I was a HUGE Xenite back in the day. One might say I was a hard-core nutball. And I was super-excited to hear that the new Xena series is going to let Xena and Gabby out of the closet! But here’s a strange conundrum… is the new Xena less progressive than the old?
The original show put on a charade of “two single, straight women.” But anyone who watched the show could see Xena and Gabby were lovers. So in practice they were shown to be two bisexual poly women in a committed, long-term, and open relationship. They had occasional flings, and even serious secondary relationships. That’s actually still pretty uncommon on TV today.
If the new show goes with an overt lesbian relationship, that’s certainly more progressive than the original Xena’s mask of “two straight women.” But I suspect that they would no longer be in an open relationship, because I don’t think NBC would be OK with that. Which is actually a step back, right? The monogamy myth gets reinforced again. To say nothing of bi-erasure.
Of course the key aspect of Xena & Gabby’s relationship was that it was between Xena and Gabrielle. That is the most important part to keep. It’s the part I’m super-excited for! :)
But there are far fewer poly relationships shown in the media than lesbian ones. A lesbian couple isn’t that big a deal nowadays. So for NBC to neuter the poly aspects of their relationship, to make the couple more palatable to mass audiences, is actually counter-progressive. I find it ironic that this erasure is being done in the name of progressivism.
But then again, the only reason the original series got away with it in the first place was because the whole thing was (nominally) closeted. It’s a strange world we live in.
You make a good point here. In a way it does seem like taking one step forward while taking one step backward. Also, thanks for the update on Xena, it has been a long time since I watched this or heard any news about the show coming back.
However, watching more recent series that actually contain poly relationships is interesting for me because of the frank discussion about both the primary and secondary relationships involved.
While those of us who watched Xena when we were old enough to understand the idea of subtext viewed it largely the way you outlined above, we never did get to see any of the type of genuine discussion that goes into making a poly relationship work. For me that has been the main draw series that try to provide a somewhat realistic look into poly relationships; something the original Xena never really did in order to maintain the charade that allowed it to stay on the air.
While it may be that NBC will surprise us, I suppose I will just have to try finding a good fanfic for Xena providing the best of both. Now that your HPMOR podcast has shown me quality fanfiction really does exist (thanks for that BTW).