5 reasons why the Xena reboot should stay dead

Contributed by
Sep 8, 2017

By now, everybody who was interested in news of the reboot of Xena: Warrior Princess has heard that the series' zombie dream has died. It's tough to say goodbye to things we like, and tougher still to give up on what we believe might have been good. But it's just like the old man who sold you the monkey's paw told you: Some wishes should not be granted.

So here are five good reasons why this reboot is better off dead:

The original series was already good.

It wasn't perfect (no show is, not even the truly great ones like Firefly and Star Trek), but it had an incredibly solid character arc for our titular stranger. Over the course of six seasons, Xena got to do everything: she got a musical episode, a "what if you lived a different life" episode, a day-in-the-life episode, and more. She got to kill gods and ride rough over a lot of history. There's no stone left unturned here, and unlike some series with great premises and terrible execution (looking at you, original Battlestar Galactica), there's nothing here to go back and fix.

Lucy Lawless? More like Lucy Flawless.

Lucy Lawless is just an incredible actress. She sank her teeth into the role of Xena, exuding a raw and wild physicality tempered with the honor and humor of a world-weary ancient warrior. A foremother to those women who made us all cry on the beach in Themiscyra, Lawless is going to be tough to replace, even if Gal Gadot is interested in wearing a very similar costume on TV. Any actress would have a tough time living up to the original Xena's swagger and smirk. It might be best to wait for an audience that doesn't have such a ready comparison.

The show was already a spin-off.

Xena: the Warrior Princess sprang fully formed from the cracked head of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Lasting for six seasons of its own, Hercules gave the same universe even more room to roam and more space to make jokes at the expense of our crazy, quirky modern era from the mouths of shepherds and heroes. Xena, unlike most spin-offs, was irrefutably the superior product. However, it nonetheless owed its existence to a progenitor show. Rebooting a secondary product seems doubly or even triply wasteful because ...

THERE ARE SO MANY NEW STORIES TO TELL.

Seriously. While audiences love to line up and pay additional money for something they've already seen and liked and are practically drooling to like again, originals and fresh adaptations languish for want of funding and a green light. This is particularly true of the work of underexposed and marginalized creators and actors. Xena occasionally featured nonwhite actors in good roles, giving some screen time to Firefly's Gina Torres, for example. However, it was a show about an able-bodied white cis woman, and a reboot would likely go the exact same route. It would chase the same Greek myths, the ones that everyone who went to school in the U.S. already knows.

Imagine an adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor's Binti. Imagine a series on the adventures of Mulan, or the ongoing saga of Furiosa as she turns her desert oasis into a new Green Place. Do we really need another reboot instead of that?

A lesbian victory for Xena means more bisexual erasure.

Finally, the hardest part of saying goodbye to a Xena reboot is knowing that the queer subtext of the original was slated to become regular old gay text when the series was brought back to life. Helen of Troy might have had the face that launched a thousand ships, but Xena and Gabrielle made a million faces scream, "I SHIP IT." If the reboot meant that these two could stop pussyfooting around and skip the footing part, many, many fans clamored after it for that reason alone. While the emergence of implied lesbianism into a fully flowered television relationship would be a great thing, there is one minor drawback to that promised revelation: Xena wasn't a lesbian.

Show runners cited her tension with Ares as the main reason that the love between the two women could never be consummated, but even that explanation falls short of the obvious truth. Xena was a bisexual character: a thing so rare and so seldom named that people forget they exist. She could have kept her tension with Ares, her history with lovers like Marcus, and her ongoing affair with Gabrielle if only the show had been able to admit that what they had created was a different kind of magical creature: an honest-to-the-gods-of-Olympus bisexual woman. If the reboot's main thrust was another instance of bi erasure, then they can keep it. Especially if it means that we'll be burying her female lovers along the way to married bliss with Gabrielle. TV's graveyard is already full up on lesbians (and mislabeled queer women of all kinds.)

Some things can only be made worse through iteration. Some shows get it right on the first try. Sometimes the lightning slips out of the bottle and there's no getting it back. Don't reboot Xena. Move on. Give us another show about mythical lesbians and let someone new have a crack at our modern pantheon of legends. Production companies may not believe it, but audiences are ready and willing to worship new gods.