Whoosh! Issue 59 - August 2001

By Pat O'Neill
ConGroup Therapy Project
tent © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2001 held by Whoosh!
3367 words

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings (01-04)
Walking A Mile in Their Shoes (05-08)
Cutting the Cord Postponement (09-13)
Disclaimers Always Come At the End (14)
Author's Note (15-29)


Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

I'll really miss them, those fans in the mist.
Gabrielle searches for Xena in FIN.

[01] I feel angry, hurt, disappointed, manipulated, and betrayed. And that, is merely the beginning. To use a fishing metaphor, I feel like we, the fans, were thrown a line. We swallowed the bait, and right when we were starting to feel a false sense of security, we were reeled in, hook, line, and sinker.

[02] What really makes me angry is the fact that they WANT us to care about the characters and then they act like we are being foolish for being so upset. After all, "they're not real". They spend millions of dollars and put forth much energy to create a product that people will like. They create characters, hire talented actresses who can "realistically" portray them, build sets and design costumes to enhance the atmosphere, hire crews and special effects wizards who will make the producer/writer/director's vision a reality. Why do they do this? To make us BELIEVE. If we do not BELIEVE, we will not CARE; if we do not CARE, we will not WATCH; and if we do not WATCH, they do not have a PRODUCT. After all, the entertainment industry is a business with a product to sell.

[03] Over the course of the past six seasons, the producers of Xena have created a wonderful product, one that is entertaining, informative, and fun. There were several things that I personally enjoyed about Xena, but the main reason I watched is because I truly cared about the lead characters and their relationship. They epitomized true friendship and unconditional love like no other female characters had ever done before. We, as an audience, watched these characters grow and mature. We laughed with them and cried with them. We CARED about them. Then, we were misled, intentionally or not, I am not sure, into believing that the show would go out on a "high" and that, as sad as it was to say goodbye, everything would be okay. Xena would end with dignity.

[04] What did we get instead? A bloody, mutilated, bruised, and headless corpse. If that were not horrific enough, Gabrielle had to discover the body and search for the head.

Walking A Mile in Their Shoes

[05] I have been trying very hard over the past few days to think about this from the perspective of the filmmakers, to analyze it objectively, rather than judging from an emotional viewpoint. Obviously, I can not possibly know what they were thinking when they came up with "this" ending, but I can understand and accept that it IS dramatic storytelling. It has great special effects, a tragic ending, and wonderful acting, all the makings of a great film. I could even accept it as a season ender, but NOT the end of the entire series.

[06] I also acknowledge that the filmmakers owe the fans nothing. I have heard time and time again that they make something that they like and that they are proud of it and they hope that we, the fans, enjoy it also, but if we do not, hey, you cannot please everyone. Nevertheless, from what I have been hearing so far, they have not managed to please that many people with that ending, other than themselves. I agree with the sentiment in theory that you DO have to please yourself and cannot worry what other people are going to think. If that is the case, then they should stick to making videos and watch them in the privacy of their homes with family and friends. I would have preferred to be left out of their vision of how Xena and Gabrielle would end their adventures.

[07] I have also heard the comments that "well, at least Xena kept her promise to never leave Gabrielle, even in death". How very noble! I wonder if the people who find this comforting have ever actually lost someone they love.

[08] Therefore, the producers spend countless hours and dollars getting us to care about their vision and their characters, and then when we least expect it, they reach in and rip out our hearts. Is that someone's sick idea of artistic integrity? If so, I am glad I have nothing to do with the entertainment business. I would not able to sleep at night, hearing the sound of breaking hearts all over the world, knowing I was responsible for it.

Cutting the Cord Postponement

Demonstrasting how to 'sleep through a scene'.
Xena tunes in to the world around her.

[09] This may sound harsh, and it perhaps is, but I am very angry right now. I know that in time, I will get over the anger and pain I am feeling and perhaps I will eventually "get" what they were trying to convey with this episode. I have loved this show and these characters for six seasons, and I would hate to think that just one episode could totally pervert the entire experience for me. I am just not there yet.

[10] I think very highly of Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor. I respect their work and will continue to follow and support their future career choices. I wish them the best of luck. I will have a very hard time, however, investing much of my time or energy into future Rob Tapert productions. He said that he "wouldn't kill them" and then he lied. Maybe he was being cleverly misleading when he said "them". Technically, he did not kill both of them, at least, not physically. He only killed Xena physically. Gabrielle, he destroyed emotionally. Then again, maybe he meant it when he said it and changed his mind later. I prefer to think the best of people, but I am having a hard time believing that the whole thing was not just a ploy to tweak the audience, build the suspense, and then punch us in the stomach. Well, bravo! If he wanted to end the series with a "bang" and generate comments, create controversy, and "stir up the folks" he succeeded brilliantly. Although, sadly, at the expense of the loyal and devoted fan base.

[11] Of course, it is not fair to blame Rob Tapert for what I consider the worst possible ending for this series. However, since he wrote it, produced it, and directed it, I do not know who else to hold responsible. Perhaps, in his mind, he remained defiant until the end and made sure his vision was realized. That is his job and his art. I respect that. I just do not trust him anymore. It is sad to me that out of so many beautiful images produced over the course of the last six years, the ones that will now forever stand out and the ones I will never be able to get out of my head are of a mutilated headless corpse, the battered face of Xena, and for the very final shot, Gabrielle standing alone on the ship with Xena's ashes.

[12] What a legacy! What a gift we have been given for six years of loyalty and devotion. One of the greatest television heroes ever created reduced to the status of cheap horror gimmick. They could have had all the drama, angst, special effects, and action they wanted and still left us feeling good at the end, but they did not. Instead, I am feeling empty, sad, and depressed. I hope I get past the anger, because right now I want to take everything I own that has any connection to Xena and throw it in the garbage. That makes me sad, too. I loved this show for six years and now I feel that the whole thing has been tainted. I know I will eventually get over these feelings, and I will find a way to cherish the memories. However, it will never be the same.

[13] Perhaps that was the goal all along. Maybe they wanted to move on and they did not want the ghost of Xena, pun completely intended, hanging over them throughout their careers. If that is the case, I suspect they will get their wish. They took six years to create a fan base, then literally destroyed it overnight. Congratulations!

Disclaimers Always Come At the End

[14] The disclaimer at the end of the episode was the icing on the cake: "Xena was permanently harmed, but she kept up her spirits". How witty and clever! To me, it was like telling someone that a loved one has died a horrible death and following it with a joke. "Oh by the way, did you hear the one about the lady with breast cancer." I found it extremely insensitive, in very poor taste, and NOT FUNNY.

Author's Note

[15] I wrote the above after watching the episode for the first time. I had heard that Xena died in the finale, which made me angry because I believed Rob Tapert's interview in Whoosh that said he would not do that. I went to the NetForum to see what others were saying and that added fuel to the flames. I watched the episode while I was still angry and the comments I wrote for this episode are the result. I have since calmed down, re-read Rob Tapert's ENTIRE Whoosh interview, and gained a new perspective. I re-watched the episode with a totally different frame of mind, changed my opinion, and wrote a letter of apology to Rob Tapert via the MerwolfPack mailing list and Sharon Delaney. I cannot, in good conscience, change what I wrote the first time because I meant every word of it at the time I wrote it. I just do not feel that way now.

[16] I wrote this letter to Mr. Tapert:

[17] From Whoosh! - Issue 52 - January 2001:
By Bret Ryan Rudnick

[112] As we see the end of Xena coming down the road, are there any stories left untold that you would like to tell?

[113] Yes. I will be able to.

[114] You're running out of time.

[115] And money. (both laugh)

[116] The truth is I have a whole other season of stories after this season I'd like to tell. I've been trying to think of how to end the series. I don't know how I'm going to end it yet. I know how I was going to originally, but there are some other things to consider and I don't want to paint myself into a corner. I'm not going to kill them again, that's all I'm going to tell you. (both laugh) As you said earlier, I like where Hercules ended up. I think it's important to leave on an "up" note with Xena. If there was a way I could feel the show had come "full circle" so to speak, that would be nice.

[18] I am writing this letter now because I feel the need to apologize to Rob Tapert for the things I have written since I saw FIN2 nearly a week ago. I know that he does not need that from me or any of the other fans, but I feel the need to say it, just as I felt the need to express my pain and anger over the course of the last few days. When I first heard that Xena had died in the series finale, I was very angry, for the most part, because I had read the above statement from Mr. Tapert saying that he would not kill them. I felt that he had lied and that the fans had been misled and betrayed by this lie. Then, I made the mistake of going to the NetForum to see what was going on there and that just added fuel to the fire.

[19] I wrote several letters to this list and a couple to Whoosh for their August "Group Therapy" issue, which may or may not be published. In these letters, I expressed outrage and disappointment because I thought that the way Xena ended was the worst possible scenario I could think of. I never blamed Lucy Lawless or Renee O'Connor. I have always thought that they have given the fans so much, and I respect and admire them for their hard work and for breathing life into the characters they have portrayed so beautifully over the past six years. I was not so kind to Mr. Tapert, however, and that is why I would like to apologize. I cannot take back what I said and I probably would not if I could. I meant every word of it at the time and expressing those thoughts and feelings helped me to come to terms with what I am about to admit that the way FRIEND IN NEED II ended was the ONLY way Xena could have ended.

[20] My initial reaction to the series finale was a very selfish one. I sometimes forget that we, the lesbians and subtexters, are in the minority, a very small percentage of the total viewers because the only fans I am exposed to are on this list. Besides my girlfriend (GF), I do not know anyone else who watches the show. My friends do not, my co-workers do not, and my family makes fun of me because they think I am a nut to watch such a stupid show. Of course, they have never seen the show, or there is no way they could ever call it stupid. Some episodes, maybe, but overall, this is the best show that has been or ever will be on TV. But, as I said, I am not exposed to the opinions of the general populace, so I think that EVERYONE wants to see Xena and Gabrielle ride off into the sunset together forever.

[21] Then yesterday, my GF and I were having lunch in this pizza place and they have TV's in the other room. All of a sudden, Xena came on (one of the re-runs from Oxygen, I think) and the Xena theme song started playing. My GF started to cry, then I started to cry, and I was angry all over again. This was not how I wanted to spend my summer. I knew the end would be bittersweet, but I did not expect to cry every time I heard the theme song or saw a picture or watched a re-run. Then I came home and read my MerwolfPack e-mail and read about all these people saying how much they LOVED the finale and how they took comfort in the thought that Xena and Gabrielle would always be together.

[22] I got angry again and thought, "that's b*llsh*t". Gabrielle is alone, period. Maybe she will always feel Xena in her heart, but it is not the same as having a living, breathing partner. No one can feel, hear, or see a dead person, unless you are the kid in The Sixth Sense. I know that most people will say that Gabrielle and Xena are different. Gabrielle CAN see and touch Xena, but I have a very difficult time grasping that. To me, dead is dead.

[23] This is turning out to be a lot longer than I originally planned, so please forgive me, but now I am coming to the apology part.

[24] Anyway, this morning, I was feeling angry again. All week, I have been fluctuating between anger and depression, mostly anger, remembering the above quote from Rob Tapert. So, I decided to go back and read the ENTIRE interview because I thought that maybe, somehow, I could try to figure out WHY he would do this to his fans. I discovered something quite remarkable.

[25] After reading the interview, something clicked. I started to see all of this from a different perspective. I began to realize that he had many people he was trying to please. He had his vision of the way the show would end. Then there were the people from the studio and the ones paying for the show that he had to listen to. He had the lesbians and subtexters. Moreover, he had the mainstream audience (in the majority) who wanted Xena and Gabrielle to end up with boyfriends or husbands. Since he and both lead actresses are straight, he could very easily have gone with the majority of the fans and done what every other TV program has done since the beginning of television, paired his two lead female characters with men. He did not do that. He played with the subtext as much as possible, trying to give something to both groups, letting them decide for themselves what the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle was, while still staying true to his vision of his characters. That could not have been easy.

I went to Japa and all I got was a little pot.
Xena and Gabrielle... together?

[26] Then, we get to the end of the series. How would he end it? To my way of thinking, he had four choices. He could let Xena and Gabrielle ride off into the sunset as lovers and partners, now and forever. As much as I would have loved to see that happen, that ending would not have appealed to the majority of the viewers. Another option could have them both alive, Xena with Ares and Gabrielle with Joxer or some other man. A great number of fans (not on this list, but elsewhere) probably wanted this kind of an ending. Thank the Gods that did not happen! A third option could have had both Xena and Gabrielle dying. I read that this ending was considered at one point. The final option was the one we got, Xena dying for the greater good, finally finding peace and redemption, and Gabrielle carrying on with Xena beside her, forever, in every way but physically.

[27] When I look at the finale in these terms, I actually feel happy. I have come to realize that Rob Tapert had a tremendous burden to be true to his vision of the way he wanted the adventures of Xena and Gabrielle to conclude, while still finding a way to make the fans happy. ALL of the fans, not just the ones (like me) who wanted to see a happy ending with Xena and Gabrielle riding (or sailing) off into the sunset. I cannot imagine how he was able to pull it off, but he did, brilliantly.

[28] Therefore, I would like to apologize to Mr. Tapert for the things I said in anger. I was very wrong. I would like to say THANK YOU, ROB TAPERT, LUCY LAWLESS, and RENEE O'CONNOR for giving all of us this gift called XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. one which I will treasure always, and remember with joy and gratitude. In addition, just like for Gabrielle, Xena will live in my heart forever.

[29] Besides, there is always fan fiction, and I know that Missy Good will find a way to bring Xena back to life.


Pat O'Neill Pat O'Neill
I live in Big Sky Country—Montana—one of the western U.S. states, just south of Canada and north of everywhere else. My interests are traveling, reading, hiking in the mountains, and anything related to Xena. My main occupation is watching Xena and reading fan fiction, and in my spare time, I act as a payroll consultant. I live with my soulmate of thirteen years, two cats, and a dog.

Favorite episode: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
Favorite line: Ironically, "Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you" from ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, and "If I had only 30 seconds to live, this is how I'd want to spend them, looking in your eyes" (Xena to Gabrielle in FRIEND IN NEED I)
First episode seen: ULYSSES, but after seeing the scenes between Xena and Gabrielle, bought the 1st season tapes and watched all the 2nd season re-runs to catch up.
Least favorite episode: KING OF ASSASSINS



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