Thursday, May 5, 2016

31 Day Xena: Warrior Princess Challenge, Day 5: Favorite Season Two Episode

Via Wikipedia
Oh, Salmoneus, you are equal parts one of the best and worst aspects of the Kiwi productions of Greek non-history. Every time you pop up, I am both delighted and annoyed because, to be honest, the character is borderline racist but also amusing, so ... toss up here, really. But then again, he appears in so many of my favorite episodes of both Xena and Hercules that I am almost ready to forgive him for existing.

Because ohmygod I absolutely looooove "Here She Comes, Miss Amphipolis," and Robert Trebor's Salmoneus is a big reason for that. Not the main reason, which I'll explain below, but he's so hilarious in this episode that I thought it beared mentioning.
Via Sam Wood Mills
Anyway, moving on. Xena: Warrior Princess was known for breaking a lot of taboos well before they even hit debate in the mainstream, and "Here She Comes" is definitely a perfect example of that. Miss Artiphys (above), one of the contestants in the hilariously-named Miss Known World Pageant, is transgender, and, spoiler alert, she fucking wins. Now, granted, it's because the other forerunners of the pageant dropped out because they discovered their worth wasn't dependent upon winning the contest, but there were others behind her that didn't win. And here's the kicker: Xena didn't out her as transgender, even after Artiphys tried to scare Xena by locking her in the steam room (long story), and their friendship by the end of the episode is so freaking sweet. Mind you, this was in 1996, you guys, which was 20 years ago (dear God, I'm old).

Secondly, I love how woman-positive "Here She Comes" is. Even Xena initially dismisses the women competing in the pageant as "underdressed, overdeveloped bimbos in a beauty contest," but she (and the audience) learns there is much more to them by the time the credits roll. They were all trying to improve their kingdom's situations or their own lives and were all talented and beautiful in their own ways. The men throughout the episode are portrayed as woefully unaware of things, including the women they supposedly loved. They weren't necessarily dumb; just preoccupied with proving their own badassness. This episode is actually one huge commentary on toxic masculinity. Lord Clairon, the guy who runs the freaking pageant, has been sabotaging it (and trying to kill the contestants) so he can profit from war (again, long story - just click over HERE to read a summary), and the women were involved in the first place so their boyfriends would not go to war with each other.
Via Wikipedia
Does it get silly? Yes. Gabrielle pretends to have an atrocious accent as she poses as Xena's sponsor, for example. Does it give you overexaggerated representations of male-gaze, status quo beauty? Um, do you see the above picture? But it's so wonderfully subversive. Of course, the women are going to be presented as catty and vapid. Of course, the men will only care about their reputations and force their significant others into situations where they will be in danger. Like I said up above, even the warrior princess herself was subject to assumptions about what was going on; she didn't even believe there was really a problem in the first place.

This is where Xena nearly always excelled: pairing the goofy with subtle seriousness that wouldn't necessarily be noticed upon first watching it. Casual viewers can easily dismiss the show because of episodes like "Here She Comes," where a silly premise like "Xena goes to a beauty pageant" seems like pure fluff. But underneath it is some deep, deep shit.


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