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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.

Clare: Okay, kittens, let’s talk about vampires. Specifically, lesbian vampires. As we all know, vampires are a remarkably potent sexual metaphor (thus Interview with the Vampire), but Carmilla, the ur-gay lady of the night, actually predates Dracula by over twenty years. The lady vampire as subtextual queer predator has a long and storied history.

And then there’s Xena, whose approach to subtext can best be described as a shrug. Or, better yet, a scene where Gabrielle wanders into the dance party from The Matrix: Reloaded and begins "innocently" dancing with two women who may or may not be Bacchae.

Renay: Oh my god, I did not expect this episode. I was not warned and I was not prepared and I spent the entire thing going, "What!" and "That makeup!" and "Oh, it's Joxer again."

But Joxer at least delivers us this episode's quest via Orpheus's decapitated head, which tells them that Bacchus is kidnapping local girls to build his vampire harem. There's some other stuff: a lyre, music, etc, but whatever. The important part is Gabrielle and Xena. There's a lot of plot for what amounts to an episode that feels like the first 10 minutes of low-key lesbian porn. On the plus side, I found Orpheus's head to be 100% out of fucks and pretty funny, so bonus!

Clare: I knew that I was going to enjoy "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" when all-around awesome writer and current Xena: Warrior Princess comic writer Genevieve Valentine pointed out its queer subtext in a TV Club 10 column. I mean, Xena and Gabrielle fight vampires before Gabrielle becomes one and must turn Xena? Bring it on! Xena: a show so great it writes its own AUs.

Of course, this being Xena, it wouldn’t be appropriate if their version of vampires didn’t completely warp Greco-Roman myth. The Bacchae, those merry, limb-rending worshippers of Bacchus, are turned into straight-up vampires here, complete with yellow-red contacts, gaudy jewelry, and powdery pallor. These goth chicks are in thrall to Bacchus, who looks like a slumming Tim Curry from Legend. Oh, and they turn into wolves when they hunt, for some reason? Honestly, I wasn’t that weirded out by that change. Their basic function in mythology is retained and the riff adds a fun element to the episode.

Renay: I actually liked that they could turn into wolves! I thought it was a nice addition and made a certain amount of sense they would do that to establish them as tough predators on multiple levels to raise the tension of the episode: multi-purpose transformation powers! Stay true to yourself, Xena Writers! Good work!

Clare: What I was weirded out by was the show claiming that dryads are flying skeletons, complete with hysterically nineties special effects. I wonder if there are any nineties kids who were astonished when they found out dryads were just… wood nymphs?

Renay: No, even I know enough about mythology to be super weirded out when they became Flying Death Skeletons with a Grudge. I mean, obviously it probably sucks to be woken up by people constantly wanting your bones to kill people with, so I feel like I would also get annoyed after awhile. But I read the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire and there's a dryad character there (...sort of) and I was picturing, like, asking a nice tree for a favor. Don't underestimate the Xena Writing Room, is also a thing I learned from this episode.

Clare: I do have a question: why does Joxer exist? Follow-up question: will I ever stop hating him? I just don’t find Joxer all that funny, despite generally being a good audience for dumb jokes ("Heehee… that’s dumb and I love it" might actually be my laugh in its entirely), and I just generally see him as an obstacle towards Xena and Gabrielle kicking ass, taking names, and staring longingly into each other’s eyes.

Bowie above us, is this my first ship where I see any and all potential non-disposable love interests as competition?

Renay: I'm assuming there's a reason he's around and keeps coming around and keeps being super awkward. I'm assuming there's a purpose and he'll have a longer arc, per statements by other fans watching us watching him and being cynical and jaded about the future of his character. But I'm also not finding him that interesting or funny at all. Right now he feels largely like a placeholder and a black hole of narrative energy.

I'm afraid we'll be seeing him to the bitter end, though. The every bitter end.

Femslash Alert: Clare: UH, THIS ENTIRE EPISODE? Suffice it to say, there’s a scene where Gabrielle must turn Xena briefly into a Bacchae, so there is ~sexy~ neck-biting. Good heavens.

Renay: HECK YEAH, the climax (ha ha ha) of this episode was basically some explicit AU fanfic. I felt like I needed to hit "Proceed" before watching Gabrielle sink her teeth into Xena's neck. I need a fanvid of this episode set to Type O Negative's Love You To Death ASAP.

Supplemental Material

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

Date: 2016-05-11 06:08 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Xena: Xena Gab Argo)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Yay, I fell behind on all things dreamwidth but came back just in time to see this! (And promptly back-read the reviews I missed, of course.)

I feel like you both are really embracing the utter wackiness of this show, of the writers' choices, and that makes me so very happy. Because I really think it is *key* to enjoying Xena.

is this my first ship where I see any and all potential non-disposable love interests as competition?

Interesting -- for me the ship leaves a lot of room for other potential love interests. But not Joxer. NEVER JOXER. I came to like the guy, most of the time, but never, ever as a love interest.

I can't believe I've still only seen this episode the one time. I must rectify that!

Date: 2016-05-11 10:41 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I watched this episode three times because I loved the camp of this episode so much. IT WAS GREAT. Highly recommended for repeated viewings. :D

Date: 2016-05-11 10:17 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
But I'm also not finding him that interesting or funny at all. Right now he feels largely like a placeholder and a black hole of narrative energy.

But... that's because that's what he is at this point in the show? From what I recall, anyway. He's just there to provide comic relief at the moment. (I think he never gets better at providing comic relief, I'm afraid, but the show does get better about giving him a personality and something to do either in this season or in the next one.)

Date: 2016-05-11 10:35 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
The writers seem to think he's great comic relief based in the role he's played so far. They're writing him as a joke one way, while in fact he's a joke to the viewer in entirely another. If their intent was to create a drain on their story, sure, but I don't believe most writers go into a story hoping a character exhausts their audience. Obviously I can't guess what the writers intended! But I sure hope he expands as a character soon.

Date: 2016-05-12 07:59 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
My pet theory is that the writers, having gone with the subtext femslash from the beginning (of season 2?), needed some way to plausibly go "Nope. Nuh-uh. These two ladies are TOTALLY just platonic friends! Look, we even have a male lead for them to teach better ways to and for Gabby to eventually hook up with!" at people who didn't want the femslash (and were paying the show's bills) without creating a narrative that could ever realistically overshadow said femslash.

That made more sense in my head. >> Basically: Joxer starts off with all the potential for a typical Male Hero's Journey narrative (complete with UST!), but the show goes out of its way to signal to viewers that we're never going to get that narrative because it's actually all about the ladies and their relationship.

Date: 2016-05-12 04:03 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Xena grinning)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Ooh, I like your pet theory!

Date: 2016-05-13 04:10 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Thank you!


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