August 27, 2015
Originally posted on 8-22-15 at Lexxperience.com.
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One of cult scifi's hottest debates is Zev or Xev. Both in real life are cool European models/actresses. But this isn't real life, is it?
This is Lexx.
In a coexistent universe overlapping our own, in the same place, at the same time, Order was making a mockery of the human race across a League of 20,000 Planets. Human beings had been locked into a darker than Orwellian regime for thousands of years, and there was no such thing as freedom of choice, reality TV, or even shopping. Although all of humanity living under His Shadow played their parts in that rigidly controlled and regulated society, women especially were considered inferior, relegated by government to reproduction and slave service if they were unfit for other useful fields, such as bureaucracy and military. Make one mistake, and you could disappear into a judicial process that would repurpose your usefulness into parts for robotic drones. Everyone had a place.
Zev's place was in a box.
B3K- Lexx Wiki
The wife bank was a huge government sanctioned processing center, one of probably several kinds of what we'd innocently call boarding schools, for parents in menial roles that didn't allow room for parenting. At least their girls in the wife banks would be housed and fed during their reeducation into the mundane roles of laborer, service, wife, and prostitute. There was no shame in the programming schools taking over for kids who came from lesser families, for kids who didn't fit in with the aggressive compliance that Order required from families higher up on the food chain (literally).
At first glance, we assume Zev wound up at the wife bank because she was abandoned, but if we look at the hopelessness pervading all of humanity under the Shadow of Order, I believe her parents either did what they thought was right or were pressured into doing it, maybe both. Best let go early before the horrors of Correction removed her later. No doubt this also included children who asked too many questions and took initiatives that were not in compliance with Order, and were therefore in constant danger of disappearing, being swallowed up in Corrections and never heard from again. I'm sure parents openly questioning or protesting children being removed from their families or whatever social structure there was were met with equal retribution, quashing all thought of doubting Order. Thinking outside the box wasn't allowed. Problem solving skills came with hefty guidelines, and coloring inside the lines led to longer lives.
So being turned over to the wife bank nearly from birth may actually have extended Zev's life. As we watch her emotionally mature through the series, we realize her natural questioning and initiative were already deeply rooted and she would never be able to accept living as a slave to Order, in any capacity, confirmed by her rapid decline into harsh sentencing after she automatically defended herself almost as soon as she had graduated the wife bank. I believe her parents extended her chances for survival when they submitted her to the wife bank, even if the whole scene seems lame and inexcusable from our point of view. What else could they do? She'd have questioned everything growing up and drawn attention to herself.
It's very hard to imagine a society without concepts for family solidarity, holiday gatherings, or even the possibility of happiness. Such large scale repression made it impossible for families to thrive at all unless they wholeheartedly supported Order and used their every waking moment to excel in serving it, as we see in the scene of children being awarded Merits of Service. Their parents likely ranked much higher and were more deeply entrenched in loyalty, and therefore had access to opportunities and the perks that came with them. Under His Shadow, this loyalty undoubtedly went far beyond anything we think of as Big Brother, as we see good children being rewarded with special invitations to mass executions akin to Superbowl sized sporting events.
We aren't privy to much of Zev's brainwashing, but we can assume some of it was pretty explicit so she'd be ready to be a good wife. Lexx fans have seen me dancing daintily around ignoring her matron coaching her on the "tower of power" scenes in the past, which immediately clue us in on how deeply sexist and layered society would be around her once she got out of that box. Lexx very clearly shows us both child and sex slavery in efficiently short scenes that leave us hanging with disturbing clues to how deeply controlling His Shadow has become over billions and billions of people that amount to him as little more than cattle in a breeding program.
I wrote all of the above to contrast the 'smut in space' mentality some scifi reviewers have had for Lexx. Fine, if that sells the show, because that's one way to sell the deeper content. Of course it's smut in space, a love slave escaped on the most powerful weapon of destruction in the two universes.
I Worship His Shadow- part 8- Zev Bellringer
I could do an entire chapter on lusticons and what their impact would be on our own society. In Zev's world, however, they were little more than sophisticated DNA resequencers that forced women into such menial roles that they had expiry dates. They were remade to be used up and thrown away. Yes, they were remade into Beauty itself, the stuff of dreamers and poets, but along with that their minds were also stripped down to compulsive service and little else. To give readers some context, I'll cross the line of bad taste and simply ask- which would you prefer, your wife to be a real person like original Zev, or a mistress that's nothing more than a responsive doll? It's a trick question, because deep down we all want both, don't we? Be honest and admit it- we want to be able to use people without repurcussion and consequence, without guilt and self loathing. And Order makes this possible. No guilt, no conscience. Just a lusticon and a very smoothly running society. If you don't want to be made into a love slave, you do your time in a box and color inside the lines. Once you're a love slave, you're no longer a citizen. You are government property and allotted like merchandise with no regard to your feelings, your misery, your sadness, and leaving behind everyone you ever cared about or loved.
It's really important to see this from the Lexx point of view to really get all the rest of Lexx. So many viewers admit confusion, especially by season four, when it's really quite simple. All broken people want is real love, forgiveness, freedom... If you've never been around that kind of broken, you probably won't get Lexx.
All it took was one confused punch after being publicly insulted
So Zev majorly failed years of repressed wife preparation and found herself slung into the heart of the mass butchering of other poor souls not toeing the lines, actually felt ripped off that instead of being put out of her misery she'd be stripped of the last of her menial rights and be forced to ride that tower of power the rest of her quickly expiring days, and not even against her will because even that would be taken away from her via brainwashing program, and how do you even process all that while you're bolted to a slab and nothing but machines and a robot around you? Zev grew up without the warmth of humanity, yet she so beautifully expresses that very thing through the rest of the series.
So let's psyche eval Zev, the escaped love slave. First of all, surreal. Can you even imagine making it through the lusticon and suddenly the world around you has changed? The robot is broken, there's bloody cluster lizard mess and a giant (at least twelve feet long) decapitated cluster lizard on the floor, and whadayaknow, the bands are suddenly easy to pull away from their bolts on the slab. Zev doesn't seem very phased, because her entire life has been so boxed. She's simply in another box right now, a room with automatic equipment still going. And she's had a really long stupid day/week (we have no idea how long she was bolted to that slab for the trip to the Cluster), her crankiness has leveled up exponentially from the new cluster lizard DNA just incorporated into all her cells, and she's in no mood to waste time freaking out about anything. She's just pissed. And you know how funny ugly situations get when a person is a way past cranky. That's right, let's toss a robot head into a brainwashing program and giggle. Surreal.
These come from ThePicBug and click out to larger.
Seeing her reflection was a shock. Her struggle with Stan over who would be the human shield was pure instinctual reflex. The grab for the robot head to open the door happened in that hyper aware 'we're gonna die' state. Her dive through the doors and into fugitive escape with Stanley was coincidence. The world just kept flipping upside down over and over. We never see Zev (or Xev) go through this kind of pure flight response again. Everything she goes through after her initial flight response is calculated and consciously thought through, defying the fate that was originally intended for her as a mindless love slave. (I'm still facepalming over 'smut in space'. Really? How shallow are some of these reviewers?)
By the time we reach season two, we've all fallen in love with Zev. She's way more than feisty and gorgeous, she's real. She's sad and determined and hopeful, and pretty much the tie that binds the crew into a gang with some semblance of a mission. Zev is a decision maker, despite growing up brainwashed in a box, and she very sternly draws her lines around right and wrong. In her heart of hearts, she knows what the good is that she longs for, because she's been so deep in the bad. She's a strong moral character even though she's still trapped in a DNA reboot meant to deconstruct morality into the control mechanism of Order.
The Pic Bug
And then she sacrifices her life to save an undead assassin and a traitor. I wept. I don't get very gooey over TV, but that scene ripped me apart. In the midst of being trapped in experimental medical torture fetish, she is the one who makes the moral decision to fight for the right, and since she never grew up being taught what was right, she got that from her own heart. The depths of Zev came out fighting in a greedy world with no hope left, and she died loving the loveless wanderers who had accidentally helped her escape Order. To see a Divine Assassin kneel and lift her slave bands out of her molecular remains was devastating to everyone but himself, because he could not feel it. But intellectually, that was a defining moment after billions had lived out thousands of years of slavery across a galaxy. The fandom went into shock.
The Pic Bug
And then the fandom split into camps of delight and outrage when a plant used a recombinant DNA process to reconstruct Zev's remains with the DNA of an astronaut from Potatohoe, and we get our beautiful love slave reborn, complete with memories, because Lyekka the plant felt sorry for Stanley's loneliness. Think about this- a living 'lusticon' function, a remanufacturing out of love, no brainwashing this time, and Xev is reborn and given back to the crew as a gift. It was weird and sweet and weird... And it's not our Zev, but it's still Xev, as she knows herself, but redefined. Kinda creepy, but still very beautiful. So... is she part Potatohoe-an? Sort of the astronaut's daughter? Did Lyekka impart any plant DNA into her as well? None of these questions seem to come up, but she's definitely still part reconstituted cluster lizard. (@bonenado adds "out of instant potatoes".)
The Pic Bug
We watch Xev struggle through the rest of the series with what is it she really wants. First we see her relive what seems like teenager/young adult years, except now she's no longer in a box and sparkling with the delight and joy of sexual discovery. As season two goes on, we watch her mature and take sides on right and wrong, tolerating abuse from Mantrid and then stepping up in Brigadoom to fight for a cause. By the time season two ends, Xev knows exactly what love is, and how deeply it will sacrifice itself.
The Pic Bug
Throughout season three we watch Xev go through the heartbreaking layers of being sweetly romanced by nefarious evil with ulterior motive. Xev starts out innocently believing she has finally found love at long last, only to realize she's been used for purposes that go against her strengthening moral principles. Considering that Xev came from deep in the heart of uncompromising moral deprivation, Prince finds she's not so easy to seduce, and even rivals his indestructible ambition with her indestructible cluster lizard tenacity, going so far as to outlast him on his own planet, outwit him at his own game, and even threaten him with her own brand of instinctual cluster lizard evil. She definitely has an edge over falling prey to the Prince of darkness, being only half human, a first for the planet Fire, which allows only human souls to pass into its realm.
The Pic Bug
After the shock of going through season three, season four feels a little confusing, but stay focused. Remember that Zev/Xev came from Order. She came from repression, matured through the kinds of moral ambiguity that break people, she discovered her strength against evil, and now she's finally reached a place in the Two Universes that has never been touched by the long arms of Order- Earth. We don't know if Earth humans are a surviving remnant that escaped the Insect Wars many millennia ago, much like Kai's people did for awhile, but Earth has developed all kinds of evils of its own, from governments to black market, and we get to see what happens when a genuine love slave created in the darkest heart of true evil does when she's kidnapped for porn, used to spike reality show ratings, fought over for unrequited love, captured for black market organ theft, handling a real job as a counselor, and most of all, finding out what Kai would have been like if he'd been born on Earth and how their relationship would have turned out.
Original Zev is played by Lisa Hynes.
Zev is played by Eva Habermann.
Xev is played by Xenia Seeberg.
Unlike many fans, I do not have a preference for one actress or another, and don't wish to see canon changed. The continuity works just fine for me, and I appreciate Zev/Xev in all her forms. Remembering that her character essence is what this show is all about means more to me than having favorite actors. I think they all did wonderful work and sincerely portrayed so many offenses against women with sweetness and strength of form. Following Zev's/Xev's journey across the Two Universes has deeply affected me personally, and if/when I come back to another post on Zev/Xev, I'd like to look more deeply into her role in the prophecies about the cycles of time.
More reading from other fans-
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