Whoosh! Issue 26 - November 1998

IAXS project #557
By Shaun Cuttill
Copyright © 1998 held by author
1901 words

Deconstructing Gabrielle (01-02)
Xena's Development (03-05)
Shaking the Bard (06-10)
Reconstruction (11-16)
Gabrielle as Hero (17)

Gabrielle As Hero

For the last time, Gabrielle, I *don't* want a facial!

In a foreshadow of things to come, Gabrielle stands up to Xena in THE PRICE.

"This season [third season] on Xena, we're doing some tricky and questionable things, and to some extent, we're deconstructing our hero..."
   -- Robert Tapert

Deconstructing Gabrielle

[1] The above quote provides the inspiration for this article. From the events of the third season, it appears that the character who has been deconstructed is, in fact, Gabrielle. Therefore, if we are to take Robert Tapert at his word, we must consider that Gabrielle, rather than Xena, is actually the hero of Xena: Warrior Princess.

[2] Before continuing, a definition of the term "deconstruction" is essential. In Tapert's context, deconstruction means to take a character's foundation, shake it, and make the character reconsider fundamentals about herself. Then, if the writer so chooses, to rebuild the character with a new grasp on what the character is. This might be called the reconstruction phase. Deconstruction is targeted at the core of the character, not at merely her superficial actions. It is aimed at making the characters question who they are and who they have always been. This is a theory/technique used frequently in contemporary literature, so it is fitting in the context of this show as well.

Xena's Development

The new Jabmaster 2000 from Xenco is both a toothpick *and* a dagger!

Xena gets down to business in WHEN IN ROME...

[3] Let us review Xena's development this season. It is almost pure character development. The path she is on of recognizing how much she needs Gabrielle and how much she loves her is the same path she has been on since the middle of season one. This is not a deconstruction of Xena's fundamental core, but a very powerful exploration within the current framework of her established character parameters. She has continued to stay the "same old Xena", especially if you consider WHEN IN ROME... (62/316).

[4] With regard to Xena alone, WHEN IN ROME... (62/316) was reminiscent of a season two episode. Xena's quintessence of character, the part that defines her, remained that of the Warrior Princess. She was still all about "the mission".

[5] The only time she experienced anything close to questioning herself the third season was in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), where she was forced to deal with her emotions. However, this was not part of Xena's ongoing process of becoming more like Gabrielle (or who Gabrielle was), which appears to be the direction which Xena's character development is heading. Xena's transformation and growth throughout THE BITTER SUITE was astounding and very moving. She began to learn some things. However, the path that her character was on did not changed, though it did take a detour during the first part of the episode. Nevertheless, Xena was not deconstructed in the third season according to the established definition of the term.

Shaking the Bard

[6] On the other hand, Gabrielle's character and the fundamental essence of who she was, was shaken from the inside out. Compare the previous season's RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205) lines:

Gabrielle: Do you think deep down inside she's [Callisto] sorry for what she's done? ... I do. 'Cause if I don't, I can't forgive her.


Gabrielle: the cycle of hatred and revenge must end with me.

with the following line from the third season's GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305):

Gabrielle: I'll never forgive myself. ... I made the decision to kill her. I went against everything I stand for.

In the same episode Xena stated:

Xena: What happened in that temple cannot destroy the core of your goodness.

[7] The first line showed that Gabrielle had gone against her "code" and against the entire process of character development that had been going on in the series up to that point. The second line may have appeared to state that her core was still intact, but in reality it merely illustrated that Xena continued to have interest in preserving Gabrielle's core.

[8] This is the very same theme Xena has pursued on since DREAMWORKER (03/103) back in season one. However, it holds uniqueness because it was brought up in reference to a recent attack made on Gabrielle's core (the definition of deconstruction). Lines such as that indicate where the battle within Gabrielle lies. If the scene merely dealt with her superficial actions, then it would not have been necessary to reaffirm her core. However, it is necessary to reaffirm her core because of not only what had happened, but what might happen in the future. This literary device is known as foreshadowing and is indicative that this will not be the only event aimed at deconstructing the core of Gabrielle's character.

[9] The afore-mentioned quotes are perfect evidence of deconstruction. Gabrielle's entire belief system, character, and being have been torn apart. Remember in the second season when Gabrielle held the sword to Callisto's throat (who, just a few hours earlier, had killed Gabrielle's defenseless, newlywed husband), but could not kill even Callisto [RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205)]? Now, in the third season, she is suddenly able to pass judgement on Crassus, a guy she does not know personally [WHEN IN ROME... (622/316)]. The last lines of WHEN IN ROME... are those of someone wondering what they truly believe and who they really are:

Gabrielle: I don't know what's happening to me, Xena. I did something I never thought I would be able to do. I played judge, jury, and executioner.

Xena: ... I expected you to understand my logic and ignore your heart.

Gabrielle: But I know you were right.

Xena: It wasn't right for you. That's not who you are....

[10] Gabrielle has been shocked by her own actions in the third season, and it has made her reconsider her stance on everything. Gabrielle is redefining her character. And again, Xena is continuing down the same path noted earlier about trying to help Gabrielle maintain her core, a core which is under attack yet again. Xena saw this battle in THE DELIVERER (50/304) and GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305), and it resurfaced in WHEN IN ROME... (62/316). Xena is actually being used here as the tool to help Gabrielle rebuild her character.


Whoa!  These new mints really *are* cool and refreshing!

Gabrielle gets some mental work done in FORGET ME NOT.

[11] FORGET ME NOT (63/317) was the beginning of the actual "reconstruction" for Gabrielle. The writers were starting to put her character back together again, re-laying the foundation bit by bit. We saw her come to terms with her actions in the episode, THE DEBT (52,53/306,307), and even with her actions throughout the rest of the Rift arc. The end of FORGET ME NOT showed Gabrielle beating the ground with flames rising high, as she demonstrated her resolution and determination to overcome what had beset her this season. She decided to rebuild, and she started by accepting responsibility for what she had done. As a matter of fact, all the clips/flashbacks in this episode showed much of the past deconstruction of Gabrielle's character core, and this further paralleled the reconstruction which is beginning.

[12] Perhaps the most obvious example of the drastic difference between the total deconstruction of Gabrielle and the development of Xena is this exchange of lines from THE DELIVERER (50/304):

Gabrielle: I killed her ... I killed her, Xena.

Xena: No, Gabrielle, you couldn't. ... It was an accident ...someone made you ...

Gabrielle: ... Everything's changed. Everything...

[13] The reason Xena was so shocked and would not believe that Gabrielle could have killed anyone was because Gabrielle was not capable of killing anyone ... the old Gabrielle that is. Now, she has been deconstructed and has had her character redefined. On the flip-side, when have you heard Gabrielle tell Xena: "No. You couldn't have. You would've never done that."? The answer is never. Xena has not been deconstructed to the extent that Gabrielle has been.

[14] Gabrielle is the one who has had her moral standard shaken in the third season. It is she who has had to reconsider her role in life [WHEN IN ROME... (62/316); ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)]. It is she who has had to face horrible flashbacks of painful memories [FORGET ME NOT (63/317)]. It is she who has had to lose faith in her optimism and her life-centered idealism when faced with killing her only child [MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311)]. Gabrielle is the one who has been deconstructed. Xena has merely been explored a little further.

[15] Most of the complaints about Xena's third season characterization have centered around Xena being "the same old Xena of her earlier days" and not responding emotionally because "that's just the way she is". This is not reconstruction. It is Gabrielle who has been turned totally inside-out and has been shaken to her inner core.

[16] That is the sad truth of the nature of the show in the third season. My personal reason for being attracted to the show was Gabrielle's core of goodness that seemed to transcend all. That core has since been shattered. Now, being the optimist that I am, I still hope and wait for the episodes to pick up the pace and bridge these gaps in philosophy. I am waiting for Gabrielle to come out stronger than ever, and have to reach back to pull Xena along. Gabrielle could be a much better person after all this is over, but only if the writers continue to follow the heroic-deconstructionist line of thinking to its natural conclusion: the reconstruction phase. However, Xena will be left in the wake of dust because although her growth has been present, it has not matched Gabrielle's.

Gabrielle as Hero

Don't get too close to *what* edge?

Gabrielle goes off the deep end in SACRIFICE II.

[17] So what does all this mean? If the writers made a conscious effort to deconstruct the hero the third season, and the principle target of all deconstruction has been Gabrielle, it is a very small step of logic to deduce that the writers agree with me that Gabrielle is the hero of the show! Homer's The Odyssey may have been named after the lead character, Odysseus, but the tale can be viewed as the story of the grooming of a new hero: Telemachus, Odysseus's son. Telemachus grew from a young, naive boy to a wise and noble heir to the throne of Ithaca. In a similar manner, Xena may be the title character, but throughout the third season it seems that the show is grooming a new hero: Gabrielle.


Shaun Cuttill Shaun Cuttill
I am currently a junior Computer Engineering major at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. I also play drums in the Reveliers (A&M's only vocal jazz, pop, & swing ensemble), and I love to play keyboard and piano. I also spend much of my time leading various Bible studies around campus. Someday I hope to use my degree to further advancements in synthesized sound - especially in the area of percussion.

Having been born and bred here in the great state of Texas, I suppose I was predisposed to enjoy the acting prowess of Renee O'Connor. Actually, I started watching the show as a procrastinate measure (instead of studying for my exams), but I soon found that I was watching the show more and more for the up-and-coming hero Gabrielle, whose ideals and beliefs matched many of my own.
Favorite episode: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Take me with you ... I want to be like you". Xena: "And I want to be like you". ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
First episode seen: DREAMWORKER (03/103)
Least favorite episode: GIANT KILLER (27/203)

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