It is easy to laugh at 'Xena, Warrior Princess' but less to recognize its greatness

“In the age of ancient gods, warlords and kings, a troubled land cried out for a hero.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
20 November 2023 Monday 04:27
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It is easy to laugh at 'Xena, Warrior Princess' but less to recognize its greatness

“In the age of ancient gods, warlords and kings, a troubled land cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a fearsome princess forged in the heat of battle. Powerful, passionate, dangerous: her bravery changed the world.” You don't even need to have a screen with a speaker to hear the narrator's tone, visualize the images that accompany these words and understand the cardboard epic that the set evoked. The opening credits for Xena: Warrior Princess even included a Poseidon emerging from the sea that looked like a visual effect sketch.

On Sunday I was in one of those vital moments in which I could find absolutely nothing to see, especially that was not related to work. I wanted one of those series without pretense, those from when television was proud to look like television, to have weekly plots that we could forget twenty minutes after finishing the episode, but that kept you glued to the screen because of the affection you developed towards it. characters. Their presence lasted more than six chapters in marathon mode but they were a constant in our existence.

And, in this moment of drowsiness, my frontal lobe revealed a good idea: take a look at Xena, Warrior Princess, which SkyShowtime had included in the catalog and which I had been waiting to see. The nostalgia factor, of course, of those summers of adventures in Ancient Greece between episodes of The Heartbreakers and that objectification of bodies in Baywatch.

In the first episode, the one I saw, Xena has to face the mistakes of the past, those committed in Hercules: her legendary journeys, where she had acted as a villain. So that we do not overlook this conflict, in the first scene she passes by a destroyed village and, when asking the only boy who is wandering there, she receives a blunt answer: a certain Xena killed all the people there. She thus decides to bury her weapons, aware of the sins that she carries on her conscience. She doesn't last long.

While he is in this solemn scene, giving up his physical strength, he has to suddenly move away because Draco's men pass by him (they already say it: the forest is a handkerchief). They plan to traffic women, among whom is Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor). Obviously,

Thus, in about five minutes, the viewer can see the turning point in the character: he will not retreat but will use his physical abilities, those that killed so many innocents, to defeat those who take advantage of humanity. Redemption.

Robert Tapert and R.J. Stewart, writers of the episode, economize on time. Possibly they also make the most of a budget for pipes that they extend to 45 minutes in a dreamlike New Zealand that Peter Jackson would take advantage of shortly after to film The Lord of the Rings. In fact, the contrast between Xena's Ancient Greece and Frodo's Middle Earth highlights the importance of having a budget, time, and a cinematographer with more than three seconds to plan each sequence. The villages seen on screen have the quality of going further with their craftsmanship: one can even visualize how they have just been assembled. It is a quality that they share with the costumes, which one imagines in that box of dirty clothes that was in the storage room of the nearest school theater.

With this text I do not intend to make fun of Xena, the warrior princess. Not even those credits that emphasize Lucy Lawless's attractiveness with the same lack of shame as Baywatch. It is one of the most enigmatic maneuvers on television.

Were they really trying to attract straight men with that Xena in breastplate armor? Or perhaps the goal of R.J. Stewart and Sam Raimi always wanted to create a foundational work for an entire generation of lesbian women who were then lacking representation on television?

In reality, what a server feels is fascination, admiration and affection for a work so honest, so entertaining, intelligent in the use of the classics of the medium and with a feminist vision more penetrating than 99% of the television broadcast in the nineties and much of the current one.

The issue, here, is not so much that Lucy Lawless with her strength, resistance and intellect that can be measured with any man. In an audiovisual where women tended to be damsels in distress or superheroines with catwalk bodies, the Auckland-born actress exhibited a forceful physical presence, which forced one to believe the nickname of warrior princess. But the striking thing about the presentation episode is Gabrielle, who barely needs two scenes to free herself from the patriarchy.

It is not a Manichean approach with a story of abuse that facilitates this evolution. She is a woman who, because of the times, must marry a man. As she herself admits, he is a good man. But the thought of her bores her so much that she runs away in the middle of the night. The sense of her as a woman and as a member of the community dispenses with the male figure. This would later lead audiences to question whether there was romantic tension between Gabrielle and Xena (which, as Lawless herself acknowledged, there was).

However, attempting to justify Xena by including it in the televised feminist movement misses the essence of the work. It had weekly cases, a friendship dynamic (which would end up being more) between two characters, a mythology that allowed a more committed following among fans and a sexual tension that set the screen on fire with Ares (Kevin Smith), but the key was that R.J. Stewart and Sam Raimi, those responsible, had the playful spirit of someone who stopped being a child but they did not lose their sense of fun.

His work, at times, was as if it were written by children: he understood that the sense of adventure did not depend on the budget and he considered that no idea was too ridiculous. The end of the first episode demonstrates this, with a life-and-death combat between Xena and Draco in which, since whoever touches the ground loses, they end up fighting from the heads of those attending the duel.