A few years ago, I went through a terrible… well, it’s what my favorite relationship blogger Natalie M. Lue (NML) calls a ‘break down.’ We all know what a break up is, but according to NML, a ‘break down’ is when the person you’re interested in won’t let you in—you two don’t even get to the stage of a romantic relationship, everything just falls apart.
After months of being lied to, put down, ignored—each time we went around, the excuse was more clever, more believable—and that, combined with the fact that I was new to a lot of these subtle tricks and traps, ultimately, I broke down. Worse, nearly all of our friends and acquaintances in common vouched for him throughout the experience which really blurred the lines between reality, what I was feeling and what I hoped was actually happening. I think we’ve all experienced at least one painful relationship like this in our lives. Well, in the end, I learned my painful lesson: a spade is a spade.
But then I learned something even better: a chakram is a chakram.
That’s okay, you can giggle.
And, you know, it’s hard to capture in words how shattered I felt… He was practically the Aries to my Xena.
You’re not laughing, yet? Joke was so worth it, anyway!
When I felt so bad, blowing a lot of money shopping didn’t help, and friends and relatives try to help where they can, but in the end, they can only hear you re-tell the same heartbreaking stories again and again, so many times. In the end, I had read all the Baggage Reclaim that I could possibly read on the particulars of my situation with an “assclown/Mr. Unavailable”, (fellow BR readers know exactly what I’m talking about) and my closet was overflowing with things I probably wasn’t going to wear very often or at all. I needed something else, a more positive element added to my daily routine. Depression can sap your energy, and I needed something to lift me up again, make me want to care again.
I did what any girl in that situation would do. I decided to bingewatch my favorite show of all time, the one that meant the most to me as a girl, then later as a woman when Wellesley bought the whole series for us to watch in the library, and now, again, as a full adult who never, ever forgot the powerful woman Lucy Lawless portrayed on television for so many fans.
People have a lot of home-made Xena intros on YouTube!
Xena. What is Xena? If you don’t know who Xena: Warrior Princess is, but yet you saw the Wonder Woman movie last year… then Xena is exactly like (and probably inspired) the first few minutes of the movie where Princess Diana and the Amazons were training, riding horses, shooting arrows, just being a bunch of baddasses before Diana decided to go out into the human world and go to war.
Xena, determined to atone for her crimes destroying villages as a vengeful warlord at the head of an army (and, yes, it was her army, double badass) begins the show as a lone woman on a horse, passing through a village devastated by war. She tries to put up her sword for good, but eventually gets pulled into the local conflict, fights hard to save the region herself from the latest warlord, and cautiously befriends a bright and funny young woman named Gabrielle. Well, that’s how the legend begins. How Xena did actually change the world, in the show, and the real world you and I have been living in, is an even bigger story.
While I was—and the word really is—suffering, unable to believe in or care about much anything anymore, I watched Xena fight, triumph, fail, come back for more, tell a frustrated prince that “Princess Diana belongs to herself,” when he was trying to explain that he couldn’t confess his love for Diana because she was already betrothed to her brother… I re-lived Xena making the difficult decision not to destroy vengeful Callisto, another woman brutally twisted by war (Xena’s old army actually). I saw Xena stand up on a scaffold, at Callisto’s request, and confess that she used to do terrible things to villagers just like the ones she was speaking to, and that she was still trying to make things right. I watched Xena and Gabrielle get so angry at one another after Gabrielle was responsible for Xena losing her son, that Xena almost threw Gabrielle over a cliff. I watched the two of them find forgiveness, even after that. I Xena tell a young woman, miserable because her father told her that she was just a bad person and it was too later for her, that ‘Whoever told you that was wrong. You can always change, any day. You just decide to make that change…’ I’m paraphrasing, but that is the quote that I think woke me up. I had to pause and think that through. Yes, a character on television was telling me this. But beneath all that, an actress, a fellow woman, Lucy Lawless, was given the rare opportunity to have such a show, and choose, even choose how, to read that line. And Lawless delivered it like someone who knew ‘how it is.’ Like she knew other women needed to hear that same message.
Did I mention I’m watching Xena right now, as I’m writing this?
I’m also a bit frustrated right now because I don’t think I will ever be able to really capture, in this blog post or ever, how iconic, how revolutionary, how spectacular it was that, in the nineties, we even got a have a television show like Xena: Warrior Princess. It was a spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and Xena’s character began on that television show, evolved, and eventually took on a life of her own. I don’t know that anyone set out to ‘make a show so badass and so uplifting for women, so unabashedly feminist at times, so beautifully sensitive to the nature of female relationships, that it changes the hearts and minds of women of all generations for a generation,’ but that’s what ended up happening. And even better than that? No damn body can take that back from us…
Do you know what I mean? Funny story, if you’re curious–I connected with an exceptional Xena cosplayer once, who also totally gets it.
After a couple of weeks of being miserable and watching Xena, I reached an inevitable conclusion: I had no excuse. Watching Xena made me feel like, no feel absolutely confident that I could go out and do, get whatever the hell I needed. Watching Xena, especially if you are a woman, strips away your fear. You have no more room to disagree, dispute or doubt that someone like you, where you are in your life, who looks like you (because there were also a lot of people of color on the show as well, triple bonus… which was ground breaking on television at the time—and the lesbian relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, or strong suggestion of that was very rebellious as well), someone who feels the way you do, who is as broken as you are, can get things done.
Xena isn’t hate and slitting throats, though she does. Xena is about making things right. Xena isn’t about hating and destroying men, though some of her enemies on the show are men. Xena is about loving men, women, loving mankind and what it is really capable of. Xena won’t have virgins be ashamed of their bodies or sexuality, and she won’t have the gods dictate to mortals and tell them what they’re worth. Xena is just a free creature. She is completely freed to herself and she is true to herself. A beautiful character.
It’s a nineties show, and they did things differently then, they just did. So, at times, the show tries to be everything at once—a comedy, a drama, historical, and there are random episodes where they are clearly trying to push for another spinoff if the fans like what they’re watching. (Though I personally loved the unusual mermaid-maybe-the-Simpsons episode; lots of other fans didn’t, I hear.) And there are more Xena and Gabrielle in a bath or nude swimming episodes than you would expect. That’s television, I guess. But those things do not take away from this invaluable show. Every woman should see it. Every man should watch it and enjoy it. I already plan to be the weird nerd mom who forces her daughters to watch it.
So, I really do implore you—watch Xena after the next break up you go through. She can either be the heroine who won’t let the worst of situations stop her because she loves herself and her vision of the world more than the ones who hate her. Or, she can be the ideal woman who should have been there for you in your last relationship, who would never mess you about, who is still out there. And actually, whether you date men or women, who says a female hero can’t inspire you, reach you at your core? It’s clear to me that Wonder Woman inspired Xena, which inspired Wonder Woman again. Stories like this will go on and on and on…
I hope that one day, Lucy Lawless gets the full recognition she deserves for helping to craft the character Xena. I’m not so sure she’s gotten it yet. Others may disagree, but here’s my context… I have read “I am Not Spock” by Leonard Nimory, which is his reflection on how much of himself went into creating the character of Spock from Star Trek. That book is a great study for anyone, especially a writer or screenwriter, who would like to better understand character craft. Character craft is very personal. It’s not just what the script writer or TV producer plot out in black-and-white or coach the actors to say and do. Actors can choose to put so much of themselves into a role they really care about. I recall that Nimoy once said he was disappointed to learn that the new Star Trek movies in the 2000s didn’t initially include him, something about him not being able to understand how those involved in the movie could possibly overlook his role in crafting Spock as a character.
Well, and I think you already knew where this was leading… I feel the same way about Lucy Lawless and Xena. I hear a new Xena television show is on the horizon. I’m not sure of how involved Lawless is, if at all… but she had better be. In the same way that Spock was recognized for his role in creating an iconic character in a ground breaking series that led to a cultural shift in America and around the world, Lawless should also be recognized. No one should be downplaying her contribution because it was Xena, or because it was a show that might happen to mean more to the women watching in the nineties, than the world who didn’t appreciate that, among other drama about ownership, women were watching and needed this story all along. I wanted my Xena movie when I graduated from high school, not when I was flipping in my mid-thirties… anyway. We shouldn’t have to wait until there is -so much evidence- in the market that women, that people all over the world, craved a story like the one we saw in the Wonder Woman movie. Women needed it then, in the 90s, and before. Lawless is obviously a consummate actress, very funny, definitely inspiring.
End rant. But you’ll see; you’ll all see! Just you wait until my novel is published, muahahah…
Well, I’ll take the chance now to wish Lawless the best of luck with everything she could want in the future. Lawless and also Renee O’Connor, who played Gabrielle. And to thank them both for adding something to my life that I would never, ever wish to be taken away from me.
Let me forget all the exes and loves in the world that I at times felt I wanted more than myself. Let me get old and senile in the retirement home and forget my own name… but don’t ever let me forget Xena, the Warrior Princess.
By the way, the first thing I did when I finished bingewatching Xena on Netflix four years ago was… bingewatch Xena again on Netflix four years ago. So worth it. It takes a long time for wounds like the ones I struggled with to heal, but I knew that I’d gone around a certain corner in my life, and could not look back. I was finally old enough to appreciate the message to women, and all people, in Xena: Warrior Princess. And, I guess since my ex was a Xena fan, too… maybe there is some hope.
Not for the two of us, but maybe he’ll eventually get his act together one of these days and find some peace. In a world where Xena is alive and lovely in people’s minds, you never know…
Xena: Episodes to Watch
I’ve organized the ones I can remember by type, but there are sooo many more that I couldn’t recall and are superior, even to these. Check out the Wiki list for even more episodes.
“Adventures in the Sin Trade, Part 1” This entire arc is insane! The woman who played Alti still gives me chills… Amazons living in a wintry world need Xena’s help when a terrifying shamaness tries to destroy them using otherworldly powers.
“Forgiven” This is the episode I mentioned, where Xena gives that great advice to the teen girl who has given up on herself, saying that you can always, always change.
“The Path Not Taken” and also later “Mortal Beloved”. Remember when I said there were some great characters of color on the show? You HAVE to check out Xena’s ex lover Marcus. Marcus is amazing.
“Warrior… Priestess… Tramp” I laughed so hard, watching Lawless playing all these crazy characters at once. She deserves the tiara for best… everything.
“Been There, Done That” If this episode doesn’t drive you crazy, whilst showing off Lawless’ amazing skill for comedy and drama, I don’t know what will. Joxer also features prominently in this one as Xena re-lives the same day again and again until she can figure out who the heck needs her help enough to make her stuck in the worst day of her life like this.
“Here She Comes… Miss Amphipolis” I just loved how funny this one was. Xena enters the Miss Known World (haha!) beauty pageant for a higher purpose… you can very well imagine the rest.
“The King of Assassins” One of my favorite Joxer episodes. He plays his own brother, a cunning and capable handsome assassin (which gets even more confusing if you consider how Sam Raimi, the show’s producer is already Joxer’s brother…)
“The Debt, Part 1” Do not. Do not attempt watching Xena without watching this episode. Lao Ma is a solidly mesmerizing character and combine that with Xena and the scenes from her past roaming around as a marauder… very historical and insanely fun.
“Eve” The character of Livia was insanely awesome when Xena and Gabrielle first re-awakened in the Roman Empire, two decades later.
“Devi” You know, even Xena and Gabrielle once bummed around India for a while… You’ll also be saying this for days, ‘She’s a Devi! The girl’s a Devi!’