The Power of Myths Looking like They Just Stepped out of Ancient Mythology, Two TV Superheroes Have Muscled Their Way into Pop Culture
Patton, Charlie, The Florida Times Union
Siegfried Nelson is typical of the people who have turned
Xena: Warrior Princess into one of television's hottest cult
When the lawyer-turned-freelance-writer first became aware of
the top-rated syndicated action series -- and of Hercules: The
Legendary Journeys, the show that spawned Xena -- "I think I was
But that was before he actually watched Xena, having seen
nothing more than quick glimpses of striking, leather-clad bodies
while channel surfing. Once he tuned in, Nelson found a show
"much more intelligently written than I had expected."
Thus, the Jacksonville resident joined legions of devotees of
these slightly-kitschy chronicles of ancient gods, goddesses and
merely clever mortals.
(The programs are shown twice a week in the Jacksonville area
on WTEV TV-47: Hercules at 8 p.m. Fridays and again at 6 p.m.
Sundays, and Xena at 9 p.m. Fridays and again at 7 p.m. on
Hercules and Xena, both filmed on location in New Zealand on
modest budgets, have been the subject of academic papers, online
fan worship and popular guidebooks. More to the point, Xena, in
its second season, has surpassed the once-lofty Baywatch as the
No. 1 syndicated action series on television.
Nelson kept finding references to the shows on the Internet,
which isn't hard since, by his count, there are 850 Web sites
devoted to Xena alone (a new book on Xena suggests the figure
may be much higher, with a key word search registering 7,200
Xena references). Prompted by what he read online, Nelson
decided to take a closer look.
"Lately they've been doing Kierkegaard," he said, referring to
Soren Kierkegaard, a melancholy 19th century Danish philosopher
considered the founder of existentialism. To support that claim,
Nelson noted a Xena episode titled Maternal Instincts, which
posed the question under what conditions would it be appropriate
to sacrifice one's child, a subject Kierkegaard explored in one
of his books.
His growing interest in the show led him to write a story
titled Cry Murder: The Politics and Ethics of Homicide in Xena:
Warrior Princess for the February edition of Whoosh!, an online
Nelson is far from the only unlikely Xena enthusiast. Claudia
Stubbs, a Jacksonville loan processor, has become such a Xena
devotee that she attended a fan convention in Valley Forge, Pa.,
last summer. "My family thinks I'm nuts," she said.
Academic admirers Robert Weisbrot, who teaches American
history at Maine's Colby College, has written two paperbacks
just published by Doubleday: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys --
The Official Companion and Xena: Warrior Princess -- The
Official Guide to the Xenaverse.
In a telephone interview, he said he has purposely taken a
low-key approach to publicizing his involvement with the books
because of apprehension that his academic colleagues would
ridicule him. But his unbounded enthusiasm for the shows
convinced him both to write the books and to talk about them, he
"In academe, this will be seen as a disgrace," he said. "But
writing these books is more important to me than my career.
Frankly, I welcome any opportunity to proselytize on behalf of
these shows . . . I want to convey how exciting and rewarding I
Even Leslie Perkins, who teaches Latin and Greek and Roman
mythology at St. Johns Country Day School, admits to a sneaking
affection for Hercules, though most of her colleagues in the
classics disagree. …