I've seen a few rumours, rebuttals, and wishlists about this over the last few years but it seems a reboot of Xena: Warrior Princess is in the works! Game of Thrones has struck televisual oil, and the networks want their own sex, sword, & sorcery series to "me too" with. And hey: one of the networks had one of those that was something of a hit a few years ago! Time to dust it off, spruce it up, and send it out there it seems.
As with many reboots, and particularly those of things I love (and I really LOVE Xena), while I'm really excited, I'm trepidatious.
Firstly, it might just plain suck. I know the original was cheap and tacky and camp and a bit lame but it was all done with a nod and a wink and that was part of its charm. Would you expect anything else from the minds that brought us The Evil Dead films?
What if the new one is just bad? It tries to be serious and feels contrived. It tries to be campy but feels like a spoof. And so on.
Secondly, trends change. Themes fall out of vogue. Xena predates Tomb Raider. In 1995, when Xena started, I think the idea of a female action heroine was a bit of a novelty in itself. That may have helped its success. Since then we've had Alias, Dark Angel, Veronica Mars, and of course, Buffy. Has the time for that passed? But now we have films like “The Hunger Games” and studios have seen that there’s a big market again for something based around a female action heroine. But what if taking the show in a direction that appeals to new audiences makes it a completely different show and one I don’t like? What if “the subtext” is passé now?! Gritty is in now. Batman's gritty. Superman's gritty.Game of Thrones has upped the bar for gritty and graphic. Spartacus was all sex and swords and Lucy Lawless has already gotten her merkin out on Spartacus. What if they want Xena do be just as excessive in it's violence and sex? I'm not a prude. I don't think these things have no place on telly. But would it destroy some of the whimsy of Xena? Or would it change the tone and let Xena be an awesome epic of a different style?
Reboots happen. Good or bad it won’t erase the original from existence. I’m not actually that precious about it that I won’t be interested to see what exactly they do with a new version of it. If it’s not to my taste, I just won’t watch it.
But as the article I linked above states, it’s unclear if or how Lucy Lawless will be a part of it.
I, and I’m sure many other fans, would balk at the idea of a Xena series without Lawless. She was kind of definitive. She’s stated an interest. So what would stop her?
Could it be that, at 47, she’s too old?
The author of one blog post I read rubbished this by pointing to male action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Liam Neeson – all in their 60s and still successfully taking action roles. I don’t think it’s that simple. It’s different for men. It’s well documented that the film industry holds women to different standards than men. Women are expected to be younger and I’ve noticed they’re usually less empowered.
The issue, that I think the previous blogger failed or didn’t want to note, isn’t that Lawless is too old to cope with the physical demands of the role. She’s clearly not. Men pushing 70 are doing it. The issue is, that Lawless may be too old for studios to comfortably put her in a prime time action lead.
Previous reports suggested that NBC wants a “younger Katniss Everdeen-ish Xena”. Naturally. What I would imagine are the target demographic for this new series, (mid teens to early 20s males and females) were being born and learning to walk when Lawless was last Xena. They don’t care for precedent. This Xena will be a brand new series to them so this new show has a blank slate. If the target audience don’t know or care for Lawless, why cast someone so far removed from their demographic? A woman pushing 50 is probably too old to be desirable enough to the young straight male part of the target audience (and gay females if they make that as much as a target demographic as the original series started to do), and too old to be identifiable to the young female part of the audience, which is a shame because while Xena was always a flawed character, she was actually quite an aspirational figure in many ways.
And maybe they’re right. As much as there may be people who remember Xena from the first time round who’d love to see Lawless front and centre in the role, if it just won’t get enough bums on seats at 8pm then the series will fail and that would be them cutting off everyone’s nose to spite their faces.
What do you think?
Is Lucy Lawless right for a rebooted Xena?