Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Xena Rewind: Stage One

(I'm going to be talking about to talk a lot about the show Xena: Warrior Princess. If you don't want it spoiled don't read. But at the same time let me say that I've seen the entire series before so I'll be trying to not spoil future seasons. I apologize in advance if I do.)

So about two months ago I decided I wanted to re-watch Xena. Well since Blockbuster is horrible with keeping dvd boxed sets together and they don't stream tv shows at all I switched to Netflix to do this. I'm glad I did.

If you don't know Xena was a warlord that made her first appearance during season 3 of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. After her encounter with the character that put Kevin Sorbo on the map, Lucy Lawless's debut character was given her own spin off series. (Bit of trivia, the Xena character was originally written out to die on an episode of Hercules but she was so well liked that that ending was rewritten to keep her alive and spin her off to her own show.)

The series starts with Xena, having sworn to give up the path of violence she had been on, burying her gear which includes her iconic chainmail, leather skirt, sword, and chakram. Her plans take a different turn when she hears a group of girls being attacked by bandits. She fights off the bandits easily and learns that the bandits run with a former lover/comrade by the name of Draco. Xena defeats Draco, saves the village, and meets her travelling partner Gabrielle.

While the first season didn't have an ongoing story it did lay a lot of groundwork for future episodes. Xena herself will walk the path of redemption during the series but that path includes several specters from her past. Gabrielle starts off the series as a simple little farm girl that aspires to be a bard but over time she changes quite a bit (in fact I'd say that she does a better job of defying the "little blonde that ends up as fodder for the villain" stereotype than a certain other blonde who becomes a teenage "undead killer" in her tv debut around the same time as Xena season 2). We also get a first glimpse at recurring characters Autolycus (the self proclaimed King of Thieves, played by legendary Bruce Campbell), Salmoneus (a shady business man that seems to stay in trouble), Joxer (a comic relief character that I would not mind having my back, he's got heart when it counts), Callisto (a girl who was a victim of Xena's dark past that comes back to haunt our warrior princess) and many others.

But there's more to this series than characters.

First off its a given that this was meant to be a show meant to show off that women can kick ass, and sure enough they do. But what I liked about Xena was that they didn't try too hard to play up the "I'm a woman that kicks ass." angle. It was more like, "I kick ass, oh and I'm a woman." for the most part. This really shows in fight sequences where Xena actually gets hit (yeah none of that "I'm a girl invincibility" going on here).

On the characters of color front though this show is very lacking but that may have more to do with the setting than the intent of the brains behind the show. Bear in mind that this show is taking place in Ancient Greece. This was a time when the known world was pretty much limited to Africa, Europe, and Asia. And in Greece/Rome (yeah they exist at about the same time) in particular racism was alive and well. In season one the only two characters of color that stand out are a former lover (and she seems to have a lot those) that was killed and sent to Tartarus (the negative afterlife in Greek mythology that is similar to the Christian Hell) and a warlord that wants to be either her lover or her rival but she won't give him the please of being either (yeah there's a lot of lust for battle = lust for sex going on here too). However despite the location they fail on the whole historical accuracy thing where, case in point, Xerxes was played by a white man. So far it looks like people of color are criminals. Sound familiar.

Aside from main characters Xena and Gabrielle it does seem that women have just as much of a capacity for good as evil. During season 1 X&G meet a tribe of Amazons (who reoccur throughout the rest of series) and encounter Callisto who I mentioned above. Good to see they are given a wide range of characters instead of the usual narrow range of "helpless victim" and "women who is angry at a man". Unfortunately they are overwhelmingly white.

Men unfortunately don't fair as well. Joxer is an idiot (yes I said he has heart but don't be fooled he is played up as the idiot), Salmoneous is shady, and Autolycus is morally bankrupt and its a special occasion when he does a good deed. Other than them and the rare appearance of Hercules/Iolaus (about once a season) the vast majority of the men in the series are either stupid thugs, warlords hell bent on conquest, or jerks looking to harm women.

In season one there is no mention of GLBT characters.

So what's your impression of season one of Xena: Warrior Princess? Also what's your impression of my rundown of it? Too long-winded, not enough detail, did I give away too much about future seasons (again I apologize but its hard to separate watching each season from what I recall from having already seen it)? I'll be working on season two soon. Thanks for reading.


EasilyEnthused said...

Interesting post, Danny. I remember having a genuine middle-school-boy crush on Gabrielle. And Autolycus was great, as all Bruce Campbell characters usually are.

The irony for me is, being a bit more worldly now than I was when I first watched it - and I keep picking up weird unspoken lesbian vibes.

Also: WTB paragraphs, Danny. :(

Danny said...

The irony for me is, being a bit more worldly now than I was when I first watched it - and I keep picking up weird unspoken lesbian vibes.
See funny thing is I picked that up even the first time around (even though I was a teenager during its original run. I didn't pay much attention to it though.

Also: WTB paragraphs, Danny.
Oh I fucking hate that new Blogger interface. It totally hoses up the formatting of my posts. Im sticking with the old one for now. Thanks for the heads up.

miga said...

Also, sooooo many of the characters in that show had blue eyes. Even to the point of obviously adding contacts to characters to give them that look. Director had a major fetish.

Danny said...

You know miga I never payed attention to that even in my rewatching of season one. Maybe its a presumption that white people have blue eyes ("blond hair blues" combo).