Fan Art Empowers Queer Women


With Xena, the
creators of the show famously played out the relationship between the two lead
characters in “subtext,” playing with the “are they or aren’t they” question
to varying degrees up until the very end.

So queer fans of the show took it upon themselves to create their own stories of Xena and Gabrielle — stories
that spoke directly to them as lesbians and bisexual women.

Artwork credit: *Indelibly — Yours

“It makes me feel more a part of the gay and lesbian universe,”
said video maker Angela Merry Pavlica of her work as an editor. “I get an
even greater fulfillment when someone sees my music videos and says something
like, ‘I didn’t know Xena and Gabrielle were lesbians. I’m going to have to
check out the show again.’Or when they
comment on the images used and how they love the love between both women.”

In fact, sometimes people prefer the fan art over the
actual show, feeling that the artist who reinterprets the characters actually
knows them better than the show’s producers. It’s not a slight towards the
makers of a show — it’s a reflection of the fact that lesbian writers and artists can
sometimes better fulfill the needs of a lesbian audience.

Queer women are known for their
“Do-It-Yourself” spirit — why should
storytelling be any different?

Thornley herself noted that she was inspired to answer Xena’s central “are they or aren’t they”
question herself, with a resounding "yes:"

This [ambiguity] personally makes me want to give people an answer, and
I’ll do that through making music videos. Others will do it through fan fiction,
or fan art. People can mold the show to fit their point of view and express it
in their chosen art form, and that art then draws in new fans. [It was a]
pretty smart move on the makers’ parts, even if they didn’t intend to do it.

This fan art isn’t just the prorduct of guerilla filmmaking, or amateur hour at a local
creative writing class — major entertainment companies hold massive conventions
for fan artists, giving out major prizes for the best stories, videos and
pieces of artwork in a multitude of categories.

Both Pavlica and Thornley are frequent winners at the video competitions at Creation’s Xena conventions. is currently holding a fan art contest among its members, for best Spashley icons, wallpaper, and banners.

Artwork credit: Orzelska

In 2006, Showtime held a contest to let fans help write a script for one of the episodes, and in 2007, invited fans to submit their real-life stories based on themes from the show, for other fans to read and rate.

When it comes to The L Word, the fervor of
fan art tends to fall more towards those who want to see specific couplings, since there’s no fictional world to explore.

Artwork credit: Magdalena

“I think the shippers [fans who follow a
specific relationship] are still writing fast and furiously,” said Jacky
Abromitis, Webmaster of the L Word Fan
. “But I do think it’s the nature of the beast that there will
be more fantasy pairings the longer a show is on the air. They may not overtake
the number of ship fics, but they seem to gain a stronger presence as time goes

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