Ever since its debut in 1995, many fans have wanted to see Xena: Warrior Princess and her faithful companion Gabrielle become a couple. One of the biggest questions contemplated over the years is, 'Why didn't they?' That quandary has finally been answered by executive producer and co-creator Rob Tapert. He has a very good reason why this never happened in the mythology of the hit fantasy series. Though you might not agree with his reasoning.
It didn't take long for fans of the show to start championing a more intimate relationship between Lucy Lawless' title hero and her bard, played by Renee O'Connor. And it is a pairing that has long been championed in the LGBT community. Lawless had this to say about the allure and love for her Xena character.
"The name Xena means 'stranger'. She felt she was irredeemable. That friendship between Xena and Gabrielle transmitted some message of self-worth, deservedness, and honor to people who felt very marginalized, so it had a lot of resonance in the gay community."
That being so, there was a reason on the creative side that a more romantic pairing between Gabrielle and Xena could never happen. Rob Tapert actually blames it on another character, who was equally important to the series. He explains to Entertainment Weekly.
"We didn't really ever want to get them 100 percent together for a very strange reason. There was Ares [Kevin Smith], God of War, who we loved. We did not want to give up the hold that character had over Xena and the enjoyment we had with telling stories of Xena and Ares. So as much as we liked that Xena and Gabrielle were two people who were the best of friends, and perhaps intimate friends, we never wanted to give up Ares."
Even though it appeared that Xena and her trust sidekick wouldn't be seen making love on the small screen, the writers and show runners caught onto fans' desires fairly quickly. Though, for awhile, the brewing romance between the two characters flew right over Renee O'Connor's head. And when she first learned that fans wanted to see her character get with Lawless' fierce warrior, she was surprised. Even though it became quite obvious how much some fans wanted to see the two characters form a deeper bond, showrunner R.J. Stewart was careful to never pander to the audience, and he didn't ever want to exploit the relationship for ratings. Rob Tapert goes onto say this.
"Before we started shooting Xena, we shot the material that we were going to use to create the opening title sequences with. The studio was so concerned that it would be perceived as a lesbian show that they would not allow us to have Xena and Gabrielle in the same frame of the opening titles."
While Xena was a syndicated show, it was still on network TV and had to stay within those particular guidelines, which were much more restricted twenty years ago. The envelope could only be pushed so far without some resistance. Today's television landscape is quite different as LGBT relationships have become central to various shows such as Grey's Anatomy, The 100, Transparent and Sense8. Says Lawless.
"For the LGBT community to see themselves on TV was certainly new in the '90s. My goodness, how things have changed from Xena subtext to I Am Cait. That's an incredible evolution in 20 years, and I think it's a really healthy one."
NBC is reportedly prepping a Xena reboot, but it has not moved forward at this time. It has been previously reported that the show will feature an all-new cast, with Lucy Lawless possibly returning in some capacity, perhaps as a completely different character. There is no word yet on whether or not the impending revival will let Xena and Gabrielle be more than just friends. Another possibility would be for Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor to play a newly introduced pair of lovers. The one thing that is certain about the upcoming new spin on this fantasy mythos is that Xena and Grabrielle will be wearing much-less skimpy outfits the next time around. Which, truth be told, may disappoint a whole spectrum of fans.