Friday, November 17, 2006

Xena at Home and Abroad


Xena: Warrior Princess co-executive producer Steven L. Sears visited USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy on October 25, speaking at length on his experience creating the internationally popular show—and dealing with occasional protests by critics ranging from homophobes to Hindus.

The discussion (listen here) ranges from Sears’ comparison of himself to Goebbels, to how the show’s creators dealt with the characters’ sexuality, to whether the surging popularity of American shows overseas is due to the shows or some new receptivity to U.S. entertainment.

Sears’ discussion of TV production rings true. Writers, he says, are trying to sell programming that will make viewers feel good about themselves. To elaborate on this a bit, it means that American characters try to do the right things even in difficult situations, and usually succeed except for the very darkest shows, like 24 or The X-Files.

This projects an image of Americans as hyper-competent, competent as a problem-solvers at a much higher levels than could reasonably be expected of anyone. But that’s what we’ve been selling, and at one point Sears says, “Hercules is the hero you want to rescue you, but Xena is the way you want to be heroic.”

It’s a university setting, so questioners do occasionally say things like “subvert the dominant paradigm of heterosexual normativity” with a straight face; but Sears’ talk is is worth listening to for his insights and gags, like how he feared people would refer to Xena as Beowatch.

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