Disclaimer to Air With ‘Xena’
This 30-second public service announcement, aired at the end of the episode “The Way,” features Lucy Lawless (Xena), Renee O’Connor (Gabrielle) and Sunil Aghi.
LL: In today’s episode, Xena prayed to Krishna, the supreme godhead of Hinduism. We hope that we have portrayed it in a revered and respectful way.
SA: My name is Sunil Aghi. Im a community activist and president of the Indo-Americans Political Foundation.
ROC: More than a billion people throughout the world practice the Hindu religion.
SA: An accurate portrayal of our deity is important to us, but an even more important goal is to enlighten people of other faiths about Hinduism.
ROC: With understanding comes tolerance.
LL: If you would like to learn more about this great religion, please visit your local library or Web site.
— Lisa Tsering
Edited 'Xena' Episode Airs Despite Protests
By Lisa Tsering
India-West Sept. 3 , 1999
An edited version of a “Xena: Warrior Princess” episode deemed offensive by some Hindus airs this week across the country amid continued protest.
The episode “The Way,” which some protesters claim portrays the god Krishna as a fictional character, will air in the San Francisco Bay Area on KBWB -20 Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. and again Sept. 5 at 4 p.m., and in Los Angeles on KTLA-5 Sept. 4 at 4 p.m.
A scene showing Xena fighting with Sri Hanuman has been edited out, and a public service announcement starring the show’s stars and Sunil Aghi, a leading Indian American activist, has been added to the end of the show.
“Cosmetic changes here and there won’t make a difference,” said Syama Sundara Das, a representative of the Chaitanya Mission, one of the groups protesting the episode. Asked if further protests were planned, he said it was “possible ... We’re looking at all the options.”
“The Way” was first broadcast last March. A protest led by Tusta Krishnadas of the World Vaishnava Association, which attracted hundreds to picket outside Universal Studios, resulted in the episode’s being pulled from the show’s repeat schedule.
After Southern California community activist Sunil Aghi of the Indo-Americans Political Foundation entered the fray, the show’s producers (StudiosUSA/Renaissance Pictures) agreed to pull the episode from its international and repeat schedule until a satisfactorily edited version could be produced (I-W, Apr. 9).
Krishnadas, however, maintained that since Aghi wasn’t a scholar of Hinduism, he didn’t have the right to speak for the more than 70 Hindu groups who had joined the protest so far (as of Sept. 1, more than 100 groups continue to demand that the show be pulled from worldwide syndication). “Universal ... is giving a false impression to the public,” said Krishnadas in a statement last week.
In a letter to “Xena” executive producer Rob Tapert, Krishnadas accused Renaissance of going back on their word; Tapert’s reply, faxed to India-West by the show’s publicist, said “I produced this episode to illustrate the beauty and power of the Hindu religion.” and cited “thousands of emails and letters ... from fans of the show who were angry that we pulled it.”
At one point in the episode, Xena is shown praying to Lord Krishna; at the end, she is transformed into Ma Kali, complete with black skin and wagging tongue.
Krishnadas was able to gather more support for the protest at a meeting of the Dharma Sansad conference of Hindus in Austin, Tx., Aug. 28-29, he said. The conference was held under the auspices of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a worldwide Hindu organization.
In response to the public service announcement currently being aired with the show (see sidebar), the protesters have just produced their own PSA which states, in part, “Minor re-editing and photographs of Xena with an Indian politician ... do not lessen the offense. Lord Krishna and other Hindu deities are real, not fictional playthings for Hollywood.”
Not all Hindus agree that the episode should be pulled: the NRI monthlies Hinduism Today and Little India both called for restraint from protesters. Achal Mehra, editor of Little India, described the protest as “saffron vaudeville.”
Sunil Aghi said the WVA and related groups “have the right to protest, under the first amendment,” but that “the majority of Indo-Americans do not support the protest.”
Among the channels that are broadcasting the “Xena” episode are the following (check local listings for dates and times): Phoenix, Az.:KSAZ Fox; Central Calif.: KCBA Fox 35; San Diego, Calif.: KSWB; Seattle, Wa.: KTZZ-22; and Reno, Nv.: KOLO.