"Caught in Xena's Web Sites"
Many thanks to Virginia & Lourdes S. for the scans and the transcript
CAUGHT IN XENA'S WEB SITES by Dan Dunn
Judging from the excessive number of labyrinthine Web sites produced by women and chock-full of scantily clad female warriors photographed in provocative positions together, one might conclude that the majority of "Xena: Warrior Princess" fanatics are lesbian computer geeks.
I, for one, would truly love to conclude that and drift into cyber-fantasyland. However, my keen journalistic instincts tell me there is more to this story than meets the eye. After all, men love lesbians too.
I've never actually watched this TV show, though I've passed it in progress countless times while machine-gunning through the channels in search of more educational programming, such as "SportsCenter." My initial foray into Xena-ville was on the World Wide Web, where I counted no fewer than 173 Xena-related home pages. What I discovered while submerged in the depths of this peculiar subculture was both shocking and, quite frankly, arousing.
For instance, check out the site Angie's Cure for Xena Withdrawal Syndrome. On the very first page you'll find not one, not two, but five photos of Xena (Lucy Lawless) playing rub-a-dub-dub in the medieval tub with her devoted valet, Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor). According to Angie, the characters met when Xena saved Gabrielle and her sister from the men of the warlord Draco. Gabrielle became "enthralled with the excitement of Xena's life" and left home to follow Xena and "see the mighty deeds for herself."
I can't tell you a whole hell of a lot about Xena's life, but, oh, what mighty "deeds" she's got! Perhaps the most enchanting pair on network TV.
Kimberley's Xena Page features downloadable "wallpaper" - composed entirely of shots of the royal dish in her full-blossomed fighting glory - that beats the hell out of the "Star Wars" posters that adorned my childhood bedroom walls. Sure, Princess Leia was a tough cookie, but it wasn't until her stint in Jabba the Hut's lair in Return of the Jedi that she displayed a hint of Xena's daring fashion sense. By that point I was hooked on Daisy Duke.
My Humble Xena Page, which isn't mine at all and was likely beget by Gill Gates' butch twin sister, offers two racy images of Xena set to disarm a band of scalawags, presumably using nothing more than her Herculean breasts. Now, any red-blooded male or flannel-shirted lesbian will attest that women using their breasts as weapons certainly makes for good television - note the fomer popularity of shows such as "Wonder Woman" and (hee, hee) "Twin Peaks" - but that still doesn't explain Xena's enormous popularity with the heterosexual female audience.
Xenameister's Xenaverse Web page contains an essay by Melissa Meister titled "Xena: Warrior Princess Through the Lenses of Feminism, " which argues that Xena is one of the world's preeminent feminist role models - the TV character equivalent of Gloria Steinem. Meister opines that modern television revolves around the man: "No matter how many leading female characters might be on television, their show or the culture that grows up around the show is male-centered." (Obviously this chick's never seen "The Facts of Life.") Meister cites programs such as "Friends," in which damn near every episode deals with one of the three female characters' interactions with men, and "Ellen," who had the entire country obsessed with why she did not have the need for a man.
Xena, Meister writes, is a woman without male signifiers. "The text of the show does not revolve in any way around Xena's interpersonal interactions with men. In fact...it is Xena and Gabrielle who have become each other's signifiers [read: playthings]." Meister concludes her essay by mulling over "how the heck such a show was ever allowed into television programming, because a deep examination of its inner workings provides society with some very incredible, novel and spectacular ways of portraying women."
Hell, the women of "Xena: Warrior Princess" are spectacular, all right, but I'm not buying any of Meister's "signifier" mumbo-jumbo. I'm still pretty sure it's a lesbian thing, but the only way to really determine the driving force behind Xenamania is to walk among the show's faithful and see what makes them tick. That said, I'm off to the "Xena: Warrior Princess" convention!
ONE WEEK LATER
"Are you Dan from Real Edge magazine?" "Depends on who you are, " is my standard response to that loaded question. "My name is Alexa, " said the tall, red-headed stranger. "A friend of mine who works for the convention told me you were coming. I think you're funny." I thanked her skittishly, still badly shaken over having been recognized at that sort of gathering. "And I'm a lesbian." You don't say? I'm a Democrat...nice to meet you.
Turns out, my conversation with Alexa, the unabashed lesbian, was the closest thing to normal I experienced at the "Xena" convention. For four solid hours, I mingled with assorted freaks and mutants of all shapes and sizes - many decked out in medieval finery - and came away from the ordeal with a crystal-clear understanding of what the world would be like, if, say, everyone in it were to be lobotomized.
Robert Trebor was the celebrity guest at the convention. According to Alexa, Trebor's character, Salmoneus, appears sporadically on both "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and its spin-off series, "Xena: Warrior Princess."
"It would have been nice to have one of the main stars here, or at least more than just one guy," sighed Alexa. Perhaps, but the majority of the audience didn't seem to give a damn about the lack of star power at the convention. When Trebor - a short, pudgy anomaly on a television program noted for its hard-bodied men and women - took the stage, the auditorium exploded with camera flashes and shrieks of approval.
"Thank you so much -- wow! It is so great to be here," Trebor lied. At least I think he was lying. He had to be lying, I reasoned, because I couldn't imagine that any Hollywood actor would enjoy being in such close quarters with the hundreds of starry-eyed fanatics who had turned out for the occasion. He had to sense - as I did - that it was only a matter of time before the collective mood turned ugly. Then Trebor jokingly admitted he was frightened, especially after he discovered a gun show had taken place earlier in the day in an adjacent auditorium. "I don't know if you want to have our fans around guns," he chuckled nervously.
I don't know if you want these people around water pistols, buddy. It wouldn't be long before one of them drowned. "There were some really strange people going into the gun show," Alexa told me, munching on a candy bar. "I don't like guns."
Neither do I. I'm not a fan of any type of weaponry, which is why I got so nervous when a long-haired guy wearing leather and chain mail walked by brandishing a long sword. Stranger than him, I said, gesturing towards the Hercules wannabe.
"That's not too strange," laughed Alexa. "That's what you'd expect to see at a 'Xena' convention. "That, and lesbians."
*You can write to Dan Dunn via email at Dunn714@aol.com