with Professor of Fangeekonomics, Ms. Melissa Voelker
Reference Material for today’s class:
“Conan: The Barbarian” and “Willow”
While a direct comparison can be drawn between Red Sonja and Xena, she is not the only warrior woman from the past to help in the creation of the self-styled “Warrior Princess.” Sonja may have been similar in her dalliances with lesbianism and her choice of inappropriate battle attire, but there were key mental and emotional aspects that she didn’t share with the Greek warrior woman, including an inner willingness to sacrifice her own life for someone she loved. Sonja also didn’t start out as a bad guy and then have a hunky guy sway her into to making the intense and almost always rocky transition into a good guy. But there were two female fighters who dealt with these issues, Valeria of “Conan” fame (who, nerd fact alert, was Queen Gedren in “Red Sonja” – in case you missed the last lesson) and Sorsha from the fantasy epic “Willow.” These women weren’t exactly the main characters of their respective movies, so we won’t go over entire material summaries, but instead just look at each of them as individual characters and see how they added up to the Warrior Princess.
First up, Valeria, lover of Conan and camouflage body paint. Built like any Amazon princess with blonde hair and legs up to her chin, like those women warriors she also wasn’t willing to take crap from anyone. In the beginning of her working relationship with Conan she didn’t even seem to like her barbarian boyfriend much (another nerd fact, Conan was played by everyone’s favorite Govenator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was Red Sonja’s love interest Kalidor AND who played a version of Hercules, who was a love interest of Xena’s – though in Kevin Sorbo form…Isn’t Six Degrees of Campy Fantasy fun?) But once they had destroyed a wicked cult temple and stolen some jewelry that any drag queen would admire, she and the big lug seemed to really hit it off. In fact she fell so hard for him that when his timecard had been punched out she wasn’t willing to let him go without a fight. She sacrificed her own life to make sure that Conan would survive his near-death experience and go on to ride and fight and steal and wear loincloths another day.
Valeria may not have gotten to headline her very own Women Warriors Empowerment Seminar, but she wasn’t just another sidekick either. She was tough and strong and had her own ideas about how she wanted to get things done. She and Xena certainly shared this in common. Neither was she willing to just go along with what someone bigger and manlier might have said. But one of the main things they shared was their mutual willingness to give up their lives for the lives of others. Valeria had her Conan, and Xena had her Gabrielle (well mainly Gabrielle, she was willing to put her life on the line for a few other people as well when it fit her mood or the storyline.) These were women who could slay armies, who could defeat giant snake monsters and pounce on spirit-demon-thingies that attacked human souls. Neither seemed to truly fear anything, except the idea of losing the person they loved the most. Whether it is viewed as a great weakness or an admirable trait, it is something both women seemed to proudly share.
While Valeria had the whole sacrificial lamb thing down pretty pat like Xena did, something she certainly didn’t share with the warrior princess was having a nasty back-story. Sure Valeria liked to take things that didn’t belong to her, and she was pretty quick with her sword when it came to defending her life against brainwashed snake cult priests, but basically she was a good person.
Sorsha, daughter of Queen Bavmorda, on the other hand, started out as a very naughty girl. She killed innocent women, she slaughtered warriors fighting for the side of right and good, and she kicked Madmartigan/Val Kilmer in the face (which is almost unforgivable, no matter what the circumstances.) Sorsha was a bad girl (in a great outfit minus the ridiculous hat) and this was something she and Xena could have totally bonded over.
Forced into her life of darkness by a mother who was obviously competing for the “Mommie Dearest of the Year” award, Sorsha was a loyal soldier for the army of Bad. And not just any soldier, but a good soldier with a lot of skill, a hefty dose of attitude, and a nice bit of ambition as well (I saw the way she glowered at General Kale – she totally wanted his job.) But then along came a tiny man with a magical baby and Val Kilmer in a really sexy warrior outfit and her whole life changed. While some of the smaller details surrounding the events that changed both Sorsha and Xena’s life might have been different, two things were very obviously and largely the same. Both a baby and a hot guy with great hair forced them to rethink their life paths and realize that maybe fighting for the dark side wasn’t such a great thing. Of course Xena only had to stand up to her army and Ares, God of War to break out of her life of evil, while Sorsha had to go up against her own MOTHER, but still they both managed to overcome what they needed to in order to start new lives on the side of good.
Xena may have pushed the Fantasy Warrior Women’s Movement into the new millennium, and given females in steel WonderBras a new amount of respect, but she was not the first and certainly won’t be the last great woman warrior out there. Others, like Valeria and Sorsha, came along first. They might not have done it better, but they sure did it enough right that they made it possible for Xena to come along and pick up where they left off.
About Melissa: By day a mild-mannered tv station receptionist, by night a fighter of crime and corruption in the dirty streets of Spokane, WA . . . or maybe not so much. More like a hyperactive, anal-retentive daytime receptionist and a melodramatic, hyperactive nighttime fangirl who only wishes she could be a fighter of crime and champion of justice (except that would lead to getting my super costume all dirty and I hate doing laundry.) Though my intent has always been to write bestselling novels and live a life of wealth and luxury, putting my talents for snarkiness and word doodling together while letting my geek flag fly suits me just fine – for now.