The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Buffy versus Xena

September 16, 2005

Salon pisses me off a lot these days. There isn’t a single reason. It strikes me as more vapid and less incisive than it used to be… and a lot less daring. I suspect that when the pioneering on-line liberal magazine’s obituaries are being written, someone will say that “blogs killed Salon” – which will be particularly ironic, given Salon played some role in popularizing weblogs. Certainly, liberal bloggers are often on “the story” before Salon gets around to publishing anything on it.

What’s more annoying than the way Salon’s “hard” stories disappoint? When their geek-culture analysis gets it wrong. Take Cathy Young’s story, “What We Owe Xena”. I have no objections to anyone extolling the virtues of Xena: Warrior Princess. I was never much of a fan of its parent show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

Amend that. I was never much of a fan of Hercules except when Bruce Campbell’s character, Autolycus, made an appearance. Or “meta” episodes like “For Those of You Just Joining Us…”. Okay, I kind of liked Hercules, but it was never “must-see” TV.

I’m really dating myself, aren’t I?

Anyway, my wife and I watched Xena religiously until we got kind of frustrated by the “Hope” arc and basically turned into causal viewers sometime during Season Four. But I still google “I am the very model of a heroine barbarian” occasionally; “Here She Comes Miss Amphipolis” and “Been There, Done That” remain enormously funny.

So what’s the problem? Young doesn’t really seem to know her TV history. She writes that, “”Buffy” largely eclipsed “Xena” on the cultural landscape as the “girl power” show, garnering the critical analysis, the accolades for creative innovations that “Xena” did first (such as a musical episode) and, when it wrapped up, the grand farewell in the media.”

Young should know, or should have known, that the history of the “musical episode” dates back to the 1950s. Anyone remember Cop Rock? (I didn’t either, but it took me as much time to google a reference to it as it did to find a whole lot of Xena fan pages accusing Buffy of ripping off ideas and themes that long predate Xena).

Weedon received accolades for his musical episode because, first, it was so damn good and, second, it played with the musical genre in ways that neither of Xena’s musical episodes even began to contemplate.

Okay, I admit it; the rest of the article was fine. A good discussion of the evolution of lesbian themes, etc. etc. But for all Xena‘s virtues, it was no Buffy. Here me, Salon? Mess with Buffy again, and I might overcome my laziness and actually cancel that recurring “premium” membership.

I mean, Buffy‘s last season was bad, but it wasn’t the debacle that the last two seasons of Xena were.

… It is pretty clear I’m avoiding work right now, isn’t it?

I promise I’ll write something incisive about “soft balancing” or why the Mongols are relevant to international-relations theory sometime soon.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.