Whoosh! Issue Nine - June 1997


IAXS Research Project #230
By Stacey Robillard
Copyright © 1997 held by author
1109 words


The eels are fabulous at Cecrops-On-The-Sea

Gabrielle offering Xena some exotic fare

[01] Being a sidekick is an ungrateful job: always deferring to the hero -- the main character -- and, never getting the credit you truly deserve. This is the case for both Gabrielle and the actress who plays her, Renee O'Connor. Over the course of 40 episodes, Renee O'Connor has proven herself to be more than up to the challenge of creating an interesting, vibrant character. For many fans, the show simply would not be the same without her. The show may be called XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, but it could just as easily be called THE ADVENTURES OF XENA AND GABRIELLE. Renee O'Connor has proven herself to be a talented actress and has made Gabrielle into a well rounded person, not just a supporting character. So why does she not get more credit?


[02] Contrary to popular belief, Gabrielle is neither irritating, nor a blonde (can you say redhead?). I cannot remember a time when the character was played as blatantly irritating. From the very first episode, SINS OF THE PAST (#01), O'Connor portrayed Gabrielle as a strong, courageous and curious young woman. It has been the media and the writers who have created the irritating stigma. Last summer there was an article in the BOSTON PHOENIX about XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. In an feature entitled "Bad TV We Love", the author (a female) praised the show, the character of Xena, and Lucy Lawless, herself. But towards the end, the author stated what she did not like about the show. Foremost among her dislikes was Gabrielle. The author stated that Gabrielle was "An 8 on the Wesley Crusher scale of annoying" but failed to give any reason WHY she found Gabrielle so annoying.

Now that I am Queen, can you tell me what you do with the old amazons?

Gabrielle pondering the office of Queen of the Amazons
in THE QUEST (#37)

[03] The writers have also perpetuated the irritating myth, especially in the episodes HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10) written by Steven L. Sears, CALLISTO (#22) and WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (#30) written by R.J. Stewart, and THE XENA SCROLLS (#34) written by Robert Mellette. In all of these episodes, Gabrielle is referred to irritating or annoying. Is this how the writers view Gabrielle?

[04] I truly do not believe that is how the writers view Gabrielle. But, that said, some writer's get the character of Gabrielle more than others. For example, some of the strongest Gabrielle episodes, HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10), THE GREATER GOOD (#21), and THE QUEST (#37), were written by Steven L. Sears. In each of these episodes, Gabrielle is presented as strong (emotionally) and courageous. R.J. Stewart wrote a Gabrielle we had never even met before in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29) (in fairness to Stewart that script is a double edged sword -- some of the best Callisto moments we have seen and some of the absolute worst Gabrielle moments). His script showed us a weak-willed, shallow, flighty Gabrielle, who had no motivation for doing the things she did.


And your little dog too, Gabrielle!

Callisto in Xena's body and Gabrielle pondering the many uses
of a breast dagger
(pssst! Gabrielle does not know it is Callisto yet)

[05] Renee O'Connor has truly come into her own in the second season. Moral dilemmas and a new level of maturity have marked a major growth of character for Gabrielle and have offered more acting challenges for Ms. O'Connor. From ORPHAN OF WAR (#25), where for the first time we see Gabrielle standing her ground and vehemently disagreeing with Xena (in this case, about Xena's decision NOT to tell Solon that she is his mother), to RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29) where Gabrielle marries Perdicus for all the wrong reasons. Ms. O'Connor takes on these challenges and succeeds.

[06] Renee O'Connor is the only actor to have been in every episode of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. Because of her accident, not even Lucy Lawless can make this claim anymore. Gabrielle -- and Renee O'Connor -- have been the only constant from the very first episode.


Um...Velasca, just kidding. I really don't want to be queen

Gabrielle, Amazon Queen in THE QUEST (#37)

[07] THE QUEST (#37) deserves a section of its very own. Arguably the best episode of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS ever, it is the second highest rated episode to date (a 7.7 rating; only beaten by the following week's A NECESSARY EVIL, #38, which earned a 7.8). THE QUEST was Renee O'Connor's episode through and through. Hastily scripted and filmed as a result of Lucy Lawless' accident, O'Connor gives her best performance in what can only be described as a touching love story. When was the last time a supporting actress was able to convey such sorrow (at the loss of a loved one), strength (being named Amazon Queen), hurt (her feelings of resentment and abandonment) and wonder (at Xena's return to her). Not to mention being possessed by Xena's spirit -- let us not forget that is Renee O'Connor in the thrilling rope fight with Velasca (Melinda Clarke).

[08] Yet, in the preview for THE QUEST (#37), the main selling point was Bruce Campbell's Autolycus. O'Connor is featured in the previews, but in a minor capacity. Why is this? Why are The Powers That Be so reticent to advertise Gabrielle? For the episode, IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (#24), the previews went so far as to promote Lucy Lawless' stellar performance. O'Connor's work in THE QUEST is most certainly on that same level. Yet, not a mention of it. Am I sensing a conspiracy? Am I just too paranoid?


Is it getting hot in here?

Renee O'Connor on an ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT feature

[09] Sandra Wilson, Renee O'Connor's mother, told fans at the recent Xena Convention in Burbank, CA (January 12, 1997) that Renee O'Connor had a hard time believing that any of the buzz surrounding XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS could be for her. This could just be O'Connor's way of protecting herself. By Lucy Lawless being the main focus of the show -- and of the fandom -- that takes a certain amount of pressure off of Renee O'Connor herself: as a person and as an actress. Lucy Lawless has stated how overwhelming it was for her in the beginning to realize that she was the center of all that attention.

[10] While Renee O'Connor may be reluctant to promote herself, one person who is constantly mentioning and praising Renee O'Connor is Lucy Lawless herself. It is an interesting fact that it was Lawless who insisted O'Connor get an opening credit in the second season. Furthermore, there is rarely an article, interview or personal appearance where Lucy Lawless has not brought up Renee O'Connor's contributions.

[11] Personally, I started out as a die hard Xena/Lucy Lawless fan. I still am. But Gabrielle/Renee O'Connor has had to earn my admiration and she has more than done that. Speaking to many XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS fans, they feel the same way. Renee O'Connor is just as important to the continuing success of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS as Lucy Lawless is. The fans recognize it. Hopefully it is only a matter of time before everyone else does too.

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