XENA FANDOM IN THE NETHERLANDS: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
Special to E-Mail WHOOSH
By Petra de Jong (email@example.com) Content © 1996 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 1996 held by Whoosh!
[This essay also appeared in XENA MEDIA REVIEW #20]
 I could be really short here and state that Xena fandom is non-existing in this small country but I won't do that. Instead I will go over the how and why of Xena not being known here. This is followed by a look at the potential of Xena in the Netherlands.
 XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS can only be seen on a German satellite network called RTL+. This little fact cuts the potential audience down to the viewers that can receive this satellite network, either through their own satellite dish or through their cable company.
 Since the group of dish owners is very small there won't be many Xena fans among them. The cable network is another story; almost every family is connected to the Dutch TV cable network. Here, the cable companies decide whether or not to pass the signal of RTL+. Because of a surge in Dutch TV networks, cable companies have to divide the space on the cable between all the available networks. This means that foreign networks like RTL+ are often thrown off the cable to make room for Dutch networks. For example, my cable company decided to keep RTL+ and dump a French network to create room for a new Dutch sports network. My parent's company chose to dump RTL+. So this leaves only a small group of potential Xena viewers.
 This small group of viewers (almost) all share one thing in common: they detest German dubbed shows. As a multi-cultural society, which is the Dutch society, we like to watch TV shows and movies in their original language, be it English, French or whatever. For translation we use subtitles so we can hear the original voices of the actors. We wouldn't want it any other way. We're probably the only country where Disney movies are shown in three different versions: the plain English version, the English version with Dutch subtitles, and finally the Dutch dubbed version for the kids.
 Then there's also the fact that there are many Dutch who just don't like Germans (call this the war syndrome or little brother syndrome (depends on your point of view)) and they don't even want to watch a German network.
 And of course there are many people who just don't understand German. German and Dutch are two entirely different languages.
 Finally, let's take a look at the potential of Xena in the Netherlands. At the moment we're experiencing a trend towards an acceptance of science-fiction/fantasy shows. There's been a long period of time of sci-fi being thought of as second-rate and 'only for nerds/dysfunctional people'. I think this has something to do with the down-to-earth attitude of the Dutch. A Dutch saying says it all: 'Just be yourself, that way you're already acting crazy enough'.
 But lately, through a surge of Dutch networks, we get confronted with many different sci-fi/fantasy shows and suddenly the media turns its attention towards the fans of the shows. And it turns out: they are not all nerds! Now it is accepted that you're a Trekker or an X-philer or a Babylon 5 fan.
 This acceptance provides an excellent base for a series like HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS or XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, so I personally think that the shows will soon arrive on Dutch TV (I just hope that this isn't merely hopeful thinking).
 The acceptance also brings some other advantages: the English novels appear in the stores, the soundtracks are available, American and English science-fiction magazines are available, and so on. Especially the magazines give Dutch fans insight into other existing series, that aren't shown yet on Dutch television. That is how I first 'met' Xena.
 This brings me back to the series. What elements will be appealing to the Dutch viewer?
 There are of course the obvious reasons: two beautiful women, funny story lines, lots of humor and action and so on. But there are other elements (or so I think):
 First, there's the characters of Xena and Gabrielle. We are used to seeing female warriors; our armed forces have lots of them (even F-16 and Apache pilots) and they are also put into combat situations, just like their male counterparts. So Dutch viewers won't be put off by the characters; on the contrary, they would love it.
 Also part of the characters is their relationship, be it gay or otherwise. This isn't an issue in my country, where the 'gays in the army' issue was solved back in the seventies with not much of a fuss. The show will be considered a normal show and won't attract nor lose more viewers because of this relationship. The humor is a big plus. Especially the dry humor of Xena is what the Dutch will appreciate. The slapstick (the 'unbelievable' acrobatics) on the contrary is something we can do without (remember the saying).
 The scenery: New Zealand. The wilderness attracts us. In a country where every plant and tree is planned (we have to; we're the most densely populated industrialized country in the world) and where everything is flat as a dime we like to dream about rough terrain, mountains and so on; the untamed land. And of course, it doesn't hurt that the show is shot in New Zealand, a country discovered by a Dutchman and named after one of our provinces, Zealand.
 These three points show a few elements why I think that Xena will attract a large audience once it is aired on Dutch television. So Xena fandom in the Netherlands may be non-existent at the moment but I feel that won't last long.
 As for now, Xena is an undiscovered country to the Netherlands. Or to state it in Xena terms: Xena hasn't conquered this small part of the world yet, but she's knocking at the gates.
 Since writing the above, things have been changing rapidly over here. In the article I mentioned the sports channel that had driven RTL+ off the cable in many cities. Now the sports channel has stopped broadcasting due to financial problems. This will probably mean that RTL+ will return on the cable.
 Also, a Dutch network, RTL4 (the most popular network) is going to air HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS as of January 5, 1997. This means that XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS is soon to follow (or so I assume).