Xena Warrior Podcast 31 is about “The Deliverer” and “Gabrielle’s Hope,” the beginnings of a six-episode series called “The Rift,” and for many, the beginning of Xena: Warrior Princess as an enduring piece of art.
“The Deliverer” is my favorite Ares episode. The speech in The Furies is a better speech, but Ares is more desperate here, more straightforward. I like him a little scared. And doing the right/wrong thing. Sort of. Does anyone agree? Take the poll!
As always, the podcast makes me feel so validated as a fan. This is nice, because I did not feel that way in 1997. This is also nice because it’s happening post-show, so there’s no anticipation or “What If?” We know what if. As the podcast says, “It’s important that you see the whole story to see what the ramifications are.” The reason this podcast is refreshing and timely and reflective is that it doesn’t come with fandom baggage and torturous uncertainty. Thumbs up. The podcast is very sympathetic to fans who struggle with change.
I agree that this is where the show really starts. The ladies say, “[Gabrielle]’s now going on Xena’s journey.” That’s the show. (I discussed it more at length in The Price commentary).
Beyond the cut is comic books, evolution, and not very much about the horror genre.
“The Deliverer” ends with Xena ditching Boudica’s army in order to save Gabrielle. Boudica’s army is defeated by Caesar and Boudica fades into historical obscurity. So, Xena betrayed Boudica again, and she betrayed “the right thing,” defeating Caesar, because she refused to sacrifice her lover. Boudica even makes a point of calling Xena out on this by saying she doesn’t want to “distract” Xena with Gabrielle shenanigans. But Xena gets distracted anyway, and fails her quest.
This is my favorite trope1. Love over goodness. It’s deeply wrong in the hero genre. See: Pain.
Meanwhile in S-Town, Xena is not the only fandom where the male creators were like, “LOL, what rape?” The podcasters make their own references, which I avoid here (You’re actually listening, right?). But there is a fandom, actually, a whole genre, where women are kept in refrigerators, where 1999 was a formative year for “Ow, ow, consciousness raising gives me a slurpee headache, ow” (to quote Elvira Kurt.)
That’s Mike Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, published in 1987, where Black Canary is captured and tortured by mercenaries. Here’s an image of Black Canary after being tortured. (WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC) and a longer article detailing the storyline and what it meant for Black Canary. (If you’re reading this while pissed about how the Canary family has been handled by Arrow… yeah.) Grell says that the event that made Black Canary unable to have children was not rape. It’s way more important that Green Arrow feels super bad because he was powerless to save Black Canary. Impotent, perhaps?
There’s also The Killing Joke, in 1988, where Batgirl is actually raped so that Batman can go on an emotional journey. Thanks, Alan Moore. The podcast ladies touch on that type of masculine style story arc. I’m not saying that men can’t tell a decent, non-exploitative rape story, just that sometimes they don’t. It’s okay to have this discussion and also to choose not to boycott the show.
Writers learn and evolve. Just like characters. Just like feminism. It’s not 1987 or 1997, it is 2017! We can have nice things2.
Enter Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and also wrote pivotal episodes for Birds of Prey, featuring the aforementioned Batgirl and Black Canary. (Showrunners: Armus and Foster). And enter Liz Friedman, who needs no introduction.
If you’ve already written off these producers/writers, this source material, this evolution, this type of story, because it was poorly done, or you’ve never accepted Rob Tapert’s apologies for parts of his work, or whatever, you’ve missed Jessica Jones. Jessica Jones, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, combines the “rape arc” and “horror” genres beautifully. The show’s main theme is PTSD, and it explores that theme through the mood of horror–conjuring in the viewer’s imagination terrifying rape without ever showing it or sexualizing it.
Let’s call this the “Death Mask Evolution.”
So! 20 years of Rysler angst spilled. Next, “Gabrielle’s Hope.” Ugh, demon babies. But it is needed context for “Maternal Instincts,” where everything is magical pain forever. (Unless you’re Callisto (Spoilers!)).
The podcast ladies do what is so great every week–Introduce me to film concepts I know nothing about, and greatly enrich my understanding of Xena and storytelling in general. I had no idea about Rosemary’s Baby or any of the gender commentary or why the spinning shots are important. Also, I never thought I would laugh so much regarding “Gabrielle’s Hope.” Fabulous!
Here’s the video they referenced:
1The best example of this trope is Sailor Moon, which features destroying the world for love, a moment so momentous in the series it’s cos-played. And it happened TWICE! Because a world without Haruka is not a world worth saving. You guys, it’s so good. Let me know your favorites!
2It’s not relevant to comic books, but The Handmaid’s Tale is some extraordinary, empowering television.
I am Rysler and I do not know the hosts of this podcast. I have matched the names and the voices, though. Sort of. Don’t quiz me.
I stole all the gifs this week.
Supposed Crimes is a publisher of queer fiction, and a lot of it is free.