We get a lot of messages asking about Xena the Warrior Princess and whether she deserves to be celebrated or ridiculed. The show certainly had a lot of positive qualities and was very progressive for its time – but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t problems or that the protagonist’s outfit is automatically good.
So let’s address the most recent question – is Xena’s outfit heroically idealized?
This is kind of a shame, because her combat and other abilities certainly fell into the “heroically idealized” category that we see normally reserved for men. Xena was certainly badass, heroic, interesting and inspiring in many ways – but that was due to the stories and performances. It was not Xena’s armor that made her fantastically heroic, but rather the woman inside the armor.
Her outfit, while not ridiculously terrible, was pointlessly sexualized and has probably inspired some terrible designs in subsequent media (looking at you Dragon Age: Origins and of course, movie Wonder Woman). Part of this probably because Xena was originally a Hercules villain, and part of this is probably just because of the ancient myth that sex sells. This is sadly not such an uncommon problem.
The show certainly never hesitated to put her in ridiculous outfits that were often problematic in a whole bunch of ways. Being light hearted fantasy with goofy magic and not taking itself too seriously or semi-frequently including good looking men showing off their bodies certainly didn’t excuse this either.
Xena’s default outfit largely in the “mostly suitable as ornamental” armor category and featured adjustments clearly made for the purposes of bringing the sexy rather the badassery.
Now since the show was kind of silly (in a fun way) and the outfit was not too overtly sexualized (especial compared to her nemesis, who has previously featured on the blog) it frequently came across as not too bad in the context of the show. Though it could certainly inspire some clearly heroically idealized designs.
Hint. Hint. Popular media.