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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 110, "Hooves and Harlots"

Clare: Of course, right before I moved out of a place with cable to one without, I discovered this movie channel called movieplex, which is where all the stuff Starz has rights to go when Starz proper gets bored with them. I turned it on to have something to listen to while copy editing and discovered that it was playing Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, one of the first television movies in the Xenaverse that, incidentally, features Renee O'Connor as Deianira in her first appearance in the franchise. (Lucy Lawless was in the first one, Hercules and the Amazon Women, as the Amazonian head of security.) Deianira is similar to Gabrielle, in that she's chatty, headstrong, and quick on her feet: she takes every misadventure as proof that her destiny is just now something else. But she is meant to be annoyingly so until the very end.

I was reminded of that because "Hooves and Harlots" goes back to Gabrielle as annoying sidekick, with Ephiny (they've just given up on the Greek-style names at this point) obviously finding her annoying and even asking Xena why Xena puts up with her. And Xena doesn't defend her! At all! It's even the joke the episode closes on! I find this disheartening, because Xena needs Gabrielle slightly more than Gabrielle needs her, as the last few episodes have pointed out.

But, while the episode doesn't address it, I can see it coming from some kind of… machismo is obviously the wrong word, but the feminine is marianismo, which venerates female purity and is not what I'm going for. Gendered language fails me here. But Xena is back in her element among female warriors who don't hesitate to kill, don't need to be protected, and are just as terse as she is. Xena and Melosa have to have physically duke it out before Melosa accepts that Xena is right. This is old Xena, to the point that she's drawing on her past experiences with the centaurs without much angst. (It probably helps that she didn't win against the centaurs, so she doesn't feel too guilty about it.) And Old Xena doesn't have much patience for Gabrielle: Gabrielle is the catalyst for the New Xena.

Renay: I really liked this episode. I totally missed the part where Xena doesn't defend Gabrielle, though, perhaps because I was focused on how being around the Amazons changes Xena into more of her old self. She sort of discards Gabrielle, leaving her to get caught up in the drama of these women while she tries to prevent the coming war, and then acts really weird when she sees what Gabrielle's been up to in her absence because Gabrielle didn't explicitly tell her. The distance is really weird and a little off-putting, but interesting character development! Gabrielle can't always be the one to reach out—sometimes Xena needs to do it, too.

I wonder if this is purposeful, the slow steps forward and then a huge slide back as Xena and Gabrielle come closer to understanding each other—Gabrielle's innocence, empathy and cleverness finally rubbing off on Xena and Xena's strength and ability to handle herself in physical situations rubs off on Gabrielle.

I hope now that Gabrielle has a staff, she keeps it! I really want to see her coming into her own as a fighter, even if it's defense.

Clare: Ugh, I just want them to be friends and love each other all the time. Although Xena's flat "Great." upon being informed that Gabrielle is suddenly an Amazon Princess is perfect.

Renay: And Xena randomly becomes an Amazon queen, which she of course makes looks super easy. I wonder if THAT will come up again.

Clare: As for the Amazons… well, Xena's idea of worldbuilding is Renaissance Festival Realness, which I can appreciate. The right of caste is a great way to get around any fuzziness about bloodlines. (In Mark Halperin’s How to Be Gay, he quotes a scholar who proposes that same-sex queer groups are inherently anti-hierarchical, which ties in here. Of course, they have a queen and rights limited to the royals, but the point still stands.) And it is great to see a horde of warrior women who kick butt and are mildly diverse. No ladies of color get speaking lines, boo. And I am uncomfortable with the vaguely tribal dancing, if only because the screenwriter specifically states in the script that "[t]his should be right out of National Geographic. The high energy, in the dirt, African-style mourning period."

Renay: It's an interesting point about queer communities being anti-hierarchical. This reminded me of some of the Native American groups I studied and pinged me on that level, although a lot of those were matriarchal, too, which is obviously a hierarchy. It's been two years so now I can't remember which set of tribes this reminds me of, but it definitely had the feeling. Maybe that ties in with the really skeevy comment about African tribal dancers.

Clare: FEMSLASH ALERT: In a scene cut from the script, Gabrielle massages Xena's shoulders.


Supplemental Material

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


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