X – Xena, Warrior Princess, or “Gee, I hope my Gods Have a Sense of Humor” (PBP week 47)

I have a confession to make.

I am a huge fan of Xena: Warrior Princess, despite its horrific history and its ridiculously inaccurate costumes.  Even despite its questionable to horrifying portrayal of the Gods.

So, I sincerely hope the Gods have a sense of humor about stuff like this.  They’ve been portrayed badly in pop culture long before this show came along and I don’t remember any reports of mass smitings going down, so maybe I’m OK.  I take comfort from the Odyssey, and its scandalous tale of Ares and Aphrodite told for amusement.

The characterizations of the Gods in the show range from refreshing (Hades), to questionable (Athena, Ares), to horrific (Aphrodite.)

Ares is the deity that appears most often in Xena, and I don’t imagine He would mind His characterization much at all, despite being the chief villain.  He’s pretty much used to that, I’d think.  He is shown to be a serious badass (though, of course, Xena always gets the best of Him) and He gets all the best lines.  On top of that, the actor Kevin Smith (no, not THAT Kevin Smith, this Kevin Smith) is one big hunk ‘o’ tasty.

When I envision the real Ares, it’s this image that comes to mind.  Haven’t noticed any objections so far.

Hades, too, comes off pretty well compared to other modern interpretations.  He is a little on the wimpy side, what with getting His helmet stolen and losing control of His realm and all, but He is refreshingly not evil.

Athena’s characterization isn’t too bad either.  She’s sympathetic, but cold, and in the end completely daddy’s girl.  She cares about humanity, but when it is “Us vs them” She unashamedly takes the side of the Gods.  The actress, Paris Jefferson, is gorgeous and has the most amazing grey eyes.

I can’t imagine Her being at all happy about that outfit, though.

The same is true of Artemis, costume wise.  All that skin cannot be good.

I haven’t seen the episodes She appears in – they are part of the “Twilight of the Gods” storyline which makes me incredibly uncomfortable (even my fangirlishness has its limits.)

So I can’t speak to how She is portrayed, except that the actress is too old, but I have no problem seeing Artemis in this image.

Cupid is shown as a teenage momma’s boy and Discord, well… Discordians may approve of Her portrayal, actually, though she is a bit petulant.  Dionysos, called Bacchus, appears in one episode “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”  I honestly don’t remember how they wrote Him, as I was too busy being alternately horrified and amused by the demonic vampire maenads.  Many other Gods make appearances in the series and I haven’t seen them all.

Now comes the real trouble.  The second most divine appearances in the show are from Aphrodite.  I really, really hope Aphrodite has a generous sense of humor.I suspect She does.  Otherwise the regular portrayal of Her as a lingerie clad air-headed mean girl would have resulted in some serious smiting.  (*Note to self:  see if you can find out how Sam Raimi’s, Alexandra Tydings‘, and Lucy Lawless’ love lives have been going.)

Then there’s that whole “Twilight of the Gods” story line I mentioned earlier.  Xena gets the power to kill Gods and does so with abandon, in order to protect her daughter Eve (this is when the show decided to throw Christian mythology into the mix.)  Ares and Aphrodite survive, having become mortal (temporarily) but that’s about it.  There’s more to it than that, but as I said even my fangirlishness has it’s limits.

And yet, I can’t resist Sam Raimi‘s ridiculously campy style, I adore Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor, and I am delighted by the occasional appearances of Bruce Campbell as Autolycus.

Most of all I love the story of love and heroism among women.

So still a fan, even though I watch it less than I did before becoming a follower of the Greek pantheon.  And even though occasionally when I do watch, I sometimes feel I should take a shower to clear away the miasma and then make conciliatory offerings.

Are your Gods often portrayed in fiction?  If so, how well?  Do you approve, ignore it, or take offense?  Do you disapprove and watch anyway?


10 thoughts on “X – Xena, Warrior Princess, or “Gee, I hope my Gods Have a Sense of Humor” (PBP week 47)

  1. Coppa says:

    Why is it a “confession”.?, Xena has a big cult following and still has a con every yr! Its was a “fantasy”; show so it could take may liberties with History etc. Xena was badass and it was the resurgance of the TV action Heroine.

    • Agathi says:

      Though the opening line was somewhat tongue in cheek, It’s a “confession” for religious reasons. This blog is written from a pagan pov. For someone who worships the real Aphrodite (for example) being a fan of a show where She’s portrayed as She is in this one can be… uncomfortable.

      In spite of that, as I said, I love the show. I hope to attend the con sometime.

  2. Jason McConnell says:

    LOL, I too have enjoyed Xena though I haven’t watched it in a very long time. I think I was more enamored by Gabrielle than Xena … not so much the whinney early Gabrielle, but the compassionate staff wielding ass-kicking Gabrielle … and not so much the ending Gabrielle when she cut her hair (though I admit the Sai’s are a nice touch).

  3. Shine says:

    The gods have a sense of humor, or we would have been SCREWED a long time ago.

    In general, gods seem to get slightly better portrayals in popular media than goddesses do. But that’s because moderns tend to expect goddesses to be more object than deity. . .

    The Netjeru get stuck with a bunch of New Agey white- or Wicca-washed floof. It comes with the Egyptomania that’s more or less infiltrated society since forever. Some of the portrayals are fun, though. My favorite is in YuGiOh with the Egyptian god cards.

    “I summon the WINGED DRAGON OF RAAAAAAAAA!” *cue enormous blaze of light* Cracks me up every. Single. Time. That show is so overdramatic it just makes your toes tingle.

    I feel uncomfortable when I see Bast depicted as a fluffy sex goddess of lesbians and marijuana. Actually, a lot of the Netjeru get oversexualized. 😦

    • Agathi says:

      Sympathies. The Greek Gods get a lot of these weird interpretations, since they are the most familiar pantheon in the west. But at least They don’t have to put up with the furry porn.

      • Shine says:

        Death to furry porn! D:

        Although if I see one more depiction of Zeus as a divine rapist and only that, Imma scream . . . (because, like, that’s all Zeus does, yaknow. There are NO other aspects to his personality. *headdesk*)

  4. seastruckbythecrossroads says:

    Oh, I used to LOVE Hercules and Xena when I was a kid… even then I cringed when they went all christian on me toard the end of the series. Oh, our poor Aphrodite… Zeus had it relatively good in Hercules, although He was portraied more like an elderly, charismating king on decline than … the pillar of masculinity he seems to be in reality, accoding his devoted.
    The Morrigan hilariously was turned in a demi-goddess who had an haffair with freaking Devil and bred Brighid by him…. yep, we are really lucky that gods have a generous sense of humour .

    I think what kinda traumatized me is Saint Seya tough, as I used to be a really hard fan of animes – they had Athena’s reincarnated form being in love with her knight Pegasus … and actually showed her riding him like a pony when they were children (litterally!). Then they had Apollo showing up as the villain morbidly obsessed with Athena and on a quest of killing all humans only so he could have her. Errrr….The weirdest thing is that I fangirled him even then…just a bit…tough:

    Nothing to do with the real Apollon.

    • Agathi says:

      Ouch. I’m guessing the foray into the Irish pantheon was on Hercules? (I haven’t seen as much of that show.)

      And the anime Apollo – just, wow. Speaking of Japanese interpretation of myth, it used to crack my up when the Final Fantasy games had a “summon Shiva” spell, and when you cast it this weird ice princess thing appeared… It’s not like Hinduism is particularly obscure there guys…

      • seastruckbythecrossroads says:

        Yes, the Irish tackledown was all on Hercules … the show also had druids appearing like a group of embodiements of the seven virtues … which Morrigan eventually massacred, I think? Creepy, anyway. I think if I had to rewatch today I would feel — headachey.

        And the japanese will ‘reinterpret anything in the most absurd fashion… once upon I read about a manga-ization of the Loki’s story that was all over the place… and half-hilarious for it honestly:

        Even just the title cracked me up.

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