Long Live Nikita
By Sarah Collins
(for a college lit class. :D Enjoy!)

The television show La Femme Nikita (LFN) has been my modern-day equivalent of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. While not highly popular at first, both have accumulated a rather substantial fan base and live on, even after their respective endings, with LFN being particularly strong in the hearts of the fans and megabytes of fan fiction.

On first pondering, one might not correlate the two stories with having anything similar at all. Romeo and Juliet is widely accepted as one of the world's greatest love stories. While being a love story, its plot is still filled with several instances of violence and deception. Yet it is still considered a love story through all the killing, suicide, and general prejudice. So why not LFN? While in its own admittance it is said to be a series about the underground world of espionage -- with its storylines filled with guns, martial arts, and high tech creations -- there is still that undertone of romance throughout the series.

According to the Romance Writers of America's official definition, a romance is a book wherein the love story is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying (Calhoon, par. 4). By definition, then, neither LFN or Romeo and Juliet can be classified as a romance. Thus I must argue against such a simple definition. While LFN does not contain a plot of simple romance, it does mix the elements to form a well-written and well-rounded fictional series, as stated in Jason Manning's post on the LFN Fan Directory, part of the site La Femme Nikita Forever which he has created in tribute to LFN, "I started watching LFN from the very beginning, and by the start of Season Two I was hooked. A life-long fan of spy novels, movies and series, I realized that LFN came closer than anything to my perception of what life in covert ops was really like. As a professional writer I can appreciate the outstanding job done by the LFN creative team in blending action, suspense and romance. The characters are multifaceted, their relationships authentic and seamlessly integrated into the action" (par. 52). "I personally watch LFN for the underlying plot of Nikita and Michael's relationship. The romance between Michael and Nikita -- called the most complicated in television history -- is a fascinating subplot that threads its way through the five seasons, complicated by the revelation (in Season 3) that as part of a mission to nab a master terrorist named Vacek, Michael has married Vacek's daughter and lives a double life outside Section with his wife and his son, Adam" (Cast, par. 2).

This relationship, this sub-plot, kept people watching. If people just wanted action-type shows you'd see shows based around the Terminator or Predator plots. Being this is not what kept people watching, I think it's very safe to say that there was a sexual aspect to the viewers. The show was bold in it's presentation of the main character`s provocative dress. In consideration of the sexual element in Romeo and Juliet I think Paul Brains says it best in that "the sexual punning begins in ll. 25-35 and continues throughout the play. The love of Romeo and Juliet, although idealized, is rooted in passionate sexuality" (par. 8). Without this sexual element, people quickly lose interest and turn away. However, when this element is not fulfilled, people demand that it be filled or find some other outlet to create that realization. Enter the power of the fans.

Paul Brians, Professor in the Department of English at the Washington State University, states in his online study guide of Romeo and Juliet that the play "is often regarded as a lesser Shakespearean tragedy by scholars". However, "what should also be kept in mind is that audiences have made it one of the most beloved plays of all time from the Elizabethan Age to the present." This too can be said for LFN. While the show never quite took off in mass popularity, it did have a following, much like the early X-files and Star Trek shows.

The best example of the fans' influence is demonstrated best by the following portion of Virginia Rohan's article in The Record titled "Fans Win Back La Femme Nikita - For Now."

Soon after the "finale" aired, however, fans in more than 40 countries, led by an online group known as First Team, launched a campaign. They flooded USA Network with more than 25,000 emails and letters. They even sent gifts -- including cash (donated to charity), a TV, VCRs, cookies, and more than 100 sunglasses, symbolizing the leading character's signature look.

The network got the message.

USA Network renegotiated the show's return, and on Jan. 7, La Femme Nikita came back for another eight -- absolutely final -- episodes (10 p.m. Sundays).

"I had nothing to do with it," Wilson says of the online campaign. "I'd wrapped the show, moved out of Toronto, and back to Australia, and I was getting ready to get the wind in my sails for the next chapter of my life, when I got a phone call, out of the blue. They said, 'The fans are not letting it go. They really want it to come back. Warner Bros. [the show's producer] and USA, they're going to do this. Do you want to do this? It's up to you.'

"I got off the phone and had a chat with my mom and grandmum, who said, 'This would be like a thank-you for the fans, really.' I wasn't really prepared to do a whole season, but eight episodes is enough to tie the loose ends and give the fans what they want."

While the fans may have won the battle for a real ending, their thirst has not been quenched. Sites can still be found online dedicated to the continuation of plots and the flow of possible storylines. People cry out for movie scripts and trade memorabilia with reverence. One site of fan fiction alone has received over two-hundred-sixty-five-thousand hits since its debut on November 29. 1999. If nothing else can be taken from your reading, I hope to have you depart with this. We are not crazy, or obsessed. Ok, maybe just a little. But LFN has spawned a following. It's not just a few randomized cases; the masses have gathered in awe for a reason. That reason is Nikita, and her Romeo, Michael.

Works Cited

--Brains, Paul. "Study Guide for Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet (1591?)" Washington State University, Feb 2 2000; May 6 2001

--Calhoon, Charis. "RWA Defines the Romance Novel," Romance Writers Of America Website, 2002; May 6 2001 <http://www.rwanational.org/PressReleaseRWADefinesRomance.stm>

--Manning, Jason. "Cast of Characters," La Femme Nikita Forever Website. May 6 2001 <http://lfnforever.tripod.com/id53.htm>

--Manning, Jason. "Fan Directory," La Femme Nikita Forever Website, May 6 2001 <http://lfnforever.tripod.com/id157.htm>

--Rohan, Virginia. "Fans Win Back La Femme Nikita - For Now." The Record, 27 January 2001. <http://lfnforever.tripod.com/id225.htm>