Viewer reception of classical myth in Xena: warrior princess and Charmed

Potter, Amanda Jayne (2014). Viewer reception of classical myth in Xena: warrior princess and Charmed. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis engages with the representation of Greek myths and mythical characters in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess (1995- 2001) and Charmed (1998-2006), by adapting a viewer-centric methodology used in television studies. I include episodes of the series featuring the story of Pandora, the Furies, Amazons and Greek goddesses. Although the main focus of my research was on viewer reception of the television episodes, I also include an analysis of the ancient sources that may have been used by the television writers and producers, providing textual evidence where there is clear influence.

Throughout my thesis I analyse data obtained from viewers about their understanding of the myths and their reactions to the episodes. These viewers were recruited into three groups; fans of the series, classicists who had completed as a minimum a first degree in a classics related subject, and 'general viewers' , a group of viewers who were neither fans nor classicists. Data was obtained via recorded focus group discussions and written or email 'interview questionnaires', completed between 2006 and 2011.

As part of their viewing experience the classicists and many of the fans were able to draw on information that they had gained about the myths from sources outside the television episodes. The general viewers had a limited understanding of the myths before watching the episodes. I argue that these groups of viewers tended to react in different ways to the episodes, and to sources of Greek myths in general. However, viewers across all groups were able to understand and enjoy the episodes. Series' creators can therefore appeal to a wide audience, by incorporating and often subverting mythic content to tell a modern story, which can be understood by all.

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