[Whoosh!] [Issue Ten - July 1997]



[Editor's Page]



By Kym Masera Taborn

(Click here to read Tyldus's Response from the Following Issue of Whoosh!)

(color and bold added for emphasis)


There was a notice in the syndicated Marilyn Beck entertainment

column in late May 1997 which read:


"Look out! More trouble is on the way for Xena: Warrior

Princess. They're casting a 10-year-old girl to play the

daughter of Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), who, Xena-philes

will recall, was impregnated in a rape by a god. Don't

tell anybody this, but here's the plot: The little girl

will look pretty and sweet, but make no mistake, she's

the ultimate bad seed, a soulless half-human with

godlike powers. Sounds like some celebrities we know."


Apparently this was an unauthorized leak from Renaissance Pictures

(RP). The keys words of this article were "daughter of Gabrielle",

"rape", and "god". To say the least, the reaction on the Internet

was intense. Many fans did not take a liking to the idea at all.

This in and of itself was not surprising. Internet fans are known

for their volatility and Xena fans are not free from this 'curse'.

In the past the news of Gabrielle's marriage to Perdicus, and of

Xena's child whipped the on-line fans into a virtual frenzy. This

time though, the frenzy was decidedly different. Primarily because

this information contained a very sensitive word: rape.


Many fans recalled previous statements by RP and associates such

as Robert Tapert's assertion:


"A lot of mythology is dark -- fathers sleeping with

their daughters, begetting this and that -- those aren't

tales you can tell in modern days..."


from SATELLITE TV WEEK, vol. 15, no. 22, June 2, 1996, "Hercules

and Xena Take on the Universe" by Jeff Adams; or Lucy Lawless'



"She's [Xena] a different kind of hero. I think it's

becoming a phenomenon for the '90s. We strongly oppose

violence against women, we never play sexual violence,

it's degrading. The fastest-growing audience who are now

taking control of the remote are women...This show has

caught a wave."


from THE DENVER POST, November 20, 1996, "It's no wonder this

woman has become Xena: Worldwide Cult Queen," by Joanne Ostrow.


Although raping by gods is pervasive in classical Greek mythology,

one could reasonably assume that rape by a god is "dark" and would

be the type of tale that Mr. Tapert was implying that RP would

avoid. Also, rape is the most overt type of sexual violence

perpetrated against women in U.S. society and in the majority of

other societies as well. Therefore is it surprising that this

notice of a rape in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (XWP) struck such a

strong chord in fandom?


How did RP and associates respond? They made ambiguous statements

publicly and privately which were interpreted in contradictory

ways. Then after the uproar on the 'Net, they started denying it

more ambiguously and more publicly. When it was apparent that they

were being understood in contradictory ways, they appeared to have

retreated and were ignoring it. In retrospect, they should have

jumped in and straightened everything out before that point. But

when they did jump in, they again started with the ambiguous

statements which actually added to the confusion -- alienating

their "apologists" and giving ammunition to the Internet trolls.

By the time it was mid-June, there were so many rumors about a

rape, a child, homophobia, and deceit on the part of RP that it

was hard to form a clear opinion about anything. Such ambiguity

may well have been purposely pursued in order to preserve the

surprises in upcoming plotlines, but in view of the larger issues,

particularly rape and sexual violence, such ambiguity only made

matters worse.


What did RP and associates do after it had gone this far? They

continued making ambiguous statements to the effect of, 'Gabrielle

will go through a dark time', 'the newspaper report is virtually

all misinformation', etc. The ambiguity was so intense that online

fans started dividing into "trust RP" and "distrust RP" camps. The

irony is that many in the "trust RP" camp wrongly construed the

veiled statements of RP associates to mean that there would be no

rape and no child. Various members of the "distrust RP" contingent

theorized that homophobia lay at the base of the story idea and/or

that RP was originally going to do the rape story but changed

their mind only after they witnessed the fan repulsion at the



If this were not disheartening enough, this all came to a head on

June 25, 1997, when Robert Tapert [Executive Producer] said in a

UniversalChat session in response to a query for an "exclusive"

for Internet fans about the third season:


Rob_Tapert says, "What can I tell you...."

Rob_Tapert says, "I think it's common knowledge, in this coming

season the character Gabrielle has a child"


From a survey of the mailing lists, forums, and e-mail WHOOSH! has

received, it is obvious that some, if not many, fans found this

'revelation' rather insensitive. As one wrote to me, "This has

been a serious issue for us, and RP's response to it has shown how

little they think of us."


First of all, it was not common knowledge, so Mr. Tapert gave the

unfortunate impression that he was either clueless as to what was

happening online or he was making a very callous joke (as another

person commented to me "talk about appearing to have disregard and

no respect for your audience").


The latter interpretation is given more weight when considering

that the question eliciting the response was "Can you tell us

something exclusive for your internet fans???" If the news of

Gabrielle having a child next season was "common knowledge" how

could Mr. Tapert's response be "exclusive for your internet fans"?

There is a paradox here which makes the most sense if you

understand it as a joke. This does not bode favorably for RP and



Second, it has created an interesting situation where RP and

associates may have alienated some of their most ardent Internet

supporters because it appeared that RP decided to play

cat-and-mouse with their fans. It is the opinion of this writer

that they should have just come out and said, "there is no rape

but there is a child". That would not have destroyed any great

public relations that they were planning (it sure as heck would

have been better than what they have gotten!). Once the paper

leaked the story, they should have dealt with it instead of

playing this bizarre game of "we know and you do not and we are

going to tease you with this by implying contradictory things."

Perhaps RP did not realize their fans were organized enough to put

two and two together and understand when they were being led down

contradictory paths. Perhaps RP did not even realize themselves

what they were doing.


The primary cause of this recent Internet "flare-up" was that

ambiguous information took on different meanings to different

people because of the unique contexts of the separate

conversations. Releasing information in this way can be a very

dangerous game to play. True, it can be an effective way of

dispersing information, but it can also backfire. The online fan

community is very diverse, but it is also very cohesive. It is

volatile and dynamic. It is great to the power of the Internet on

your side, but a living hell to have it against you.


Whatever really happened, and more importantly REGARDLESS of what

really happened, as a result of what transpired on the Internet

mailing lists, forums, and newsgroups, it now looks like RP and

associates purposely perpetuated a policy which was to highlight

the contradictions which arose on the Internet. This was

compounded by various people saying one thing in private and

another in public. There was no real attempt at correcting the

misinformation even though the misinformation was being answered

with more ambiguity. This mess is primarily the result of bad

handling. The fans on the Internet were making assumptions about

the rape, Gabrielle's child, homophobia, and the rest, because of

the way it was handled.


Sadly, this comes off to the Internet public as the appearance of

RP and associates condoning or thinking lightly of one subject

(specifically in this case, rape) when instead they could easly be

benignly thinking of something entirely different ("Oh, you think

you know what we're doing, do you?"). Also, it is becoming clear

that the "people in the know" are only just realizing that the

fans on the net get some very reliable information from a wide

circle of sources, and when the fans start putting these bits

together and get third party confirmations of other pieces, they

can come up with quite a comprehensive picture of what is most

likely going on.


Another sad result of this misinformation and misunderstanding is

that the negativity on the Internet has affected production people

who frequent it. They are spending less time online. Some would

think this bad while others not so bad, but nevertheless, the

situation has affected all parties. XWP has been in the midst of

an interesting social experiment where the door has been open both

ways. It is a pity to have this trend altered because of plain and

simple mistakes -- mistakes on both sides.


Compounding all this, of course, is the speed of the Internet. RP

and associates perhaps do not appreciate this. Do they understand

that when they (whether intentionally or inadvertently) release

little things here and there, that the pieces will be put together

eventually? If the pieces do not add up, then fans will become

polarized and, faster than one would expect, rumors are created

and factions spring to life, just as quickly and focused as in

LIFE OF BRIAN with the sects of the sandal and the gourd. In this

case it is the "The rumors aren't true" and the "The rumors are

only the tip of the iceberg" sects!


From my contact with fans, I have found that many feel that RP was

purposely playing a cat-and-mouse game with them and resent it.

This sense of being used is reflected in this comment from a fan,


"One of my opinions is that RP thought they had the Internettes

eating out of their hands. The *can do no wrong* factor. This

isn't the case. At ALL. RP is and should be held accountable for

their actions. They expect our *unconditonal* support and need to

realize that they can have it -- if they support us. Treat us with

respect and we'll treat them with respect. This whole situation

showed a tremendous lack of respect for the net fans. It IS

harsh...but if RP truly wants to have a give and take relationship

with the Internetties, they need to hear it. They can only *tease*

us so much, before they start to p*** us off -- bigtime."


Another fan stated,


"RP needs to realize that the Internet fans (Hardcore

Nutball Xenites) can be the most loyal *friends* they've

ever had -- if treated properly (i.e.: with RESPECT).

This whole situation smacks of a tremendous lack of

respect. The *teasing* as you so properly put it, has

gone from good-natured ribbing to downright cruelty.

Rape is an EXTREMELY serious subject -- not to be taken

lightly. RP should have realized that this *rumor* was

going to press a lot of hot buttons amongst fans. If it

was true they should have said as much and explained

what their intentions were (not exact plots, so much as

WHAT they intended to accomplish by doing this and to

trust their judgement). If it was untrue, then they

should have been falling over themselves to say as much.

RP may *make* Xena -- but WE watch it, WE keep them on

the air, WE care deeply about these characters, WE have

invested ourselves in them. Yes, XWP is *just* a TV

Show. But it IS so much more to a lot of us. I know rape

and incest survivors who find Xena to be an amazingly

healing experience. Who take courage and strength from

the characters of Xena and Gabrielle. To hear that one

of these people was going to be raped, was a true shock.

RP's lack of sensitivity to this is very upsetting. Not

that RP should censor themselves....but they should be

*aware* that everything they do will have a



And finally, one said,


"Wasn't Marilyn Beck the one who also ran the gossip

item about Miss Amphipolis way back when? Didn't that

sound that the most improbable rumor at the time? (Xena

in a beauty pageant? A transsexual actor playing a

transsexual character? On Xena?) Didn't all those things

turn out to be true? RP needs to remember that we hear

everything, we remember everything -- and we can put

puzzle pieces together if need be."


[Note to RP: Marilyn Beck got both leaks including Ulysses, too

... have you found out who is telling her this stuff????]


On the other hand, RP and associates can reasonably argue that the

fans are being very unfair in that their criticisms are about

things which are not even on the air or perhaps not even filmed

yet. However, with everything that has been put out on the

Internet about the 3rd season, it is nearly impossible to make any

sense out of the mish-mash. Is it any wonder that some fans think

that RP and associates are just yanking their chains purposely?

And in the end, does it even matter? RP and associates have

painted themselves into a corner. No matter what the motive was

they come out seeming either naive, manipulative, or cruel.

Whether one believes RP was simply less than competent in handling

this affair, benignly negligent, or that they orchestrated it from

the start and used the Internet fans as a test market -- in the

end, RP and associates end up looking rather bad.


I find this a great pity. I do not think RP and associates are the

Beast nor do I see them as a bunch of yokels. They are

professionals who care about their craft and are genuinely touched

by the fact that their product has affected and influenced so many

people's lives. Of what I have heard about the third season I

would be surprised if it won't be even more entertaining,

challenging, and satisfying than anything we have encountered in

the past two seasons (okay, maybe they will never top DREAMWORKER,

but that is *my* problem). RP and associates should be riding the

wave into a brilliant new season on the shoulders of its intensely

loyal and dedicated fan base, not irking the heck out of them!


Some fans have taken all these events as proof that RP and

associates think lightly of the fans and have no respect for them.

This is an extreme position and is not supported by the facts. RP

and associates from day one have always supported their fan base

and have given their blessings to many fan endeavors. What has

happened is basically a big boo-boo, which looks worse the more

afterthought one gives to it.


My opinion? This entire affair is really stupid. And over what? A

TV show? This was a problem which if because of negligence, should

have been corrected, and if purposely orchestrated, should have

been stopped long ago. To allow all those rumors to perpetuate,

especially the rape rumor, was extremely cruel. Perhaps some fans

overreacted and many jumped into the frenzy, but RP and associates

fanned the flames by their omissions. Whether this is the case or

not, at this time the circumstantial evidence lends itself to the

interpretation that RP and associates felt they could not deny the

rape rumor without compromising the valid (according now to Robert

Tapert) child plot twist. The rape rumor really should have been

squelched by all the means necessary and they should have

sacrificed a leak of the 'Gabrielle with child' storyline. In my

opinion, whatever they gained by protecting the 'Gabrielle has a

child' storyline is not even close to what they lost with not

dealing with the rape rumor promptly and HONESTLY.


It may still feel a little like a marketing test to some fans, and

unfortunately, for RP and associates, whether that was not what

they intended to do is irrelevant. Has it gone on long enough to

become an issue of credibility? Personally, I think not, but it is

nonetheless a fascinating problem, one that deserves more review

than what I have offered here. All involved parties still have the

ability to redeem themselves, but do they have the will? I guess

we will have to stay tuned for that.


But advice in hindsight is cheap. In fact, it really ain't worth a

thing. I hope that we can now wipe the dust from our shoes,

remember what we have learned, and move on to look forward to what

I hope will be one of the most entertaining and cutting edge

seasons of XWP. In conclusion, whatever happened to start all this

-- and I doubt we will ever really know the whole "story" -- I do

not think RP and their associates should get an "A" this semester

for damage control!


Kym Masera Taborn

Editor-in-Chief, WHOOSH!

Chairman of the Board,

International Association of Xena Studies


June 27, 1997


NOTE: Many of the opinions expressed in this editorial are based

on the fact that WHOOSH has been led to believe that the rape

rumor is untrue -- but who knows, it could be that RP has changed

its mind (which is obviously within their prerogative) with regard

to plots involving sexual violence.


YET ANOTHER NOTE: On July 2, 1997, UniversalChat released a

transcript of the June 25, 1997 Chat with Robert Tapert. This

transcript differed from the transcript that was given earlier to

WHOOSH!. The June 25, 1997 reads as follows:


Moderator says "Can you tell us something exclusive for your

internet fans???"


Rob_Tapert says "What can I tell you.... well, in this coming

season the character Gabrielle has a child."


The WHOOSH! version reads as:


Moderator says "Can you tell us something exclusive for your

internet fans???"


Rob_Tapert says, "What can I tell you...."

Rob_Tapert says, "I think it's common knowledge, in this coming

season the character Gabrielle has a child"


Obviously there is a critical difference between the two. At this

time it has not been determined yet whether the UniversalChat was

edited or the WHOOSH! version was in error.


NOTE TO IAXS MEMBERS: The e-mail edition of Whoosh #10 will be

released whenever I get around to it!!! Bwahahahhaha.


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