CHIA: Warrior Princess 


The Battle For The Sapphic TV Crown

by Barbara Manui & Chris Adams

Originally uploaded: 4/12/97   Reedited: 7/16/99
All Contents Copyright ©1997 Manui & Adams. All rights reserved.

Ellen, Ellen, Ellen, Ellen. For months there's been this OJ-like mantra in the media, only without the carnage. Ellen DeGeneres is taking her character to Lesbos! Watch the show for CLUES!!

Well, we watched "Ellen" and found a mildly amusing sitcom, with "clues" as daring as THIS: Ellen steps from a closet and speaks the line, "It was getting a little stuffy in there." Revolutionary.

Meanwhile, back at our usual fantasy/sci-fi habit, we enjoy watching "Xena: Warrior Princess" each week. We rolled our eyes at the pinball the series played with history, but we couldn't help noticing the reliable innuendo of a more-than-Platonic relationship arising between Xena and her sidekick, Gabrielle. A hug here, a double-entendre there. A kiss. We would look at one another and nod, saying in unison, "Reliable."

Finally, the Xena episode "A Day In The Life" aired, and the fateful line spoke as described below. With the ceaseless nattering about Ellen's historic hints, we had had enough. Despite Renaissance Pictures producers going on record that audiences were free to interpret Xena and Gabby's "friendship" as they saw fit, this dialogue stepped out of the closet for some fresh air.

Yes, we actually released this to the major wire and news services on March 20, 1997:


[Aetherco Press Release - Media Opinion - For Immediate Release March 20, 1997]


Prime Time Lesbian Revelation Laurel Goes to Renaissance Pictures, and Universal MCA

Earlier this year, in an innovative episode of "Xena: Warrior Princess," a sequence occurred that categorically established the character (played by Lucy Lawless) as the first lesbian title role of a series running in prime time in the history of network television.

"Xena" has long been a show that hints at the lesbian affair between the warrior princess and her sidekick, Gabrielle. These hints range from the coy to the blatant, but have appeared consistently every week this season. For delivery of lesbian innuendo, we at Aetherco have long declared the series: "Reliable". The media at large, however, seems to be ignoring the phenomenon.

In the subtly revelatory episode, a male character with a crush on Xena approaches Gabrielle with the question, "Does Xena ever think about settling down and getting married?" To which Gabrielle (played by Renee O'Connor) replies: "No, she likes what I do." She is instantly struck in the face by a fish launched by Xena herself.

Gabrielle's statement goes well beyond the usual double-entendres and pecks on the cheek of previous episodes. The statement is made to an outside character in defense of her relationship with Xena, and constitutes a stance of being "out". This is punctuated by a later scene which dwells upon Xena and Gabrielle washing one another in the bath, while making plans to defeat the episode's villains.

This in contrast to the media hype over the sexual preference of the title character in the ABC sitcom "Ellen" (played by Ellen DeGeneres). Sporadically for months, ABC and Disney, the parent company of the producers of "Ellen", have been touting the upcoming confession of the neurotic lead character as a lesbian, claiming to break new ground for the acceptance of gays. The hype has reached such a common state that an airdate has been officially announced for Ellen's revelation, and TV Guide has devoted a small box of its Insider section every week entitled "Ellen Watch". "Ellen Watch" reveals the totality of the passing hint that ABC dares each week leading up to their no longer historic event.

Someone in charge of the "Ellen" series has been noticing the competition from MCA for some time. In one recent episode, Ellen and her sitcom mom go to a self-defense training class. The instructor asks each participant to choose a different great woman they want to identify with, and chant her name. The first, an elderly character, names Xena. Ellen immediately begins to pout inadequately that she wanted Xena as her inspiration, but the elder won't give Xena up. By the end of the class, most of the women are chanting "Xena! Xena! Xena!" anyway.

We at Aetherco believe that both shows should be applauded for their efforts in furthering understanding and acceptance of gays. It does not make sense to us, however, to emphasize the trials of a lonely neurotic sitcom character of "confused sensibility" over that of an heroic and loving gay tv couple. This the "Ellen" countdown purports to do; the clock should be stopped as the issue is now moot.

We expect there will be critics who will question whether the outing of Xena has really taken place; but the evidence is genuine and unmistakable. Yes, Xena has been shown to have had affairs with men in her past. Yes, if you blinked, you missed O'Connor's delivery of the revelatory line. But fish or no fish, there is no other rational way to interpret that line. Battle on, Xena.

[Aetherco is a publisher of satire and observation in all media, run by Barbara Manui and Christopher Adams. Email: Website:]

["Xena" episode entitled "A Day in the Life" premiered February 17th. The phrase "confused sensibility" in describing the character Ellen Morgan is from the ABC webpage: ]



The week after releasing this to the press at large, TV Guide dropped the "Ellen Watch" box... and ran a multi-page spread about DeGeneres insisting she was "to become TV's first leading lesbian". Aetherco acknowledges only that Ms. DeGeneres is the first lesbian in a lesbian leading role of a national tv series. Which should be honor enough, as long as her network doesn't keep describing her character as having "confused sensibility".

Ellen outs April 30th. Time permitting before then, the Xena vs. Ellen Debates, including fan reactions and rebuttals, may (or may not) get posted here.

In the meanwhile, we leave you with this thought: Why not two  leading lesbians on tv? In America (Where Manui And Adams Have To Live) we revel in our dichotomies, and are comforted in our choice between twos: McDonalds or Burger King? Coca-Cola or Pepsi? Republicans or Perot? Chunky or Smooth peanut butter? Are you a Night person or a Day person? Are you a Xena lesbian or an Ellen lesbian?

Some clever spin controllette probably had this planned all along.

Sam Hill   Junk Drawer   Yamara Main