THE UNANSWERED QUESTION:
AOL LIVE CHAT WITH RENEE O'CONNOR,
APRIL 23, 1997
Special to WHOOSH!
By Ryan (PenandSwrd@aol.com)
Copyright © 1997 held by author
There is no truth to the rumour that this is a photo of the author's workspace. Well, maybe it's kinda true. OK, it *is* true.
 There was excitement in the air of the virtual auditorium where Renee O'Connor was scheduled to speak on America Online the night of Wednesday, 23 April, 1997. A number of us took our "seats" in the back of beyond Row 721 as we waited for the guest speaker to appear. We wondered what topics would be covered, what questions to ask, whether the celebrity would be able to log in (this is AOL, after all), and all sorts of things.
 When the session began we read the questions and answers eagerly, variously delighted or dismayed depending on what was asked, what the answer was, and what we individually expected. There were questions about costuming, staff training, hair colour, and so forth.
Then we saw "The Question".
 Rippper22 asked:
"I'm curious about some of the lesbian overtones the show has taken during a couple of recent episodes. Is that going to be a trend, or was that a misinterpritation (sic) by the viewing audience?"
 Our row was hushed. We were stunned a subtext question even got through. We eagerly awaited a response.
It seemed like a long delay by cyberspace standards -- perhaps about a minute.
Then we were on to the next question.
 Of all the questions asked during this session, that one was the only one to be completely ignored. A couple of other questions got deflected or laughed off, but not ignored completely.
 Curious about the whole question and answer process regarding AOL's Celebrity Circle, I called AOL to ask about it. It was revealed that Celebrity Circle, like so many AOL functions, is not actually run by AOL but sub-contracted out to a different group.
 So I followed this lead and was able to directly contact one of the two moderator's of the chat. She confirmed that moderators/hosts will give questions to the celebrity (filtering out any that are obviously offensive) but it is up to the celebrity to ultimately answer the question or not.
 In this case, I referenced The Question specifically, and the moderator responded:
"She chose not to answer any questions pertaining to that subject."
So it was ultimately Renee O'Connor herself who, for her own reasons, decided not to answer the question. It was not censored or "filtered" by any third party.
 I also contacted the person who asked the question, curious as to why in particular he wanted to know about it, did he know of or follow the subtext issue, and so forth.
"There is a small group of us at MSU [Montana State University] that have been wondering how and or why the sudden change in Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor's character."
As he and his friends saw it, they perceived an abrupt change in the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle sparked by the kiss in THE QUEST (#37) and the hot tub scene in A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39).
 I asked if he had any personal feelings or preferences as regards the subtext issue and he said,
"More power to them! We just wanted some clarification on the matter."
Judging by the chatter in our row, a lot of other people were curious as well.
 I further asked him how he felt when his question was ignored.
"I was really mad. This was a subject that I guess other people felt very strongly about by the number of IMs I received."
He is not alone. I do not doubt a significant number of people in the audience were curious as well.
 The questioner was sorry he could not respond to all the IMs at the time, but "there were just too many."
He went on to say,
"If Renee [O'Connor] had just answered the question, then things would not have gone completely out of control. The way the question was phrased we left a very large door for her to walk right out of it. She did not need to stonewall us."
 He also thanked the hosts for allowing the question to be asked, and a number of people polled said if they had to choose a best question of the session, that was the one.
 He also has a personal message for Renee O'Connor if she is reading:
"I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings in any way. This was a question posed strictly for your character and not yourself. You have my strictest and most humble apologies."
I do not think it can be made clearer than that.