Whoosh! Issue 70 - July 2002

XENA FROM THIS SIDE OF THE WORLD
By Ricardo Riera
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
2018 words


Introduction (01-04)
The Duality of the Human Spirit (05-09)
The Death of Xena and Christian Redemption (10-12)
Gabrielle's Transformation (13-14)
Now It Is All Over (15-17)
Biography



XENA FROM THIS SIDE OF THE WORLD



I love the smell of burning villages in the morning
Xena's demise in FIN was a source of controversey for some, powerful confirming drama for others.

Introduction

[01] My first exposure to Xena: Warrior Princess was by complete chance. I was going through my early adolescence and the idea of a show starring a woman who could wield the sword and rise up against whoever opposed her was marvelous to me. With time, my criteria evolved -- it would be pretentious of me to say that it "improved" -- and thanks to my studies (I am a Letters graduate) I became saturated with the "styles of prose". On top of that, my job as a writer turned me into a living judgment machine.

[02] In spite of all this, my fascination for Xena remained intact. The show, instead of becoming accustomed to its own charms, evolved to paths each time more ambitious, ending in a magnificent final outcome, surpassing by far the show that gave it life: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

[03] The reasons for its success are many. It was a passionate story filled with characters that won the audience's heart immediately. I have always been attracted to heroes who come by the way of evil. Obviously, others felt that way as well. The duality between this not-so-good hero and her sidekick Gabrielle (who started as the purest of souls) also became very attractive because you could see that both of them gained and lost something through their relationship. Xena learned to care more about others, but became vulnerable. On the other hand, Gabrielle became strong and self-sufficient, but lost her initial innocence. The success was encouraged by the amazing chemistry among the cast members, a chemistry that, eventually, has the final word regarding their acceptance by the viewers. Furthermore, the show dared to go beyond the boundaries in television of its time with powerful, yet subtle, sexual content and a creative and exquisite violence taken directly from the martial arts films made in Hong Kong. Intellectually, the series also managed to seduce us for its spirit of adventure and the structure of the journey, not just physical but also psychological, of the main characters.

[04] Many things happened during those six years that comprised Xena's and Gabrielle's journeys. Now that a year has passed since its definite death, we have the chance to look back and make an exhaustive critique of a show that is already a legend. It has projected its terrible shadow over its leading actors, who will have a difficult time exorcising the ghosts of the characters who made them famous. During those past six years, many things, most of them useless, were said about the show. However, very few had stopped to think about its content beyond some dull moral issues, which in the end are nothing but simple publicity stunts.


The Duality of the Human Spirit

[05] Although it would be bold for me to even try to summarize what Xena: Warrior Princess meant to me, I have tried to highlight what fascinated me with the show, other than the incredible story that was offered to us.

[06] The main subject of the series, the one that its creators wanted us to see, and that we all eventually found, was the duality of the human spirit. Every human suffers from this duality of spirit between two poles: the emotional struggle that comes from resolving conflict with violence, and the spiritual search that necessarily comes from not resolving conflict with violence.

[07] Both Xena and Gabrielle embody this double condition, which manifest in the following dilemma. As a human being, I decide that violence is destructive and I try to renounce it. Yet, there is always a new situation that comes up and forces me to take the weapons and fight to protect what I love. Therefore, violence turns into a cycle that always repeats itself. This cycle was represented physically in Xena's chakram, a deadly weapon the warrior princess threw at her enemies that, without explanation, always returned to her.

[08] This internal struggle generates the bond between the two main characters. Xena is coming to the end of her journey, while Gabrielle is starting hers. Xena is looking for redemption, while Gabrielle is trying to find out who she is, what her place is in the world, and she does it through her travels with Xena. Xena plays many roles, many faces, in her friend Gabrielle's life, during a relationship that obviously evolves through many stages. Xena is, for Gabrielle, a teacher to learn from, a mother to seek comfort with, a friend to trust, a sister to look after and a lover to cherish.

[09] This situation could have manifested in any way regardless of the characters' gender, but the issues regarding the duo's sexual orientation distracted many people from its true essence, much more complex than just a sex matter. The relationship between these two characters is deeply spiritual, and merely to talk about it in a physical way would be to diminish it. The "subtext" discussion, therefore, becomes a narrow-minded issue. It would be good to remember what the ancient Greek thought about homosexuality, since it was believed to be the ultimate expression for friendship.


The Death of Xena and Christian Redemption

[10] This discussion about sexual issues came from the outside, since it often was the subject brought up by critics. Yet, there is also another issue, this time created by the fans themselves. I am talking about the final episode, where Xena met her ultimate death.

[11] Millions of Xenites around the world expressed their rejection of this plotline, refusing to accept this absolute end for their favorite hero. Such discussion is, in my opinion, unnecessary. Those who reject the final episode in such a radical and irrational way forget that one of the main motivations Xena had was to find redemption for all the evil she had caused.

[12] Whether we like it or not, whether we agree or not, redemption is a concept brought to us by Christianity, filtered through the belief systems of the writers and producers of Xena. According to Christian precepts, redemption is only possible through true sacrifice, the one that is absolute, the one that comes only when one decides to surrender everything, even one's own life, for the Greater Good. Xena's ending is, therefore, coherent with the show's spirit. She sacrificed herself in order to save thousands of people she had condemned. In the end, she had to choose between those people and her own happiness. Making that decision is hard because many of us would choose to save ourselves. This time there was no loophole. There were no other options, so Xena decided to step down. She said it herself. It had to be done.


Gabrielle's Transformation

[13] Yet, this act of redemption does not end there, because the battle for good that Xena started cannot die with her. Therefore, Gabrielle must take her place and enter the circle of death and violence, represented by the chakram she inherits. This allows Gabrielle to continue her friend's job. I recall all those episodes, all those incredible adventures that the two of them had together. What comes to my mind is that excellent line used by Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black, when he says: "I haven't been training my partner. I've been training my substitute."

[14] From this learning relationship grows a powerful friendship that even surpasses the barriers of death itself. Before, it was because Xena and Gabrielle kept coming back to life even tough they were killed a number of times. Gabrielle herself thought that Xena could be brought back. Now that is final, she learned that the death of Xena does not mean the end, because she will be in her heart for all time. The same thing happened to us. We, as an audience, became accustomed to our heroes being brought back from the afterworld over and over again, and it was precisely the failing of this expectation what caused the rejection for the series finale. Well, we will just have to learn to live with it. Again, I confirm my unconditional support towards this episode, without a doubt one of the best.


Now It Is All Over

[15] Now, it is all over. The people at Whoosh! hit the jackpot with this homage to the show one year after its demise. On behalf of that, and from this corner of the world, I can only say that the series has been one of the greatest things that happened to me. Its universe, though far from perfect, is at least coherent and, above all, gifted with an exquisite intelligence. The memory of the show will live on forever in those of us that enjoyed it and continue to enjoy it nowadays.

[16] As long as I am in this spirit, I am going to say something that I know many people will hate me for. I do not wish the series to be continued through a movie. It would be terrible for me to see that a show with such a good "finality" is being dragged out again in a version that would not do anything except damage the structure of the show. Besides, even if a movie was made about the series, it must have Ares as one of the characters, and it would never be the same without Kevin Smith.

[17] Therefore, to all the Xena fans around the world, I send this: a little thank-you note for keeping the show alive. If you wish to answer me, do it through the e-mail address above and below. I would like to know for sure that I am not alone on this side of the planet with my particular taste. I hope that someday another show comes on and, as director John Waters said: "finds a new, tasteful, and creative way to portray even more sex and violence."


Biography

a riera of mystery Ricardo Riera
My name is Ricardo Riera, and I live in Caracas, Venezuela. By the time you see this I will be 23 years old, and I graduated on Letters at the Andrés Bello University, here in my home city. I am a journalist for a newspaper called El Nacional, and I have written for television in a couple of occasions, but fiction writing is my real passion, especially fantasy, and horror. Right now, I am trying to publish a collection of short stories. I first watched Xena when I was 17 years old, and though it was not love at first sight, I became obsessed with her once I knew what the show was about. In the spirit of Whoosh!, I love strong female characters, and Xena is one of the few who, besides being strong and beautiful, has some psychological depth behind her eyes.


Favorite episodes:THE DELIVERER, SACRIFICE, ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE, THE WAY, IDES OF MARCH, THE HAUNTING OF AMPHIPOLIS, and FRIEND IN NEED. There are so many, is hard to decide.
First episode seen: DREAMWORKER, another one of my favorites.
Least favorite episode: CRADLE OF HOPE, DEATH MASK, A TALE OF TWO MUSES, LIFE BLOOD, and SEND IN THE CLONES. There are more, of course. The show also had its misses.
Favorite characters (besides Xena & Gabrielle): Callisto, Eli and Alti (I am not counting characters originally from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, like Autolycus and Ares).
Least favorite characters: I never really cared much for any of Xena's doubles.
Favorite Season: Number 3 and, specially, Number 4.
Least Favorite Season: Number 1.
Favorite scene: When Gabrielle throws the chakram at the end of FRIEND IN NEED, and the dialogue that Xena and Callisto have in front of the Helios Dagger in SEEDS OF FAITH.
Least favorite scene: When Xena gets on board of the ghost ship in LOST MARINER.

 

 

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