Whoosh! Issue 86 - February 2004

HORSE AS HOUSE:
EQUINE ICONOGRAPHY AND DOMESTICITY IN
XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS

By Edward Mazzeri
Content © 2004 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2004 held by Whoosh!
12027 words

Author's Note

Xena: Warrior Princess is still relatively fresh in Australian memory and all six seasons are now out on DVD in Region 2/4 format, allowing an overview of the series as a whole. One of the continuing background threads in the tapestry of the series has been Xena's equine companion, the characters of Argo and Argo II. This article follows the horse-trail, picking up clues about the horse and the actors who played her, and briefly examines the house that was built along the way.



Introduction (00-00)
Rules (00-00)
The Pioneering Spirit (00-00)
May You Ride Long and Hard (00-00)
Traveling on Wit and Grit (00-00)
You Seem To Belong Here (00-00)
To Live on a Horse (00-00)
The Front Porch (00-00)
A Thing of Beauty (00-00)
Boarding School Stories (00-00)
Hero (00-00)
Myth (00-00)
Conclusion (00-00)
Acknowledgments

Notes

Articles
Biography



Horse as House: Equine Iconography and
Domesticity in Xena: Warrior Princess



Introduction

I lost no time in explanation, but plunged immediately into a discussion of our plans for the immediate future.
-- Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars[Note 01]

[01] Horses cannot lie.

[02] They can be friendly or nasty; happy or sad; inquisitive or shy; flighty or unflummoxed; but never deceitful. It is not in their nature. With a horse, what you see is what you get.

[03] The practical outcome is that horses do not know what pretending is. Actors acting out a scene in front of a horse are taken at face value. What a horse gets is what it sees. What can Xena's horse Argo tell us about the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle? What has Argo seen?



A horse is a horse, of course, of course...

Familiar face at the marketplace
(131/619) MANY HAPPY RETURNS, detail


[04] Tilly and the other two horse-actors, whose names I can never remember, but who I always think of as Galloper and Stander, took turns playing Argo. Stander can be seen, for example, at the start of THE FURIES (047/301) where Xena, mind-addled by the Furies, jumps into the saddle backwards so she can see where she's been (as she explains to her sidekick Mavis). Galloper is very good at moving around the landscape at great speed and is seen in various episodes moving the narrative along. Tilly is placid, intelligent and friendly. She does not mind going for a walk through the woods or along the hillside with her humans, and she likes apples and the occasional chew of grass.

[05] The imagery of Xena, Gabrielle and Argo as heroes with their equine transportation carrying day-to-day equipment and having adventures link up thematically with similar images from other adventure shows, including those of starship captains and their crews in their starships; of Batman and Robin in the Batmobile (Batman TV 1966-1968); of the Green Hornet and Kato with their version of a Batmobile, called Black Beauty. It rotated up, as I remember, from under the garage floor (The Green Hornet, TV 1966-1967). The closest similarity would be with adventure Westerns, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto on Silver and Scout (The Lone Ranger, TV 1949-1957).

[06] Interestingly, there is a partial similarity between Tonto's horse Scout and Joxer in terms of motifs: they are both party-colored occasional comic-relief. For example, in the movie The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (Selander, 1958), at the campsite in the middle of the desert, Tonto and Scout do a Laurel-and-Hardy routine with a sleeping blanket, each pulling the short blanket back over themselves several times, leaving the other out in the cold. Tonto finally remarks to the Lone Ranger with a Gabrielle-like sentiment but using his own words, "Him think him funny."

[07] Like Scout, Argo is a character in her own right.

[08] In FORGIVEN (060/314), Argo is part of the goodnight chorus, just like I remember how each episode of The Waltons (TV, 1972-1981) used to end, with all the characters saying goodnight to each other.

[09] Another example is in THE GREATER GOOD (021/121), where Argo does a dramatic dialogue with another horse to prevent Xena being drawn and quartered (actually, halved).

[10] A third example, combing drama and comedy, is where Argo goes off in an apparent huff and avoids Xena in IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (072/404) but turns out to have only followed her liking for apples.

[11] Why equate the living Argo with the mechanical Black Beauty of The Green Hornet? Argo's presence follows story-telling rules that can be, and are, shared across stories. If two different stories or series use the hero's transport element as part of the story-telling, than that transport element is a shared element. In a sense it is the same element in two different costumes: in this case, a sleek car with lots of hornet gadgets or a loyal horse with intelligent skills. In both cases this particular shared element moves the hero(es) around the landscape and provides crucial assistance in saving the hero's life.

[12] The story-telling rules take Argo further than just an equine character or a hero mode of transport. They make her an integral part in defining who Xena and Gabrielle are. The story-tellers cannot escape the rules: they work with them (and are more or less consciously aware of them, most of the time). Just as a speaker of a language follows the rules of that language, a teller of a story follows the rules of that story. And the rules of the Xena-and-Gabrielle story require Argo.

[13] We will briefly overview some general story-telling rules, and then examine the Argo-related ones in particular.



Rules

[14] There are rules to a story[Note 02].

[15] Some rules are structural. They are used to construct a story.

[16] To tell a story well, these rules should not be apparent. A artistic painter does not usually leave the foundation sketch visible on the final canvas, nor does a musician leave experimental chords and phrases scribbled in the final manuscript. However, some rules are used so often that they become visible to the audience and are obvious candidates for parody[Note 03].

[17] In telling a story, a character being in a particular place at a particular has to be there for a reason that is believable within the universe of the story.

[18] The "there's a reason for the character being there" rule became apparent to me when I recently re-watched the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes DARMOK and THE INNER LIGHT. Entering the Captain's Ready Room at the end of both episodes allowed the final story element to be presented perfectly but jarred because the character doing it would not have done so in such a way on such a ship unless they were the scriptwriter acting through the character to move the story along. That was what was so jarring.

[19] By contrast, after re-watching A NECESSARY EVIL (038/214), it became obvious that Callisto's reason for being in a particular place at a particular time both moves the story along and does so in such a way that it is consistent with Callisto's character and motivations. The technique was so seamless that I missed it on first watching that episode.

[20] There are rules story-tellers create intentionally, for example, by usage, like calling pigs Arnold[Note 04], or giving characters unique names[Note 05]. In real-life, you might know four people with the same first name, or there might be other interesting coincidences[Note 06], but in story-telling such things would be confusing or distracting if the listener is not paying a lot of attention.

[21] Some rules are for propagating views, opinions, theories and social rules, either deliberately or unconsciously.

[22] For example, there is a commonly-used rule that equates bareness with weakness, and armor with strength[Note 07]

[23] Xena breaks this rule consistently. Xena herself is as dangerous naked as clothed, like in ALTARED STATES (019/119) when some bullies interrupt her fishing. Sometimes she is more dangerous naked, like in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (108/518), when she gives Antony the red carpet treatment; or THE FURIES (047/301) where she mistakenly perceives the frightened villagers as potential enemies. On Xena, breaking the "bare = weak" rule works because it moves the story closer to real life[Note 08].

[24] The bare=weak rule is a subset of a more general rule, "inferior person = weak", that likewise has no place on Xena[Note 09].

[25] There are rules that story-hearers apply.

[26] Stories have an internal structure and design. They have an anatomy and follow a blueprint. The audience may know nothing about architecture but they can tell when and where a story changes from solid arcs and well-drawn characters to sketchy designs. That is the point at which a story changes from poetry to recitation[Note 10].

[27] There are rules story-makers apply. "If it worked before, it will work again" is a particularly well-worn rule. It is actually closer to a superstition. We can call it the "carry on carrying on" rule. This rule can be demonstrated by doing a thought-experiment: "Try to imagine a Bible story about a good demon"[Note 11] or try to imagine a non-violent Hollywood story[Note 12].

[28] Story-elements have their own structure and follow rules just like stories do.

[29] For example, in the Ring Trilogy of episodes on Xena, the Ring follows rules. "We had to come up with rules for it [the Ring]," says Joel Metzger[Note 13]. Why? The Ring interacts with the characters. To be believable, it has to interact with them in a consistent way. What consistent way? That is where the Ring behavior rules come into existence.

[30] Likewise a Sleeping Beauty story element requires Sleeping Beauty rules. Again in the Ring Trilogy, in the case of Gabrielle falling asleep on the boulder "when Brunhilda turns into a ring of fire" (a crucial phrase), the Sleeping Beauty element means that Gabrielle's outfit becomes all medieval princessy:

We tried to figure out what would happen during that moment. Was Gabrielle going to pass out wearing her regular clothes? There's no logical reason why Gabrielle's clothing would turn into a diaphanous gown. But you can't have a Sleeping Beauty without it. We all agreed, if you're having a sleeping princess, there's gotta be a diaphanous gown[Note 14].

[31] When there is a "you gotta have" rule in play, this is usually an indication of an underlying subconscious understanding being applied. For example, Joel Metzger's unintentional description of Brunhilda as a "ring of fire" (instead of the traditional phrase, "circle of eternal flame") is a hint of the deeper meanings of who and what the Ring is in the Ring Trilogy. Exploring the ramifications of this subconscious image in depth will have to wait for another time because they are so complex and interlinked.

[32] However, we can briefly touch on other examples of the subconscious shaping a story, namely how the teaser to an episode encapsulates the story in that episode. As Steven Sears puts it:

... as I start to think about how to begin the script, I unconsciously start putting in elements that will lead into the story. It's a natural process of the writing. Because you are so focused on the overall story, it permeates every level whether you know it or not[Note 15].

[33] A quick scan of some remembered episodes shows there might be something to this link between teaser and main story.

[34] In the teaser of SINS OF THE PAST (001/101), Xena gives her cheese, all the food she has, to the young lad. In the episode, Xena gives Gabrielle all she has: her and her companionship along the road. Incidentally, this adds another (good) layer of meaning to the phrase "cheesy" to describe parts of the series.

[35] In HOOVES & HARLOTS (010/110) Gabrielle picks up a stick in the woods in the teaser; in the episode she picks up another stick, the staff that Ephiny's mother gave to Ephiny, under weightier and longer-term circumstances. Xena demonstrates the first stick to Gabrielle, who watches and learns; in the episode, Gabrielle watches and learns as Ephiny demonstrates the second stick. Gabrielle accepts with wisdom the responsibility that goes with that second stick.

[36] In THE PRICE (044/220) Gabrielle talks to her fish breakfast; in the episode, she brokers a peace by talking to the thirsty Horde warrior. Being a chatty sidekick is not always a disadvantage.

[37] In LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (075/407) Gabrielle's healing hands soothe Xena's aching back in the teaser. In the episode, Gabrielle's healing hands and manner soothe the aching soul of the prison commandant. In both cases, a certain common crabbiness, one literal and in the past, the other one emotional and in the present, is overcome and forgiven.

[38] In BACK IN THE BOTTLE (097/507) the ceramic rabbits in the teaser parallel the creation of the terracotta army at episode's end. There is not much organic multi-layeredness in this and that is probably a fifth-season characteristic.

[39] Another place the subconscious often enters the stories is via names. Names are important in stories.

[40] In Hawaiian, would a title like "The Adventures of Heno and Kapalili"[Note 16] be any more or less believable than one like Hine and Haku Mele ("The Princess and the Poet")?[Note 17]. The name "Lawless" was initially off-putting for some US viewers because it carried connotations of a type of stage-name. "Lawless" and its variations are a fairly common surname in Australia and New Zealand, so those negative connotations were completely invisible there. "Buffy" as a name also carries connotations that are invisible in Australia and New Zealand, but not in the US:

And how are you supposed to take a character named Buffy seriously?[Note 18]

[42] Sometimes something is lost in the translation when the story moves from the main audience to a peripheral one. Would a swag of cultural annotations make the viewing experience more or less enjoyable? It would be more a lesson than an entertainment. But we can ask, Are there rules about how to watch TV?

[43] Xena as a no-nonsense independent individual is often taken as a role model. So is Buffy. But are there rules for determining what a role model is and how to "read" that role model? There are clues that this is so. These clues are often submerged under the surface of the story-telling. For example, in a discussion about whether Buffy and Buffy applies the female stereotype of the selfless giver, philosopher J P Miller interestingly remarks:

... her heroic dive from a hundred-foot tower into a whirling ball of energy in order to save the world is hardly the stuff of domesticated femininity[Note 19].

[44] This comment (unintentionally?) equates femininity with cake-baking domestication.

[45] The nexus of Xena: Warrior Princess is domestication, but of an entirely different sort.



The Pioneering Spirit

[46] Shooting a series in the wild has some automatic practical and unavoidable consequences which affect the emotional tone of the show.

[47] Take the wilderness itself. From a great distance, humans are such a tiny component of it that they are automatically vulnerable within its large spaces. Xena and Gabrielle are often shown within the immensity of their world, like characters in a well-designed role-playing game. From afar they look to be physically so close, two small figures in a landscape.



I just KNOW the Grey Havens are around here somewhere...

Two figures in a landscape
HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS (035/211)


[48] Move nearer. In practice, for the story, shift the camera closer so that we can see their expressions and hear their words. Their own closeness to each other is emphasised. The world in the background is still immense. Their continued nearness to each other takes on an emotional tinge: like with any pair of creatures, eagles, foxes, swans, currawongs. Could they be pair-bonded (if only for survival)?



Even before Hollywood, people knew how to take advantage of backlighting

Close up and personal
(035/211) HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS


[49] Use this camera technique several times, cutting from long-lens to close-up, episode after episode, and the emotional implication drawn by the audience becomes stronger and stronger and builds up to the conclusion that Xena and Gabrielle want to stay together. After all, they have plenty of opportunities to drift apart or head off in different directions (and sometimes they do), but in the end they end up together, as if they belong that way. As Gabrielle says, "All rivers run to the sea."[Note 20]

[50] Their survival depends on each other, and their survival skills improve because of each other. Not just their physical survival so that they arrive at the next village or town alive (or barely alive), but also their emotional and spiritual well-being as well so that they arrive as a team (or almost a team). And, naturally enough, when the teamwork is humming (or is close to humming), some fans like to think that Xena and Gabrielle's bonding runs equally deep physically, emotionally, spiritually. The aired text does not disallow that.

[51] Xena and Gabrielle walk in the wilderness. They sleep under the stars like trekking pioneers or cowboys on the high chaparral. They have no homestead except for a horse.

[52] For a warrior, a horse is transport. A horse is supply depot. A horse is battle companion.



Argo, Proto-Horse!

Rearing to go




May You Ride Long and Hard

"May you ride long and hard"[Note 21]

[53] Some cat-owners call their cats 'Cat' and some dog-owners call theirs dogs 'Dog'. Xena calls her horse 'Argo'.

[54] Names are carefully chosen on Xena. Xena herself is the stranger in the village. She is tall, dark and dangerous. She expects and is given respect. Gabrielle and her childhood friend Seraphin (appearing in (067/321) SACRIFICE and (068/322) SACRIFICE II) evoke the world of angels. They are little cherubs. Joxer is the Joker in the pack. Argo is the bright Dawntreader of the Xenaverse, providing the transport from one campsite and adventure[Note 22] to the next, riding over the pastures of the open countryside (over the agros, the acres[Note 23]).

[55] Whenever I hear the name "Argo", I hear the word "horse", like in Lithuanian arklys, ultimately originating from a color-term meaning "(light) brown" just like the Greek words arctic "bear(land)" and Arcturus "bear(guy)" come from a color-term meaning "(dark) brown".

[56] The Celtic and Greek words for dog (cu-) and English kine, cow and hound also come from a related and more widespread term for "dark-brown". Evenki kuma "seal", Old Japanese kuma "bear" and Tatar Uighur qama "otter" are other examples where "dark brown" grew in meaning to refer to a local animal with that color.

[57] So the name Argo might mean "brown creature" or "horsie".

[58] Argo could, at a stretch, mean "girl" if we look at the Altaic languages: proto-Altaic *k-rk- "girl", giving rise to, for example, Yakut kergen "family" and Kirghiz kerege "tent, yurt, home".

[59] It is more likely Argo means "swift" (like a running river), or "fair-complexioned", "bright, shining" (like the city of Argos in ancient Greece). Horses and swiftness go together. The Lone Ranger's horse Silver travels "at the speed of light" (a slight exaggeration by the bards for poetic effect).

[60] So Xena's horse was called by a name that meant 'Speedy' or 'Blondie' or, in a skilful pun, possibly both at the same time. That would tie in with the warrior and womanly parts of Xena's epithet: Xena the warrior princess and Argo the fleet-footed blonde.



Traveling on Wit and Grit

"Darlin', we're traveling on wit and grit."[Note 24]

[61] The answers to the questions "Who is Xena?", "What is Xena about?" provide an iconic summary of the series.

[62] Xena is "the woman warrior on horseback."[Note 25] Xena is "a female warrior pinup come to life."[Note 26]

[63] Xena was first encountered on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys:

... but in her own series she turned to the side of good, roaming around the world on her horse, Argo, rescuing the underdog. At her side was blonde runaway village girl Gabrielle, who considered herself something of a bard, ... [Note 27]

[64] As a horse-riding warrior in the frontier wilderness, Xena has many survival skills. For example, she can read tracks like a wagon-train scout.



Maybe if we look at the dirt and act all serious, something will come to us.

Chief Scout examines wagon tracks
after Surfside Sidekick does Gidget Clambake joke
(035/211) HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS


[65] In the recent novel called Turning the Page (a lovely story about a bookstore owner and her friends), two characters are in the front seat of a car and are driving along the road:

... Melanie noticed the small, metal ring dangling from the rearview mirror. It had some sort of design carved into it, accented by light blue dots. "What's this?"
"It's a chakram."
"Chakram?"
"Ever watch Xena?"
"Xena? Is that the sword-fighting Greek god show? I think I caught a glimpse of it once or twice, but I couldn't figure out what all the hype was about. This is that round thing she throws around, right?"
[Note 28]

[66] Xena's signature is what she does, her weapons, who she travels with:

She traveled from place to place helping those in trouble, wielding a sword and a chakram,... Traveling with her, and sometimes adding comic relief, was Gabrielle, who suspiciously resembled (and talked like) a modern "valley girl." ... Argo was Xena's horse; for some reason Gabrielle was almost always on foot[Note 29].




Bucolic! Pastoral! And, um, I can't improve on the caption!

Literal tagalong
(generic early Season 1)
Little House on the Prairie Xena-style:
without the little house,
or the prairie


[67] Why did Gabrielle walk?



You Seem To Belong Here

"You seem to belong here. As if it had been imagined for you."[Note 30]

[68] Besides the beautiful joke in (010/110) HOOVES & HARLOTS, where Ephiny remarks to Xena about the talkative Gabrielle, "Now I know why you ride the horse!", Gabrielle walks and Xena rides for the same reason that knights rode and their squires walked in the past: horses are expensive, like limousines. A small-budget show needs to be practical and needs to use the horse sparingly and judiciously.

[69] This practicality carries over into the characters, as shown this engaging exchange about the Trojan Horse in (012/112) BEWARE GREEKS BEARING GIFTS:

G: “Do you want to go back for the horse? It’s bound to be a collectors’ item?”
X: “Only if you’re gonna pull it.”
G: “Nah.”




Is it my imagination, or do Xena and Argo have EXACTLY the same expression?

The Knight and her Squire


[70] There is another practical consideration when filming someone riding and someone walking alongside: Gabrielle's mouth is always level with, um, Xena's knee in every scene and the actors have to crane their necks to talk to each other.

[712 This inconvenience, combined with the expense of a horse, means that using Argo in a substantial part of an episode is a narrative rarity. Argo does things in (001/101) SINS OF THE PAST, (021/121) THE GREATER GOOD, (059/313) ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, (052/306) THE DEBT, (072/404) IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL and several other stories. In most episodes, Argo is not seen, or seen only briefly, usually at the beginning or end, or in the background of a campfire scene. In some scenes she is only mentioned, like the beginning of (014/114) A FISTFUL OF DINARS, when Gabrielle says "I’ll get the horse."

[73] Once Argo's function has become established in the viewer's mind, there is no real reason to use scarce screen time re-establishing the same thing over and over. So Argo fulfils her function and then quietly steps out of the limelight as soon as the story allows her to.

[74] But what exactly is Argo's function?



To Live on a Horse

"It's all right to live on a horse - if it's your horse."[Note 31]

[75] In a sitcom or a drama, when a character picks up a frying pan, they are usually in a kitchen setting. Likewise when they are looking for the buttered sugar. In (039/215) A DAY IN THE LIFE, both items are stored in Argo's saddle bags. Argo is a mobile kitchen.

[76] When a character fluffs a pillow or billows a blanket, they are usually in the bedroom. Argo carries Xena and Gabrielle's bedrolls in her other saddle bags. Argo is a mobile bedroom. The most humorous illustration of this is in (131/619) MANY HAPPY RETURNS, where the girls set up instant camp by the waterfall after meeting up with Gennaia.

[77] Argo also fulfils the function of attic, carrying odds and ends, like maps and bits of treasure and other trinkets. Importantly for us, Argo is also a library, carrying the scrolls detailing the adventurous life and times of a certain warrior princess.

[78] Combining these functions together, Argo is the virtual house inside which Xena and Gabrielle live and have their everyday domestic life. Argo's function is as a domestic abode.

[79] But do Xena and Gabrielle really interact as if they are in a house?



The Front Porch

[80] Before cars became affordable everyday commodities, characters who were "sweet" on each other traditionally used to talk to each other on the front porch.

[81] In a series of popular black and white films from very long ago, there was a character called Andy Hardy who liked a local girl called Polly Benedict. I remember they sat on Andy's front porch a lot and talked[Note 32] .

[82] After teenagers in films could afford cars, the favored location for being together became the front seat of the car, especially when at drive-ins for comedies and dramas, or the lovers'-lanes popular in science-fiction monster films.

[83] In terms of the Argo-as-house icon, what would the front porch setting look like on Xena?

[84] The answer is: going on foot. In what would become a long-running thematic icon for the Xena series, episodes from early season one onwards have Xena and Gabrielle walking along side by side at an easy pace engaging in light friendly banter, with Argo following close behind. The opening titles of (008/108) PROMETHEUS and (079/411) DAUGHTER OF POMIRA are good examples.



Nobody's ever asked this, but why have a horse if you're not going to ride it?

Front porch
Mycenaean roader-style
(008/108) PROMETHEUS


And again, I ask...?

(079/411) DAUGHTER OF POMIRA
(detail)




A Thing of Beauty

"There are people in this world to whom a horse is just a horse and not a thing of beauty and culture."[Note 33]

[85] Argo may be intelligent, an efficient mode of transport, and very effective at imitating almost very room in the house (she is even a scroll-paper holder in (039/215) A DAY IN THE LIFE), but Tilly is a horse, and brings horse sense to her scenes.

[86] Tilly shows genuine concern during the battle at the beginning of (058/312) THE BITTER SUITE. Humans play-acting at fighting each other know they are play-acting. A horse sees things differently, particularly when the acting is good. Tilly is concerned about Lucy Lawless when the Amazons attack.

[87] In another episode, Tilly vamooses quick smart when the young Princess Alessia drops the phial of Aphrodite's explosive Passion and blows a hole in her temple (at the beginning of (080/412) IF THE SHOE FITS...). Luckily, Lawless' hand was only loosely entwined in the reins. It looks as if there was a handler just off-camera. With a quick glance over the shoulder, the actors were able to carry on with the scene.

[88] There was an early episode, I can't remember exactly which one, where Tilly wandered off down the track to nibble on some fresh grass back yonder while Xena faced someone with her sword drawn. Tracking down this episode is a good reason to watch all the episodes again.

[89] Tilly (or her stunt-double) was really hungry in the Valley-of-the-Horse episode, (072/404) IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL, when she got her teeth into the apple bush at the end of the story. Talk about being as hungry as a horse.

[90] And being naturally inquisitive, she turns her head to look at the action and observe what is going on, like in (059/313) ONE AGAINST AN ARMY when Xena holds up the broken phial of antidote, or in (131/619) MANY HAPPY RETURNS when Xena acquires a new hairstyle care of the escalating War of the Practical Jokes



Forgive me for saying so, but Gab looks a little horse-faced here

Xena cops a bucketful of fish-guts

(131/619) MANY HAPPY RETURNS



[91] Tilly brings two things to her role as Argo. Firstly, she is a character in her own right. Through her, we can see that Argo is a part of the group, an interacting member of that small travelling community.

[92] Secondly, Argo adds an interesting dimension to the Xena-Gabrielle story by being the icon of a domestic abode for Xena and Gabrielle.

[93] This last point raises the question of where Argo House is located, what its function is, and what Xena and Gabrielle are doing there. To answer this, we need to take a detour back to school. More specifically, we will look at stories about boarding schools, and what girls do there.



Boarding School Stories

[94] Stories about boarding schools, particularly girls' boarding schools, have been tremendously popular over the last century or more.

[95] Some major series originating from Britain have been Enid Blyton's Malory Towers series (1946-1951), Elinor Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series (1925-1970), and Anne Digby's Trebizon series (1970s-)

[96] Out of North America, there has been the Camp Fire Girls series by Hildegard Frey (1916-1920) and various others (early 20th century)[Note 34] and Francine Pascal's enormous Sweet Valley High and SVU series (1980s-) and Bonnie Bryant's Saddle Club series (1990s-).

[97] Recently, and globally in book and film, there has been the magical boarding school stories of the Harry Potter series.

[98] In a sense, almost any adventure story shares certain characteristics with the boarding school story. They draw from the same well.

[99] In her 1998 thesis, Ju Gosling has considered the significance of girls' school stories[Note 35]. There are several characteristics that boarding school stories share.

[100] Firstly, the school itself is located within Nature, away from towns and contemporary life. This geographical isolation provides a focus for activities by leaving behind and shutting out what would otherwise be worldly distractions, like market places and puppet shows. Furthermore, being embedded within Nature allows Nature to enter into the world of the girls. The natural world is not excluded from what happens. In Xena, the natural world impinges in every outdoor scene. Furthermore, the natural world of myth and legend appears as well, with recurring gods like Ares, Aphrodite and, to a lesser extent, Athena. Mythical beings appear, like the Cyclops in (001/101) SINS OF THE PAST, the Titans in (007/107) THE TITANS, Prometheus in (008/108) PROMETHEUS, sundry giants in (027/203) THE GIANT KILLER and (039/215) A DAY IN THE LIFE, the Furies in (047/301) THE FURIES and Cupid and Psyche's baby, Bliss, in (046/222) A COMEDY OF EROS. Centaurs appear in various episodes, as enemies in (010/110) HOOVES & HARLOTS, as friends in (025/201) ORPHAN OF WAR, as actors in (085/417) THE PLAY'S THE THING, and as endangered in (129/617) THE LAST OF THE CENTAURS.

[101] Xena is generally close to Nature in its stories as well: everyone goes into the woods in (028/204) GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN, Xena and Gabrielle fall into the mountain in (081/413) PARADISE FOUND, Xena jumps into the lake in (016/116) MORTAL BELOVED and leaps through the air onto a ship on the sea in (045/221) LOST MARINER. In (079/411) DAUGHTER OF POMIRA, Xena and Gabrielle delve into the earth.

[102] At a more fundamental level of Nature, Xena and Gabrielle are not afraid to face the primal power of the elements. Examples of encounters with the watery element are the maelstrom of (045/221) LOST MARINER, the deep ocean of (065/319) TSUNAMI, the coldness of (118/606) THE ABYSS, and the life-restoring waters and rain-curtains of (058/312) THE BITTER SUITE. Even though Gabrielle likes water[Note 36], her character has an affinity for the fiery element. Look how many times the writers put her through it or in it: the painful emotions of (063/317) FORGET ME NOT, the sacrifice of (068/322) SACRIFICE II, the searing flames of (091/501) FALLEN ANGEL From the dangerous dreamfire of (003/103) DREAMWORKER to the burning town of Higuchi in Jappa in (133-134/621-622) FRIEND IN NEED, Gabrielle has passed through the bridal pyre of (042/218) BLIND FAITH and the widow's pyre in (083/415) BETWEEN THE LINES. She has fallen asleep in the protective ring of Brunhilda's flames of eternal love in (120/608) THE RING.

[103] Even in THE ABYSS, when Xena organizes better accommodation for Gabrielle, the outcome is that she is moved closer to the cooking pot and her goose is almost cooked. Of course, the time when Gabrielle invented the term "heavy rock" and a spurt of flame from Draco's musical instrument squirted towards her cage in (100/510) LYRE, LYRE, HEARTS ON FIRE was just a Freudian coincidence[Note 37].

[104] The second characteristic of boarding school stories, one arising from their location, is that adventures and physical activities are allowed. Every episode of Xena is a adventure of one sort of another, and some episodes are more adventurous than others. This aspect does not need to be explored further here.

[105] Thirdly in boarding school stories, there is usually a life-saving event that occurs and, as a result of this event, a character's perception of herself changes, or how others perceive her changes. As a result of this dramatic event, the outsider moves closer to, and is accepted by, the group. The hurt/comfort stories typical of fan fiction are an example of this.

[106] In Xena, examples are Gabrielle surviving the swirling dreamworld in (003/103) DREAMWORKER, Gabrielle being resuscitated in (024/124) IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?, Xena being resuscitated in (037/213) THE QUEST and Xena surviving the whirling mental world in (047/301) THE FURIES.

[107] The classic hurt/comfort episode is when Gabrielle is poisoned in (059/313) ONE AGAINST AN ARMY and Xena has to decide whether to save Gabrielle or to save Greece. Gabrielle's sacrifice out of love to save Xena in (068/322) SACRIFICE II is where the hurt and comfort apply concurrently to different characters instead of sequentially to the same character.

[108] The ultimate hurt/comfort in Xena is the entire series itself as Xena comes to terms with the hurts of her warlord past and her seeking to make amends for it. In this process, she is helped and comforted by Gabrielle. This over-arching hurt/comfort is always there, like the stone under the water, and its presence is always felt.

[109] Fourthly, boarding school stories have humour. Not necessarily slapstick (though there is some of that), but shared joy, delight and glee.

[110] Slapstick in Xena occurs with a Three Stooges air in (047/301) THE FURIES and with a Marx brothers pie-throwing free-for-all in (101/511) PUNCH LINES. More often the humour is richer, like Gabrielle's nutbread glow in (019/119) ALTARED STATES, the donkey's donkeyness in (033/209) A SOLSTICE CAROL and Priestess Leah's innocent remarks in (055/309) WARRIOR...PRIESTESS...TRAMP. There is dressing up fun, like Myopia the Fence in (066/320) VANISHING ACT or the wedding party in (131/619) MANY HAPPY RETURNS.

[111] Sometimes there is wit throughout the whole episode, like the archaeologists in (034/210) THE XENA SCROLLS, the dreamers in (090/422) DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN and the writers in (056/310) THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER... More often the humor is corralled into the teaser or tailer, like the "nice work if you can get it" remark at the end of (042/218) BLIND FAITH, Gabrielle's fish theory at the start of (044/220) THE PRICE and Xena's response to it, Gabrielle's boots at the start and end of (059/313) ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, the "what gets me through the day" conversation in the desert at the start of (074/406) A TALE OF TWO MUSES, the thespian discussion at the end of (085/417) THE PLAY'S THE THING, and the "hands of a sailor" comments at the start and end of (081/413) PARADISE FOUND. Some episodes, like (039/215) A DAY IN THE LIFE, are pure delight from start to finish.

[112] Fifthly in the world of boarding schools, wildgirls and madcaps, when they appear, define femininity by demonstrating what is possible, not by accepting what a third-party would impose, like the sponsors imposing their expectations onto their contestants in (035/211) HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS.

[113] Najara the untameable in (076/408) CRUSADER sets a standard that out-Xenas Xena and seduces Gabrielle away (at least at first). Tara, untamed with respect to Xena and Gabrielle in (060/314) FORGIVEN and untamed with respect to the magistrate of Palios in (074/406) A TALE OF TWO MUSES forges her own space to inhabit. Amarice does something similar in a quieter way. Other examples of crossing boundaries are the bacchae in (028/204) GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN, the initially-kidnapped Horde member in (079/411) DAUGHTER OF POMIRA and the Xena-less Gabrielle in the alternate timeline of (026/202) REMEMBER NOTHING. Alti and the Amazons set up other, important, boundary crossings.

[114] The most enduring examples of this fifth category in Xena are Callisto and Aphrodite: they use the entire series to set up enduring and evolving relationships with Xena and Gabrielle.

[115] All this is not to say that domesticating and taming the wildgirl is the one and only goal of being a woman. To do that is to misread what the wildness is for. Sunlight lights up the whole sky, and so can lightning. A campfire lights up a friend's face. So when the candle in the domestic dining room considers herself, she ought to know what powers and skills she has inherited and is heir to, what she is capable of, what her potentiality is, what is to come. The wildgirls and madcaps show that the field does not end where the boundary fence is.

[116] Next in boarding school stories, there is the characteristic of equality among the members of the group. No one individual is chief, or even chief cook and bottle-washer. Everyone contributes. The stories are about the group, rather than an individual. All members are able to, and even expected to, provide input in terms of ideas, skills and participation. Xena and Gabrielle fall into this pattern naturally because of the adventure-format of their stories.

[117] Some episodes demonstrate this behaviour among third parties, like the rebels in (011/111) THE BLACK WOLF or the bards in (013/113) ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS. More important is how outsiders are treated: Xena and Gabrielle treat everyone equally. For Xena, everyone is kickable, whether a god or a mortal, if they deserve it[Note 38]. For Gabrielle, everyone is embraceable whether they deserve it or not, from an enemy like the Horde in (044/220) THE PRICE to a hunted daughter in (051/305) GABRIELLE'S HOPE.

[118] As Gabrielle has become more Xena-like, she has had to make hard, more Xena-like, choices: like holding on to the signet ring in (062/316) WHEN IN ROME..., dealing with the aftermath of war in (073/405) A GOOD DAY and of vengeance in (116/604) WHO'S GURKHAN?, and coping with the sad burdens of leadership in (127/615) TO HELICON AND BACK.

[119] Gabrielle accepts the consequences, even though that acceptance is itself difficult, as in (063/317) FORGET ME NOT and (117/605) LEGACY. In (130/618) WHEN FATES COLLIDE, in the hardest decision of all for a mortal, she swaps her entire universe, the only one she has ever known, for a completely unknowable one, to be with her empress, Caesar's wife, who is above reproach[Note 39].

[120] Xena does some Gabrielle-like things too, like being willing to risk losing her eyesight in (042/218) BLIND FAITH, losing her freedom in (075/407) LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN, losing her soul in (091/501) FALLEN ANGEL and even risking her friendship with Gabrielle at the end of (133-134/621-622) FRIEND IN NEED. The premise of the show forbids Xena from making too many Gabrielle-like choices, however.

[121] Lastly, in boarding school stories, there is a theme of belonging to a community. It is the community that is the real character of the story. As Gosling says, "This community is a world on its own"[Note 40].

[122] It is:

an Amazonian community where all the principal roles are played by women and girls. Artemis and Athena are here the ruling deities rather than Aphrodite or Hera[Note 41]

[123] Three years after that was written, the first of many practical demonstrations of that community was supplied by the Amazons of Xena.

[124] In myth and on Xena, Amazons and horses are closely and strongly linked. In terms of the equine iconography discussed here, this link becomes stronger and deeper. In reality and iconically, an Amazonian community is a collection of horses.



Who looks the LEAST happy here, Argo, Gab, or Eve?

(107/517) KINDRED SPIRITS, detail


[125] And so we come back to the horse.

[126] We now know where Argo House is. It is in the middle of the natural world, on community land. What is its purpose? There is only one purpose and Xena has been "on that path" since the beginning[Note 42]: she has been on the hero's path. Argo House makes heroes.

[127] But what exactly is a hero?



Hero

[128] In modern times, a hero is the vigilante in town before the marshall arrives. Buffy, for example, is "a vigilante hero with a scrunchy"[Note 43]. You can tell who the hero is because the hero beats people up[Note 44]. That is the rule. Because of this, the modern hero has to have a secret identity[Note 45]. That is another rule.

[129] By contrast, in olden times, a hero was someone, usually under divine patronage, who was able to overcome a (usually) non-human opponent, sometimes with the help of a special weapon or skill. Their feat was spread through song and story far and wide. Examples of this type of hero and their opponent are David and Goliath, Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa, Hercules and the Calydonian boar, Gilgamesh and the Great Bull of Heaven, any dragon-slayer and their dragon, Beowulf and Grendel's mother, Picard and the Borg.

[130] Ancient heroes were able to travel between the human and otherworld/underworld realms. The means of transport was sometimes symbolised as a horse, like the shaman transport in (069/401) ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE I, the Valkyrie steeds in (119/607) THE RHEINGOLD or Pegasus from Greek mythology. The only underworld modern heroes are interested in is that of their own city and, like a detective, their transportation goal is how to get to the most recent crime scene.

[131] Modern heroes are handed their superhero status, for example through a genetic mutation, a spider bite, exposure to the Earth's sun or just plain determination and access to a source of wealth like a silver mine or an estate. They work within an existing legal and civic framework which is either under-funded, demoralised, corrupt or can be manipulated by corrupt forces, so they have to assume a false identity to protect those around them. Modern heroes are like courts of law, without the courts, and operate without accountability.

[132] Ancient heroes went through several stages of preparation before qualifying to meet their match and attaining their status. They were champions and founded cities, taught farming, created institutions, systems of weights and measures, and writing and record keeping. In other words, they were many-skilled. Fame was given to them through the generations and they were accountable to those who gave them fame. The court (both legal and royal) was where they were. They did not need to hide. Winning was a sign of divine favour and divine-assigned responsibility. If both sides were human, the winner was obliged to look after all the people, not just the winning team. Heroes were greeted by all.

[133] Xena portrays elements of the ancient hero, cross-pollinated with some components of the vigilante hero as depicted by Westerns and Detective stories. Xena also dabbles in these modern genres as episode themes: examples are the Western-like showdown in (094/504) ANIMAL ATTRACTION, the murder mystery in (087/419) TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE, and the stings in (066/320) VANISHING ACT and (061/315) KING CON.

[134] However, Xena functions best at a deeper and more mythic level, the level that sees Xena and Gabrielle develop and grow, travelling along a path that gives their lives meaning. The technical anthropological term for this process is "initiation". Not the cruel and sadistic alleged initiations seen in frat and army movies, but the graduations and qualifications gained from the courses themselves. In modern academic terms, a degree, certificate or diploma is an initiation into the next stage of one's life as a scholar or practitioner. In ancient times, becoming an adult required the passing on of publicly-recognised skills and knowledge to the next generation.

[135] In boarding school stories, the story itself functions as an initiation. Boarding school stories function as myth. So does Xena.



Myth

[136] Myth is the algebra of human behaviour. It is applicable in all similar cases. In real life an event is limited to a time and place and the participants that were present.

While the definition of "everyday life" changes from one generation to the next, myth and legend provide a continuity to the human experience from age to age that "real life" cannot[Note 46].

[137] The best technique to use to convey something that will be true in all cases is to use myth. This is almost a paradox, like saying the best way to find out how to function as a company is to go away from the company for a while and have a corporate retreat.

[138] Initiation is when youngsters endure

a shorter or longer period of separation from their families and seclusion together with a group of the same age[Note 47]

[139] This is exactly what happens to Xena and Gabrielle.

[140] During the initiation process, a learning environment is created. In boarding school stories:

In a world of girls, to be female is normal, and not a problem. To be assertive, physically active, daring, ambitious, is not a source of tension. In the absence of boys, girls "break bounds", have adventures, transgress rules, catch spies. There is no taboo on public speech: in innumerable school stories, girls hold and address a tense, packed meeting. The ructures and rewards of romance are replaced with the ructions and rewards of friendship.[Note 48]

[141] Possibilities are revealed that are revelations. Assumptions are taken apart and recast and rebuilt for an expanded usage, like a caterpillar metamorphosing its organs and structures into a butterfly, or a nymph into a dragonfly:

[142] Thinking beyond the boundary becomes possible:

By depicting adult women outside marriage in an attractive light, school story writers may provide an alternative vision for girl readers. Girls may learn that not only is it possible to find fulfilment in careers but that spinsterhood does not necessarily leave a woman in an emotional vacuum; she may find not only companionship in the women around her, but also love[Note 49].

[143] In Australian terms, Xena and Gabrielle are best mates[Note 50].



Maybe it's just a bad hair day, but she looks like the rear end of a horse

(130/618) WHEN FATES COLLIDE


[144] The possibility of many possibilities lets the world be seen through new eyes and expectations. As Xena says to Gabrielle in (086/418) THE CONVERT: "You've changed in ways that have shown me choices I'd never have known without you."

[145] In the process of turning the page of the book of life from childhood to adulthood, from village girl to bard, from warrior princess to friend, as one phase of the adventure ends, another begins. And the friendships remain.

[146] As Gabrielle explains to the cobbler in (074/406) A TALE OF TWO MUSES:

"I travel-- a lot. I don't want some half-hearted patch job. I just want something that will last."

[147] Something that does not present a false appearance, that does not fall apart when you look at it, something that endures, that is what it is, is something that does not lie. Like a good pair of boots, or a horse, or a friendship.



Conclusion

[148] The process of viewing a television show is a dynamic one. The gestalt of show and audience builds up layers that overlay themselves and interweave into other layers. Memory and perception are involved. Both are fluid.

[149] For example, Athena's helmet looks like it is made from electrum with Atlantean styling. It has tasselled metallic beads along the fringe.



Okay, what's Athena have to do with Argo? I thought this story was supposed to be about horses. I'm SO confused...

Athena's helmet
(104/514) AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE


[150] Recently I watched a Doctor Who where one of the characters dressed up as an Aztec high priest. When I first saw it, I thought the priest's helmet was almost identical to Athena's as I remembered it. In actual fact, there is only a very slight similarity. When I re-watched (104/514) AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE, I was surprised at how great the differences are between the two headgears. My memory of one had merged and blended into the other one during the process of viewing the stories at separate periods of time.

[151] You cannot watch the same episode twice, just like you cannot learn the same language twice or step into the same river twice. The second time you step into the river, it is a different river, with different water and fish and bubbles and sounds. A second viewing of an episode is already influenced by the experience of having watched it the first time. Time travellers like the Doctor and his companions encounter this whenever they travel into their historical past.



...and this isn't even from XWP. Now I'm REALLY confused!

Sunflower crown worn by
teacher Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill)
when mistaken for the reincarnation of
the  feather-cloaked High Priest Yetaxa
in
Doctor Who and the Aztecs (1964)


[152] And then there was the ancient philosopher who said you cannot step into the same river once, never mind twice.

[153] Memory and perception do not stand still. They flow and move, like water in a river

[154] Time flows and as a consequence there are sadnesses, like discovering that the 2nd DVD box set of Cleopatra 2525 has been deleted from the catalogue list; or seeing the original Xena NetForum unplug and its poems fading like moonlight into the ether.

[155] Time flows and as a consequence there are joys and pleasant surprises, like hearing Hudson Leick as the voice of Jen, one half of the hero-pair in the PS2 game Primal (2003)[Note 51]. Naturally, the voice acting is high quality[Note 52].

[156] Another pleasant surprise was recently reading the felicitous phrasing from the German-language edition of the official Xena episode guide, describing the hot-tub scene in (039/215) A DAY IN THE LIFE, where Xena and Gabrielle "be-spritzed each other frolically"[Note 53].

[157] The biggest surprise of all was discovering that somewhen in the recent past I had, without realising it, moved from the binary world-view of a Holmes and Watson, a Scully and Mulder, even a The Long Ranger and Tonto mentality, where the world was divided into two opposing, competing, mutually-exclusive camps: science v social, intellectual v intuitive, rational v emotional. I discovered I had moved into a mentality where the practical and the emotional, the tactical and the poetical, the story and the listener, cooperate as partners, enriching each more than either could be alone, and in fact demonstrating that there are no sides, only one encompassing circle. I had entered the world of Xena and Gabrielle. There is more than one way to view the world. There is only one all-encircling way to view the world.

By decoupling the standard epistemological linkage of the social to the irrational, room can be made for a pluralist conception of knowledge in which the richly humanistic can coexist with the crisply formal. Such an account does justice to the insight that the emotional is inextricable from the rational, and allows us to enjoy the fruits of science without impoverishing our engagement with the world[Note 54].

[158] It is common to think that fantasy adventure shows have an infinite set of possibilities to draw on, that anything is possible:

The scope for speculation within the Buffyverse is much greater than that of nonfantastic serials because, of course. almost anything is possible. In this way, Buffy fandom has a great deal in common with Xena fandom and with the very first media fandom, Star Trek[Note 55].

[159] But are the possibilities really limitless?

[160] If the story of Xena and Gabrielle is an initiation myth, there is only one direction the show can go in: the story of the path and of the journey. All rivers flow to the sea. The wildness of childhood becomes focussed and disciplined. It becomes a strength of adulthood that can be drawn on when needed. The wildness will always remain, like a stone under the water, but now it can coexist in company with others, cooperate with them, and achieve greater goals in cooperation than could be achieved alone. The controlled-wildness allows others near: it has been domesticated.

[161] There is one last reflection of domesticity to mention.

[162] In the widely un-acclaimed episode (105/515) MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS, Gabrielle falls in the water and experiences a psychedelic 60s scene, complete with handy drudgery-saving domestic gadgets. These Flintstones-like gadgets feature in several scenes. The late 60s and early 70s were the peak age of gadget consumerism. A kitchen utensil that could do five different things was a wonder and was talked about at work and at school the day after its first appearance on television.

[163] Consider the chakram. It slices and dices, and in (072/404) IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL makes a handy grater for itchy-fungus back. It dangles and bangles, and in (033/209) A SOLSTICE CAROL it makes a fetching be-ribboned tree ornament for Solstice Night. It reflects and ricochets. It whooshes and sparks. It has so many uses it is not surprising that Gabrielle thought it would make a nifty eel-chopper in (039/215) A DAY IN THE LIFE.

[164] There is enough similarity between the multi-purpose kitchen gadget and the multi-use chakram to allow a further parallel to be drawn: if the user of one is operating inside the domestic sphere, then perhaps so is the other. Xena really does like cooking, or at least the slicing and dicing part. The metaphor of chakram as woman reveals another layer of meaning.

[165] A deeper and older metaphor is to compare a day to a stage in life. As one day or stage ends, another begins. So at the end of the day, the hero rides off homeward. If their home is on the road, they ride off into a new day. Riding off into the sunset or sailing off into the sunset has been used so often in story-telling that it has become a cliche. The ancient poets saw enough similarity between riding and sailing that they could say things like, a mounted knight "sailing over a green sea of grass", or of a captain, "On my wooden horse, I ride along the whale-road".

[166] In conclusion, if there are stages in life, then there must be transition points between the stages. In human terms, these transition points are often times of festivals and gatherings, of happiness and sadness (sometimes simultaneously happy and sad, like at weddings when people cry). "Going on a voyage" is the poetic image of this transition point. Life is a journey through time, a voyage across the ocean of experience. Crossing the boundary between one stage and another is a significant event. It is a big change. It can be frightening and exhilarating at the same time. In either case, the change is a permanent one.

[167] The purpose of initiation is to ease this change, to prepare the initiate by illustrating how the old boundaries can be crossed and how new behaviours can be more surprising and astounding than you can ever have imagined. Initiation prepares, equips and trains the initiate to be able to fully and fruitfully function in the next stage. The way the poets summarised the initiation process was by singing about a journey, with the hero travelling on foot or riding a horse or sailing over the sea.

[168] Xena exemplified this in its own way.

[169] As Gabrielle says to baby Eve at the end of MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS:

"Sh-sh-sh-h-h-h-h-h-h. I have a new story for you. This woman fell into the deep blue sea -- and she found herself in another world."

[170] or in the subtext version:

"Sh-sh-sh-h-h-h-h-h-h. I have a new story for you. This woman fell [drowning] into the deep blue sea [of her eyes]-- and she found herself in another world."

[171] It is no surprise that Gabrielle wanted to follow Xena and learn everything she knew. And in the process, she tamed her.

... - it was for Dejah Thoris, and no man has lived who would not risk a thousand deaths for such as she.
--A Princess of Mars
[Note 56]

[172] Xena: Warrior Princess, the "sword-fighting Greek god show", presented the timeless myths describing the transition into adult relationships. It did so in the style of a story-as-initiation and illustrated definitions of friendship and the joyful and sad choices that might occur along the way. It lessons apply universally because it used mythic structure to tell them. It was able to do this precisely because it was just a TV show. And it could not have done so without the horse.



Smiiiiiile, Wilbur!

A horse and her girl
(Xena Amazon Coloring Book)




Acknowledgments

Excerpts from the episodes are from the Whoosh! transcripts.



Notes

Note 01:
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912), c23, [Deodand Publishing 2002 p108]
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Note 02:
Jan Dekker, in "The Unwritten Law", Whoosh! (January-February 2003 - #75), paragraph 11, says: "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."
http://www.whoosh.org/issue75/dekker6.html
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Note 03:
See, for example, Richard Roeper, 10 Sure Signs a Movie Character is Doomed & Other Surprising Movie Lists (2003), [Hyperion, New York]. A classic example is the new character wearing a red tunic in the original Star Trek. Says Herb Solow, "Since we couldn't kill off our cast regulars, new crewmen in red tunics portrayed by bit actors or stuntmen had to be the ones to die. ...Killing red shirts became so much of a tradition that fans could always anticipate who was the next to go" (Herbert F Solow and Robert H Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), Pocket Books 1997, pp120-121).
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Note 04:
After Arnold Ziffel the pig, in Green Acres (TV, 1965-1971).
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Note 05:
Per Gail Futoran, in "Among the Amazons: an Overview", Whoosh! (January/February 2003 - #75), paragraph 19: "In a remarkable display of consistency of storytelling, there were four Amazons named Cyane."
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Note 06:
Coincidences like the actresses in the satire Absolutely Fabulous (TV, 1991-1995) having first names all beginning with J: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, and June Whitfield.
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Note 07:
A. Martinez, "The Real SuperXena: A Fantastical Postmodern Conceit", Whoosh! (January/February 2003 - #75), paragraph 16: "When she [Xena] is nearly naked before them, they mistake her for weak."
http://www.whoosh.org/issue75/martinez3.html
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Note 08:
A Martinez, par 33: "Ultimately, Xena is real, because nothing could be mere fancy that can complicate itself so much and still stand tall, bare, and gorgeous in the snow."
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Note 09:
Another instance of this rule, one that comes through particularly strongly in U.S. shows, is the "Spanish-speaker = weak" rule, overturned by Zorro and The Cisco Kid with their Spanish-speaking heroes, but reinforced by Mission: Impossible with its numerous corrupt fictitious South American dictators. The recent DVD Region coding system, annoyingly, also adopts this rule.
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Note 10:
Saul Trabal, in "Cut the Cord and Move On!", Whoosh! (January/February 2003 - #75), at paragraph 06: "By mid-fifth season, I felt that they were running out of steam and were going through the motions." And again in paragraph 07: "For a while, it seemed everyone involved had reached the end of their rope and just wanted to get it over with."
http://www.whoosh.org/issue75/trabal1.html
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Note 11:
Greg Foster, "Faith and Plato", in James B South (ed), Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale, [Open Court, Illinois, 2003], pp7-19, at p9.
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Note 12:
"There's No Nudity in Hollywood" says the section heading in Sharon Delaney's, "The Making of the Xena, behind the Scenes video, part 5", The Chakram, number 19, pp20-23 at p21. The section describes the slave auction scene in Who's Gurkhan?
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Note 13:
Joel Metzger on "The Ring", interviewed by Sharon Delaney in The Chakram, number 20, pp18-20 at p20
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Note 14:
Joel Metzger interview, p20
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Note 15:
Steven Sears on "The Price", interviewed by Sharon Delaney in The Chakram, number 20, pp13-17 at p14
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Note 16:
Heno = "lovable, sweet", from "to cherish/love/caress"; kapalili = "trembling/quivering (in joy/fear, like a leaf in the wind)", close in sound to kapalulu = "whirring", from "edge-shake". See Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H Elbert and Esther T Mookini (eds), The Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary, with a Concise Hawaiian Grammar (1975), University of Hawaii Press.
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Note 17:
Hine "woman, female"; haku "rule, compose" forms a compound word haku mele "make chant", the term for a poet. Mele "song/yellow/merry" shares company with the similar words melemele "yellow; name of a star", meli "bee/honey", and melia "frangipani". This word cluster suits Gabrielle: she is "sweet singing gold". Gabrielle would like Hawaiian: Kanilehua "Hilo mist-rain" is literally the poetic "rain that lehua flowers drink".
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Note 18:
James B South, "And was there a lesson in all this? Introduction", in South, pp1-3 at p1.
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Note 19:
Jessica Prater Miller, "The 'I' in Team: Buffy and Feminist Ethics", in South, pp35-48 at p40 n8.
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Note 20:
In (084/416) THE WAY, the following exchange takes place near the end of the episode (Whoosh! transcript):
    X: "Still, I think maybe you should travel with Eli for a while."
    G: "No. You and I stay together."
    X: "Gabrielle, we're headed in opposite directions in life."
    G: "All rivers run to the sea. We'll end up in the same place; I'm sure of it."
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Note 21:
"May you ride long and hard." - "Oklahoma badman Burt Lancaster shouts after departing teens, Amanda Plummer and Diane Lane, who ride off after spending some time with Lancaster's outlaw gang. Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981, Universal)", quote 8775 in Robert A Nowlan and Gwendolyn W Nowlan, "We'll always have Paris": The definitive guide to great lines from the movies (1994-1995), HarperPerennial 1995. 
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Note 22:
Or campsite adventure, in many fan fictions.
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Note 23:
Or over the green acres, one might say.
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Note 24:
"Darlin', we're traveling on wit and grit." - "Ex-boxer Tommy Lee Jones encourages his hitchhiking companion, hooker Sally Field. Back Roads (1991, Meta Films)", quote 10359 in Nowlan and Nowlan.
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Note 25:
Batya  Weinbaum, Islands of Women and Amazons: Representations and Realities (1999), University of Texas Press 1999, p xi
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Note 26:
Jan Dekker, "The Unwritten Law", par 06
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Note 27:
Jeff Evans, The Penguin TV Companion (2001), Penguin Books 2001, pp664f, sv "Xena: Warrior Princess U.S. (Renaissance) Drama Channel 5 1997-"
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Note 28:
Georgia Beers, Turning the Page (2001), c5, [Renaissance Alliance Publishing, Texas, 2001, p28]
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Note 29:
Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946 - Present, Seventh edition, Ballantine Books 1999, p1135, sv "Xena: Warrior Princess (Adventure)"
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Note 30:
"You seem to belong here. As if it had been imagined for you." - "Leslie Howard lovingly speaks to his fiancee Olivia de Haviland during the barbecue at his Twelve Oaks plantation. Gone with the Wind (1939, Selznick-MGM)", quote 807 in Nowlan and Nowlan.
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Note 31:
"It's all right to live on a horse - if it's your horse." - "Walter Brennan, as Judge Roy Bean, insinuating that cowboy Gary Cooper might be a horse thief. The Westerner (1940, United Artists)", quote 306 in Nowlan and Nowlan.
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Note 32:
Ann Rutherford played Polly Benedict in a dozen or more Andy Hardy films over five or six years, starting when she was 17, in You're Only Young Once (1937), until she was 22, in Andy Hardy's Double Life (1942). Coincidentally, this age range is the same as the age range of vampire slayers and the actresses who play them.
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Note 33:
"There are people in this world to whom a horse is just a horse and not a thing of beauty and culture." - "Lilli Palmer tells her husband Robert Taylor, the owner of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, that not everyone is a horse lover. The Miracle of the White Stallions (1962, Walt Disney)", quote 324 in Nowlan and Nowlan.
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Note 34:
See the "BOOK SAFARI: Girl Scout Stories Index", link: http://www.seriesbooks.com/girlscoutindex.htm.  Jo Anne Fatherly 1993, in "Camp Fire Girls Handy Guide" [link: http://www.jafath.com/cfg.htm] notes that "Some of the Camp Fire Girls series were reissued, retitled, and even reauthored often enough to confuse the unwary".
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Note 35:
Ju Gosling, "Virtual World of Girls Index"  (Link:  http://users.netmatters.co.uk/ju90/indexsho.htm). The main thesis begins in "5. The History of Girls' School Stories" (Link: http://users.netmatters.co.uk/ju90/his.htm). A main chapter is "10. The Significance of Girls' School Stories" (Link: http://users.netmatters.co.uk/ju90/sig.htm).
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Note 36:
Gabrielle likes bathing: "Come on in. This stream is great!" she invites Xena, in a very early episode, (006/106) THE RECKONING. Gabrielle likes hot tubbing (A DAY IN THE LIFE, PARADISE FOUND), she even puts one in her play (THE PLAY'S THE THING). Gabrielle can be found fishing and dangling down a well (ALTARED STATES), and she likes rivers (THE WAY).
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Note 37:
Freudius the Greek philosopher held that everything was really a coincidence, from desiring your mother's cookies to driving your father's plough; his student Jungius held a competing view that everything really was a coincidence, and a serendipitous one at that.
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Note 38:
In (088/420) ENDGAME, did Amarice learn anything from Xena? Amarice: "Yeah-- kick b*** and take names later."
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Note 39:
X: "You brought the world back to us."  G: "I'm glad. I like this one better." (130/618) WHEN FATES COLLIDE
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Note 40:
Gosling c10
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Note 41:
Eva Löfgren, Schoolmates of the Long-Ago: Motifs and Archetypes in Dorita Fairlie Bruce's Boarding School Stories, Symposium Graduale, Stockholm, 1993, pp42-3, quoted by Gosling 10.
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Note 42:
Witness this exchange at the end of (049/303) THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (Whoosh! transcript): G: "You started off with four, and you redeemed two. All things considered, it's not bad odds." X: "Ain't that somethin'? I've got that answer to your question. Are you who you are, or are you who I made you?" G: "And?" X: "You're Gabrielle-- bard, Amazon Princess-- best friend. Nobody made you who you are-- it was already there. The question is, who would I be without you?" G: "Hmm-- I can answer that. You'd still be heroic Xena. You were on that path when we met." X: "Are you crazy? Without you to keep me on the straight and narrow-- " G: "You'd have managed." X: "Hey!" G: "Just not as well." X: "Hang on a minute."
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Note 43:
Scott R Stroud, "A Kantian Analysis of Moral Judgment in Buffy the Vampire Slayer", in South pp185-194 , at p185.
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Note 44:
"It [Buffy, the Vampire Slayer] was initially greeted as an exemplar of 'grrrl power,' a highly cross-marketable trend that allowed TV shows and films featuring beautiful young girls in tight clothes to tout themselves as feminist as long as the young girls beat people up." - Jeffrey L Pasley, "Old Familiar Vampires: The Politics of the Buffyverse", in South pp254-267, at p254.
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Note 45:
Vigilantes require the cover of anonymity: "What if Buffy came out as a Slayer rather than toiled in secrecy?" asks Neal King, "Brownskirts: Fascism, Christianity, and the Eternal Demon", in South pp197-211, at p197.
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Note 46:
Gregory J Sakal, "No Big Win: Themes of Sacrifice, Salvation, and Redemption", in South pp239-, at p239.
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Note 47:
Eva Löfgren, Schoolmates of the Long-Ago: Motifs and Archetypes in Dorita Fairlie Bruce's Boarding School Stories, Symposium Graduale, Stockholm, 1993, p222, quoted by Gosling 10.
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Note 48:
Gill Frith,  "The Time of Your Life: The Meaning of the School Story", in Language, Gender and Childhood, Carolyn Steedman, Cathy Urwin and Valerie Walkerdine (eds.), Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1985, pp121-2, quoted by Gosling 10.
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Note 49:
Rosemary Auchmuty, A World of Girls, The Women's Press, London, 1992, p126, quoted by Gosling 10.
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Note 50:
In American English Xena and Gabrielle would be called buddies or pals. "Pals are not those who agree to see the world the same way. Pals are those who agree to share with one another the world as they see it." - Madeline Muntersbjorn, "Pluralism, Pragmatism, and Pals: The Slayer Subverts the Science Wars", in South, pp91-102 , at p101.
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Note 51:
A role-playing quest-adventure game by SCEE Cambridge for the PlayStation2. Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar in Babylon 5) voices the other half of the pair, Scree. In a bonus interview on the disc, Hudson says that the producers had seen her as Callisto and were after a strong woman with a bit of demon in her; Andreas says they wanted G'Kar, or at least the one who played G'Kar. Motion capture for Jen was done by other actors, so Jen's mannerisms, gestures and body language, although very well-done, are not Hudson's. You can't have everything! Scree, being a living gargoyle, was somewhat easier to motion capture. The musical performance by the City of Prague Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus is also impressive. Likewise deserving mention in the rendering department are Jen's breath misting in the cold air of the world of Solum, her eyes blinking naturally (Scree blinks too), and the expression on her face when she discovers the door she is trying to open is locked. The story is more or less linear but intricate enough for a young (mid teens) audience. A proper world-exploring (or more properly, worlds-exploring) game could easily be created for Xena and Gabrielle,  journeying through the Known World, visiting Hades, the Dreamworld, Northern Amazon Camps, Chin, Fire Rings and River Maidens etc, with every aired episode forming a little mini-quest, and both characters developing as the game progresses. Perhaps the characters could even interact in the manner of The Sims and SimCity and the consequences of the quests would flow on to following quests.
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Note 52:
Here is games reviewer James Cottee describing Primal: "remarkable" animation, "smooth" camera and combat controls, "above average" artificial intelligence, style and setting "cobbled together by a committee", "high" quality of voice acting, "quite poor" script - overall, "A polished and accessible action adventure game" -"Primal scream", ICON, p19, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 2003. 
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Note 53:
Robert Weisbrot, Der Offizielle Fuehrer zur Serie Xena: Warrior Princess (1998), translated by Hans Schild [Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Muenchen 1998], p245: "Ferner nehmen Xena und Gabrielle ein gemeinsames Bad und bespritzen sich froehlich mit Wasser." (Later Xena and Gabrielle take a shared bath and splash each other happily with water.)
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Note 54:
Andrew Aberdein,"Balderdash and Chicanery: Science and Beyond", in South, pp79-90, at p90. discussing the ways the supernatural is explained in Buffy.
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Note 55:
Justine Larbalestier, "Buffy's Mary Sue is Jonathon: Buffy acknowledges the fans", in Rhonda Wilcox & David Lavery (eds), Fighting the Forces: What's at stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2002), [Rowmand & Littelfield 2002] pp227-238, at p229.
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Note 56:
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912), c23, [Deodand Publishing 2003 p107]
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Articles

Edward Mazzeri, "Chakram Levels" Whoosh! #41 (February 2000)

Edward Mazzeri, "The Mirror of Virtue" Whoosh! #43 (April 2000)

Edward Mazzeri, "Word Count and Meaning in Xena: Warrior Princess" Whoosh! #47 (August 2000)

Mazzeri, Edward. "How Has Xena: Warrior Princess Changed the World?" Whoosh! #50 (November 2000)

Mazzeri, Edward. "Word Count and Meaning in Xena: Warrior Princess: Season Two" Whoosh! #51 (December 2000)

Mazzeri, Edward. "Serendipity and Meta-Subtext: Contemplation From Under the Lake" Whoosh! #63 (December 2001)

Mazzeri, Edward. "On Watching The Director's Cut Of The Series Finale" Whoosh! #70 (July 2002)

Mazzeri, Edward. "On Sappho" Whoosh! #72 (September 2002)

Mazzeri, Edward. "Of Garters and Kings" Whoosh! #75 (January/February 2003)

Mazzeri, Edward. "The Language Of The Gaze Or Renaissance Pictures And Renaissance Pictures" Whoosh! #80 (August 2003)



Biography

Edward Mazzeri Edward Mazzeri
Did a bit of anthropology at uni and occasionally go on corporate retreats (we call them offsits). I've never seen the same Xena episode twice, or even seen the same episode once for that matter. On a weekend school excursion into the wild once, took a turn to ride a mountain pony for a short distance. It was the same color as Argo. I think it would have liked someone to brush its coat and tail. The wild in Australia is called "The Bush", so the remark "I'm going bush-walking for the weekend" conjures up beautiful images.


Favorite scene motif: Gabrielle poking Xena with a finger when making a point
Favorite action moment: Xena standing there, full of possibilities, just after someone has made a remark
Favorite horse theme: Argo in the background during the campfire scenes
Favorite mane: A toss-up between Gabrielle's golden fleece and Argo's

 

 

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