If you’re a Xena: Warrior Princess fan like myself, then you have probably heard that a reboot is in the works. Sadly, it is a reboot and not a continuation, which means Lucy Lawless and Renée O’Connor will not be reprising their roles as Xena and Gabrielle. That’s a little sad, but I guess I get the direction the Powers That Be are pursuing.
That being said, if this is going to be a reboot, I have a couple of suggestions and requests for how to make a Xena reboot successful today while still being true to the spirit of the show.
Xena and Gabrielle are confirmed as being in a romantic relationship in the reboot. Apparently to the other viewers their relationship was still subtextual in the original show, though it never felt that way to me—though it is true that the show tried to downplay any romance between the two characters. However, now we will have a show with two openly queer main characters. I’m beyond excited for that. Despite this great news, I want to add a word of caution for the writers: I’m not certain if it would be best for Xena and Gabrielle to both identify as lesbians.
In the original show, both Xena and Gabrielle have canonical romances with men, and while one could dismiss those relationships as a means to show that Xena and Gabrielle aren’t actually gay, many of these relationships are still extremely important to the characters. For example, Xena and Borias’s relationship is a vital one that eventually sets Xena on the path of redemption in many ways and brings about the birth of her son Solan, whose existence creates major plot points in the show. Xena’s relationship with Ares definitely shapes how the two approach and treat each other throughout the series, and while I could see it as somewhat easier to rewrite that relationship as non-romantic, it would especially change Ares’s character. I don’t see the god of war acting as kindly (kind for him anyway) to Xena as he does in the show if they hadn’t had a romantic relationship. Without their romance, he would become a much more villainous character and much less well rounded. Gabrielle, too, has a short-lived husband who was killed by Callisto, and her character arc would be very different if that event never took place. Furthermore, we now are more aware as a society that liking men does not preclude someone from liking women, so it wouldn’t damage Gabrielle or Xena’s representation as queer characters if they were bisexual, pansexual, or however you want to label them. If anything, having bisexual main characters would be giving us much needed representation for non-monosexual people.
Because of this, I feel it would be better to portray the two as bisexual, as this could give the writers a chance to explore bisexuality in all its facets. They could write Xena as a bisexual woman who is attracted to men and women equally, and Gabrielle as a bisexual woman who leans more toward women, or vice versa. There is a lot of potential here for the writers to portray Xena and Gabrielle as really well-written queer characters.
The second thing the reboot needs to do is to remember not to take itself too seriously. One of the things I loved about Xena was that the show had some great storylines and dramatic moments, but still had some super campy episodes and funny moments. One of the writers has already stated that the show will be much more serialized than the original. This is fine, and probably necessary for today’s audience, but I hope that doesn’t mean that every single episode will follow some super dramatic plotline. I can’t believe I’m saying this but… the Xena reboot should take a hint from shows like Supernatural. Ugh, I feel dirty saying that because Supernatural has really jumped the shark, but Supernatural knows how to have serious episodes and goofy ones too, and that’s exactly what Xena needs. You need episodes where Xena is fighting Callisto to save the world, and episodes where Aphrodite enchants Xena to be obsessed with fishing. That balance is essential in order to stay true to the spirit of the original show.
Thirdly, the reboot should absolutely stay away from cultural appropriation or outright racism. The original Xena wasn’t always the greatest with this—when the writers blended different mythologies together it sometimes ended up being extremely culturally appropriative. Or in some cases very racist. Every time Xena was involved in anything involving an Asian culture, I cringed, because it was always such overt Orientalism that it was painful. On the other hand, though many main characters were white, there was actually an attempt at diverse casting in the original show. Many recurring characters and side characters were people of color. So I certainly hope that the Xena reboot does the same, or maybe even recast some of the main characters as people of color. I don’t want to hear any bullshit like “it’s set in Greece so there aren’t any Black people”, because if the original show, despite its other race problems, could avoid that issue, then so can the reboot.
And lastly, while this should go without saying, I feel it still needs to be said: the show should focus on the female characters, and mainly on the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. Yeah, there are some great male characters in the show like Ares and Autolycas, but the show’s focus should always be on the female characters. Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship is essential to the narrative, as are villains like Callisto and Hope. The original show made a point of having a large variety of female characters. It wasn’t just Xena and Gabrielle fighting in a man’s world; there were many other badass women existing alongside our main heroes.
Overall, I am excited, but anxious, about a Xena reboot. This is one of my favorite shows and I want it to be handled well and in a way that is respectful to the original that fans like myself love.