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How I (and Gabrielle, apparently) fell in love with Xena June 8, 2015

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches, Meta.
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Me: oh hey, Xena: Warrior Princess is on Netflix, I should watch that.

Me: I mean, landmark series for lesbian subtext, how can you go wrong.

Me: Heard some people say it’s actual text, more than just Platonic Life Partners tropes as interpreted by shippers with their OTP goggles on, but I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up.

Me: After all, we’re talking about the mid-90s, and Buffy could barely get their canon f/f couple to kiss on-screen in 2001, so

Xena, Season 2:

image

Me:

Me: WELL THEN

It’s not a fakeout! Or a dream sequence! Or played off as a joke afterward! They’re in this mystical spiritspace because Xena is temporarily dead at the time, but this isn’t Gabrielle’s grief-stricken imagination or anything, either. It’s both actual characters.

Xena’s spirit spends most of the episode riding along with this poor guy, Autolycus, who did not sign up for ghost-hosting. (Played hilariously by a younger and slimmer version of Sam from Burn Notice.) She takes control of his body a few times, and they do a really good job of having the actor imitate Lucy Lawless’s signature moves, expressions, and tone of voice.

So the kiss sequence fades from “Xena and Gabrielle making out in spiritspace” to “Xena-in-Autolycus’-body and Gabrielle making out in reality.” Which I assume is how they got away with it — making as much of the visual as straight-appearing as possible — but it’s not like there’s any question of who’s doing the kissing.

I found this list of shippiest Xena/Gabrielle episodes (by googling “gayest Xena episodes”, because sometimes the direct approach is best) to guide the viewing process. Which is how I ended up at the scene above (from s02e13 The Quest).

But there’s so much good stuff in the show that isn’t just about the romance. For instance: Xena turns out to have a couple of döppelgangers — so far, a sweet and romantic non-warrior princess, and a snarky barmaid. (I wouldn’t put it past the show to throw in more; I’ve just only watched so far.)

If you like Orphan-Black-style identity shenanigans, and would be into a lighter-and-fluffier version, you gotta see this. Xena smiling and looking innocent in a long flowy gown, then punching out ninja assassins, but only being able to do it when “her” not-boyfriend isn’t looking! “Xena” being a jerk to Gabrielle, and Gabrielle being certain it’s part of a plan, just annoyed that Xena isn’t telling her what it is! Good times.

There’s only one complaint I have about the show, and that is that Xena’s signature interrogation technique is “special nerve pinch that cuts off the flow of blood to the brain, so they’ll die a minute later if they don’t answer her question.”

And this is presented as a cool move that always works. When realistically it would lead to her getting a ton of false intelligence, as the panicky victims tell her whatever they think she wants to hear.

So there’s that. But if you can sigh and roll your eyes through those scenes, they get back to the fun stuff soon enough.

One more set of screencaps I’ve gotta share.

The show is so unselfconsciously cheesy, it’s great. There’s an episode where Xena has to go undercover in a beauty pageant, because of course she does. It’s called the Miss Known World pageant, because of course it is.

But there are all these really nice themes in the plot. Like, Xena starts off being dismissive of the “pretty but useless” contestants, then figures out along the way that they’re actual human beings who deserve respect.

Also, one of the contestants is…either a crossdresser or a trans woman, it’s not quite clear. Our heroes refer to her as “a man” at one point, but, you know, that could just be because it’s ancient pseudo-Greece (in-universe) and the mid-’90s (out-of-universe). She doesn’t get specific about how she identifies, and we only ever see her in her femme presentation.

The possibly-trans contestant gets the crown! As with the kissing-Gabrielle scene, there’s just enough appearance-of-masculinity in this situation that the show can get away with doing this:

missknownworld1

missknownworld2

missknownworld3

 

Yesssss.

And the best part of this? Gabrielle’s reaction shot:

missknownworld4
“wtf did you just kiss my woman who gave you the right”

(This is s02e13 Here She Comes… Miss Amphipolis, so it’s right before the kiss in The Quest. Gabrielle has been hanging around Xena for a season and a half, and hasn’t gotten any yet, and here this stranger comes along and just goes for it. No wonder she’s mad. It’s okay, Gabrielle, your moment is coming!)

Long story short: this is a great show, still very watchable in spite of being 20 years old, and if y’all get the chance, you should absolutely pick it up.

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