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Bravo TV - TV Revolution

Transcript by Lady Kate

Episodes: Out of the Closet & Maids, Babes and Mothers (Women's roles on TV)


Part 1: "Out of the Closet"

Narrator: At the time, "sweeps lesbianism" [the term used earlier in the program by Liz Friedman for the phenomenon of generally straight women kissing during sweeps week] is the only lesbianism on television. [Xena picture comes up on screen -- the one from the titles of Xena twirling her sword.] Unless, of course, someone is looking very carefully.

Liz Friedman: At the very beginning, we were editing the main title of Xena and there's a shot in the main title where Lucy was kissing a man, but it was a man who had long hair and he was shot from the back. I remember someone from the studio called and said, "You have to take that shot out because he looks like a woman, and people are going to think that she's gay." And I said, "Guys, look -- I'm gay, and when I go to the supermarket with my girlfriend, people keep asking us if we're sisters. And my girlfriend isn't white. No one is going to think that they're gay." Six episodes in, it's all over the internet [laughs; image of the "Xenerotica" web page with the image of Xena and Gabrielle in a hot tub], and everybody's saying, Well, she and Gabrielle are clearly lovers, did you see that thing?

Scott Seomin, activist: And the lesbian community certainly made Xena a lesbian in their own minds.

Narrator: The show's creator's log on and take notice of Xena's growing fan base. [shot of the "Absolutely XenaCrazed Alternative Fan Fiction and Poetry" web page]

Liz Friedman: There was an episode that opened with Xena and Gabrielle swimming in a pond, and it sounds like they're talking -- like they're having sex.

[Clip of the teaser scene from ALTARED STATES: the camera pans over the clothes hung out on the shrubbery.

Gabrielle: How was that?

Xena: Very good-- you're getting the hang of it.

Gabrielle: Really?

Xena: Come on, Gabrielle, you've been wanting to do this for ages. Just reach under this rock-- give it your best shot.

LF: And then you realize -- oh, they're fishing. You know -- of course, they're fishing naked, because, you know -- it's Xena. I think that was the first time I remember us going, Okay, we're gonna -- you know, let's play with the fact of what people are thinking.

Narrator: The sheer number of websites is impressive: detailed episode guides citing lesbian moments, Xena/Gabrielle porn fantasies, academic dissertations analyzing Xena as post-modern lesbian icon. Clearly, something deep is going on here.

[Clip from the end of TIES THAT BIND:

Xena: For me, our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could.

Gabrielle (smiles): Me too.]

LF: I don't think that straight people quite understand what it's like when you don't see anything that's at all like you growing up, and you're so busy trying to figure out who you are and how you want to do this thing, this life thing, and then you can't see anyone to model yourself on.

[Clip of the drugged-out Gab scene from ALTARED STATES -- "By the gods, you are beauuuuutiful!"]

LF: I think that's what Gabrielle and Xena did, as it wasn't ruled out as a possibility.

Narrator: Though some fans swear that Xena does "come out" in this or that episode, for the writers and producers, it's another version of "Don't ask, don't tell."

LF: I think that if they had been definitively and declaratively gay, that would have meant less eyeballs on the screen.

Narrator: While Xena's almost-lesbanism flies under the radar of popular press, a comedienne-turned-actress is about to get a lot of attention. (Segue into "Ellen")

Part 2: Maids, Babes and Mothers (Women's roles on TV)

Narrator: Clearly, American needs an outlet for its feelings about women in power.

[Clip of Xena doing backflips and battling some bad guys]

Xena, Warrior Princess: she leads armies [clip of Xena riding at the head of an army], conquers warlords [fire-breathing scene], and befriends the weak. [Xena holding the baby in CRADLE OF HOPE] She's fearless, tough, and not at all shy of violence. [clip from HOOVES &HARLOTS: Xena kills Krykus' henchman]

Liz Friedman: We really cast the character as Clint Eastwood. She says as little as possible, she comes in, she kicks ass, she does the right thing, and that's that. So she's really a very traditional male character that's been, you know, flipped on its ear by making her a woman.

[clip of Xena battling the cloaked Ares in THE RECKONING]

Narrator: Xena is possibly the most powerful female TV has ever seen. Of course, it's a fantasy world.

[clip of the "underwear fight" from SINS OF THE PAST]

LF: You get to tell great sort of out-there fables and not have to think about, Gee, what about this episode where Xena got put on the mommy track and couldn't do what she wanted in her career?

[clips of Xena on various magazine covers -- TV Guide, Ms., Maxim and a couple of others]

Narrator: Born in the back water of syndicated TV, Xena becomes a cultural phenomenon with wide appeal.

Joss Whedon (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer): Fantasy can contain a utopian vision of how you see anything, including gender. And if people want to see strong women, but they're not positive that they actually want them to exist, it's a great way to sort of get that out, get how they feel out.

[several action shots of Xena as JW continues to speak]

Xena was not only, you know, an action show starring a woman, it was an extremely radical one. And they really took a lot of chances. I don't think they get nearly enough credit for the things they were doing.

[clip of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer credits]

Narrator: They also paved the way for a whole new take on women and power that appeals to a younger audience. In 1997, Joss Whedon gives us a new heroine. She's an heir to Xena, but she doesn't look like a superhero.


Subsequent reference to Xena in the program, toward the end:

Narrator: No one can predict where TV women will go next, but if we could ask them, our past heroines just might have a thing or two to say.

Liz Friedman: I think if Xena had brunch with the "Sex and the City" gals, I think she'd smack Charlotte around and tell her to get a life, I think she would like Miranda... I hope that she would sleep with Samantha... and, eh -- I think she would think Carrie's funny, but not nearly as funny as Carrie thinks she is.


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