From 1995 until 2001, Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor blessed our screens in what was considered one of the gayest fucking shows on television, beloved by queer women worldwide.
Over the course of its seven year run, Xena Warrior Princess was a series that focused on "gal pals" Xena and Gabrielle as they rode around the countryside, fighting everything from highway bandits to the entire Greek pantheon. But beneath all the sword swinging and chakram throwing was a "friendship" heavy with self sacrifice, longing looks, even longer hugs, shared baths and the occasional jealous tantrum.
Due to the uptight conservatism of TV censors at the time, Xena and Gabrielle's relationship stayed strictly within the confines of subtext. However, that didn't stop the writers (such as out lesbian Liz Friedman) pushing the boundaries, and in 2003 Lucy Lawless confirmed the true status of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship in an interview with Lesbian News:
"There was always a ‘Well, she might be or she might not be’ but when there was that drip of water passing between their lips in the very final scene, that cemented it for me,” she said. “Now it wasn't just that Xena was bisexual and kinda liked her gal pal and they kind of fooled around sometimes, it was 'Nope, they're married, man’."
I mean, really:
It's now 2016, and it appears that Xena is going to get another shot at being a queer icon for a new generation, but this time, it'll be all maintext.
** Warning: the following content contains spoilers for The 100 **
CW's The 100 Executive Producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach has been tapped by NBC to pen the new Xena pilot, and in a a Tumblr Q&A yesterday, confirmed that this time around, Xena will be a lot gayer:
"xena will be a very different show made for very different reasons. there is no reason to bring back xena if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually in first-run syndication in the 1990s. it will also express my view of the world - which is only further informed by what is happening right now - and is not too difficult to know what that is if you do some digging."
The "what is happening right now" refers to the current controversy surrounding the death of popular queer character Lexa on The 100 which has resulted in an online shitstorm for Grillo-Marxuach and leaves many queer women hesitant to see him at the helm of a much beloved and iconic queer series.
However, regardless of his past deeds, it's exciting to hear that there is finally some traction on getting Xena back on the small screen, and as a fan of the original series, I can't wait to see how they approach it this time around in an environment where realism has become the staple and queer characters are becoming progressively more visible with each passing year.
The primary concern in regards to Xena and Gabrielle's representation in a reboot is whether or not their bisexuality will be whitewashed. Over the course of the original series both Xena and Gabrielle had relationships with men, and these relationships were often an important part of driving the plot forward.
Bisexuality has already been successfully represented within the fantasy genre, the most standout example being the character of Bo Denis from Lost Girl. Bisexual women as characters no longer represent the tropes of "lesbian in hiding" or "experimenting straight chick who went back to the dude in the end."
Bisexual erasure is an ongoing problem, and we can only hope that the show runners of this upcoming Xena reboot don't erase the entire history of the original incarnations of Xena and Gabrielle.
In the meantime, we can all celebrate, and then hope like fuck that MMA fighter and actress Rhonda Rousey, or someone equally badass gets cast as Xena.