From the Editor-in-Chief:
The Mojo That Once Was and Poll Results
From the Graphics Editor:
The Night Of The Wanting Words
From the Editor-in-Chief:
THE MOJO THAT ONCE WAS AND POLL RESULTS
The Mojo That Once Was
I went to an "Anti-Fest" a few days ago. With Xena fandom still in recovery from the end of its 6-year run and for the implosive ending to the series, I suspect "Anti-Fests" will be more common as time goes on. As is obvious by this issue and the issue to come (there were too many submissions for one issue, so Group Therapy has been expanded to two months instead of one), many fans are trying to sort out what the TV show Xena meant to them, and perhaps more immediately, why the series finale affected them so deeply.
I enjoyed being around Xena fans again. They are a unique breed. I am proud to be one of them. I had missed the easy camaraderie and unspoken bond that united us in our need to meet in the name of Xena, even if for the ironically called Anti-Fest. I saw a slew of people I had not seen for a while. It was a very enjoyable evening. The food was inspirational and I went wild and had TWO Moroccan tri-tip sandwiches at the "straight" table -- a story in and of itself that will have to wait for another day to be told. The company was incomparable and the activities were constantly amusing and thought provoking. It was the perfect model of what a XenaFest should be. However, for me, it did not have that usual crackle to it. It was like a shadow was over it. I was afraid I had lost the spark, and I was experiencing the Fest through that new flaw in my character. Then something interesting happened.
At about a half past midnight on the Oxygen Channel, they were airing a Xena episode (yet another nail in the serendipity coffin which Xena seems to attract like bears to honey), and not just any episode but ONE AGAINST AN ARMY. We were just ending up the second act. That meant we were in time for the third act and what an act. For me, the third act of ONE AGAINST AN ARMY is perfect. If I could only take one act of Xena with me anywhere, I would choose this third act. It represents for me the most sublime extended moment Xena as a work of art entertainment has ever achieved. To be sure, in other episodes they have nailed sublime moments and the have nailed sublime scenes, but the third act of ONE AGAINST AN ARMY is the most intense, profound, and telling of any act in Xena.
The reasons I am so attracted to Xena are all embedded in that third act, except oddly for one thing: quirky humor is totally devoid in that entire act. The fight scenes and the drama are played straight. There are no cute anachronistic jokes, no mugging at the cameras, and no attempts to take us out of the moment for anything resembling a post-modern wink that is so common with Xena that many consider it a critical part of its essence.
In this third act, there is a dignity and it plays out theatrically in the most barest of ways: two people acting off each other on a static stage. They address issues that go to the heart of their problems. On one level, it is an army of soldiers about to obliterate them, but that is profoundly the least of their problems. The characters know that, and the drama of the moment is their discussion and resolution of those same problems. The act covers scenes, which are reassuringly familiar and mundane to highly dramatic, and to a moment that I consider the most intimate ever filmed between Gabrielle and Xena. It is also where Xena resolves (YES RESOLVES) her redemption obsession, and where Xena gives Gabrielle those immortal lines of not leaving Gabrielle even in death. The cinematography is carefully set and the lighting is an intriguing affectation. In short, it is an incredible 11 or so minutes.
It is a perfect distillation of why I love the show Xena. More importantly, however, it is about Xena and Gabrielle. That is it. Only Xena and Gabrielle. The only other people in the act are the anonymous soldiers in Gabrielle's dream where she has a vision of Xena's death. Other than that, it is pure Gabrielle and Xena. There are intensely poignant moments. There is Gabrielle hallucinating and Xena realizing perhaps for the first time how she fits into Gabrielle's life and Gabrielle into hers. There is Gabrielle, on her deathbed, trying desperately to make the proper decisions and do the right thing. There is Gabrielle not realizing but demonstrating for the audience her bond to Xena, in an incredible moment of acting by Renee O'Connor when Gabrielle wakes from her dream and then sees that it is a dream and then lies next to a sleeping Xena for comfort. That moment, for me, is one of the most honest and intimate moments I have ever seen on TV, cinema, or the stage. More moments that are meaningful stack up one after another in this single act and it never lets up. It is simply a series of mundane to profound events, and I guess, each one speaks to me personally. It is amazing that they are all in a mere 11 minute act.
Watching the third act of ONE AGAINST AN ARMY makes me remember why I am attracted to this show. There is only one thing that the third act is about, and that is the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. It is clearly and undeniably a love relationship. These people love each other and Xena makes the realization that this love transcends death. Watching that act and the dialogue made me realize that FRIEND IN NEED [FIN] shared a similar moral dilemma, but the characters were reversed. In ARMY, Gabrielle was the stubborn one, and Xena refused to accept Gabrielle's single-mindedness. In FIN, Xena was stubborn and Gabrielle was the catalyst. However, in FIN, Gabrielle was not allowed to be a successful catalyst, and FIN was so much the lesser for it. Had Gabrielle been allowed to bring Xena back, the show would have ended full circle by being Gabrielle's coming of age story. It would have been an incredible feat of continuity and foreshadowing with ONE AGAINST AN ARMY. That alone would have shown that Gabrielle at last came into her own and would have made more sense character and history-wise.
The episodes SINS OF THE PAST, DREAMWORKER, ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, IDES OF MARCH, and FRIEND IN NEED (sans the last 5 minutes) [with ONE AGAINST AN ARMY being there because it put FRIEND IN NEED (sans the last 5 minutes) into perspective] cover the ultimate journey of Gabrielle. There is a power in Gabrielle's story that transcends the awkwardness and limitations of the storytellers. Most of that power is caught up with the fundamental energy of the series that for me was the love story, the relationship. In fact, I personally feel that subtext is a subset of that. The relationship is so powerful that probably ALL factions of fandom agree that Xena and Gabrielle have to be together, and that the show really is about their relationship. How that relationship is physically manifested or portrayed on screen are the different issues where people debate, but most if not all agreed that Xena and Gabrielle have to be together or something feels wrong.
The show ending, the sucky conclusion, and the fragmenting of fandom had all combined to get me down. Also in my personal life, there have been some people whom I was not anticipating growing distant from or they from me, yet this slow and sad process had begun. It has been very painful. It has made me a little bitter if not disillusioned. To be honest, the ending of the show and preparing these two Group Therapy issues mad me a tad more bitter. Nonetheless, after seeing ARMY again and watching that third act, much of my enthusiasm for the show and its message came back to me.
I should like to think that all of us would love to have what Xena and Gabrielle had regardless of how we characterize the relationship. Yes, it is idealized on screen. In "real life" you would never find something that wonderful all the time. Yet, we are all capable of moments where things just click and we do feel, even if for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or if we are lucky some extended time, where we have found a soulmate. A time when you have found another human being that you appreciate, enjoy, and derive great satisfaction from and who does the same from you. And it works. At least for that moment. When it happens, it is so wonderful. The show taps into that yearning, that desire to recreate or create those moments, so sublimely. In fact, so well that it is scary. It is very scary. And it is like a drug. To watch and experience it vicariously through the show is almost as good as being there -- especially when you are lacking it or missing it or not feeling like you are getting enough of it from your own life.
These last two weeks, and indeed since the time after the Museum of TV and Radio attendance, and with the experience of preparing the Group Therapy issues of Whoosh, I feel like I have been through the wringer a few times and them some. Because of some events here and there, I have had some people whom I considered friends just drop out of my life. I have been frustrated by not being able to successfully communicate and make some others whom I respected and did not want to hurt or offend understand things which were very important to me personally and impersonally. I have been frustrated by my day job situation; I have been frustrated by my night "job". I have been challenged and a half by other groups of people in my life other than Xenites (scary having a life outside of Xena, but that is another story too!). I have been assailed from both within and without and conflict like that takes it toll. But again, I find a rock in Xena. Why should it be a stupid TV show? Why is the concept of friendship so important to me and so hard for me? Why do I fixate on a show that shows one of the most intense and most glorious slow burns I have ever seen presented on TV or in serialized form? I wish I had an answer other than plain and simple yearning.
Xena and Gabrielle are metaphors and archetypes for an intimate and mutually satisfying connection with another human being. I desire union with another but then I am also an individual who appears to sabotage my attempts and experiments with such union. I live for the moments when I am in congruence with another. It is the best high I have ever experienced, however it has resulted in some deeply painful times, as well. Moreover, the characters of Xena and Gabrielle appear to just ooze congruence. Congruence is something that I have to work very hard for and then only reap in moments that usually are short-lived. They are not predictable as to when they appear, and when they fail, I curse myself for even trying. Yet, when I succeed, even if for literally for a moment, that fleeting high makes me forget about all the hard work, previous pain, and long lapses between successes.
Amazingly, here is a show where they inadvertently and accidentally created one of the most intensely congruent couples on the planet. It is like being exposed to the most powerful drug in the universe and having no supply problems. No wonder I am attracted to this show. It is as if I was specifically wired to be obsessed with it. Sometimes I resent that. Other times I feel like the luckiest person earth because of it.
There is some incredible mojo in this series. The mojo will not lessen because the show is over, and most importantly, I am not the only person who can tap into this mojo. There are quite a few of us. I have no idea what that means, but it has allowed me to see a part of me and a part of many other people that I perhaps would have never otherwise recognized or even had a chance at understanding.
Whoosh ran its very first poll from June 20 to July 20 2001. At first, the poll asked if after watching the series ender the viewer was (1) "Surprised and entertained" (as Robert Tapert said we would be in an interview) or was she or he (2) "Disappointed" (contrary to what Lucy Lawless said in another interview that "No one would be disappointed"). Three days later, in honor of Lucy Lawless' further statements about the show, we added another choice: did the viewer want to (3) "cut the cord".
The poll attracted 2290 participants. I thank and give warm fuzzies to everyone who took the time to take the poll. Some of you gave above and beyond the duty of merely answering a poll. We appreciate everyone who participated. Now, to the boring stats stuff. Of those, 1482 (65%) declared themselves disappointed, 620 (27%) stated they were surprised and entertained, and 188 (8%)wanted to cut that cord right then and there. It ran basically 3 pro to every 7 con. Of those 2290, 1253 (55%) brave and hearty pollees availed themselves of the opportunity to share with us why they chose what they chose. Of those, 793 (63%) were disappointed, 338 (27%) were surprised and entertained, and a healthy 122 (10%) wanted that cord reved. These replies are available for reading in the letters section for issues 58, 59, and 60. Pop some prozac and enjoy!
These last few weeks have been nothing short of traumatic. Not only did the show Xena implode and then shortly thereafter its fandom, but Whoosh did too. Well, Whoosh's editor-in-chief. We usually get 5-10 submissions per month sent to us. For this Group Therapy issue we received over 373 submissions. From those we gleaned 60 articles which we are publishing over issues 59 and 60. The submissions we are not publishing as stand-alone articles will be posted in whole or in part in the letters to the editor section of issues 58, 59, and 60. To make a long story short, at the time of writing this, I am about half way through finishing up issue 60. But I want to go to the beach. Decisions, decisions. I guess September 1st you will know whether I played hooky or not.
Kym Taborn, Editor-In-Chief/Publisher of Whoosh,
actually spending time with her family now that Xena l'morted.
Kym Masera Taborn
Calabasas, CA July 30, 2001
From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE WANTING WORDS
Those who know me also know that I am a devotee of some rather eclectic music. My tastes are wide and varied, but a big chunk of my music inventory is stocked with artists from Scotland and Ireland. Way back in pre-Xena days one of the more exciting discoveries for me was a group called "Mouth Music" and their eponymous first album. It is difficult to express how much I really enjoyed that album and still do today. What particularly appeals to me is the inclusion of traditional words and melodies arranged to a unique interpretation and the use of traditional and modern instruments. Those who saw the Season Two Xena episode DESTINY may recall the music that M'Lila lip-synced to during the "sailing montage", and that music was from the album above (the track "Fraoch A Ronaigh" [Heather of Rona]).
Two years after their debut album, the group put out another recording, Mo-Di. When I first heard it I disliked it. It was not what I expected, so I threw it in a pile where it languished for several years until a few weeks ago I chanced to listen to it again.
Now I absolutely love it. There are several tracks on it I like to hear again and again, and catch a little something new each time I listen to the CD.
So why the change of heart? After thinking about it for awhile I came to the conclusion that the first time I heard Mo-Di I had layered my own expectations upon it. I was anticipating a second recording to more closely resemble the first, which it did not. After enough time passed, I was able to listen to the CD again without these expectations and as a result it came again to my ears fresh and clean, with no history.
The interpretation/expectation factor seems to be the only logical conclusion. After all, the CD has not changed. If it has not then, in some way, I must have. The passage of time, personal reflection, experiences, and the triumphs and tragedies of life wash over us all as the sea does to the shore. We are shaped, molded, or broken in similar fashion.
So perhaps, in time, I can look back on Xena and especially the finale without expectation or history. After all, I have seen where Xena fans who came to the series "late" tended to prefer episodes from the seasons they were introduced to. In truth and upon reflection, I find my own favourite episodes to be closer to the time of my introduction to the show rather than near the end.
Was it the expectation of an end that fueled such a powerful reaction to the series finale? As I've read over the literally hundreds of responses to the Whoosh! survey I have renewed respect for all viewers of the show, regardless of the specifics of their opinion. The feelings behind these words are sometimes passionate, sometimes amusing, sometimes disturbing, but always heartfelt.
Read them. Start with the letters from last month if you haven't read any of the survey results yet. These are all people who have been greatly touched and moved by their entertainment. It has reached out to them and made them find something within themselves to be passionate about, beyond the detail of "like" or "dislike" of a particular episode. Were they reacting to their expectations? Were they lashing out because a familiar, unfolding saga of six years was now ending? Is it the nature of death, or destruction, or unfamiliarity, or fear of the unknown, or the tragedy of a love story that does not end happily that moves them to express themselves? The answers are as varied as the individual writings.
Regardless of tangential likes or dislikes of episodes here and there, XENA was a fine show, no doubt about it.
But personally, I think the audience was even finer.
Some beach in California
24 July 2001