Whoosh! Issue Twelve - September 1997

IAXS Research Project #327
By Ed Baker
Copyright © 1997 held by author
2212 words



I can't see a darn thing with this bird head on.

The Amazons "crown" Queen Gabrielle
in THE QUEST (#37).


[01] It seems almost ironic, now that they have become such a large and positive part of the Xenaverse, that the Amazons would have been the very first opponents that the Renaissance Picture's Hercules ever faced, recorded for history in the movie, named appropriately enough, HERCULES AND THE AMAZON WOMEN (Bill L. Norton, 1994). Almost everyone is aware of the Amazons' role in Greek Mythology. Even those who have only a passing interest in myth know the Amazons were a group of women who lived apart from the influence and rules of men. Naturally, the creators of HERCULES put their own spin on the Amazon mythos, and subsequent appearances have only deepened the mystique and interest in this group of warrior women.

[02] We can assume that the Amazons encountered in HERCULES AND THE AMAZON WOMEN and those later seen in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS were contemporaries, as both existed while Hercules was yet a young man. It is uncertain just how much time elapsed between AMAZON WOMEN and HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10), the first XENA episode with Amazons as characters, but it was certainly not more than ten years, and probably much less.


Fortunately I won't have to dress this silly all my career.

Lucy Lawless is the nasty Amazon Lysia, who later "sees the light"

[03] On the surface, we could be talking about the same tribe of Amazons: both wear masks decorated to resemble animals; both live near forests, and use them as cover; both employ hit and run tactics against their opponents; and both take to the trees. Unsurprisingly, both employ a matriarchal power structure that follows the lineage and family of the current queen; and, as almost a prerequisite for Amazonian tribes, neither cares for, or trusts, men very much.

[04] But most of the similarities end there. In AMAZON WOMEN, the tribe is led by Hippolyta, and it espouses a strong feminist philosophy of not allowing men dominion over them. From the start of the movie we are shown two groups around the city of Gagarentha: a society of men, helpless to defend themselves, and a society of warrior women who have gained independence and defend it fiercely.

[05] Hippolyta and the other women tout a militaristic philosophy of strength, of resisting the power of men, and indeed even seem to delight in holding power over them. Hippolyta declares in one scene how these women will never be subjugated by men, how they have cut out a life of their own, and they will not re-enter male-dominated society. Given the blatantly sexist attitudes that run rampant in the beginning of the film (and the strange obsession with foot-washing), it is understandable, if not laudable, that self-possessed, intelligent women have awoken and thrown off society's shackles.

[06] If anything, this group of Amazons living outside Gagarentha (in a city named, with all originality, "Amazon") has over-compensated in their desire to be independent. They have, as Hercules astutely points out, become the very tyrants they sought to escape. They themselves have become the oppressors and enslavers of the admittedly weak men of Gagarentha. They practice the same crimes that they accuse most men of: lack of respect, taking what they want, and treating the opposite sex as a lesser being and even as property.

Hey, Herc, I see not everything about you is 'big'!

A "fellow" Amazon and Lysia.

[07] Consider the two main citizens of Amazon -- Hippolyta and Lysia. Hippolyta makes speeches about the importance of female autonomy in the world of men, and warns her followers of the lies and the evils of males. Lysia, as masculine as any male character in the movie (including Hercules), is a no-nonsense virago who verges on outright hatred of men. She is their war-leader, and it is she who cuts short an impromptu question and answer session between three curious Amazons and Hercules. It is she who makes Hercules bow to Hippolyta. If Hippolyta is the philosopher of this society, Lysia is its enforcer, seeking to protect it from without and within.

[08] Granted, owing allegiance to Hera, one almost expects this tribe of female warriors to be a bit excessive in their behavior and beliefs. Hera is represented from the very start as a malevolent female force wishing harm to strong males. She has Zeus cowering ("It's best to just stay away from her,") and it is stated in the opening of the show that she is out to wreak vengeance upon Hercules merely because he exists. Indeed, when she cannot goad or manipulate Hippolyta into attacking Hercules, and the village of men, she takes control of the Queen to accomplish this mission herself. Following a goddess that is so filled with hate toward males does not help moderate this society at all. If anything, it leads them to greater destruction and conquest.

[09] This is a society that has spun out of control. In seeking independence, they have reached too far and become tyrants. The men in Gagarentha are paralyzed with fear of them. The Amazons are overly fond of violence, attacking those who trespass in the forest, and then stringing up their corpses as a warning. There are cracks within their society as well, such as the one Amazon who misses her son, and the other two who, along with her, are curious about Hercules and men in general. Even Hippolyta begins to doubt their total hatred of men when faced with Hercules' goodness, and all of the women seem more than satisfied after spending a night conversing with the men in the village.

[10] The Gagarenthan population is suffering badly because of this split, the women as well as the men. True, the women have adjusted a little better than the men, but both sides are weakened by the division. When they finally are brought together in a suitable manner, as equals ("women need respect and loyalty," Hercules advises the men), both sides begin to realize just what they have been lacking, and the women begin to shed their resolve that all men are evil. The Amazons of Gagarentha, when we meet them are, at the core, not whole. They require their men to balance out their society, just as the men desperately need them.


[11] The same is not true, however, of the Amazon tribe we meet in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10), THE QUEST (#37), and A NECESSARY EVIL (#38). While this group is initially led by the spirited and fiery queen, Melosa, who spouts feminist philosophy and mistrusts men, they are a far more stable society than the wild group of Amazons that Hercules eventually helps to become whole in AMAZON WOMEN.

You know, your hair should be a bit redder -- like mine!

Terreis gives Gabrielle something to think about

[12] In the teaser to HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10), we see Terreis espousing the fundamentals of Amazon rule: women are capable and should be in charge. "It is a man's world," she says, "not because it has to be, but because we let them have it." True, there is still the same undercurrent of women living independently of men, but there are more traces of self-reliance and less of a stated desire to subjugate men.

[13] Once again, though, we see a female society at odds with a male one. In this case, it is not the spineless weaklings of the village of Gagarentha, but Tyldus and his Centaurs (interesting that not *one* female Centaur is shown). They are bitter rivals and old enemies, as one would expect of societies that are essentially patriarchal and matriarchal. But whereas the Amazons of Gagarentha were missing something by casting out their male element, these women seem to be whole on their own.

[14] There are the expected run-ins between the Centaurs and the Amazons. Exchanges of philosophy and insults, and misunderstanding and mistrust on both sides abound, but in the end, the two must combine to survive, just as the two societies had to in HERCULES AND THE AMAZON WOMEN. The moral of the story in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10), like in the HERCULES movie, is that male and female societies must rise above mistrust and work together to promote harmony. Here, the contrast between the two is not as strong. Both the Amazons and the Centaurs are independent and capable. They might even be allies if one were not overtly masculine and the other overtly feminine.

[15] In both cases, it took an outsider to unite the two peoples. In the former case, it had to be a man, because the Amazon society had to be shown that not all men were terrible and evil. In the latter case, the outsider could have been and was a woman (though Xena is certainly masculine enough to fulfill any 'male' requirements). This is because the society of Amazons in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10) had not lost its balance.

And another thing -- I suggest a midriff-showing costume!

Gabrielle, Ephiny, and Melosa, all Amazon Queens at different points on the Xenaverse timeline

[16] Although we get to know several characters in this village -- Terreis, Eponin, Ephiny, and Queen Melosa -- it is really only the last two who have any impact. Terreis is killed too soon and is really more of a plot element than a character, and Eponin, while giving an excellent display of a staff kata, adds little to the story. Again, the queen is the character responsible for explaining the belief system of the Amazons (the Right of Caste, the feuds with the Centaurs, the mourning period, etc.) and, like Hippolyta, Melosa is the embodiment of that philosophy. But Melosa carries no grudge against men, the way Hippolyta does. She is pro-woman, but not anti-male.

[17] Carrying the analogy, Ephiny becomes the Enforcer of the Amazon way, training Gabrielle (who seems unusually goofy in this episode) in the arts of war and explaining what each weapon means. It is she who questions the Centaur, Phantes (it is interesting to note that Lysia kept Hercules from being questioned). Ephiny begins to gain understanding of the other culture. She may espouse the Amazon ideal, but she keeps her mind open.

[18] Ephiny is open-minded perhaps because her group of Amazons is more stable. They are more secure in their own power and do not need to reign over a cowering bunch of males to prove themselves. Though this, too, is a group of all women, they do not force Ephiny to give up her son [THE QUEST (#37)] or have any difficulties dealing with the warlord, Krykus, because he is a man [HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10)] (they dislike him because he is a slime, but not because he is a man). That this group is more tolerant of outsiders -- they seem to want Xena to be one of them from the very first time we see them in HOOVES AND HARLOTS to their desire to give her an Amazon burial -- is attributable mostly to the fact that they are more secure in themselves. They do not define themselves by what they hate, or what they seek to conquer, or even what they are *not*, but rather by what they *are*. Any society secure in itself will have less of a problem dealing with outsiders.

[19] Perhaps this is also helped by their choice of patron goddess. Artemis is certainly a less volatile choice than Hera. While Artemis had no love for men, and was generally a goddess associated with the hunt and virginity, and female power, there is no overtone of hatred or violence toward men, either. One of Hera's explicit goals is to destroy Hercules. Artemis has no such agenda. Like her worshipers, she is defined more by what she is than by what she hates.


And I want my own series -- you got that?!

Herc would say something but he's tied up at the moment.

[20] A society that draws its strength and identity from within will always be more stable and secure than one who defines, or allows itself to be defined by outside influences or people. While both groups of Amazons are powerful, self-reliant, and capable of defending themselves, the Amazons of HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10) do not live with the constant need to prove themselves in a man's world. They demand to be seen and treated as equals, but they feel no need to dominate men, as do the Gagarenthan Amazons. It is this core insecurity -- not merely to be equal to men, or even better, but to periodically prove it to the world -- that in the end weakens their society. They *need* the men to give them balance, though they may deny it. Melosa's (and later, Ephiny's) group does not. The Gagarenthans thrive on violence and martial power and seek to conquer, Melosa's group (save for Velasca) does not. They are content with being respected by the outside world, and do not need to be feared.

[21] In the end, it is this ability to balance the masculine urges and the feminine urges in their society that makes Melosa's Amazons a more secure group. The Gagarenthans have become too masculine, and cannot balance themselves without help. They are female, but hardly feminine. Melosa's group embraces both the masculine and the feminine, and has found harmony because of it.

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