Hollywood has a long history with the Bury Your Gays trope, in which LGBT characters are killed off at higher rates than straight characters. But after the debacle that was Lexa’s death on The 100, change seemed to be in the air. The 100 executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who wrote the episode in which Lexa died, seemed to take fan criticism to heart and vowed in interviews to do better. So when NBC announced a reboot of Xena with Grillo-Marxuach as the showrunner, fans were tentatively excited, especially after Grillo-Marxuach confirmed the show would take the Xena/Gabrielle romantic relationship from subtext to text.
Now, after a little over a year in production, NBC has announced the Xena reboot is officially dead. Considering Grillo-Marxuach exited the project back in April due to “creative differences,” this isn’t a surprise. But it’s still disappointing. NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke told The Hollywood Reporter, “We looked at some material; we decided at that point that it didn’t warrant the reboot.”
Normally I’d say good. The entertainment landscape is littered with unnecessary reboots as Hollywood strip mines our collective pop culture nostalgia for a quick buck. But reviving Xena for a new generation, especially given the box office success of Wonder Woman? And making the main characters gay? That’s something different altogether. That’s a huge drop in the LGBT+ representation bucket. One that isn’t even controversial (as far as treating LBGT+ people like humans can ever be anyway) since Xena and Gabrielle were nearly openly gay two decades ago.
But all hope is not lost. Salke also told THR they’re open to reexamining the project, but need someone “to come in with a point of view about what they want to do.” (Odd, since Grillo-Marxuach had a point of view about what to do: make Xena hella gay.) Maybe NBC is just isn’t the right network. Shows like Timeless, Emerald City, and Midnight, Texas might have secondary LGBT characters, but their relationships are not the focus of the show. Even the Will & Grace revival emphasizes friendship over romantic entanglements. If NBC doesn’t think their viewing audience is ready for a high-fantasy action-adventure co-starring a happily married lesbian couple? Fine. Put it on Syfy.
No. Seriously. Syfy is a subsidiary of Universal, which also owns NBC. And Syfy is not afraid to get gay. From Wynonna Earp to Van Helsing, the cable channel has more leeway than broadcast network still bound by “know it when you see it” FCC indecency rules. Not that being LGBT+ is indecent, and America is making great strides towards normalizing gay, lesbian, and trans relationships, but those battles are often fought on cable. So put openly gay Xena: The Warrior Princess on cable. Don’t bury her before the show is even off the ground.