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Now come on, be honest, how many of you are truly OUT as a Xenafan? Do your family know how much you spend on merchandise? Do your co-workers understand your obsession? Are your photos and poster hidden in a folder, or in your bedroom? Do you wear your T shirts with pride?If you have indeed come out of the closet (where you hid your magazines and newspaper clippings), what sort of reaction did you get?I think I can guess what at least some of you will have heard: "That`s a kids show"; "Is that the one with the big girl in leather?" ; "Oh yeah, I can guess why you watch that (giggle giggle)"; "Is that show still going?"
Yep, you have probably suffered from some funny looks, teasing or disbelief. Indeed, last month when I met up with the other web masters from the fandom site here, several admitted they had never watched it and simply didn`t take it seriously.
So why DOES Xena:Warrior Princess have this image? Why are Xena fans seen as somehow nuttier than Buffy buffs, Trekkers or X-Philes?
I think one of the problems we have being fans of the show is that it is not an easy one to categorize. How would *you* sum up the show in a few sentences?
One of the best descriptions came from Lucy Lawless herself on The David Letterman show a few years back. Letterman, being ignorant as usual, seemed to have no idea what it was all about. Lucy`s description was this:
"It`s about a bad-ass, kick-ass pre-Mycenaean girl, who traverses the timelines with no respect for mythology or chronology."
Typically wonderful quote from Lucy. However, for most of us we probably would get even funnier looks from our friends if we gave them that line! We might go on about a heroine we can look up to, or a friendship between two women, or maybe the action and adventure and the tongue in cheek humour. Not that easy to describe is it?
I think part of the problem we have being taken seriously are the costumes. What am I on about? Well frankly, Xena and Gabrielle are pretty scantily clad, and for people who don`t know the show, skin=fluff=file under not to be taken seriously. How many other tv characters have a cleavage as well known as Xena`s or abs as drooled over as Gabrielle`s? Yes, sex sells, and I know many people consider the physical attributes of Lucy Lawless and Renee O`Connor a pretty large factor in their appreciation of the show, but in my opinion (and you can have a go at me about this if you want), the appearance of the characters is one of the reasons for some people not thinking Xena:Warrior Princess is the class act that it is. The more drool-some fans reinforce this...I wonder whether Gabrielle would be quite so popular if she were still in that season 1 peasant dress that showed off only her...wrists?? Maybe her forearms...
Don`t get me wrong, I like the way Xena and Gabrielle look, I just never thought I would spend so long looking at pictures of scantily clad women (and I hope my parents aren`t reading this!) Yes, the clothes are very functional, I am sure. Yes we DID see a fair bit of Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst`s chests too, but I do think the drool factor should not be ignored in the discussion of why many Xenafans are so shy to talk about their hobby.
Another factor that we struggle with, particularly here in the UK, is that some of our tv companies seem convinced that it is a kids show. Indeed, the plethora of action figures and toys seems to reinforce that. Yeah sure, some kids love it, but in my experience, the fans are often older professional types. Us Brits have the problem that our main broadcaster of new episodes puts the show on at 6pm and edits any unsuitable bits. Very aggravating.
So what is it about Xena:Warrior Princess that inspires us to such devotion yet for lots us, a fairly anonymous devotion? Well, if you were to ask 10 fans, you would probably get 10 different reasons. I am not even sure I could pick one thing out that made Xena my biggest obsession.
But I`ll have a go.
For me, I think it is Xena herself, and Lucy Lawless` portrayal of a fascinating character. Not some goodie two shoes, Xena is someone who takes no crap from people, who will fight for justice and punch out the lights of any bad guys (not something most us could ever hope to do.) Not as predictably honest as Hercules, she is someone we can all identify with. Someone who has made mistakes, but is trying to do her best to make the world a better place, and atone for her past misdeeds. For others it may be more specifically her gender: a woman in a man`s world, or it may be the friendship between Xena and Gabrielle. Some fans follow Gabrielle more closely and her development, some watch just to see Callisto or Joxer or Autolycus. Some people love the comedies and the tongue in cheek humour, some people love the epic themes of good versus evil, of love and friendship. Others love the all-action, highly improbable fights or the links to mythology. For some fans, it is the subtext, and the perception of Xena and Gabrielle as a devoted couple. And yes, some people like to watch girls with not too many clothes on jumping around on horses! There are many reasons why we are fans, to me it is just a shame that there aren`t more of us around.
Here in the UK, Xena:Warrior Princess has never been a mammoth success. It has a very devoted, but fairly small following. The main reason for this is the channel it is broadcast on. Xena could only be seen by those people with satellite or cable tv for a long time. (A small percentage of the population here.) When it did appear on free terrestrial tv, it was on a new and little watched tv channel that only 75% of the country could actually receive.
Then there is the issues around Season 5. This year, being a Xena fan has been..well... different. It happens to all shows that run a long time, and indeed some unrest started some time ago. Season 3 heard the first mutterings from some dissatisfied fans. Inevitably, the novelty wears off of a new show. Once a series goes into a third, fourth and fifth year, it is no longer new and has to work harder to surprise its fans. The third season was, arguably, the best of them all, with the rift saga, the ambitions episodes The Debt and The Bitter Suite and that cliffhanger Sacrifice. Yet some fans didn`t like the conflicts between Xena and Gabrielle, and the darker tone of some of the dramas. Other`s didn`t like the developments in Gabrielle during season 4, and her way of peace. Some were unhappy with the business-like relationship between Xena and Gabrielle in season 5.
At times, being a fan has meant defending the show against attack not from scoffing outsiders, but from other so-called fans. It has also meant acknowledging that sometimes episodes don`t work. Maybe it was all too new in seasons 1 and 2, so people didn`t moan about The Titans, Deathmask or Giant Killer that much. Should being a fan mean unconditional love of every episode? Of course not! We all have our favourites, and episodes we don`t like, but this year in particular, sometimes it has been a case of defending the SHOW rather than one particular episode. I had a moan in an earlier editorial about this phenomena, so I better not go on about it again...
So what does it mean to be a Xena fan? Lots of black T shirts? Hundreds of video tapes with different versions of episodes? Having the opportunity to meet people from around the world with the same passions? Daily visits to MaryDs? Conventions? Spoiler hunting? Opening your credit card statement in fear? Yes, Xena HAS changed my life!
So come on all of you, stand up and be counted. Say it with me, "My name is Cathy and I am a Xena fan!" Say it loud, say it proud and come out of the closet!
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