How Political Commitment Led Lucy Lawless (AKA Xena, the Warrior Princess) to Study Philosophy

It’s cer­tain­ly not uncom­mon for celebri­ties to take up polit­i­cal caus­es, though this does not usu­al­ly lead to them get­ting arrest­ed for hol­ing up in a high tow­er oil-drilling ship for four days. What’s less com­mon is for this inter­est to bur­geon into a full-on obses­sion with all things philo­soph­i­cal, but that’s exact­ly what hap­pened to Lucy Law­less (best known as Xena, the War­rior Princess).

“I went to the UN sum­mit on sus­tain­able devel­op­ment after get­ting involved in the whole… big oil protest… and I saw all of these peo­ple work­ing very hard but seem­ing­ly at cross-pur­pos­es about how do we cre­ate a just soci­ety.” On a full two-hour episode of The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast (which she claims was large­ly respon­si­ble for turn­ing her on to phi­los­o­phy), she describes how this polit­i­cal inter­est drove her to look at the foun­da­tions and his­to­ries of the­o­ries of jus­tice, and even­tu­al­ly decide to go back to school to study phi­los­o­phy, which she’s now doing in New Zealand between flights to the states to film TV spots such as her recent appear­ance on NBC’s Parks and Recre­ation.

The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life inter­view with Law­less is a five-per­son, round­table dis­cus­sion of Tom Payne’s 2010 book, Fame: What the Clas­sics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebri­ty. You can lis­ten here:

The the­sis of the book is that celebri­ties serve as an out­let for soci­ety’s aggres­sive instincts. Draw­ing on canon­i­cal texts about reli­gious anthro­pol­o­gy like James Fraz­er’s The Gold­en Bough, the author com­pares the treat­ment of mod­ern celebri­ties to ancient rites where young maid­ens were lav­ish­ly bestowed with finer­ies and then sac­ri­fied. Lucy thinks this well match­es her own expe­ri­ences, and talks about the exis­ten­tial weird­ness involved with being and deal­ing with the famous.

The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life has also cov­ered relat­ed top­ics of Freud’s Civ­i­liza­tion and its Dis­con­tents and Niet­zsche’s Geneal­o­gy of Morals. You can sub­scribe to the pod­cast on iTunes.

Mark Lin­sen­may­er runs the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life phi­los­o­phy pod­cast and blog

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.