Because the screen is the only well-lit mirror in town

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Xena and Gabrielle: The Post-Modern Love Story of Our Age

I've been watching the final season of Xena on DVD. By this time the girls were so out of the closet that they were doing everything but kissing or declaring themselves sexual partners. You would have to be the most conservative southerner in the world to not read the writing on the wall. What makes this weird in/out thing so enjoyable is how it solves the dilemma faced by most TV shows that linger over their romantic leads "will they or wont they" status, as in Cheers, X-files, etc. where you have a male and female lead pair bond who you keep waiting to fall in love and into bed. Of course, once the lovers do fall into bed and start kissing on the show, it's repulsive and time for it to end.

This is the nature of our position as infantile viewers that we are grossed out by seeing our onscreen lovers kiss unless it's the end of the film, or disaster and separation is looming right afterwards. With Xena and Gabrielle the lesbian love pair bond is actually strengthened by the lack of exposure. In maintaining their privacy, the girls maintain our interest.

It also forces them to continually find excuses to give each other mouth to mouth resuscitation and employ other nifty gimmicks. A particular favorite is what I call the reverse-double-entendre, wherein declarations of earthly love are then reversed and put in a vague fog so that what you thought they just said and was a moment ago completely and unmistakably a lesbian declaration is now again, obfusciated. In a way it recalls, for me at least, the thrill of realizing your parents are talking about sexual matters in a way you barely comprehend, as they code everything above your ears while you are, say, in the 5th grade. It's a level of adulthood that contrasts wondrously with the less mature elements of the show to create entertainment for the "person who is, in themselves, all ages."

Check my in-depth analysis of Xena Season 3 on popmatters here

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