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When I think of Xena: Warrior Princess, many things come to mind: The badass, raven-haired woman releasing a battle cry and chakram all at once on her enemies, and the battling bard whose outfits shrunk as the years went by. Then there are the emotions that come flooding back: Joy, when I remember how much I loved watching the show every Saturday night; empowerment when I recall how I used the Xena theme song to get through angsty childhood and pre-teen moments; and sadness when I think about how devastated I was to say goodbye to the beloved series after six years in 2001. All these thoughts and feelings have been coming back lately (reboot news), and they are especially present today, the 20th anniversary of Xena: Warrior Princess' first episode airing.
Xena was the first show I truly was a fan of. I went to message boards—what up AUSXIP!—I went to conventions, I had toys, posters from the official magazine adorned my walls, I wrote for autographs and I even flew across the country by myself for the first time at 14 years old to go to a community theater production with my uncle, all so I could meet Gabrielle herself, Renee O'Connor. Yeah, I'm a Xenite. And there are so many other people out there who can relate, who have the same feelings about the show. That's why Xena is so special. I could say was, but 20 years later, Xena is still very special to audiences everywhere.
Xena was a tale of redemption, of acceptance and of love. There would be no Xena without Lucy Lawless. There would be no Xena without O'Connor. The friendship between Xena and Gabrielle is so special to fans because it was unlike anything presented before it. It was pure love. Romantic or not, it was love. Xena made subtext a very important part of TV lexicon—and that's just one of its contributions to the TV landscape. Xena was something different—and yet the same—for everybody.
The show has stayed with me. I probably wouldn't have embarked on a career writing about TV if it weren't for Xena. Luckily my dad called me to the TV to watch "Cradle of Hope," the fourth episode of season one. He knew I was a fan of Wonder Woman and figured I would like this. I was 8 years old. I wasn't completely sold on it until he brought home the Xena action figure from the 1995 Hercules toy line. I was fascinated by this sword-wielding woman and watched from then on. I owe a lot of my TV loves to my dad, so thank you, Marty, specifically for Xena.
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And thank you, Lucy Lawless. Thank you for embracing the legacy and everything that comes with it. Thank you for giving fans somebody to look up to and for using your power for good. Thank you for doing Xena's battle cry for me when I first interviewed you all those years ago and putting up with my Xena questions. Thank you for the chakram too! Not everybody has had the experiences I've had with the show, yet every fan of the show have some thanks to give Xena. Whether it's because Xena helped them find courage to live their life as their true self or the encouragement to stand up for what's right in the world, fans everywhere have something in their life they took away from Xena.
According to Lawless, the most important part of Xena's legacy isn't how it helped usher in a new age of television, it's the show's fans.
"Oh, it's incredible fanbase who is a force for good in the world. It's a very loose sorority, although there are a lot of men in that, who are agents for positive change in their communities," Lawless told me last fall. "They get together—they do amazing things. They raise a lot of money for charities and animals—just service, service to the world. I don't know anybody else who has a fanbase quite like that. I'm sure they do exist, but I really honor them."
Now, 20 years later, Xena is poised to return to TV by way of NBC. Maybe. And Lawless may or may not be involved. Xena deserves a comeback, but Lawless has to play the title character at least one more time if the powers that be are intent on passing the torch. The fans and the legacy deserve it.
Xena is more than just a show. Xena is a hero. Xena is an icon. Xena is a legacy.
Battle on (forever), Xena!