Whoosh! Issue 75 - January-February 2003

By Jan Dekker
Content © 2003 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2003 held by Whoosh!
4684 words

New In Town (01-03)
Where Are The Men? (04-07)
Death Dealer (08-11)
Xena and Other Heroes (12-21)
Gabrielle and Other Friends (22-25)
The Show and the Makers (26-30)
Final Thoughts (31-37)


New In Town

It's a bright golden day in the meadow... (Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein)
Xena and Gabrielle are fond of sailors

[01] I recently went through the back issues of Whoosh! back to the time of the end of the Xena: Warrior Princess series. I know that what I am about to tell has been told before many times in written and in spoken words. Nobody really needs the same thing repeatedly (except for seeing Xena ride again of course), but I am going to tell it anyway. Beautiful memories have dimmed, if not been ripped out of my mind, and I cannot live with that without trying something that might give me back some peace of mind. I envy you who can be at peace with things even if you would rather have seen things differently. I cannot.

[02] I hesitate to say it, but I have not seen all the episodes yet. I am catching up now with the DVDs. I have seen on the air all of the first two seasons, and after that, I only occasionally saw an episode. The series aired here at the children's time. In the beginning, I watched TV with my son (twelve years of age now) and we essentially looked at anything that moved across the screen. For Xena, I was an addict at first glance. Later the airing schedule changed, but it did not matter. Xena was in my head and it would have been a clever guy who could take that away from me. So, I did not even see the final episode when it aired. I read in the newspaper that it was over. I was sad for a while, but Xena would ride forever in my head, with her friend, Gabrielle -- I thought.

[03] Then the Director's Cut popped up here in the shops. I had not seen any Xena DVDs before, and I bought the d-mned thing. That evening we watched it on TV. My son took it better than I could. He just walked to his room, ignoring me, as if I was to blame. For me however, not a day or night has passed since in which I have not had mixed feelings. I have been mad and outraged. I hardly dare say it, but massive real life tragedies have passed by me with less impact.

Where Are The Men?

See?  I *told* you that men looked silly naked!
Amazons tend not to care where the men are, except when they need them for, you know

[04] After my life had been turned upside down by A FRIEND IN NEED, I began exploring the Internet, just to try to find some things to catch up with. I felt somewhat guilty for not being there when she died and for having missed so many episodes. I came across many Xena websites, some alive, some dead. Moreover, after the initial surprise that this Xena-thing was so big, I wanted to leave my name somewhere. Kind of, well, honoring the warrior and telling Lucy Lawless and Rob Tapert that this had been the very wrong way. However, all I saw on message boards and guest books were women and children. Well, mainly woman and children.

[05] Do not misunderstand me; I adore women. I respect them more than I respect many men, and would never do anything offensive to them. I vote for them in politics if I can. But I did not understand this adoration for Xena. It seemed to me that the show was made for men. I had been collecting books of paintings and drawings of women all my life. Not only old fashion calendar girls, but also Xena-like warriors, female bus drivers, women soldiers, and so on. I know that many women regard some of these pinups as an assault to them, as humiliating or in the very least, disrespectful. I think the opposite is true.

[06] How is a female warrior pinup come to life accepted and adored by so many women? The very friendly lady who owns the Welcome to Xenaverse UK website assured me there are male fans too. She guided me to Whoosh!, but it is hard to find them even here. I thought men would stand in line to watch the lady with the sword and the leather. That they, like me, would find that the bus rides smoother and safer with a female driver and that the land would be better guarded with women soldiers. But perhaps my wife is right in saying that most men resent and do not like the thought of women in charge. I thought we had passed that stage, but maybe we have not.

[07] So maybe I am a little strange, but I like the show and I cannot point my finger at why I am so shocked, confused, and upset by the way the series ended. It is too easy to say that the breaking up of a friendship or the death of the warrior is the sole cause. There must be more and to find out I will comment on some of the things that struck me in the show.

Death Dealer

I wonder if The Simpsons is a rerun tonight..?
Sharing her bread and cheese

[08] One of the first scenes of the first episode of the series (SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)), has Xena on her horse by a boy in a destroyed village. That scene is strong and intense. It has a heavier and more serious feel than most other scenes in the first series. From there on, the show could have gone on to a much darker world than it did -- a world without a sparkle of light or laughter.

[09] I had seen that scene before, wrapped up in a single picture. Back in the seventies, I became interested in what I call now my "Painted Beauties", women on canvas and paper. The artist who triggered that was Frank Frazetta. He did not actually paint many Xena-like heroines, most of his warriors were men, but he did paint Death Dealer. In addition, if you look at it, you know immediately that this warrior will not stop. Neither will the horse. The warrior has things to do. We do not know what he keeps inside his armor, but we know he is going to use it. We also know when we look at him that he will not die easily. In fact, he cannot be killed at all -- unless he wants to. Above all, he would never let himself be ambushed or walk in a trap without having figured a way out. He will choose his own way to die. He would not let somebody stab him in the back. We know that by instinct
Whaddya mean, lighten up?  This IS me lightened up! (Apologies to the Berserker)
Frank Frazetta, Death Dealer

[10] All fantasy characters have such a set of rules. Sometimes the writer makes them. Sometimes you just know when you see the character what kind of rules goes with him. The rules for death dealers are obvious. I mentioned a few already. But there are more. Death Dealer should not grow old. However, he should not die either. This is the pyramid that survives all ages, the tank that wins every battle. An unwritten law says that some things, some rules may not change. Many writers live by that law, but not all.

[11] Men do not belong to my Painted Beauties. I cannot remove them from the books of course, but even if I could, Death Dealer may stay. Nothing could have made this image stronger than it already is in my opinion, except for the warrior having been a woman instead of a man. Remove the axe and the helmet and add a few square inches of bare skin at the arm and upper leg and there is the woman we love and adore. My point of view may be different from that of most of you (I have learned), but my sadness and sense of loss is the same.

Xena and Other Heroes

The picture that launched a thousand t-shirts
Xena, Warrior Princess

[12] Saying this in a website full of women is asking for trouble, I guess, but the view of a woman in the outfit Xena wears is a view to remember. A good-looking woman is always a delight to look at, but this beats it all. The dark leather leaves exactly the right amount of bare skin visible, sometimes showing one or two inches more. You can argue about this all you like, but this is just the way it is. This is what makes the world turn -- my world at least. If you have a million normally dressed women together and one or two of them are dressed in such a way, you spot them at a first glance. You cannot change nature. We are wearing shirts and pants but we are still apes.

[13] I like the original Xena costume better then the one she let herself be killed in. That last one resembles more the outfits many female warrior pinups are portrayed in. The outfit is an essential part of the Xena character to me. The more clothing she takes off, the less Xena she becomes, and the more Lucy Lawless.

[14] No male warrior can compete with this in my opinion. I liked the Conan films for a number of reasons, but riding alongside Red Sonja, Arnold fades into nothingness.

[15] Be they male or female, ancient warriors, or modern secret agents, these heroes have one thing in common. They may die, they may find a home and retire, they may start breeding chickens or whatever they choose, but they would never leave business unfinished or abandon a friend. As with Death Dealer, an unwritten law says so.

[16] Strapping a girl in leather makes a nice picture but not a character. The way the actor moves and acts, does that. Though designed by writers or a part of the actors' natural behavior, the acting makes the character soft, warm, hard, cool or whatever you can think of. Lara, of Tomb Raider fame, as well as many male heroes, is quite cool. She shows no emotion or very little. The virtual Lara could not of course, and Angelina Jolie who played her in the movie did not. It was not the best of films, but I like Lara and at least in this matter the film kept close to the games. Nevertheless, you could not imagine holding Lara and take care of her wounds. She would probably shoot you. Yet, that does not matter. Being cool is what makes her attractive.

A Xena for our time (and with really cool guns!)
Lara Croft, a tomb raider (aka Angelina Jolie)

[17] Ripley, leading character in four Alien films, the woman I saw 38 times in the cinema, (only counting the first film, and then I wore out several videotapes), shows much more emotion. Her expressions of fear, anger, and determination during the whole first film are almost unmatched. You care for her and pray that she will make it. And because Ridley Scott knows the unwritten law, she does. (Ellen Ripley was played by Sigourney Weaver. The first of the four films, just called Alien, was directed by Ridley Scott in 1979). However, you cannot easily see her as someone who admits that she is exhausted and longs for a hug and a shoulder. In the original script, there was a love scene, but fortunately, that did not make it to the film. Ripley and Lara are characters that let us know that they will manage. They do not need us. Likewise the James Bonds and the Conans do not need us.

It's a little known fact that Sigourney was moonlighting in the L.A. revival of Newsies at the time of filming Aliens, and occasionally got her costumes confused.
Ellen Ripley (aka Sigourney Weaver)

[18] Xena is different. She could probably take out Ripley, Lara, Conan, and Bond together without a glance, and does a lot more killing without remorse. Nevertheless, she is also vulnerable. A sword or an arrow can take her out, and if she is, you can see the pain and the rage for being caught in her eyes. Moreover, if she is being hit, or when the arrow is pulled out, we hear her scream and see the veins in her neck swell, and we feel the pain ourselves. This is not what we want to happen to our girl. That is the top acting of Lucy Lawless and because of that, we are so engaged. After that, eventually, her wounds will be taken care of and she can rest. We wish we could do that ourselves, but if her friend does it or anyone else, that is okay. As long as somebody takes care of her, we can accept the pain that she suffered. It is not in vain then and we can start all over again.

[19] However, when Xena was butchered in the final episode, there was not a chance that somebody would take care of her wounds. We did not know it the first time we saw it but we know it now. That is why I will never see this film again. The chain of events that was supposed to happen was broken. No, was sabotaged. What should happen next, or somewhere in the film did not occur. What did occur instead was somebody lifting her head by her hair I suppose, showing her the blade, and cutting off her head. If only Gabrielle had been allowed to travel with her in the end, in life or in death just to take care of her battered body and holds her tight, it would have been bearable.

[20] When Xena walked in that battlefield catching arrows she could almost be certain she would survive in the end. That was in the law and the rules she started out with six years earlier. And above that, she had her own soldier Gabrielle who would take care of it if that part of the law should fail. And she was not concerned about being ambushed because if she would or even if she already was, she should always find a way out. That is in that law too. A law that never really failed on her before. One rule might fail, maybe two, these things happen, but the whole law… she was right in thinking that could not happen. And we, watchers should be certain of it too.

[21] Xena, with her instinct to stay alive turned off by the scriptwriters, had to die alone, in great pain and with her best friend miles away. For nothing. For a very last minute unnecessary script change. They turned over another stone in the landscape of our minds searching for almost forgotten remnants of Xena, found a last piece of her on which we might have been able to hang on and tore it out. "Them pathetic fans started with nothing", they said, "and they'll leave with nothing". I still do not understand why this had to be and there are tears on my keyboard again.

Gabrielle and Other Friends

Whoa, your kiss is on my lips... (Apologies to Hall & Oates)
Who wouldn't want a friend like this?

[22] Some heroes on screen work alone. The ones I mentioned earlier do, the Clint Eastwood cowboys do, and all the machos do. That is their strength. They do not have a close pal and you do not expect them to become yours. Nevertheless, many leading characters do have friends or partners that are always with them. Sometimes of the same gender, sometimes the opposite and sometimes even an animal. The partners are very important. Many episodes of series are written just to show how much they care for each other, and how much they can depend on each other and love each other, no matter what.

[23] In real life, those things do not happen in such dramatic ways very often. Nevertheless, we love it and recognize it because we all had those moments in which you had thought 'Oh if only I could prove and show you'. Most of the time you could not really prove it. However, the heroes on screen can. What more can you ask for? They know and understand each other. We, watching them, know it too. Whatever happens, with the hero or with the mate, in the end, the other will be there. No doubt about it. They have proven it repeatedly. Flipper did, The Avengers did, Starsky and Hutch did, Kirk, Spock, and Bones did, they all did. We trust them, as they trust each other. For now and forever. Nothing can make them change their mind. Not now and certainly not at the end of the series, at the final goodbye. That is just part of that law.

[24] This friendship, this bond was the most important ingredient of the Xena series. As it was for most series with mates. But where almost all mates in other series were allowed to remain friends after the series ending, Xena and Gabrielle were not. Their law was turned off. Their characteristics changed.

[25] Separating two people who care for each other so much that they almost become one person is like tearing off a limb. Both Xena and Gabrielle had to lose everything they possibly could. About Xena I spoke already. Gabrielle fulfilled her job, confident that things would turn out right. She could be confident because their lives had followed the unwritten law. Until the very end, she was right in thinking she had made it. She could not know that law had ceased to exist and that she would be confronted with a choice that was impossible to make. The more she loved Xena, the more she was punished for making a choice.

The Show and the Makers

Pull the strings! Pull the strings! (Apologies to Ed Wood)
Robert Tapert, the puppetmaster

[26] Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor carried one of the most impressive series I ever saw. It was never cheap, the makers believed in the world they created, and that showed. That is why you could believe in it and why the characters became so real. Maybe that is the reason why our heroes, the women we would love too see forever in each others arms, had to pay that high price. Because there is an unwritten law in real life too. That law says that things turning out the way we want in real life is more exception than rule.

[27] I know that the wealth of Xena shows we have on DVD and video is probably unmatched by any other show, except Star Trek, of course, and perhaps some others. However, the way the last show ended even took away the glow of the earlier ones. I have started to look at them on DVD again, one or two a week, one or two times over, but each time I see them ride or walk or talk or slide of the horse or, hardest of all, see those two faces close to each other, I get mixed feelings and tears in my eyes.

[28] I may not wish for bad luck for any person in the world, and I do not. Although the impact of the last six minutes was bigger than anything the Xena production team did before, they also gave us six years of top entertainment and happiness. Besides that, hurting the ones who are most likely the cause of it all would also mean hurting Lucy Lawless. And who wants to hurt Lucy Lawless? However, as I feel it, it shows utter disrespect for the thousands of people who loved the show, spent money on video and merchandise, and were their daily bread. I mean, no watchers, no makers. They have a certain responsibility toward the people they serve. But they just kicked us in the face as if to punish us for loving the show. For loving Xena and Gabrielle. Maybe it was just jealousy.

[29] Entertainers and people in that business are supposed to enlighten our lives, not blacken it. Those who do, do not deserve the support of the viewers. I shall not watch a series made by filmmakers who are likely to start a series with one set of rules and end it with another set. If they want to end things with alternative or modern or spine chilling rules, they should start with them too. I am getting angry again and I do not want that. I do not understand why in this world, where you can get sued for spilling a drop of coffee over somebody, they let makers of entertainment, perhaps the biggest business in the world after guns and tanks, get away with hurting people like this. There should be a law against this kind of abuse. Innocent viewers who follow the call of TV makers as ants on a honey trail should not be treated as rats that followed the flute when the TV makers have enough of the series. And why could they revive Star Trek after canceling the show in an age where there was not even Internet to alert everybody and not Xena now with all our communications? Even before that, even before there was airmail readers were able to reunite Holmes and Watson. Tell me, I am anxious to know.

[30] My head is full of heroes. Mostly female heroes, but there are others too. I always have known that, when my time has come to pay the final bill, I will not be alone; my heroes will be there. From my first hero when I was a boy, Ivanhoe (a knight in medieval England) up to Ripley, Xena, and Lara. I have always been confident that nothing in this unforgiving world would be able the take THAT out of my head. However, I should have known better. Because the makers of Xena just did it. They not only removed the very hero their own introduction called for from the screen, but mutilated it in my mind also. In other peoples minds too I guess. She is still there all right, in my head, but alone as a wanderer and she should have been there with her friend. Two of the heroes in my mind are unhappy. I cannot live with that and I cannot change that.

Final Thoughts

Sure is...RED around here, isn't it?
Xena and Gabrielle walking off into the sunset

[31] This Unwritten Law is a real thing. We have it in real life too. One obvious rule that should not be changed is that old people die before young people. When an old man dies we can have peace with it after a period of mourning. But when a kid dies we can never have peace with that. We can not believe it and feel betrayed. Because The Law was ignored and the rules changed.

[32] I have not written this to judge the way A FRIEND IN NEED ended. I just looked down from a height, feeling that filmmakers not only have a responsibility toward their character to make a good story, but that they also have a responsibility towards us, the viewers. But many people in discussions groups on internet are judging the film in depth and they know much more about the series than I do. They look at the film from the point of view of the characters and take in account their actions and their words and events that happened throughout the series. And many of them come to the conclusion that indeed, this was a fitting end to it all.

[33] Maybe they are right. Maybe this ending does the most justice to the series. And maybe there was, with all the best scriptwriters at hand, no other way to reach that fitting conclusion than to ignore the unwritten law and all it stands for. After six years, it had to go. I ignore my feelings for a moment and agree, it was the only way. Then why do I still feel left standing in the cold.

[34] To me the whole series was, apart from the obvious action and adventuring, about emotions, about human interaction. And the most part of A FRIEND IN NEED was too. For the most of it was really good. Xena and Gabrielle had intense moments, alone and together, we learned new things and the film was just exciting. But then suddenly, at the most important hour of six years, there comes the razorblade that cuts in one quick stroke to the exit sign. And where should have been real arguing, anger and tears about losing each other so suddenly, they just sit there, side by side, if they just did not care anymore. I had felt better if I just had the notion they hated it too.

[35] Now I hate to say this, and I hope I am wrong, but abandoning all parts of the unwritten law AND leaving out all emotion at the end, can be no coincidence. Abandoning the law could have been necessary, but to abandon all emotion in the end? There was no reason for it. The only thing I can think of is that, for some reason, they wanted to hurt us. Well, with me they succeeded.

[36] Whatever might be the truth, I hope sometimes there will be a solution. A film will be the best option. It is not too difficult to make a script that turns things right even after A FRIEND IN NEED. Or a book, officially released. Anything might do. For life now is like looking through a window with a little stain on it, a little spot that you do not actually see but that is always there somewhere in the corner of your eye. And every once in a while something turns your attention to it and for the rest of the ride you are sitting there, a whole world to look at, but you stare at a little spot you cannot wipe out.

[37] As I look back at my writing now that it is finished, it just seems to be incoherent pieces of text. Twenty-six characters randomly scattered over the page. But whatever you think of it, it all ads up to why I sometimes have to face away from my wife or others, blaming the tear in my eye on somebody's cigarette smoke, or get up in the middle of the night to look at the sky, searching for that one star that should not be there, crying over a TV character.


dekker Jan Dekker
My name is Jan Dekker. I live in Amsterdam in The Netherlands, where I work in a library. I am fifty, am married, have a son of twelve and despite the dark mood of the article, am doing fine. I have many hobbies. I am a big fan and collector of both Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan and have seen them both quit often during concerts. I always had something with leading women, like pilots or astronauts. And fantasy female heroes of course. But I never had anything like this Xena experience. I have friends to share most of my hobbies with. But I have never met anybody outside internet who has something with Xena too.
I cannot name a favorite or least favorite episode. I still like SINS FROM THE PAST the best I think. It some kind of 'home' feeling. With Gabrielle saying, "you're not alone…" although the meaning of that line has changed after the final film. And A FRIEND IN NEED I still hate in a way. But it could easily be among my favorites because most of the film I really like. I can't judge episodes. It is as with songs: a line or a scene can turn a rock into a diamond. Like WARRIOR… PRINCESS. I do not like that episode. I like Xena being Xena. But when I see Gabrielle taking out this opponent when she sees 'Xena' is not going to help her, well, you just got to love that episode.



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