie with THE X-FILES for first place.)

Other favorite shows of heterosexual women fans were: THE X-FILES, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, STAR TREK: VOYAGER, ER, LAW & ORDER, HOMICIDE, and SEINFELD.

All but one woman stated that she taped every episode of XWP. Some women taped other shows as well, including THE X-FILES, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, and HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, but the majority taped only Xena.

Heterosexual women were unanimous in stating that they were glad they went to the Convention. Fourteen stated that they would go to another one, while the other three stated that it would depend on where it was and who would be there.



All heterosexual women deep down want to be Amazons

When asked what most appealed to them about the show, the three things that the women mentioned the most were the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle (whatever it may be) (6), Lucy Lawless herself(6), and the portrayal of strong female characters(5).

One woman said:

"There are two major parts. First, the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and the journey that Xena is taking to restore complete faith in herself. I see the relationship between Xena and Gabby as that of sisters. Closer than just friends. For me, their relationship parallels a relationship that I with a woman who is like my older sister. Xena is a woman who is strong and independent, and Gabrielle is learning how to be independent, while dependant at the same time. I think that Xena is learning the same lesson of dependency."

Another woman said:

"...it was Lucy Lawless who hooked me on the show, from the first moment I saw her, and Lucy alone, with her portrayal of Xena's complex moral dilemmas, is enough to keep me watching. Her relationship with Gabrielle, Callisto's antics, and the humor are additional delights! In light of all of this, obviously the writing is the other big factor in my watching, for constructing these fascinating characters, exploring their relationships with each other, and writing drama and humor equally well."

Another woman said:

"I know this sounds odd coming from a heterosexual woman but the answer has to be Xena/Lucy. She personifies everything that a woman could be and I find it rather gratifying to watch her in action."

And in the same vein:

"LUCY LAWLESS. She has amazing charisma in this role of Xena. I love Xena's combined strength and beauty. I just can't imagine another actress playing this role. Lucy's expressions and acting range capture the duality(Lucy's word) of this character. Xena is a big, beautiful, tough, smart broad and it's impossible for me not to love her."

And again:

"The fact that she is a strong female character who is independent and can take care of herself. She doesn't have to rely on a man to take care of her and get her out of difficult situations. And the fact that she doesn't have an emotional breakdown when things get a little overwhelming. I also think that Lucy is a fantastically talented actress who brings so much to the character. I can't imagine anyone else portraying Xena with as much variety and talent as Lucy."

Another woman said:

"Enter Xena . . . Wow. At first, she was just a really cool chick who used men to get whatever the heck she wanted. Plus, she was a totally non-Hollywood type. I am sick of seeing women on TV and in the movies with eating disorders, looking as if their bones would pop through their skin if they moved too fast. Her face wasn't from the Hollywood cookie cutter, either. And she was tough, could fight, and wore a great outfit.

"Once she got her own show, her intelligence, her humour, and her very dark side riveted me. As her relationship with Gabrielle developed, it was obvious that there was something much much more here. It was intriguing, it was fun, it was sexy, it was loving."

About the Xena/Gabrielle relationship specifically, one woman said:

"One of the things I like most about X:WP is how they portray the friendship between Xena and Gabrielle. I tire quickly from the constant portrayal of women's friendships and women in general in such shows as "Melrose Place." It is so refreshing to see a relationship that is handled with care and sincerity. Here are two people who mean a lot to each other and have a wonderful working/personal relationship. Yes, they may fight, but they work it out and we see them work it out. You don't see many female buddy shows with the exception of Kate & Ally and Cagney & Lacey that handled the intricacies and complexities of female relationships just as well. They work together and never try to undermine the other. They encourage each other and motivate one another to be their best. They learn together and each brings to the other a certain balance and understanding. How many of us are that lucky to have a friendship that falls into this category?"

Another woman said:

"The naughty side of me constantly thinks of her relationship with Gabby. A possible romantic one. But on TV it might hurt the show. Let's say we weren't on TV...and anything goes. I would like to see it...but not if it means an end to the friendship...I think it's ideal that we keep this relationship a bit of a mystery...because there is something sacred about their friendship...It is the most beautiful friendship I've ever seen on television...perhaps the movies too."

Another thing that several women mentioned was the depth of the stories and the characters.

One woman said:

"XWP is much more than a "stupid action show": there are serious issues here that I think about a lot: the whole redemption thing, what it means to be a good person, interaction with other people, sharing yourself with others, learning to trust someone...the character of Xena has so many facets that I think everyone can identify with her in some way or another."

Other things mentioned were: the humor, the scenery, the use of myth, and the quality of the stories.



Joxer... 'nuf said

The aspects of the show that heterosexual women disliked the most were Joxer (7) and lack of continuity in the characters (5), including the lack of sufficient time to develop a good story arc.

One woman said:

"...sometimes the stories are rushed too quickly. A good example would be Gabrielle and Perdicas' relationship--even Herc's relationship with Serena lasted longer! I'm not advocating that we have cliffhanger after cliffhanger like the "To be continued..." when Destiny ended, but perhaps as the show continues, it should become a little more serialized. As someone suggested, perhaps Xena and Gabrielle could go on some sort of quest that would last a few episodes. Longer story arcs would definitely be a plus and allow the show to explore the characters, relationships, and conflicts more deeply."

Another woman said:

"I don't like the lack of time to tell a complete story. Sometimes it's obvious when things are cut too short. Like when Gabby falls in love too fast....or Gabby's boyfriend dies too fast."

Three women objected to the lesbian subtext.

One woman said:

"The subtext does bother me a little bit. Being a heterosexual woman, I don't like it when people assume that because I like a certain show that I must be "that way". There are small minded people out there who think that because two women spend a lot of time together then they must be lovers. I see nothing wrong, though, with two friends sharing a life together who would die for each other."

Another woman said:

"First off let me say that I do not mind the innuendos - I think they are part of the fun. However, what bothered me when X:WP first began was that many people fell into the stereotype of what they perceived as a masculine-type woman and a feminine-type woman could not be "just friends" they must be Lesbians -- or for that matter that any two women with a very close relationship couldn't be "just friends" they must be lovers. As Xenastaff plays more and more into this game of innuendo's ... and perhaps becoming more "blatant" (maybe too strong of a word) I feel short changed. Women... lesbians and heteros alike .. need and want to see a relationship they can relate to and would like to see themselves in a similar one. I really enjoy watching a true friendship on TV that is growing, developing, deepening and will probably hit a few potholes along the way. I guess I'm being selfish but *I* want them to continue to be just friends. But lately... hmmm..."

Other things mentioned that the women didn't like about the show were: the violence (1), the unrealistic gymnastics (1), and the poor quality of the special effects (1).



It is apparent that they keep themselves entertained

A majority (10) of the women are willing to tolerate anything to keep the show on the air. Three are willing to tolerate the subtext, but not an overt lesbian relationship between Xena and Gabrielle.

One woman said:

"I will tolerate anything except a dilution of Xena's character so that she becomes completely good. Xena has a dark side and she should continue to struggle with it--otherwise she becomes one-note and most of my reasons for watching will disappear. I don't ever want to find out everything about Xena, because the mystique and the mystery will be gone. As Lucy put it herself so eloquently, what's the point if Xena becomes too accessible--if you figure out what makes her tick?"

Another woman said:

"I can tolerate the lesbian subtext. However, I could NOT tolerate it if the powers that be slid off the fence and onto one side or the other. As long as both sides are explored, I'm happy."

Other things mentioned as tolerable were the whooshes and the stunts.


The absence of Lucy Lawless (7), a dilution or flattening of the characters (5), the absence of Renee O'Connor (3), confirmation of the lesbian subtext (3), bad writing (3), and more Joxer (1) were cited as reasons the women might stop being XWP fans.

One woman said:

"If Xena became a emotional sentimental priss, or stopped kicking *ss because she doesn't believe in violence anymore. My absolute favorite Xena facial expression is that look of total glee when she's about to clean someone's clock. This "look" is what originally sucked me into the show."

Four women said that nothing would stop them from being fans. One woman stated that only her death would cause her to stop being a fan of XWP.



It is a bad thing to have Xena on the other side

Nine of the women stated that they would like to see more about Xena's dark past and her struggle to change. Six said that they wanted more attention paid to the Xena/Gabrielle relationship.

One woman said:

"I think we need to see a little more of the "dark" Xena - so we can better understand her actions. ... I think the whole point of the show is to show how Xena is making up for all of the bad things she's done, and she needs to struggle a little bit more: show her having the nightmares, have more people direct hostility toward her so she can PROVE that she's really turned around. I think Xena also has to realize how much she needs Gab too. I know it's cheating, this is two things, but they sorta go together."

Another said:

"Xena's journey of redemption. Also, in the relationship area, I think that they should grow even further. I know that they are going to have a schism, but I'd like to see that, plus more elements of growth. Not towards lesbianism, but growth as in friendship."

Another said:

"I DO think the show should focus on the X/G relationship because that is becoming another important part of the show: Xena the "big bad warlord" has found someone to share her life with - it must be very hard for her to be able to trust someone, and to let someone get to know her considering her past. This is a big part of the redemption thing, and we need to see that Xena realizes it is helping her to be a better person."

Another said:

"XENA'S DARKSIDE!!! I absolutely LOVED it when that darkside popped out in "Ties That Bind"!!! When they kill Atrius and she's holding him and he dies in her arms and she gets up and faces the villagers and yells "Kill 'em all!!!!" EXCELLENT!!!!! The look of evil in her face and in her eyes rules!!!! I think that even though they allowed her to find some answers in the "Destiny" episode...I think they still need to tease her with that darkside and allow her to show it once in a while."

Another said:

"Knowing that the staff can't really *rush* things, I would like to see more about the X/G relationship. I think that they *are* a couple."

Other things that were mentioned were: exploring Gabrielle's history, introducing new characters, using myths and legends, and developing longer story arcs.


Did I tell you about how much I miss my dead wife?

Hercules and Xena had a thang going on

Gabrielle (4) edged out Hercules (3). Others mentioned were: Marcus (1), Darius (1), a kind man (2), a man who is her equal (1), a man with a mystique to match hers (1), a man who lasts more than one episode (1) and no one (2).

One woman said:

"this is a toughie: does Xena "need" to have a romantic relationship? I mean, one of the reasons I like the show is that it sends the message that you DON'T have to be hanging on some guy all the time to have an OK life."



"Jail-bait" Gabrielle had a thang going on with "Is that your father" Iolaus

Iolaus took first place with 5 votes. Xena came in second with 4. Others mentioned were: Talus (1), Orion (1), Homer (1), a man who is her equal (1), a writer (1), a bad boy (1), a man who is not a wimp (1), a man (1), a man who lasts more than one episode (1) and no one (1). (Note: some women mentioned more than one man.)


Fourteen of the women said yes, they would prefer that for the duration of the show Xena and Gabrielle should remain single. Two of the women qualified their answers by saying that they would like them to have a little romance in their lives too.

Three of the women thought that Xena and Gabrielle should marry each other.

A typical answer to this question was:

"During the run of the show...Yes...I'd prefer for them to stay single. Though I'd like to see an ep or two..where Xena really tries to settle down with a man she really loves. Would like to see how long THAT lasts...cause I dont thing she can do it......at least not while she's young.

"Same holds for Gab. Not while she's young. Now it really shouldnt make a difference should it? Being married shouldnt mean everything stops. But I think in that society...it would be tough wouldnt it? Unless they lived like gypsy families!!. Hey ...THAT would be a trip!"

Another woman said:

"Technically, yes. The only reason that I hope the *subtext* stays as subtext is that I want this show to continue, and I do not think that it will be allowed to continue if the characters are openly in love, in *that* way. Too many gay-unfriendlies and teenage boys are out there, watching only because they see t&a, fights, action, and monsters. (I changed the sentence from uneducated, knuckle-dragging, beer-guzzling morons because that would just make me sound bitter.) Also, I want young girls to be able to watch the show, getting whatever message that they can from it, without having it censored because of dumb parents."


Five of the women stated that they write Xena fan fiction. One stated that she wrote 'alternative' Xena fan fiction. (Alternative fan fiction treats Xena and Gabrielle as lovers.)

Sixteen of the women stated that they read Xena fan fiction, with nine stating that they read alternative fan fiction.


The heterosexual women at the Convention came from all over the country, including such cities and states as Seattle, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Diego, Boston, North Carolina, Indiana, and Miami. Five were local women.

Eight said they broke their budget to attend, and ten said they did not.

The women spent anywhere between $50 and $925 to attend the Convention. Most of the women bought Xena merchandise from the vendors, including: photos (11), t-shirts (6), hats (5), scripts (4), mugs (4), books and magazines (3), dolls (3), and the CD-ROM (2).

The most requested merchandise items that women wished had been available were: scripts (4), videos of the episodes (4), jackets (3), Gabrielle merchandise (2), a Xena standup (2).


Fourteen of the women stated that seeing Lucy Lawless was either first (12) or second (3) in importance when asked, "What was most significant to you about going to the Con?"

Also in the top three were meeting other fans, meeting the production staff, and meeting the other stars.


Fourteen of the women said that as women they felt they were a valued part of Xena fandom. Two did not.

One woman said:

"Yes I do! Cause I realized at the con that more women are fans of this show than any other demographic. Sure there are lots of men and children, but us women seem to really like the show! It does something for us that nothing else in our lives seem too."

Another woman said:

"Yes. I suppose I believe it not so much *because* of something but because of the lack of something. With other shows - such as Trek - I'm convinced that women are Not Valued Fans... it's evident by the story development and the way the female characters are portrayed/treated. I don't get that feeling with X:WP.

I think the characters are being developed as more than just leather-clad Male Fantasies."

The two who replied "no" said:

"Not really...no more than a man. In fact....I value the men...because there are so few of em. I think Lucy said how nice it was to see as many men as were there at the convention. I felt the same way."


"No - I'm a valued part of the fandom because I'm a *consumer*. I don't think gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference has anything to do with it. When it comes down to it what they really care about is greenbacks and how much we've all spent in our obsession."


Nine women would. Six wouldn't. One said maybe.


The overwhelming answer to this question was, "Thank you." Other responses were: Love your work! and Wow!

One woman said:

"I love your portrayal of Xena. You are beautiful, intelligent, and stunning. I think I'm gay."


"Thank you" was the most popular answer, followed by "Keep up the good work!"


Because the questionnaire was distributed by email, all the women I spoke to are online. Almost of them are members of at least one Xena mailing list. Two have Xena web pages. Being part of the Internet community has been an important part of being a Xena fan for many of the women.

One woman summed up her experience at the Con beautifully:

"It's honestly one of the best things to happen in my life. I have the inspiration now to pursue my dream."


Not a good idea to get on her bad side, no sirree!

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