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Clare & Renay's Adventures in: Xena


In a time without a Black Widow movie on the horizon, two fans in turmoil cried out for a heroine. She was Xena, a mighty female protagonist forged in the fires of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The action, the camp, the queer subtext. Her adventures will rock their worlds.


Xena: Episode 102, "Chariots of War"


Clare: Because "Chariots of War" doesn't have any worldbuilding or character introduction to do, there's a little less territory to cover here. Xena discretely deposits Gabrielle in an inn before wandering off to do… something? Because of the camp nature of the show, I tend to riff when I watch the episodes, so riff!Xena clearly abandoned Gabrielle. But I'm not sure what actual Xena was up to before she wandered across the peaceful village.

The episode's character development reaffirms the basic Xena and Gabrielle dynamic: Xena is hard and closed off, Gabrielle is soft and open. But they both get love interests this episode to prove these things. Darius is a father and a committed pacifist, representing the domestic sphere that Xena wants but can't allow herself to have just yet. The best way to represent these conflicting emotions, of course, is for Xena to put on his dead wife's dress in soft lighting and bad weather. (Also, dressing a woman in your dead wife's clothes is not going to convince anyone that you're not sleeping together.)

Sphaerus, on the other hand, is a romanticized rugged warrior (in Gabrielle's eyes) to represent Gabrielle's romanticized notions of adventure. He's pretty clearly a male Xena expy—those baby blues (but not that ridiculous hair, oh the nineties), the dead brother, the whole being previously evil warrior trying to become a better person. He just comes with added disappointment dad. I know that the gods actually show up later in the show, so I wonder how Ares actually interacts with this warlord. You have to win the honor of being Ares' horsemaster, but… we don't see any godly horses?

Renay: I love how you saw all these patterns but all I got out of the episode was the only note I took: "the magical wind of ~approval~ from beyond the grave". I didn't get the parallels between Sphaerus and Xena at all, although in hindsight I should have because they're fairly glaringly obvious. Looking back, I might have found this a little more effective if Xena hadn't had to deliver the death blow? I'm not sure why; he made a choice to let someone else resolve that for him, and cheated him out of the shallow offer of respect his father was offering him (he was a bad man, but he WAS his father).

Clare: I probably noticed it because tall dark-haired people with piercing blue eyes are one of my notorious weaknesses. I think we can take the end in one of two ways. It's either a situation where earning his father's respect means losing his self-respect… or a situation where, if Xena wasn't involved, it would just be his own story. Of course, since Gabrielle is already involved… yep, it's just inserting main characters all over the place.

Renay: I expect the show is going to continue to deposit us in situations where it's peace versus war and the philosophical discussions that will ensue over the issue of whether it's appropriate to fight to defend yourselves when the other party refuses to communicate. I know this comes up later in the series with Gabrielle, because I was spoiled for some of her storyline, but frankly I'm already tired of the "you're a troublemaker, leave!" bits from secondary characters.

Clare: Yeah, that "troublemaker" stuff is going to get old real quick.

Renay: When the guy who attempts to kick Xena out tries to be nice and she wants none of his mouth, I was like "YES."

Clare: Of course, it's not like Xena is a paragon of historical accuracy. The blue dress is pure Renaissance Festival, especially the back, and, without Draco, ancient Greece is now sparklingly white. On the gender front, Xena and Gabrielle do talk about families. Namely, Gabrielle does almost take a swipe at Xena for being alone and pathetic, which the show lets sit. But then we do see Xena given the possibility of having a prefab family and home that she graciously turns down. While Gabrielle will help Xena develop into an emotionally rich person, it does help to remember that Gabrielle is still pretty sheltered, no matter how independent and open-minded she thinks she is.

I do want to mention that I was so pleased that Darius' sons clearly think Xena is supercool. We so rarely see young boys looking up to adult women. It's just a moment, before they start arguing over who gets what horse. It's sweet that HARD COLD Xena doesn't have a problem with children and builds a solid rapport with the kids. She just doesn't have room for family in her right now, that's all.

Renay: Xena and Gabrielle both turned down families for different, valid reasons. Gabrielle did so because she wanted more adventure and wasn't ready to settle down, but Xena did so this episode perhaps because she doesn't feel as deserving of it yet? She hasn't paid her dues from her former warring ways, and as such doesn't yet fit the mold.

Clare: Exactly, that's why Xena turns it down. She's got work to do, and making amends for her actions comes before building a new life for herself. She's earning the right to a normal life back.

Renay: The kids are so sweet. The beginning of the episode, the older kid hurts himself, and his father doesn't respond with mocking, or chastise him, he just corrects him to prevent further injury. This is so far from my experience of working with adult men who I've watched laugh, deride, and shame their sons for messing up, and act like their pain is nothing, and worthy of no attention. That was so lovely. ;___; Darius, you win my Best Fictional TV Dad award for this week.

Clare: Oh, that's such a good example! Men teaching boys to be good people without resorting to emotional violence! HUZZAH!




Much like Xena herself, Renay and Clare have powerful allies in their quest.


The adventure continues:


Xena: Episode 101, "Sins of the Past" Xena: Episode 103, "Dreamworker"


Date: 2015-02-18 04:45 pm (UTC)
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
From: [personal profile] sanguinity
Are you gonna do this with every episode?? I hadn't dared hope!

Date: 2015-02-19 09:42 am (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
EVERY SINGLE EPISODE or at least until Clare gets sick of my face and resigns. It's gonna be great. :D

Date: 2015-02-19 03:43 pm (UTC)
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
From: [personal profile] sanguinity
\o/

Date: 2015-02-18 07:37 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Xena and Gab walking/riding away together, text says "Journeys" (Xena: Journey)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Ooh, good point about Sphaerus being similar to Xena. Now I want to rewatch this episode!

Date: 2015-02-19 09:43 am (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I rewatched it after Clare pointed this out and it's so perfectly done. More impressed by the parallels in 90s fantasy camp television than some films with budgets in the millions, tbh.

Date: 2015-02-20 12:50 am (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Xena grinning)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
There are some pretty impressive parallels in later episodes, many of which I didn't notice until I started vidding the show. (Though I suspect I'm a less observant tv-watcher than you two.)

Date: 2015-02-20 09:17 am (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I am so excited about finally having the context to enjoy Xena vids! \o/

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