As I was arranging my Netflix queue to start some Babylon 5 flowing my way, I realized that somewhere in the last few months I had stopped watching Xena. Needless to say, this has been remedied!
There are so many obvious things that are awesome about it that I feel a little silly listing them: woman as Hero, Sidekick, and Villain, with the only recurring male character as Comic Relief. The fact that the women can be feminine and strong, and have romances without ever being made stupid by them. And, y’know, it’s just a stupidly fun show.
But it’s also been really important for me for another reason: it’s the only bit of media that I’ve ever seen that was about a lesbian couple kicking ass. Always, stuff with lesbians in it is all about the homophobia and relationship drama and basically everything that I already deal with in my real life. If I want escapism, I have to get it from straight people. Or Xena!
Now, this is where everyone’s gonna go, “But they’re not gay!” to which I say, rubbish. It’s “only” subtext, but it is frequent, consistent subtext which is never quite contradicted by the text. Oh, sure, there are a bazillion romantic subplots with various guys, and even a couple marriages, but they never last more than a few episodes. Half the time there’s a good reason– the guy dies, for example– but the other half of the time, the girl in question just says, “It’s too bad we can’t stay here and be together, but I’ve gotta leave. Bye!” and then off she goes with her “best friend,” never to mention whoever-the-guy-was ever again.
The most notable example of this, I think, was when Xena and Gabrielle met up with Hercules and Iolaus, couple up in appropriate Hero/Hero and Sidekick/Sidekick pairs, defeat a bad guy together, and then…part because “they have to.” I’m sure the meta reason was that they were separate shows and they didn’t want to merge the two, but in the show-world’s logic, it was a perfect situation, since they could just rove the world righting wrongs as a foursome instead of a pair. The result was that it reinforced the idea that Xena/Gabrielle was the only right pairing and neither wanted anyone else to interfere with their relationship. (In my mind it did the same with Hercules and Iolaus but I’m not sure if they had the same subtext in their own show).
And then there was the kiss! I’m in the middle of Season 2, and a few episodes ago, Xena was dead (can’t remember why) and spoke to Gabrielle through Joxer, and at the end, they kiss. It only shows Gabrielle and Joxer kissing, but it is clearly Gabrielle and Xena. I loved that scene! I still remember, Gabrielle has to tell Joxer to take his hand off her butt, and the poor fellow looked so shocked and disappointed that Xena got to touch Gabrielle.
This sort of subtext matters to me, because even if it’s nothing but subtext (albeit subtext that the actors said they intentionally played up) it gives me room to imagine myself into the story. Even if I’m not “really” included in Xena, at least I’m not excluded, which is a nice enough change. I don’t think straight people realize just how much they talk about being straight in popular culture…but here’s a hint: it’s so much that for a show to leave room for interpretation is truly unusual and a breath of fresh air.
So, thanks, Xena! You rock!
(for more posts on Xena, look here!)