Xena of Amphipolis, aka the Warrior Princess, is indeed my favourite fictional character.
(For the record, her character wasn’t actually a princess, which I like better now that I’m well past the age of 5 and its pervasive draw to all things “princess”.)
The show Xena Warrior Princess aired while I was in high school and university, from 1995-2001.
I’m not sure how it was I came to discover it or its two companion shows, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and The Adventures of Sinbad, but all three quickly became part of my Saturday afternoon routine. Xena was always my favourite.
“A land in turmoil cried out for a hero”
For those unfamiliar, Xena Warrior Princess is the story of the eponymous warrior woman as she journeyed through Ancient Greece with her happy-go-lucky young sidekick, Gabrielle, helping people in need.
Xena was a near-unstoppable force of nature, fighting with her sword, chakram, whip, fists, acrobatics, and any other object – proper weapon or not – close at hand.
It was already awesome enough that she could do all that. But she also possessed, in her own steely words, “many skills”, including (but not limited to) medicine, pressure points, singing, exotic dancing, sewing, and catching fish barehanded.
She also rubbed shoulders with gods, kings, and figures straight out of Greek history and myth, and possessed had the most bracing battle cry of any warrior – male or female – ever:
“Forged in the heat of battle”
Xena was made even more interesting by her backstory, for though she spent the show’s six seasons using her awe-inspiring powers for good, she had a dark past as a bloodthirsty warmonger whose army ravaged the land and murdered countless innocents for fun and profit.
Her descent into darkness apparently came about gradually, a slippery-slope response to her initiative to stop the repeated attacks on her village, Amphipolis, as a youth.
This side of Xena’s personality was very much in the past in the series itself, however she continued to grapple with guilt over who and what she once was over the entire six seasons – to the point of at first believing herself unworthy of Gabrielle’s friendship.
Xena also occasionally had to deal with the ongoing negative effects of someone she’d wronged in her past life.
“Her courage will change the world”
I couldn’t get enough of this show when it was on TV.
For one thing, as a sheltered high school student with a slightly overprotective father, I admired Xena’s freedom – that she could travel the world wherever she desired, and while doing so maintain the personal safety of herself, Gabrielle (until Gabrielle learned to fight too, which was awesome), and anyone else she cared about, such as the numerous recurring characters on the show who became friends to Xena, Gabrielle, and me – the viewer – as well.
To me, Xena epitomized and romanticized the sense of adventure, exploration, and fun with friends I craved at that age (and still do).
I also appreciated the fact that Xena was on a journey of redemption. In high school in particular this really spoke to me, for I felt I too, by a sheltered high school student’s standards, had something of murky past.
I was basically a decent kid, but had not always been the nicest person during junior high and my first couple years of high school.
The social hierarchy in my schools was always precarious. Not being inherently popular, I did what I could to maintain what little headway I ever managed to gain in that regard, whether it meant spreading rumours, spilling secrets I’d promised to keep, or following the crowd of exclusion and collusion against whomever found herself suddenly unpopular.
Yes, I had those mean girl tendencies, which I thankfully overcame by my senior year. However, I was left with considerably regret over my past behaviour and the people I’d hurt in the process.
Watching Xena taught me that it is possible to shed one’s past and become a new and better person, even though the process may be a long one and also require the difficult task of forgiving oneself.
The last two things that really struck me – and even more so now as an adult – were,
- The fact that Xena was a show with two female leads and no regular male characters, and
- Xena’s personality.
As a title character, the warrior princess was fairly dour, wry, imposing, methodical, and non-nurturing (at least not in a the traditionally feminine way). That is to say, she wasn’t the perky, quirky, cheerfully funny and compassionate type that often fronts female-led comedic drama shows.
(Gabrielle got stuck with that persona instead, but I’ll admit, she was a good balance to Xena’s seriousness. Plus, Gabrielle grew more complex as the seasons progressed.)
In other words, the title character wasn’t a walking female stereotype, but instead both more nuanced and more representative of my own personality.
“The power; the passion; the danger”
I recently decided that my next writing project will be the rewriting of my first (incomplete, shelved) novel.
Since Xena Warrior Princess was one of my inspirations for that novel, I’ve decided to re-watch all six seasons of the show.
I’ve been acquiring the DVDs from the used sellers on Amazon; for less than the price of a feature film, I’ll be able to experience each season like I haven’t since it originally aired, including the 1.5 seasons I missed the first time around while away at university.
As I complete each season, I’ll be blogging about my impressions – about how the show stands the test of time and whether it’s as good (or worse, or better) as I remember.
Who is your favourite TV character? What do you like about him/her? How has s/he inspired you, in your writing or in life? Let me know in the comments.
A/N: Subheadings quoted from Xena Warrior Princess opening titles