Xena, “The Dirty Half Dozen”, and angry feminists.

Xena added four former partners-in-crime to her team (so that they totaled a half-dozen) for this season 3 episode: three men and one woman who could be called an angry feminist.

It’s not uncommon for shows to have an episode with a “feminist,” though usually these episodes enrage me, because they tend to completely miss the point of feminism, and the “happy ending” is that the feminist no longer hates men.

This episode was…okay. Glaphyra, the “feminist,” does miss the point of feminism, hating men more than
fighting for equality. And she does “reform” by the end of the episode. But it works.

For one thing, it’s not that she learns that men are wonderful and she shouldn’t be mistrustful– all she learns is that a bit of kindness and forgiveness is warranted for all people. She stops capturing men and selling them into brutal slavery as a punishment for the evils of their sex– but she’s not a patriarchy cheerleader.

For another, she’s learning her lesson from two other women who are fighting the same fight. Xena has to tell her that despite appearances, Gabrielle is the stronger one– it’s Gabrielle’s goodness that has changed Xena and caused her to reform. “Don’t make such a big deal about the patriarchy” is a hard lesson to swallow, but it’s easier when it comes from two women who spend a lot of time kicking men’s asses and saving women from the ill effects of patriarchy.

Plus, it’s heavily implied that Glaphyra has suffered pretty atrociously at men’s hands in the past, and so her anger is not irrational. It’s merely disruptive to her own peace of mind. Glaphyra isn’t who she is “just because”– she suffered, and Evil Xena brought her from her suffering and taught her to fight, and she used those skills for revenge because she couldn’t think of any other way to go. It’s not her fault– even Xena didn’t think another way was possible at the time.

Letting Glaphyra be a fully-realized person, instead of a strawfeminist, and letting the lesson be “don’t let hatred rule your life,” rather than, “the patriarchy is awesome,” went a long way towards making this episode palatable to me. There’s a small part of me that thinks it was written to reassure men who thought Xena was a little too self-reliant, but even so, feminism isn’t about hating all men for the terrible things the patriarchy encourages them to do. It’s about…well, a lot of things, but one of them is allowing women to live their lives unapologetically. Which is what Glaphyra does at the end– sure, she goes off with a man, but not because she was wrong to mistrust men– because this one has earned her trust.

Plus, unlike in every other ensemble of one-shot sidekicks, the woman wasn’t the first to die! Nor was the man with the black dreadlocks! It was the old white guy who died first! And yeah, this still left another white guy to live on happily, but I had gotten used to predicting, based on gender and ethnicity, who would die first– and I’m usually right.

All in all, a happy ending.

(for more posts on Xena, look here!)


4 Responses to Xena, “The Dirty Half Dozen”, and angry feminists.

  1. Jamie B. says:

    Ah! I am glad I read this. It makes me want to go back and try watching Xena again.

    I absolutely adored Xena and Hercules when I was younger. Last summer I rewatched the series premier of Hercules. Which just happens to be the series where he teaches the Amazons the error of their ways.

    And I almost puked.

    So I was really afraid to watch Xena again, for fear I would taint my happy childhood memories.

    But now, after this post, I’m definitely gonna try it again at some point.


  2. eloriane says:

    Xena has its flaws, but it’s still fundamentally a very feminist (or at least feminist-friendly) show. I’ve read some articles indicating that the presence of Hercules as a companion made it possible for Xena to be as feminist as it was– if people started to complain about the dominance of women in Xena, the producers could just point to Hercules and say, “No, we don’t hate men, look! A show full of men!”

    Of course, it could very well have worked the other way as well…Xena made it possible for Hercules to be less feminist than shows at the time, because if anyone complained, the producers could point to Xena.

    I’ve never seen Hercules, so that’s just a theory, but I’ve seen a lot of Xena and there’s definitely no reason to fear rewatching it 🙂

  3. Renee says:

    I thought that Xena was off the air…Oh my God I love this show….I remember going to the bars on Xena night and doing the yell and feeling all empowered. Now I have to troll the internet to find new episodes…oh my GOd… thank you, thank you, thank you

  4. eloriane says:

    I’m pretty sure it IS off the air, but you can Netflix it! Or, uh, pirate it, I guess.

    And there’s nothing more awesome than someone with the strength and self-confidence to do that yell. I can’t (though I’m working on it), but my Xena buddy, one of the most awesome gay men I’ve met, will just let loose with it given the slightest provocation. Awesome.

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