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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.

Renay: This episode tosses us right into some weird action, as Xena approaches a castle and everyone immediately starts deferring to her. This is followed quickly by a assassination attempt, and honestly, my first reaction was "omg Xena you JUST GOT HERE, how can you already have made enemies mad enough to KILL YOU???" Since I hadn't read the episode blurb, walking in cold turned out to be supremely weird. Did you know we'd be getting amazing 90s green screen adventures?

Clare: You mean, amazing nineties green screen adventures in the old switcheroo? Separated twins/doppelgangers are older than dirt; been there, done Two Gentlemen of Verona in college. But I have a fondness for how the nineties handled it with terrible green screen and over-the-top acting. See the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap for the former and John Woo’s 1997 Face/Off for the latter. (Side-bar: everybody, go watch Face/Off. You deserve it.)

Renay: I feel like I may need another pop culture shame point for not having (I think?) seen Face/Off. How ashamed of me are you right now? >.>

Clare: NOT ASHAMED AT ALL. I don’t believe in shaming people for not seeing things, just celebrating that it is ahead of them. Just be prepared, because that movies starts at sixty miles an hour and never stops.

Xena only does the terrible green screen. (Seriously, who was in charge of those sight lines? I am assuming nobody.) Lucy Lawless’ portrayal of Xena is so iconic, both at this point in the series (a little more than halfway through season one) and right now, that it initially felt SO WEIRD to see Lawless playing Diana. But she plays her so well that you can immediately tell the difference between the two of them. That’s why the very last twist actually works: Diana is so perfectly Xena’s antithesis.

Renay: I was weirdly surprised when I bought everything about Lawless portraying Diana but what foiled me was the very obvious shared scene spaces. I've seen the old Parent Trap and thought those looked better. Maybe you're right about the sight line thing calling attention to the technology because every time it happened I was like "LOL NOPE".

Even if the show is sometimes lacking on the subtly scale, I totally didn't see the switch at the end coming. I was totally buying it like a sucker until the person I was watching with went, "Naw, they didn't switch!" and lo, he turned out to be correct. Although what was up with the super shallow brother who immediately didn't want Diana once he thought she could take out sixteen assassins? His character was all over the place. He would've been a perfect red herring but he was just so obviously clueless.

Clare: Right? I mean, who looks at Xena kicking butt and goes “UGH, NO THANK YOU”? They really could have done something other than clueless moron with him.

But I’m really happy that they didn’t go the easy route with Diana herself. I could have easily seen a version of this episode where Diana is girly, spoiled, and deeply unsympathetic, so I’m so happy to see that Xena, which has never been known for its subtlety, didn’t go there. Diana is girly and sheltered (she thinks the chakram is a necklace, which is either very silly or metal as hell), but she’s also taking her role as future queen very seriously. Even while terrified for her life, she embraces the opportunity to go out and see how her people live in order to better rule them. Atta girl.

But my favorite parts were definitely Xena wreaking havoc in the castle. Xena sets two different guys on fire in this episode. And, like, not consecutively, in their own fight scenes. The best part about it is that Xena knows she’s not the best at stuff like being polite, brushing her hair (although her hair always looks great?), or being cute and girly, but she doesn’t really care. She just kind of shrugs it all off with her effortless swagger, which is one of the best parts of this show: seeing Xena just be awesome.

I am also all about Xena stealing that entire plate of desserts at the end for her and Gabrielle. There’s not a lot of Xena/Gabrielle interaction in this episode (Gabrielle’s "I guess I’ll just wait here, THANKS" crack in that wide shot, though? Fantastic), but we do get Xena joking that Gabrielle’s job is to wait on her hand and foot.

Renay: What did you think about Gabrielle's immediate assumption of Diana's arrival being a test? Now I need to know more about these "tests" immediately. How much of this is Xena testing Gabrielle and how much is outright trolling? I've never need application of fanfic so much in my life. Also, I love that once Diana distracts the mugger, Gabrielle dispatches him with no problem. I'm SO EXCITED to watch her transformation into a legit badass!

Clare: Right? Has Xena embraced her role as Gabrielle’s mentor and is now training her in really unorthodox ways? (And how many of them involve disguises and false identities to the point that "Xena" acting differently is enough to make Gabrielle suspicious?) This might be the first plot point I’ve seen that would naturally generate enough fic to become a genre unto itself (think “Amok Time” fic for Spock and Kirk). I hope I’m proven right. RECOMMENDATIONS ALWAYS WELCOME, FRIENDS!

Renay: We're probably too early for most fic still due to spoilers, but we're over halfway through season one now and soon will be able to dive into available fic. Although it makes me regret not watching the show as a teenager. I had friends writing this exact stuff, god, what was I doing with my teenage years?! So I second the request for recommendations so we can hoard them, unless there are actually nonspoilery fics out there waiting for us that people can point us to! *sparkles*

Supplemental Material

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

Date: 2015-10-16 05:48 am (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Xena: grinning at enemy)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Xena may not be a subtle show, but it treats its characters with sympathy, especially women. The main exception is the (usually male) warlord-of-the-week. It's one of my favorite things about the show, and something I need if I'm going to get really fannish about something.

Relatedly, in terms of the portrayal of Diana, another thing I love about Xena is that it doesn't crap on 'feminine' interests or people. Xena and Gabrielle's apparent flaunting of gender norms doesn't mean that people who follow them more don't deserve respect as well.


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