Celebrating 25 Years of Xena: Warrior Princess
by: Tanya Cook
On September 4th, 1995, Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) debuted. Originally a spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena quickly developed its own passionate fan base. The series followed the adventures of the titular character and her companion, Gabrielle, as Xena struggled to make amends for the sins of her warlord past and work for justice.
XWP is also extremely important for the queer community, specifically in terms of its representation of a same sex relationship between the two leads. Many fans read the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle as romantic, and the show certainly broke ground for lesbian representation and same sex relationships in subsequent shows like Buffy and Wynonna Earp. The show essentially confirmed the pair were soul mates, presenting their relationship as increasingly more intimate as the series went on. Although the nature of their relationship was never explicitly confirmed canonically, the show walked as close to that representation line as possible given the constraints of market forces at the time.
25 years later, Xena’s courage is still changing the world. In this post, I share some inspiring fan quotes, discuss ways the XWP fandom is still very much active, and briefly introduce our concept of Fandom Lifecycles.
In celebration of this amazing show and fandom, I asked Xenites to share some thoughts about what the show meant to them and how it has changed their lives. Grab your tissues, folks.
“Fighting for the Greater Good is now, more than ever, not merely a suggestion but an imperative. Xena is an inspiration for all social justice warriors.” — Ana Gomes Branco.
“Xena taught me that heroism can be for anyone, no matter their past or identity.” — Haydee Smith
“Xena showed me a world beyond the fear & bigotry I grew up with. By example, these fictional people taught me how to love other people & myself.” — Sarah McKeithen
“XWP showed me sometimes your home (your safe place) is a person. XWP also taught me that it’s not the destination or outcome that matters.. it’s the journey (of life) that matters. Most importantly, XWP showed me that our pasts do not define us. Definitely gave me the strength to move on with life after some bad things happened to me when I was in my teens. She basically gave me the strength and hope to keep living and be a better me everyday.. For that, I’m grateful for the show and its impact on me..
‘Never let the darkness of the world or the past dim out the light within me.’…is something I live by after watching XWP. It’s not a quote from the show but given the darkness and the past of Xena, this line became my live-by ‘quote.’” — Veronica
“Xena taught me to be proud of who you are and to make no apologies for it and if you don’t like it go screw yourself.” — Sheryl Delgado
“Xena taught me that, no matter how small and insignificant you may feel at times, you leave a lasting fingerprint, whether you’ve fought armies by the hundreds, or have grown up only studying maps and stars” — Trista Holmes
“Xena taught me a lot of things when I was a kid in 1995. The first thing was women can be just as strong as any man and can make a name for themselves. The second thing is to live for the greater good and help thy neighbor if you see them defeated in battle, because even the smallest army can defeat anyone against them. Lastly, is to love all people, even the ones that seem evil to our eyes, because they all can change. All people need to be shown courage and kindness as you want to be treated. Nothing should get in the way of that even if they are your sworn enemy. This means to love all no matter their sexual orientations, skin color, or sex.” — Rose Faupel
“Xena originally aired during a pivotal time in my early life, and the large fan reaction on the internet at the time allowed me to easily find and interact with people who were similarly impacted by the series. Back then if you were a young person growing up in a rural area where no one was like you, seeing other fans like you on the internet offered some assurance that you weren’t so different after all.” — N. D. Collier
“I was a senior (2016) in high school when my dad got me into it. Back then…. I was having a hard time to figure out what to do next in my life till I saw xena for the first time. From that day, Xena still played a big part in my life. I lost my first cat named princess three years ago, Xena was my escape while I grieved the loss of my first pet. When my uncle was alive, he gave me two xena figurines and I kept them to remember him by. Xena showed me what it takes to be a leader since I am one of the university of Dayton’s best buddies chapter ( I am the buddy director). I made a poster of Lucy as xena and I posted it on twitter. Guess who liked the post of my poster? Lucy Lawless. I am not making this up. It is true. That was one of the best moments of my life. I kept the moments. Whenever I have a bad day, a little pick me up, Xena can always cheer me up. I learned a lot from the series and the cast members. Xena played a big part of my senior year and still is a big part of my life, then, now and forever.” — Anna Weatherspoon
“When Gabrielle said to Xena, ‘I won’t stay home. I don’t belong there, Xena. I’m not the little girl my parents wanted me to be,’ she sparked something in my soul. I felt like I had found someone who understood how it felt to feel trapped by what your family (and the world) expect of you and how you just want to run away from it all. I still can’t hear that line without feeling my entire being light on fire.”
“Xena opened my life to some wonderful friends, and fun, across the known world. Xena Cons & Fests were like nothing I ever experienced before or since. The camaraderie between Xenites is something that even the gods, what’s left of them, cannot destroy. Battle On!!” — Jettnite: Former Sargent at Arms to Queen Evelyn of the Florida Amazon Tribe. Our young queen left us to find herself, but apparently she either got lost on her way home, chose to live among the bacchae, or perhaps rode away on a strapping young centaur, I’ve heard varying stories from passing bards, around the campfire.
“I joined an email list called “The Sisters of Subtext” way back in the early days of the Show. I made so many good friends that I have never met, I still hear from some of them to this day. Hard to believe that it has been 25 years!” — Rocky Macelli
“I didn’t see Xena until a difficult year in college in 2008. It not only got me through the semester but connected me with dozens of amazing friends that I continue to treasure through the years.” — Laura Ungs
“Xena taught me how to survive while carrying trauma. She taught me that our differences from one another make us stronger. Xena showed me it was ok to move through the world the way I AM rather than how the world expects me to.” — JH
“Xena opened my life up to the best people and the best experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t know what my life and world would be without that show and all the friends and love it has brought me.” — CS
Xenite Fandom: Alive and Kicking Ass
The Xena: Warrior Princess Fandom is alive and well. In our book monograph, Always Keep (Nerd) Fighting: Fandoms as Social Movements, we introduce the concept of fandom lifecycles. For us, the Xena: Warrior Princess Fandom is what we call a “Legacy Fandom.” We define Legacy Fandoms, like Star Wars and Star Trek, as fan communities that are still active even decades after the media that inspired them originally aired or was published. Although it may seem like Xena is different than Star Wars and Star Trek in that it has not had new spin offs or sequels to sustain the fan base, Xenites are a passionate, loyal, and active bunch.
Here are just a few ways the Xena: Warrior Princess fandom sustains its intensity and rekindles the emotional energy that fuels fandom engagement.
Xenite Retreat, the brainchild of Penny Cavanaugh, is an annual event that I like to describe as “Xena: Summer Camp for adults.” Penny and Team Awesome (the truly tireless and Awesome volunteers who help host Retreat) organized the event after Creation Entertainment announced that Xena Con 2015 would be the last official Xena Con. Retreat includes all the activities you’d expect from a summer camp: hiking, crafting, team games, archery, swimming, softball, plus Xena-themed activities including a continuous Xena Marathon, game nights, dances, costume contests, and even academic panels. Plus, next year, Xenites will be treated to the debut of Xena: Warrior Musical at retreat! Check out details about the musical below.
Retreat is more about fans coming together with fans than celebrities. That said, “special guests” do come to retreat and join in the fun. It’s a very laid back, calm environment, however, with no lines and more genuine interactions. If you are interested in meeting actors from XWP for photo ops and autographs in a more typical con format, Creation Entertainment is hosting a 25th Anniversary Xena Con in Burbank in 2021 the weekend before Retreat.
Xena: Warrior Musical:
Inspired by Xena: Warrior Princess, collaborators S.C. Lucier and Meghan Rose, wrote a rock musical featuring 20 original songs. The musical fits within the Xena verse without being a sequel or rebooting it. The story flows like fan fiction, in the best way, and the songs are nothing short of brilliant. You can purchase and download the original songs on Bandcamp and follow and support the project on Facebook. The musical will debut at Xenite Retreat in 2021!
Xena: Warrior Podcast: Described as “three film grads analyze the Hades out of Xena: Warrior Princess,” Vera, Katie, and Livy research the bejesus (this is an academic term) out of each episode of XWP and trace through lines to subsequent projects. This podcast is funny, enlightening, and fantastic. Time and time again, the hosts demonstrate that when it comes to everything from innovation in storytelling to inventing both a tracheotomy and cesarean section (in the same episode): “Xena Did it First!”
IATOAG: In a Time of Ancient Gods Podcast: Join Hailey and Justine for an episode by episode podcast with comedy, greek myths and more!
Babbling Bards Podcast: Liliana and Trista host both a podcast and website featuring trivia, mushy fan fic, and even merch available under the Warrior Wares section.
Also — check out this fun D&D stream set in the Xena Verse — Adventures in the Known World!