Becoming a warrior princess
How Xena taught me to be a hero
I could never relate to any heroes during my childhood. I knew of many because I spent eight hours a day in front of the TV, but I didn’t feel a connection with any of them. They were all tough and muscular, brave and perfect. They had amazing powers like flying and super strength, and sometimes they even used huge guns. And there I was, a fat kid afraid of being bullied and beaten up. But that didn’t keep me from constantly talking, laughing and trying.
I remember everyone used to play guerrita (war) during recess, pretending to be one of their favorite TV characters: Goku, Optimus Prime, Zeya, and of course the Red Power Ranger. Because I didn’t like or resemble any of these characters, the other kids always ended up telling me to play one of their sidekicks. I hated that. And yes, I also hated the Red Power Ranger. Can anyone tell me why the red one is the most popular?
Fortunately, in the mid-to-late 90s, Xena the Warrior Princess appeared, and though I never played her during recess, I’ve lost count of how many times I dressed as her at home. I would wear my mom’s bathrobe, an old leather belt and, and a pair of neglected knee pads – I was afraid to roller skate. I didn’t carry a sword because I decided Gabrielle’s staff (Gabrielle being Xena’s partner/lover) was more my style. I even managed to turn a trashcan lid into the best chakram a kid could wish for. Being Xena I felt powerful and brave to the point of practicing somersaults – in the safety of my bed of course – while yelling battle cries. My mom, who sometimes watched me, never said a word. She thought I was one of the Knights of the Zodiac (a popular manga at the time).
I don’t mean to exaggerate when I say this, but finding this show at that precise moment in life changed me. Not only because I found a hero I could embody, but because I was exposed to and learned things you couldn’t find on after-school-cartoons; the Warrior Princess wasn’t like any of the Fox Kids heroes. This was a human and a flawed woman who had made many mistakes — you know, sacking and burning villages to the ground, murdering and torturing people — and the show chronicles her continuous effort to remedy the damage she has done. And this is what made her a hero.
At the time the show aired in Peru, the public icons of feminine strength were Laura Bozzo, China Chan and Gisella. So you can imagine what it was like to discover a show about smart and courageous women who never backed down or played the victim. Although, it is true that Xena and Gabrielle were very sensual characters and wore tiny little outfits that were a bit unrealistic. What I mean is that to me a warrior should look more like Brienne of Tarth and less like Sailor Moon. But those were the 90s so I won’t be too critical because, to be honest, I also love Sailor Moon.
I must confess, putting aside my love for Xena, I always related more to her best friend Gabrielle. She was a confident girl with promising fighting skills and a knack for talking herself into trouble. Always trying to find her place, she also took part in the most dangerous journeys despite being terribly afraid. So it was that with every new person she met, every place that she went to and every time she was hurt, she learned, grew and came to understand the need to stand up for what’s right, and when to lay down your weapons and surrender. I like to believe that one day Gabrielle found herself, out there in the Amazon jungle.
One of the things I remember the most is that Xena and Gabrielle loved each other intensely. You may know this already, but if that’s not the case then let me just remind you that #Loveislove #UnióncivilYA. Xena and Gabrielle had a beautiful, romantic love for each other, but this love was initially fostered by a strong friendship. A friendship that withstood it all, a friendship that is only possible after at least three seasons together fighting mercenaries, gods, demons, and death. A friendship that comes with seeing your daughter — who you should have killed because she was filled with darkness, yes Gabrielle I´m talking to you — kill your best friend’s daughter. I guess if you can overcome all of this, and have the result be love, then this love is so strong that you are willing to spend your life with this person. But with this love also comes the ability to understand when it’s time to let go. And, spoiler alert, this is what happens in the end, Gabrielle lets Xena continue down her path to redemption.
I’m surprised that after so many years I still remember the story so clearly, with such admiration. I think it’s because I found in this show a lot of reasons to be confident and excited for my future, it also taught me lessons that I only fully understood once I became an adult. Xena gave me the opportunity to discover that I too could be a Warrior Princess.
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