Monday, May 7, 2012

Jane & Maura vs. Xena & Gabrielle

I was recently asked to be on a radio show about the show Xena: Warrior Princess. It made me go back and watch some episodes to refresh my memory. You'd think watching them over a hundred times each would burn them into the memory banks, but I needed a little refresher. That along with the new season of Rizzoli and Isles looming on the horizon made me start comparing the two "couples," Xena & Gabrielle and Jane & Maura, along with the shows they inhabit. If you follow my website you'll know that I'm a rizzles fan and if you've been following me long enough you'll also know I'm a huge Xena and Gabrielle fan.

I began watching Xena in the middle of the third season, January 1998. I loved the friendship and the subtext. I read the fan fiction, watched and made fan music videos, even made my own Xena and Gabrielle website. I went to most of the east coast conventions all the way up to 2007 when I finally made it to the yearly Xena con in Los Angeles. I was completely immersed in the fandom for a lot of years. To this day I still keep track of what the stars, Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor are up to.

"I Kissed a Girl"
When Rizzoli and Isles began a friend of mine tried to get me to watch it. I didn't. Finally, in January 2011 she got me to watch the episode "I Kissed a Girl" and I was hooked. Interestingly, what hooked me was the banter between Jane and Maura. It had the same feel as the banter between Xena and Gabrielle. In looking back though, I realized that these two shows are so vastly different and the magic of the Xena and Gabrielle subtext could never be recreated with Jane and Maura.

Xena was a fantasy show. There was so much they could and did do that would satisfy or entice subtext fans. Where else could they have their two female leads kiss five times in six seasons and still have people call them straight? They also did little teases that subtext fans ate up like Xena's "hickey" Joxer spots in "Been There, Done That" followed by the look Gabrielle gives as if her and Xena had just been caught.
Xena's hickey
By the sixth season Xena's executive producer Rob Tabert, knowing it was the last year, decided to simply go for it and bring the subtext more to the forefront. No one, including the stars themselves, could say that Xena and Gabrielle were not a couple by the end of the series. That is something that I feel could never be recreated with Jane and Maura.

Rizzoli and Isles is essentially a crime drama, buddy show. It's patterned more after the 80's Cagney and Lacey or the 70's Starsky and Hutch, then the fantasy, Greek gods roaming world of Xena. The subtext in Rizzoli and Isles stems from the chemistry between the lead actors,  Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. The characters themselves are based on the novels of writer Tess Gerritson. In the books Jane gets married and has a child, and Maura has an ex-husband and is having a secret affair with a priest. There is no doubt they are straight.

When the show began there was never any doubt in the creators' minds that these women were straight. That doesn't stop fandom from seeing what isn't intentionally there. Jane and Maura became close friends who are always there for each other and support each other. They laugh together, tease each other, and enjoy spending time together. Maura has become a part of the Rizzoli family with Mama Rizzoli even renting Maura's guest house. As a lesbian, when I see these things I see my relationships with both friends and lovers. They're women, and women's relationships with each other are very similar whether it be close friends or lovers. The main difference naturally being whether there is a sexual relationship or not.

Season 2 "Sailor Man"
The producers have given a couple of nods to the rizzles fandom, most notably when Jane and Maura pretended to be a couple to stop Giovanni from chasing Maura. It was a cute little scene, but that's all it was, a nod, a way of saying, "Hi rizzles fans, we know you're there, and we love ya!" Personally I thought it was very cool of them. The other things we rizzles fans see, well I'll be the first to admit could be considered "reading into it." Do they stare a little too long like lovers do? Yes, at times they do. We call it eye sex. Heck even Tess Gerritsen tweeted that she finally saw it! So I started to wonder, is that simply the way the actors are? I realized that in both Angie and Sasha's other work I see it. Sasha speaks volumes with her eyes no matter who she's working with. Angie's last show Women's Murder Club had lots of shippers because of where and how Angie would look at others. Put these two actors together and that chemistry, the sparks, that thing no one can put their finger on happens. Even so, I know they will never, could never, do for the rizzles fandom what was done for subtexters in Xena.

These shows are two different animals, yet they do have some similarities. Both have strong female characters who become really close friends. Both have leads who date men that don't stick around for long. Heck, Gabrielle's usually died! Both have actors with strong on screen chemistry that allows a subtext fan to see more than just what's being said or done. What was special about Xena and Gabrielle though was we could see that they were soulmates. The romantic, there could never be anyone else, you complete me soulmate. The kiss in season six when Gabrielle had been in a year long sleep surrounded by a
Xena's kiss awakens Gabrielle's year long slumber
protective fire that only her true soulmate could walk through proved it. Xena jumped through the flames, kissed Gabrielle and Gabrielle woke up. We could never get anything from Rizzoli and Isles that makes us feel remotely like we did when we watched that kiss and knew for a fact that what we had always believed was true: Xena and Gabrielle where true soulmates. For Jane and Maura that only comes in fan fiction and rizzles fan videos.

Had Jane and Maura been out and out gay from the start it would have been a different show, maybe more like some of the fan fiction. That could have been very cool. First season they get to know each other, become friends, maybe finally kiss towards the end of the season, and second season is they're relationship and the struggles of working together. I would have enjoyed that. But that's not what the show Rizzoli and Isles on TNT is. They can't change course mid stream and they've never indicated they would ever want to.

The good news for rizzles fans is that the chemistry between Sasha and Angie probably won't dwindle, the eye sex should continue and add to that the fact that the characters will never get married on the show (according to producer Janet Tamaro) so we'll still have our subtext. We can see whatever we wish to see.

For me personally when I really want to see Jane and Maura as a couple I enjoy fan fiction and videos. I love the friendship in the show and truly hope that doesn't change. I'm even looking forward to the conflict between them in season three. After all the show is Rizzoli AND Isles, they have to make-up at some point. I believe that it will only strengthen Jane and Maura's friendship.

There's a part of me, however, that will always miss Xena and Gabrielle. I think they were something special that could never, and should never be replaced.

Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter. @kellyeneal

1 comment:

  1. I want see Maura and Jane like a couple....congratulations for the post.