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Xena vs. the Hindus: The Whole Story

Xena Episode "The Way" Back on TV Schedule

Edited Version of ‘Xena’ Episode Back on the Air

India-West, Aug. 20, 1999

By Lisa Tsering India-West Staff Reporter

Xena is back.

“The Way,” an episode of the hit syndicated television series “Xena: Warrior Princess” which was pulled off the air at the request of a group of Hindu protesters for its allegedly unfavorable portrayal of the god Krishna, has been reinstated in the show’s schedule. The episode will air in the last week of August.

“After receiving thousands of letters, emails and signed petitions — both pro and con — and consulting with Indo-American community activist Sunil Aghi, we opted to make changes based on the areas of common concern,” read a statement by the show’s producers released Aug. 13.

Readers may remember the controversy that erupted earlier this year (I-W, April 9) when a group of protesters, led by Tusta Krishnadas of the World Vaishnava Association, picketed outside the gates of Universal Studios demanding that the episode be pulled, as it depicted Krishna as a fictional character. They also disagreed with a scene showing Xena bashing her forehead against Hanuman’s.

Complete details on the content of the edited episode were not available at press time. Sources familiar with the show told India-West that the head-bashing scene was removed but references to Krishna remained unchanged. This was not confirmed, though, and the show may undergo even more changes before it airs.

The show’s stars, Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor, have taped a 30-second public service announcement with Aghi, which will air with “The Way.” Editing of the PSA is not yet complete, said the show’s publicist.

Tusta Krishnadas expressed his disappointment at the announcement. “They’ve broken their word,” he said. “I still hold fast to the belief that Hindu deities should not be fictionalized.” Krishnadas has curtailed his involvement in the issue recently, due to poor health. “My doctor said I should avoid stress,” he said.

“The Way” was a part of a four-episode India-based story arc which aired earlier this year. After its first airing, increasingly large groups of Hindus in the U.S. and India launched a protest in person and by mail and email demanding that the episode be pulled from the repeat schedule. In April, the producers agreed after meeting with Aghi, a well-connected Democratic activist based in Southern California. Aghi, founder of the Indo-Americans Political Foundation, also met with the show’s stars and producers on location in New Zealand, partly at his own expense, he said.

Indian American organizations were divided in their opinions. One group unanimous in its outrage, however, included the show’s fans, who accused the producers, Studios USA, of buckling to the protests too readily.

Xenites Against Censorship, an Internet-based fan group, spearheaded a letter-writing and petition campaign which Studios USA took very seriously indeed. Jacquee Alvord, of the XAC “Hard Copy Petition team,” estimated the number of signatures at 10,000, coming from a dozen countries. “I frankly have never seen so many diverse locations joined with a common (cause),” she said in an email to India-West.

A statement from the Indo-Americans Political Foundation said, “We understand the ‘Xena’ episode is a fictional/adventure show and (are) satisfied that the producer did not intend to offend Hindus. Our goal has been to allow our concerns to be heard and freedom of speech for the producers, who are entitled to express their imagination about the beauty of the Hindu religion.”


Lisa Tsering India-West 933 MacArthur Blvd. San Leandro, CA 94577 (510) 383-1146 ltsering@aol.com