Bringing Out the Warrior Princess

In Caesar’s new reality,
Xena is his empress. A famous Greek playwright named Gabrielle comes to present
her latest work to the Romans, and in the greatest romantic tradition, she and
Xena are struck with what can only be called love at first sight.

They gaze at each other
across crowded rooms. Xena casts tortured glances at Gabrielle when she is
called away by her husband. They stare longingly at each other from their
balconies in the moonlight. Xena gives her life to save Gabrielle, and
Gabrielle risks destroying the entire world to save Xena’s.

Caesar calls Gabrielle
Xena’s “girlfriend,” and his violent jealousy would make absolutely
no sense if Xena and Gabrielle weren’t being depicted as lovers.

And, in fact, that’s just
how they were being depicted. Fugate appeared at this year’s convention
and spoke with backstage. “The paradigm in my episode was
that they find each other in any lifetime and they were meant to be, no matter
what body they were in or what gender they were,” she said. “These
souls were entwined somehow. And that, to me, almost has more a spiritual
connotation than a sexual one, although I personally believe that they were
lovers and had a committed relationship.”

She added: “I think
we touched people, and it was multifaceted with all the spiritual components as
well as the love. But the love was so intense, and ‘We’ll find each other in
any lifetime,’ I think, is profound. I don’t know many shows that say that,
period, heterosexual or homosexual.”

Given that, it’s
surprising there wasn’t a kiss in the episode, something that had been played
with both teasingly and tenderly (if briefly) in earlier episodes.

“There was a kiss
written in which was more definitive, and it’s in the script that they sell
here [at the convention],” said Fugate. “So my intention was actually
to push that envelope, and I was really supported by Rob and R.J. and everyone.
But ultimately they pulled it, because they wanted to maintain it for the

The finale is, of course,
a sore spot for Xena fans; mention of
it during R.J. Stewart’s appearance triggered the only boos of the convention
weekend. He took them in stride, defending his decision to kill Xena at the
series’ end, but there’s no question it took the shine off the climactic kiss
the two women shared in “A Friend in Need.”

Fugate, who announced at
the convention that Renee O’Connor will play a lesbian on Army Wives
later this year, is optimistic about the possibility that a show about two
female heroes who are openly lovers could be made today.

“This may sound like
a writer’s answer, but I think anything works if it’s well-written,” she
said. “If you have respect for the subject and if you can find a universal
theme, anything will work.”

She said she feels that
doing that would be easier today than it was in the ’90s. “We probably
couldn’t push the envelope as much then as we could now,” she said.

“The subtext issue
gets asked a lot; I think everyone here has been asked about it. And I think
that’s because it obviously touches people, and we had an opportunity to
dignify these relationships. And everyone felt it did that. I think both the
lead actors have come forward and said this is how they view their characters
and how they played them. We did what we could.”