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IAXS Research Project 020
Content © 1996 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 1996 held by Whoosh!
817 words

Callisto, perhaps a tad misunderstood?

[1] In "Callisto" (episode no. 22), Callisto asked, "You tell me, Xena, have you ever been tried for all the things you have done?"

[2] This simple question has raised many inquiries about Xena's accountability for her crimes. Many believe that Xena feels the consequences of her actions every day. Others would argue, why punish Callisto? Still others would go as far as saying they feel compassion for Callisto. But all would agree that Callisto can in no way be equated with Xena. Let us examine their history.

[3] On one level, Xena and Callisto shared many things in common. Both were unassuming, unscathed girls when their villages were attacked. They witnessed the murders of their loved ones and their villages were destroyed. Both vowed vengeance on their attackers. On another level, though, the women parted significantly. Xena said, "I didn't have time to feel anything." Because there was no time to feel, Xena simply acted. Callisto, on the other hand, reacted. Every waking moment of every day, Callisto felt rage. She honed her skills as a warrior and studied Xena very carefully. Callisto anticipated Xena's every move. She learned everything she could about the Warrior Princess. She stalked her, and when every detail of her plan was finely tuned, she attacked. What emerged was a sociopath. Not a seeker of revenge, but a clearly intelligent woman who sought notoriety. More precisely, a woman who sought the title of Warrior Queen. Callisto's ultimate aim was not to kill Xena, but to conquer her.

Callisto enjoyed the death and destruction that followed in her wake

[4] Should Xena have killed Callisto? In this writer's opinion, no. Callisto clearly wanted to die by Xena's hand, but only after she had lost what was most significant to her: the psychological battle. This battle was clearly evident during their final confrontation. Xena went to Callisto's camp not to destroy Callisto, but to save Gabrielle. It was clear that Xena could have taken Callisto's life if she had been inclined. However, this "fight to the death" was a metaphor for the destruction of a soul: Xena's. This was the major flaw in Callisto's plan. Callisto miscalculated with her belief that by putting Gabrielle in danger, it would force Xena to display Xena's "evil" side. Callisto's plan backfired because Xena had no evil side. Some may disagree with this statement, but there was evidence to support it. In "Sins of the Past," Xena was riding through a charred village that had just been pillaged by her army. As the haunting screams beat loudly in her head, an orphaned boy appeared. This young, blonde victim whose eyes were once full of laughter and hope, were now tired and old, and hungry for life; for bread. The Warrior Princess, devastated by this senseless act, tossed the young boy a pouch. Inside were the last remnants of food she had. Xena retreated and ultimately buried her sword. In "Callisto," the opening scene showed a village as it was being destroyed by an army. A young, blonde boy was walking through the chaos in a dreamlike state, while Callisto was killing everyone in her path. Through this young boy's eyes, we witnessed the carnage that was taking place. As he fell lifeless to the ground, Callisto watched. She raised her sword and struck down another villager, as her obscene laughter reached a higher pitch. Who was the evil one?

[5] Gabrielle said it best about Callisto: "Her heart has been consumed by hatred." Xena may have been misguided, but her heart was and is as good as when she was a little girl in Amphipolis. There is no way to determine what demon possessed Callisto's soul. Was it the darkness of this lost soul that illuminated the light in Xena? Again, in my opinion, no. The struggle between good and evil can never be enhanced by the other, no matter what the cause. Callisto's heart may have been "consumed by hatred," but the seed had already been implanted, and the course was set. Xena's heart was broken when her village was destroyed. It is a loving heart and one that needs to heal with time, and love, and forgiveness.

Callisto was Xena's worst nightmare

[6] Then the question remains, "Was Justice Served?" Finally, in this writer's opinion, yes, it was. There would have been no point in killing Callisto. You cannot kill someone who is already dead. Yes, perhaps Xena did feel compassion for Callisto. Perhaps we all did. How could we not feel for someone who had completely lost themselves and their identity? Xena made the right decision. Callisto was not "made" by Xena or by the burning of her village. She was made by that missing piece that is inherent in all of us. An indefinable something that makes us human beyond all tragedies and humiliations we encounter.

"For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine."
--William Blake

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