What I’m Watching: Xena, Warrior Princess

So I’ve been watching the first seasons of Xena for the last couple of days. Largely I blame Tansy Rayner Roberts for this, since I borrowed the DVDs from a friend after reading the Xena Rewatch Notes on her blog. I can recommend going and checking those out, should you want to follow an in-depth discussion of the first season, for although I’m enjoying the show I’m primarily going to note the three things that are really, really bugging me.

Surprisingly, it’s not the casual relationship to history – I’m totally down with the mix-and-match approach to myth and historical reference points. It’s not the dodgy CGI monsters either (although I’m struggling to figure out where the hell the bat-winged, skeletal dryads came from in one of the early Season 2 DVDs). It’s not even Gabrielle, who is irritating for the first half of the season *with a damn purpose*. It’s not even the complete disregard of the laws of physics that occur during the fight choreography.

No, I’m irritated by a couple of very specific things. Basically, they go something like this:

1) Why is Xena a Warrior Princess?

Seriously, this is bugging me. I get that Warrior Princess scans better than any of the more obvious sub-title options, but I can’t quite figure out why she isn’t just a Warrior, a Warlord, or even a Warrior Queen. I mean, princess of what? Where’s the damn the lineage? And if you get to pick your own title, why pick the secondary role rather than selecting a title at the top of the damn hierarchy? I could probably have lived with this if it was just a sub-title for the show, but it keeps coming up in conversation. Secondary characters call Xena a Warrior-Princess a couple of times throughout the season, and at least once she’s used it to reference herself, so it’s obviously a thing. A real thing, in the setting. And I just don’t get it.

2) Fights where people balance on things

I mean, seriously, there are a half-dozen of these over the course of the season. And I could maybe understand it as a motif thing – there’s a certain balancing act going on in Xena’s character – but they rarely play it as such in the same episodes where they actually depict the emotional balancing act. And I suspect I’d be totally put off if they did tie the two together, for it would be twee and obvious, but at this point I don’t trust the show to be doing this kind of thing with subtlety.

3) The Use of Christian Mythology

Not because I feel any particular attachment to Christian myth or ideology – I don’t – but the realities of pitching of a television show to a contemporary audiance mean that it’s very hard to treat the mythology in the same way as the other myths due to the frothing-at-the-mouth-and-complaining factor that’ll inevitably follow. There are still the occasional moments where this is handled well, but by and large things take a downhill slide the moment a character talks about having a new, singular god.

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