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Happy Birthday, Xena! 14 Times The Warrior Princess Was Our Feminist Role Model

Are you a warrior or a princess? Xena taught us we don't have to choose.

It’s hard to believe, but, 20 years ago today, " Xena: Warrior Princess" first debuted, making its way into pop culture history and into our hearts for all eternity. The fantasy adventure told the story of Xena (Lucy Lawless), a warrior princess trying to atone for her former warlord ways. She was joined by gal pal Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor), a vivacious, compassionate companion who dreamed of something different than married village life (and kind of rocked at it).

Filled with Amazons, centaurs, sword fights, cyclops, secret children, fuzzy mythological history, body-swapping, and backflips, "Xena" was awesome — not only because it was ridiculously compelling and totally bonkers in the best possible ways, but because it gave us an action adventure show with two strong female leads. "Xena" didn’t get always get everything right, but in a pop culture landscape still lacking enough female-centric stories, 'Xena' remains an example for us all.

With that in mind and in honor of the show's anniversary, here are 14 times Xena was our feminist role model!

  1. When she wasn’t afraid to make some noise.

    Because why stay quiet when you can release a battle cry into the world that strikes fear into the hearts of your enemies, lets the disenfranchised know they have a champion, and sounds generally awesome.

  2. When she discovered electricity.
    Universal Television

    Benjamin Franklin who?

  3. When she took down all of the evil dudes.
    Universal Television

    Xena never met an evil dude whose face she didn't want to smash into a bar.

  4. When she faced off against female villains, too.
    Universal Television

    One of the long-standing problems in popular culture isn’t just that women aren’t portrayed as central heroes, but that they aren’t portrayed as central villains, either (and, sometimes, that they aren’t portrayed, full stop). "Xena" didn’t have that problem, with its antagonist not only having played a villainous role in the past, but often coming up against some major baddies of the female persuasion.

  5. When she thought this teddy bear was cute.
    Universal Television

    As both a “warrior” and a “princess,” Xena refused to play by the rules of what gender traits society tried to apply to her.

  6. When she wasn’t afraid to get angry.
    Universal Television

    Smile, sweetheart? Nope.

  7. When she pulled off this look.
    Universal Television

    Not everyone has the confidence and sense of self for this hat.

  8. When she became friends with a drag queen.
    Universal Television

    Yep, 20 years ago, "Xena" cast a trans actress (Karen Dior) for a guest starring role. Karen played Miss Artiphys, a fellow contestant in a beauty pageant Xena enters. Though the episode is not without its problems and it is unclear what Miss Artiphys' deal is, the show doesn’t treat the character as a joke and ends with a kiss between her and Xena.

  9. When she was good with a sword.
    Universal Television

    What? You don't practice swordplay by yourself on New Zealand beaches?

  10. When she was in love with Gabrielle.
    Universal Television

    "Xena" was famous for its increasingly more obvious lesbian subtext between Xena and Gabrielle. Though the show never explicitly says that these two are madly in love, it’s pretty obvious. Exhibit This.

  11. When she used flips to get pretty much everywhere.
    Universal Television

    Why walk somewhere when you can flip there?

  12. When she wasn’t perfect.
    Universal Television

    Xena may have been nearly flawless, but she wasn’t perfect. She had a dark past, could be dangerously dogmatic at times, and wasn’t always the best at communication. Luckily, she had Gabrielle around to sort things out.

  13. When Gabrielle was a feminist hero in her own right.
    Universal Television

    Let’s pause for a moment from all of the Xena love to talk a bit about the other feminist goddess on this show: Gabrielle. Though Gabrielle doesn’t get as much love for the ways in which she is a feminist role model, she was just as kickass as Xena and often in ways that were more progressive. Though Xena’s strength was often (though not always) demonstrated through traditionally masculine traits like physical strength or stoicism, Gabrielle often (though not always) used traditionally feminine traits like a strong sense of empathy and good communication skills to get the job done.

  14. When she was a physics genius.
    Universal Television

    You think that chakram just flies itself?