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Why Xena is the Ultimate Fantasy Anti-Hero

I've talked alot about antiheroes. They've become my main focal point when writing my novels. These are the types of characters that lead my stories. I like antiheroes because they don't fit in a box. To be clear, an antihero isn't a villain that's the lead of their own story (don't let the Taylor Swift song fool you!)

An antihero is a protagonist doing the right thing but in a controversial way.

I've never bought into the hero who has no faults. It's not realistic and I enjoy including a sense of realism in my writing even if it's an adventure fantasy with dragons. Do antiheroes go too far sometimes? Sure. Look at Reacher, The Punisher, or Chris Pratt's character in The Terminal List. But that's the beauty of the antihero story.

Xena is the epitome of an antihero.

She's a former villain gone good trying to make amends for a shady past. So, even while Xena travels the world righting wrongs, she can sometimes fall back into her dark tendencies.

Examples of this behavior can be traced back to a few different episodes:

The Price: An athenian outpost under siege by what's known as "The Horde" sees Xena fall back into battle mode where she is ruthless and unyielding while Gabrielle tries to care for the wounded. This episode marks one of the only times hero Xena utters the infamous phrase "Kill em all!"

The Debt I & II: "You owe someone so much that you would just throw away these last few years?" This line is said by Gabrielle as she tries to make sense of Xena's plan to seek and destroy a man out of revenge for her teacher Lao Ma. Xena is willing to throw away everything she's done to course correct her violent past and Gabrielle can't understand why.

Return of Callisto: When arch enemy Callisto returns and kills Gabrielle's husband, it's up to Xena to put a stop to her. They both wind up in a mud pit that acts like quicksand. Xena is able to free herself and although she could easily save Callisto as well, she instead watches her die believing it's the only way to stop her. This act will come back to haunt Xena many more times during the show.

The fact that she strays makes her more of a genuine character. Xena is more relatable whereas I always found Hercules to be too goody-goody. Xena has an edge that is compelling. She uses that darker side to get the job done. When she starts to go too far her conscience, or sidekick Gabrielle, is there to reel her back in.

So, while the drive to do good is there it's often challenged by the desire to complete the task with more malice than a hero maybe should have. Xena's even had to push past the intoxicating offers made by Ares to be his queen.

In episode ( ) all she needs to do is spill blood in his name and Ares will help her break free. But the crafty Xena uses his offer and twists it to get the outcome she wants.

An antihero will push boundaries that babyface goodguys won't cross. Te me, that type of character is more fun to watch and more interesting to write.

What about you? How do you like your protagonists to be?


"Original Cyn" Cynthia Vespia writes fantasy novels with edge. This blog is dedicated to all things fantasy and my author journey. 



"Original Cyn" Cynthia Vespia writes fantasy novels with edge. This blog is dedicated to all things fantasy and my author journey.


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