Xena: Warrior Princess
|Name:||Xena: Warrior Princess|
|Creator:||John Schulian, Robert Tapert, R. J. Stewart|
|Country of Origin:||United States (filmed in New Zealand)|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Xena: Warrior Princess was a spin-off from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, following the tale of Xena (Lucy Lawless), a reformed villain who was seeking to atone for her bloody past, and Gabrielle, a young woman who wanted to be a bard and left her village to follow Xena. The friendship between Xena and Gabrielle was at the heart of the show and over the seasons canon continually found new ways to describe them as soulmates. Although nominally set in the Greece of myth and legend, the series embraced anachronisms, borrowed liberally from myths and cultures the Greeks could have had no contact with, and joyfully mutilated geography when it sent Xena on journeys.
The TV series XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS premiered in the United States in September 1995. Universal's XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS NETFORUM opened the next month as an online venue through which fans could meet and talk about the show. By November of that year the alt.tv.xena discussion group had also become available. It was through these two online meeting places that viewers first began sharing their fan fiction. With the early NetForum posts no longer available, it's impossible to confirm which was the first piece of XWP fan fiction ever posted, but by the Spring of 1996, it was already common to see on the NetForum at least one or two new fanfic posts each week.
Throughout this first full year of the fandom, fan fiction became increasingly more popular as did the fans who wrote it. Visitor, Dancyer McCoy, Mlocket, Deanlu, Anon, Wishes, Enginerd and Tim Wellman among others became familiar names to NetForum regulars who would anxiously log into the site searching for that next story installment or just to see Wishes and Tim posting one brilliant piece of fanfic after another in their nightly wars with trolls. [...] Anon and these other early fanfic writers were soon attaining a new level of recognition as the fandom's appetite for fanfic continued to grow. Inspired by the character of Gabrielle, Xenites started referring to these writers as "bards" and a whole new class of celebrity was born in the Xenaverse.
[...] 1996 also saw a growing awareness among fans of the subtext, which is now such an ingrained part of the fandom. The focus of many heated discussions during the series' first year, the subtext nevertheless soon gave birth to a genre within the fanfic known as alternative or alt fiction. These were stories which added a romantic element to the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, depicting them as lovers or potential lovers. Shared at first exclusively through private mailing lists, alt. fiction emerged into the fandom at large in the Fall of 1996 [...] Inspired by the show's subtext, alt fiction would quickly become a favorite with many Xenites, helping to legitimize that view of the show within the fandom and encouraging an understanding among fans that helped to eliminate much of the early dissent.
Xena fandom appears to have developed in near-isolation from other fandoms, resulting in many fannish traditions being reinvented independently. The development of the Subtext FAQ, for example, is similar to the creation of The Generic Slash Defense Letter by early Blake's 7 slash fans. Specific fannish needs led to a unique vocabulary that describes concepts and activities often known in other fandoms by different terms.
- Alt - Also known as alternative or alt fiction, it is the preferred term for Xena/Gabrielle fiction.
- Uber - Uber stories take the essence of the characters and places them in another time, another place, or alternate reality. The uber characters do not have the same names and do not have to be mirror images of the canon characters. Sometimes they are descendants or reincarnations; usually they resemble the originals physically, and they share the same type of bond.
- Bard - Fanfiction writer.
- Romantic friendship - A fanworks genre in which two or more characters are emotionally expressive, warm, and caring with each other.
- Candlemark - A unit of time, approximately an hour, often used in fanfiction.
- The Rift - Used to describe plot arc in season three when Xena and Gabrielle briefly become enemies. The Rift culminates in a scene where an enraged Xena ties Gabrielle up and drags her while galloping across the countryside on Argo, which also gained the fannish term "Gab Drag".
Xena fandom is dominated by f/f fanfiction, no doubt due to the canon's focus on the close friendship between Xena and Gabrielle. At times, the show deliberately brought the queer subtext as close to text as it could get without crossing the line; at other times, the show seemed merely to be titillating the viewers with faux-lesbian scenes. Either way, the Xena/Gabrielle relationship was meaningful to a lot of people because it was the closest to showing a lesbian relationship as an epic romance that most X/G fans had ever seen on TV at the time of its original airing. (Arguably, this remains true today. While the representation of lesbians on television has improved, female action heroes with female friends, female sidekicks, and woman-centered plotlines remain rare.)
- Xena/Lao Ma
Shipping Wars, Sexuality, Subtext, and Fans
One offshoot of the show's evolution was the much-talked-about lesbian subtext. Early on, some viewers -- mostly though not exclusively gay women -- discerned a romantic attraction in Xena and Gabrielle's developing bond. Despite an early crop of male love interests, the idea that there was something going on between the Warrior Princess and her young companion made the rounds of Internet chat rooms and quickly got back to the show's producers. After the initial surprise, they began to play to this perception with deliberate sexual innuendo, from double entendres (when a love-struck villager asked Gabrielle if Xena had considered settling down, Gabrielle replied, "No, she likes what I do," then quickly corrected herself, "She likes what she's doing") to scenes of the duo sharing a hot tub.
The subtext took on a life of its own, and eventually the possibility that Xena and Gabrielle were "more than friends" was treated as a plausible reading of their relationship -- preferred in some episodes, downplayed or contradicted in others. (There was no question that, however defined, it was the most important relationship in the two women's lives.) In the last two seasons, another kind of subtext -- between Xena and Ares, whose dynamic had been rife with sexual tension from the start -- was also brought to the fore and developed into a complex love-hate relationship. Late in the series, both of these ambiguous romantic "texts" were explicitly acknowledged in "You Are There," the off-the-wall comedy with the TV reporter: The nosy Nigel accosted Xena and Gabrielle with questions about their special relationship and demanded to know if Xena was in love with Ares. Both questions, of course, went unanswered.
The subtext gave "Xena" an added edge; it also resonated with vast numbers of lesbians who saw the heroines as role models and felt empowered by seeing what was, to them, a same-sex couple at the center of a television show. Many say that the series helped them come to terms with their sexuality, such as a 24-year-old British nurse who says that she found strength and happiness in the fact that everyone involved with the show thought that "one woman being genuinely in love with another is fine and lovely and beautiful." For others, the subtext had a flip side. From the start, many straight female fans were concerned that it played into some vexing stereotypes: that a tough, independent woman in a traditionally male role must be a lesbian, that two women who have a close relationship and no boyfriends must be lesbians, or that a woman's story must be a romance. Even some fans who appreciated the subtext saw it as a mixed blessing. One woman, a 28-year-old bisexual New Yorker, told me that while she's "glad the characters became gay icons," the disadvantage is that this can overshadow everything else that made "Xena" so great: "I hate it when I tell someone I love 'Xena' and I get the response, 'Oh yeah, the show with the lesbians, right?'"
The fan-driven growth of the subtext illustrates another "Xena" phenomenon: the special relationship between the show and the fandom. Other than "The X-Files," "Xena" was the first cult hit of the Internet age: the face that launched a thousand Web sites. One of the producers and principal writers on "Xena," Steven Sears, participated in discussions on "Xena" message boards (and occasionally still does); other staff members and actors reportedly lurked there as well, and seemed well aware of fandom debates. In the last season, popular fan-fiction writer Melissa Good was hired to write several scripts for the series, two of which were made into episodes.
This involvement with the fandom turned out to be a double-edged sword. Almost from the start, the fandom was bitterly divided among various factions, particularly subtext fans pitted against those who saw Xena and Gabrielle as friends. Fandom wars over relationships are nothing new: "X-Files" fans clashed vehemently over whether Mulder and Scully should do the deed. In the "Xena" fandom, though, these wars had the added angle of sexual politics. Some of the anti-subtext sentiment was undoubtedly driven by bona fide bigotry. Some lesbian fans, on the other hand, approached the argument as a real-life gay rights struggle and labeled all dissent as homophobic: To them, denying a sexual relationship between Xena and Gabrielle was tantamount to denying the reality of their own lives, and the "Are they or aren't they" tease was an insulting way to keep the characters in the closet.In a way, knowing that the staff paid attention to fan opinions may have made matters worse: There was an incentive for the rival groups to out-shout one another to make themselves heard. Many fans who had no appetite for these wars fled the online fandom. Story lines that were seen as betraying the subtext, particularly the Xena-Ares relationship in the fifth season, were met with intense hostility from a small but vocal group; at other times, non-subtext fans grumbled about what they saw as pandering to the pro-subtext fan base (such as several sixth-season episodes emphasizing Xena and Gabrielle's transcendent bond as soul mates). At the end of the series' run, the Internet fandom exploded in a hysterical backlash against the finale, in which Xena died to right yet another past wrong and Gabrielle was left to travel alone. The official Xena forum at the Studios USA Web site filled with cries of betrayal and profanity-laced rants against the producers -- who attempted appeasement by releasing a "director's cut" version, in which the poignant final shot of Gabrielle alone on a ship was replaced by a hokey image of Xena standing next to her as either ghost or imaginary friend.
A 1999 CampaignFrom the 1999 MediaWest*Con program book:
Studios USA. distributor of Xena: Warrior Princess has pulled an episode of the show, entitled The Way from worldwide syndication.
For those who haven't heard about the controversy, Renaissance Pictures, which produces Xena, created an episode using Hindu deities. This offended a group of fundamentalist Hindus called the World Vaislunava Association, formerly the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (read Hare Krishna). The group then used pressure tactics via the electronic medium of faxes and e-mail, as well as telephone calls to flood the affiliates carrying Xena. It apparently was based on these numbers that the affiliates forced Studios USA to cave in.
If you want to know more about this controversy or learn about ways to help out, I will have materials in the con suite, including a petition. I have a personal copy of the episode and Jeanne has agreed to schedule showings during the con a couple of times, more if there is any interest. Come decide for yourselves if the episode is worthy of such a ban. I think you will find it is not.Help us Xena fans out. This could easily happen to your favorite show. - Vivian Sheffield.
Fanfiction, Alternative, Uber
Fanzines in Xena fandom are rare and only feature the het/gen/slash side of the force. The Xena/Gabrielle fandom went a different way with regard to print publications. Instead of zines the fandom published a high number of uber novels. These stories were usually published to the net first and when they proved popular enough, one of the small lesbian publishing houses that came out of the Xenaverse picked it up for a print run. For a list of X/G uber novels see Vielka Clavijo's listings of published Uber Xena novels.
- Been There, Never Done That!
- Blood Upon His Wings xover with The Crow
- History Cast in Amber
- Summer Storm
- The Warrior and the Bard
- The Xeniad
- Whoever Rules Rome--crossover with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sailor Moon
Many of the early Xena fanvids have been lost over time. The fandom reached its peak shortly after the WWW expanded and many of the Internet Archive websites only date back to 2001. In addition, some of the VCR era fanvids never made it online. In a July 23, 1999 post to alt.tv.xena one convention reported that they had received permission to show videos that had never appeared online: "By the way, my partner and I have our hands on a really kewl subtext music video that is NOT available online. Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot. We've the editor/director's permission to screen it for specific populations at the Con (Merwolfs and ATX'ers). So if anyone is interested in attending, email me privately. New Yorkers may be familiar with the editor's previous music videos of The Warrior and Hit Me With Your Best Shot. They've been screened at Meow Mix Xena nights."
A fan replied: "The Warrior and Hit Me With Your Best Shot. I have both of these on tape...along with about 14 others."
A few years earlier, on August 2, 1997, Xena fans held a party in Dallas, Texas where they advertised in alt.tv.xena that they would have "8 Xena music videos for your viewing pleasure...including some of my big faves from those creative California fans. We will also have a few other videos to pop in - in case the crowd gets catatonic."
At the Jan 1998 Burbank, California Xena convention, fan vids may have been shown. Because of Creation Con's policy of not crediting editors, it is not clear if the vids were fan made, however a few vids match the titles of some of the early fan made videos:"The first offering was a music video salute to Gabrielle (to the tune of "Wind Beneath My Wings"). It was the same [video] as the previous day, but I'm a sucker for those music videos, so I didn't mind. ....After Brad Carpenter's talk, they showed a music video salute to Salmoneus. Why they didn't show this yesterday, before Robert Trebor's talk, I will never know. It was pretty funny, and was done to "Workin' For a Livin'"....By way of introduction [to Lucy Lawless], they showed a music video salute to Xena (to the tune of "Simply the Best")...
Even though most Xena websites are now offline, a few fanvids from 1999 can still be found archived. One example is Daniel Ma's Maria Carey vid "A Hero Lies Within You" that has a June 19, 1999 date.
Likewise, the timing of the early subtext vids remains fluid. There are references to such vids in a March 2, 1999 post to alt.tv.xena, one of which, "Come To My Window," was shown at a New York Creation Con.
[Katilist]:"So... how many people saw Creation's video salute to the X/G relationship, set to the song "Come to My Window" by Melissa Etheridge and chock-full of subtexty scenes, ending with the (near) kiss from "The Quest"?"
[Ecc1kcy]:".... I went to the Santa Monica [Creation] convention and they didn't show it (and at least one-half of the audience there would have loved it). I have heard that fan-sponsered events have excellent subtext-positive music video tributes but I haven't seen any of those either."[Katilist]: '"Yes, it really exists. No, there is not a URL because it is a video that Creation showed at the NYC con, and is not available anywhere. Yes, I think it would be a bloody good idea if we started haranguing Creation to sell these videos. I would want to be the first on my block to own that one, fer sher. I was really glad my new gf got to see this video. She is new to the life and this positive view is helpful to her (you should see the photos she picked out at the vendor booths -- all XnG, of course)."
A few surviving examples of subtext vids are Talaran's website with subtext vids starting in August 1999. Other examples include: "Something To Talk About" by Alex Robinson on or before Feb 2001,, "I Could Fall In Love With You" by Pooka dated on or before Nov 2001 and "At Last" dated on or before May 2001.
Lists of Pre-2000 Xena Fan Vidders
- Realm Rider Xena Music Videos, Archived version, vids by Matt, Aimee and Theresa at Xenauniversity from December 1997-2001. Included subtext videos: "Come To My Window", "One", "Push It," "We Belong" and "Sexual (li da di)"
- JEZMOND'S PORTAL TO XENA VIDEO ODYSSEY (Archive Link) various dates starting with Jan 1999.
- Fade To Black Xena Website (Archive Link) by Kelly Piper - first Xena vid listed on website is Good Intentions dated July 2, 1999.
- Gabrielle Greatest Hits (Archive link) and XenaRulz (Archive Link), some Xena vids are listed as "old" or "reposted" with a date of Aug 7, 1999
- The Video Hut (Archive Link) a Xena vid dated on or before Nov 1999
- Xenaweb Videos (Archive Link) music videos, including subtext 1999-2000
- I Want My XTV (Archive Link), vids by The Video Vixen from 1999-2001
- Boom Boom Ba by charmax, a very sensual Xena/Gabrielle vid. (link) (2004)
- Devotion by charmax
- These Two Arms by Killa
- A Hero Lies In You by Dan Ma (on or before June 1999)
- Xena Anthology by Matt Savelkoul, thirteen episodes of Xena to create a three hour movie dated on or before August 1998
Vid Index Sites
- Lunacy's Fan Fiction Reviews: XWP Music Video Index (archived link to the last updated version; archived link to the first version)
- Subopia – listing of Xena/Gabrielle Subtext Music video sites. (archived link)
- Xenaversity – a listing of Xena Music Video Sites. (archived link) and a (second archived version)
- Roach's Xena Music Video Archives archive link (access vids via alphabet at the bottom)
- ForevaXena's website (archived links)
- Shenok's Xena Shrine Music Clips (archive link)- a list of clips set to music dating back to 2000
- Xenario Vid Links (link)
- Jezmond's Video Portal Page - (archived link) - a selection of parody music videos dating back to 1999
See also The Xena vid Category on Fanlore
Much of Xena fan art was posted online, and sadly many of the art galleries are now offline. A few remain, and some art can be found on Deviantart (such as the group Xena Fan Club) or Livejournal (such as the community Xena Art).
Xena. Artist: Kara Senberg. Artist Notes: "11"x14" on 110lb paper, inked with Sharpie permanent pen."
Archives & Fannish Links
- Absolutely XenaCrazed
- Guerrière et Amazone (French)
- Xena/Ares Fan Fiction Library
- Xena: Warrior Princess works at fanfiction.net
- Xena: Warrior Princess works at AO3
- WHAT IS THIS...ÜBER?
- Xena: Warrior Princess, Desire Between Women, and Interpretive Response
- Heroic Deeds and Moral Dilemmas: Reading About Women Before and After Xena
- see Category:Xena & Hercules Meta
- Lunacy's recs site, influential on the house style of Xena fanfiction
- Whoosh!, the tongue-in-cheek International Association of Xenaoid Studies, for Xena-related meta
- Lunacy, THE HISTORY OF XENA FAN FICTION ON THE INTERNET Posted 1998. Last accessed Nov 2, 2011.
- Valerie Foster, Yes Lucy, There Is Still a Subtext on Xena. Posted October, 1999. (Accessed 30 November 2008.)
- DALLAS - XENA Party 8/2 Update!!! post by Adele Fairman dated July 28, 1997; archived link.
- RJ Stewart Chat? post to alt.tv.xena dated 12/16/1998; Archive link. See also Question for those who recently attended Creation Convention(s) post by Matt Savelkoul to alt.tv.xena dated Oct 21, 1998 asking if Creation Con had given fan vidders credit for the vids they showed; Archive link.
- Possibly by The Video Vixen. Source: archived website dated Feb 2001.
- Chrome aka Mike's post Greetings from the Burbank Con! (part 3) post to alt.tv.xena dated Jan 19, 1998; archived link.
- archived at the WayBack Machine, dated June 19, 1999.
- The video may have been edited by Matt of Xena University. Several of Matt's videos were shown at Creation Cons from 1998-2001. Source: Matt's Pasadena Convention Report, Archived version
- The writer may have been referring to the Creation Con held in New York on September 27, 1997. A con report from that time mentions music viedos, but "Come To My Window" was not mentioned in the report. Source: NYC Xena Con - Results by Erica Friedman post to alt.tv.xena dated Sept 29, 1997; archived link.
- "Is Xena A Lesbian?", posts to alt.tv.xena dated March 2, 1999; archive.is link.
- Talaran's Realm, archived in 2000.
- archived website dated Feb 9, 2001.
- archived website dated Nov 27, 2001). A copy of the archived vid can be downloaded here.
- archived website May 18, 2001. A copy of the archived vid can be downloaded here.