Whoosh! Issue 59 - August 2001

By Sara Conner
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
2028 words

It Spoke to Me (01-02)
Life Catches Up With a TV Show (03-05)
How Did We Come to This? (06-09)
You Cannot Please Everyone (10-13)
I Loved This Show (14-15)


It Spoke to Me

Realising the value of the autograph franchise alone, Gabrielle becomes palsy with Xena
Xena and Gabrielle, together at the start.

[01] I missed the first year or so of Xena: Warrior Princess. I did not know such a wonderful thing existed until a brief mention of it in an article about heroic women on television in the TV Guide brought it to my attention. It took some searching around on my TV, but once I discovered the Warrior Princess and her bard, I was hooked. I became one of those mess-with-me-during-this-hour-and-I-will-hurt-you TV addicts. What a connection, what a fabulous reason to unplug the telephone and watch TV again. It was embarrassing to be so smitten by a TV show. I am a grown up, for heaven sakes. I just could not help it. It spoke to me. In a country where the popular culture seems so flat and unemotional, here came this great TV show about women, unafraid of wearing its heart on its sleeve. A show conceived by a man, about women, produced in a little kiwi land. How mind-blowing was that?

[02] They were such strong women, with such big, mythical storylines. Joseph Campbell said we are defined by our myths, and through them, we learn who we are, and how to make it in this world day after day. Good storytelling is hard to find, and that is unfortunate because good stories and good storytellers pull us in, they can give us vision and inspire us to become more than we are. Good storytellers can give us strength when we get lost in the woods of everyday life so we can come out again, ready for the next venture life has waiting for us. A welcome respite given what my life had been like these past years. After taking care of her for six long and difficult years, my mother, my last living family member, died in 1999. I had unrelenting stress and difficulties at work. I moved twenty-six hundred miles away from the only home I had ever known. I experienced the painful disintegration of a cherished, significant relationship. All of this left me feeling more sad and exhausted than I had thought possible.

Life Catches Up With a TV Show

"The impulse to dream has been slowly beaten out of me by the experience of life."
- B. Thomas "The Invisible Man"

[03] My life left me feeling like I had been caught up by a huge, out of control snowball of desolation, and I came to depend on this show, on Xena and Gabrielle and their creators to give me a sense of being grounded, of being connected. Just one restful hour to soothe, support, inspire, and entertain me. That is all, just one hour a week, just for me. As the series came to a close this year I was sad but ready to see the end and move on, wishing the best to all who had a hand in the creation of this wonderful hour of television. I trusted the creators to end the series on a triumphant high note.

[04] Then the end finally did come and, my, that was disappointing.

[05] Not long after I discovered Xena: Warrior Princess, I also discovered Whoosh! Soon I discovered I needed the second as much as I needed the first. I had no one in my life to talk with about the great fun ride that was Xena, but I could go online and celebrate it by clicking into this great pool filled with others wanting to be a part of Xena and Gabrielle's world. I loved the episode synopses! The "spoilers" never spoiled a thing for me. The networks where I live do not air Xena until a week after everyone else has seen it. Each week I simply had to get online and find out what happened. Reading the end of the synopsis for the final episode was unbelievable. I just sat there, staring dumbfounded at the screen, not believing and not understanding the words as I read them. The last few years of my life have just been so hard, and as I sat there and the minutes passed it felt like the previous thirty months or so had suddenly gotten a lot worse somehow.

How Did We Come to This?

Although she figured out how to do the pinch immediately, Gabrielle delighted in pretending not to get it so she could put the pinch on Xena several times
Xena imparts the final lessons to Gabrielle.

[06] How? How, after six years did we come to this? How are we supposed to feel? Can Mr. Tapert please explain? Was making Xena "stay dead", a trade off for a brief, heart-swelling kiss? "Well, they can kiss, and she can tell her she loves her and that she's her whole life, but you'll have to take some of the homo-sting out of it by keeping her dead at the end." They can express real love for each other but only if you make sure they will never be together again once they have said it? It is like the new millennium version of making Rob and Laura Petrie sleep in separate beds, "Yes, they are married, but they must sleep in separate beds and they will most certainly never touch each other!" Horrors! Was that the trade off? Please, oh please, listen to me Mr. Tapert. The price was too high.

[07] Mr. Tapert forgot that redemption is meaningless without forgiveness, and forgiveness can be complicated. Was it necessary to give Xena a past that included the accidental murder of 40,000 people? Forty thousand, Mr. Tapert? She could not merely be drunk and punch out a few villagers, you had to turn her into the Golden Age version of Mrs. O'Leary's cow that kicks over a lantern and starts the Great Chicago Fire, thanks. Apparently, it was not important that Xena was impaired and soppy from sake. Evidently, it was important to make sure the body count was high enough to keep her dead at the series close. That is too bad because I and I bet many other folks as well, discovered a basic truth I could identify with in such a dark and reluctant hero. Beneath her chosen path of redemption lay her true journey, the search for self, the search for meaning, significance, and the search for another to share it all with. If you strip away these things, any accomplishment becomes meaningless, and then there is little point to being here on this planet and struggling through all of this nonsense, now is there?

[08] The pursuit, and resolution of Xena's six-year quest for forgiveness from those she had harmed in her dark past was always tempered by her inability to forgive herself of those past actions and move forward with her life. That is what I was expecting at the series close, a huge event that would finally trigger some real healing in Xena's heart and help her to move forward in her life with Gabrielle. Choosing life and getting out of bed every morning is tough. Staying on a relentless course of redeeming your soul is the ultimate commitment. Simply keeping her dead is a cop out, and in spite of Xena's final scripted words, whether or not you still possess the breath of life, there is no honor or grace in staying dead. Responsibility is the ability to respond. Staying dead was a cop out to the 40,000, to her life with Gabrielle, and to everything that show seemed to be trying to communicate since its debut episode. Considering the real evil in this final episode was the nasty Lord Yodoshi, forgiveness for Xena's sin from the slain 40,000 would have been monumental. To be forgiven by the souls of 40,000 could have been like having a great, gentle wave from a vast sea wash over her. Would that have been enough for Xena to feel centered, and connected, and ready at last to move forward on her path with a healing heart?

[09] We will never know, now, will we?

You Cannot Please Everyone

[10] You cannot please everyone. Nevertheless, you can come close if you stay true to yourself, to your heart, and to the wonderful characters you created, Mr. Tapert. You dropped the ball on them, on yourself, and all of us, your audience.

[11] Some time ago Oprah Winfrey aired one of her "Dr. Phil" installments in which he helped a man face overwhelming guilt stemming from an event in his childhood in which he accidentally shot and killed his best friend. He was just a child. It was a tragic accident. But the guilt consumed him, and even after the boy's parents forgave him, he was still unable to move forward in his life until he was able to accept that his friend would have forgiven him, and would want him to allow joy into his heart and his life again. I hope it is not perceived as an insulting comparison, comparing the tragic loss of a real life to 40,000 reel lives. However, the issue of forgiveness for an accidental tragedy is the same, and preventing a person from moving forward and through such a tragic experience is wrong whether such a person is real or imaginary. It sends the wrong message.

[12] Redemption and forgiveness require engagement with life and the living, not the passive, "Okay, I'll sit around and be dead for eternity. That should be payback enough". Like it or not, you have to get up and participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.

[13] Real life is hard, and we mere mortals look to fantastic dreams and bigger-than-life mythic heroes to lift us up and help us carry on. The power of great myths, great dreams, and great stories lie in the gift and the promise of hope. They should give us hope, because while we struggle along on our path we want to believe in soulmates, we want to believe in enduring partnerships, we want to use pronouns like "us" and "we", and to face the world each new day with another at our side, and not just in our hearts.

I Love This Show

[14] For a week, I was unable to watch the final episode beyond "the kiss". At that point I would just lose it and be unable to continue. The same question would come back to haunt me: was this the trade-off? Xena and Gabrielle can finally share a heartfelt, lover's kiss disguised as a water transfer, but Xena must stay dead at the series conclusion? The kiss was beautifully performed, beautifully filmed, and a sweet, love-filled act, but was it worth it? We all lost so much in the last few minutes of that final episode. If Mr. Tapert never makes a movie that fixes this unholy mess then we will have to live with the ending he chose.

[15] I loved this show. I loved it because of what it has made me feel during an incredibly dark period in my life that still, to this day, drags on. I loved this show because it made me feel when I thought I did not have the energy to feel anything anymore. Nevertheless, this final episode broke my heart, and for right now, I do not want to feel, not anything, for a long time. However, when I am able to risk feeling anything again, first, I am going to try feeling hope.


Sara Conner Sara Conner

After moving from California to Ohio to Western Montana, Sara hikes, skis cross country (when there is snow) and maintains a sizable mob of critters at home while she works on a five year plan to move back to California.
Favorite episode: WHEN FATES COLLIDE
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Xena, I'm not cut out for this village life. I was born to do so much more." SINS OF THE PAST
First episode seen: DESTINY
Least favorite episode: MARRIED SWITH FISHSTICKS

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