Looking through the stacks in Red Wheel Weiser’s in-house library is a necessary temptation. I approach the shelves with a specific book in mind, and inevitably walk away with something completely unexpected. Take this morning for instance. I went looking for a book on Chaos Magick and came back with a delightfully informative and cheeky volume entitled Sheroes – Bold, Brash (and Absolutely Unabashed) Superwomen. Now if the title alone weren’t enough to grab my attention, the cover certainly clinched it – Anita Hill, Agent Dana Scully and (wait for it…) Xena:Warrior Princess. So, given that today is the last day of Women’s History month I thought I’d share a little (lite) excerpt on everyone’s favorite sword-wielding, sandal-shod, mytho-feminist …
A Law(less) Unto Herself
Perhaps the ultimate embodiment of sherodom as she kicks butt in the ancient world. sporting a chakram, breastplate, and the most blazing blue eyes this side of the New World, Xena Warrior Princess is a phenomenon unto herself. She started out as a character on the live-action myth series, Hercules, starring Kevin Sorbo and Anthony Quinn, no less, but soon was busting out into her own series. In no time at all, Xena overtook strongman Hercules in the ratings …
In her incarnation as Hercules’s enemy, the Warrior Princess so impressed Hercules and the producers, they realized they couldn’t let her be killed off and, voila!, she undertook a transformation from icy killer queen to warrior princess with a heart of gold. With the second episode in the trilogy of Xena on Hercules, vibrant New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless, totally unknown before taking on Xena, was approached by the producers to do her own series and accepted immediately, ready to rock! Lawless recalls, “Rob and Sam had always wanted to do a female hero and just didn’t know where, when, or who…And it was me. Here and now!”
The rest is cathode ray herstory! Xena: Warrior Princess began production in May 1995 with twenty-two filmed episodes to air in September 1995. While creators and the newly-minted star hoped for a success at least equal to Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, no one could have predicted the huge hit Xena was to become with hundreds of sites on the Internet, Xena dress-up fan clubs and conventions, lesbian cults, and immense popularity among children and adults, particularly women, all over the world.
“I’m thrilled the show has struck such a chord with women,” says Lawless, “because it’s been brought to my attention that an awful lot of women need that.” Lawless reports that, as Xena’s living counterpart, she received mail that touches her deeply. ..
Xena’s superpowers bring new meaning to the word “awesome.” She brings enemies to their knees with the “Xena touch,” a pinch on the neck that either kills or forces the pinchee to tell the truth. Lawless demonstrated this skill on a clueless David Letterman; when he didn’t seem to know who Xena was, she proclaimed, “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl who traverses time lines.” She wields many weapons, but her signature piece is the chakram, a razor-edged discus, which she throws with deadly speed and accuracy. Xena differs from the perennial do-gooder Greek Hercules in that her character has much more depth and shading, thanks to her transformation from bad-ass to evil-fighter.
To some, Xena is reminiscent of the beautiful brunette SuperShero of the seventies, Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, who would lasso her villains. To still others, she is a postfeminist answer to the world’s problems, showing that women can be bold and bodacious, self-sufficient survivors (after Lucy Lawless’s fall off the stage on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, her pelvis was broken in four places, but she was back on the horse next season and kicking just as hard!) who can outfight any man.
Xena’s mission is to rid the ancient world of evildoers: “I’m Xena. I’m a problem solver.” In real life, she has shattered many taboos and ideas about women’s limitations. women’s sexuality, and most importantly woman power. An inspiration to women and girls the world over, Xena makes us know we can do anything we want, overcome any obstacle, and make the world a better place. Xena: Warrior Princess, you rule!
“Xena’s power doesn’t come from her sexuality…It’s not that she can seduce men, but that she can out-strategy them: that she is a great leader, a great sword person, and is inspirational to others.” – Lucy Lawless.
I’m thinking that Varla Ventura is a massive Xena fan!
For more things Xena, check out:
Xena Fanfic Archive possibly NSFW – just a fair warning – the Xena/Gabrielle fans are a highly imaginative bunch 😉