'Xena' Writer Opens Up About Reboot's Approach to Sexuality Amid 'The 100' Backlash

"There is no reason to bring back 'Xena' if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually [in the 1990s]," says writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach.
Courtesy of Photofest

If he has his way, Javier Grillo-Marxuach's reboot of Xena will bring the subtext of the title character's love life above water.

In a series of recent blog posts, Grillo-Marxuach opened up about his vision for Xena, which he is currently developing for NBC. Although he did not outright declare his plans for the warrior princess to engage in a romantic relationship with her sidekick Gabrielle (played by Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor on the original series, respectively), Grillo-Marxuach strongly suggested that his story will head in that direction.

According to the writer, who counts Lost and and Charmed among his credits, "there is no reason to bring back Xena if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually in first-run syndication in the 1990s." 

In the eyes of many fans, Xena and Gabrielle's relationship extended far beyond their adventures battling mythological creatures through Ancient Greece. Many viewed them as a romantic pair, a notion that was often hinted at on the show, but never fully confirmed. In a 2003 interview, Lawless backed the idea of Xena and Gabrielle as a couple, saying that the final scene of the series, featuring a kiss between the two women, confirmed "it wasn't just that Xena was bisexual and kinda liked her gal pal and they kind of fooled around sometimes, it was, 'Nope, they're married, man.'"

Watch the moment in the video below:

[Warning: The remainder of this story contains spoilers from episode 307 of The 100, "Thirteen."]

For his part, Grillo-Marxuach's openness on his vision for Xena comes after more than a week of backlash and emotional reactions over his work on episode 307 of The CW's The 100, which featured the death of a major character, Cmdr. Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey, who stars on AMC's Fear the Walking Dead). Lexa, a decisive fan-favorite on the show and considered an icon and role model for many in the LGBT community, died moments after having sex with the series' main character, Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor). In the almost two weeks since the episode aired, fans have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction over the treatment of the character, which many view as furthering the trope of gay and lesbian TV characters killed off in unceremonious fashion. 

Grillo-Marxuach has since engaged with fans on his own blog, reposting upset outbursts without comment, and directly responding to others who have expressed their sorrow, rage, frustration and confusion. The writer, who does not plan to return to The 100 for the show's recently renewed fourth season ("It's time for me to go develop a show I can run, beginning with Xena," he writes), has offered insight into how he views the Lexa death, believing that "she dies a hero because she believed in peace and was steering her people on an unpopular, but necessary course to evolve their society." He concedes that while this was his intention, "the message has not necessarily been clear."

But the writer has been extremely clear and open about his take on Xena, talking about faithfulness to the original show ("her past will be every bit as dark as it was in the original series"), distancing his vision from previous comparisons to The Hunger Games ("the [Katniss] reference was used by the president of the network to express a kind of 'development shorthand' for type of new success and audience they would like for the remake to attract"), and even expressing his opinion on how the story should end for Xena and Gabrielle.

"I am still working on the beginning of the story and am not sure how/where it will take us," he writes. "But frankly, I think that if they should die, old age is the way to go."

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