On this day in 1995, the very first episode of Xena: Warrior Princess aired on NBC.
Although the series had no explicit LGBT characters, the lesbian-coding of its
titular character and her gal pal Gabrielle made the show a cult lesbian
classic throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
Although dated to today’s audience, Xena: Warrior Princess was a progressive show of storytelling and special effects for its time (x).
Set in a fantasy-eqsue Ancient Greece, Xena: Warrior Princess follows the story of Xena, an Amazon warrior
played by Lucy Lawless, as she travels the globe and defends the innocent along
with her right-hand woman and farm girl turned fighter, Gabrielle, played by
Renee O’Connor. Although the show was a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Journey in which the character of Xena was
depicted as a villain, Xena: Warrior Princess
flipped the script and portrayed Xena as a hero on her path of redemption and
eventually surpassed its predecessor in both ratings and popularity. During its
second season, it was the top rated syndicated drama series on American
television and remained in the top 5 for the rest of the show’s lifespan.
In what would now be deemed as “queerbaiting” of the highest
order, lesbian viewers of Xena: Warrior
Princess were continually teased by jokes and innuendos in the show about
the true nature of Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship. In the media landscape of
2017 where LGBT audiences have somewhat of an array of media to choose from,
such obvious disregard for lesbian viewers might have tanked the series, but in
1995, it what was catapulted it to cult classic status. Xena became a culturally significant moment in lesbian history. In
a hilarious attempt to slyly target lesbian customers, the car company Subaru even released
advertisements in the mid-1990s that showed cars with license plates that read “XENA
LVR,” and an LGBT rights group was formed that called themselves The
Although the promised reboot of Xena: Warrior Princess in which Xena and Gabrielle were to be
canonically a couple was recently cancelled by NBC, nothing can erase the
original show’s cultural impact and the lesbian audience that propelled it forward.
In 2006, the Xena costume was donated to the National Museum of American
History, and perhaps even more satisfying, in 2003, Lucy Lawless herself gave an
interview in which she answered speculation about Xena and Gabrielle’s
relationship by saying, “They’re married, man.”