Whoosh! Issue 49 - October 2000
Letters to the Editor


To write to the editor regarding your comments, observations, and questions about Whoosh!, send an e-mail to ktaborn@lightspeed.net and mark the subject "Letter to the Editor". All letters with the subject "Letter to the editor" are subject to publication and may be edited. Due to the volume received, some letters may not be answered individually or receipt acknowledged and may be published at the editor's discretion. Letters received after the 15th of the month may be reserved for a later issue.




Sexual Imagery in Xena: Warrior Princess
Season Five In Review
September Issue
Kudos
Charity Abounds
History and Stuff
Joxer Corner
Lighten Up!
Oz Needs Help!
The Sexually Dysfunctional Gabrielle
Soulmates
Xena/Ares Stuff



Letters To The Editor



Sexual Imagery in Xena: Warrior Princess

From: Thomas Robertson
Subject: Letter to WHOOSH editor: Re: Sexual imagery in XWP by Dekker
Date: Sat, 02 Sep 2000

Dear Whoosh Editor:

I have read the article Sexual Imagery in XWP by Nusi Dekker and find the sections on Ares and Xena very disturbing.

The author of the article reduces and cheapens the complexity of Ares' character by describing him as nothing more than someone interested in sex. In contrary to the implications of the article, Ares is probably the most intricate and profound character on the series who, unlike Xena and Gabrielle, has not been exhausted yet. There are still so many facets of his personality to explore. Kevin Smith, the talented actor who portrays Ares, is very much bothered by the fact that he (Kevin himself) is often labeled as "sex symbol" and "hunk". After his contract ran out at the beginning of the fifth season, he was planning to leave Xena forever. However, because of the COMPLEXITY and DEVELOPMENT of Ares in the later half of the series, Mr. Smith agreed to continue with the character. Obviously, if Ares was all about sex, Kevin would have found a way better job because his negative attitude towards being thought of as "sex symbol" is very adamant.

I too, am bothered by the fact that there was so much sex between Ares and Xena. I am no Xena/Ares relationshiper because I don't think Xena suits Ares because he is so much more complex than she is. In Amphipolis Under Siege, I am very bothered by the fact that Xena uses sex to deceive Ares. Come on! She is the heroine! He might have done that to her before, but after all, he is SUPPOSED to be the villain! That trick Xena did was very cruel and makes her no better than a common prostitute who happens to know how to use a sword. The sex in Eternal Bonds was also unncessary, I think. I would much prefer if Ares has done more speaking and use verbal and spiritual seduction. Xena's sexual manipulations of Ares in Amphipolis Under Siege and Livia are nothing short of spitefulness. Ironically, she is supposed to be a heroine.

However, I am convinced beyond doubt that Ares genuinely loves Xena on a spiritual level. (Kevin Smith also interprets Ares as someone who genuinely loves Xena) Ares said "I love you, Xena" to the air in Tartarus. Why did he do that? He had no reason to do that if there was no one to listen to him. That truly shows that his feelings are genuine. Again in "Looking Death in the Eye", Ares speaks to the "dead" Xena that he loves her. He truly feels for her, admires her, and respects her. It is not easy for him to reveal that love in front of her face because of his pride, his godly status, his ego, his role. Ares is not just looking for sex from Xena. He is looking for acceptance. He is an outcast on Olympus. None of the gods really like him. He sees the mortals as pathetic and stupid. Xena is about the only person that he respects and admires.

I do not know how the author of "sexual imagery" perceived "oral sex" in Eternal Bonds. That is truly disturbing. Now, is it true that Xena is attracted to Ares? Certainly she is. She has to conciously tell herself that he's bad. Everytime Xena is with Ares, she seems mesmerized by his eloquence. This attraction is not just sexual, but spiritual as well. Ares' verbal ability is superb.

The author of the article is not convinced by Ares' sacrifice at the end of the MOTHERHOOD that he truly loves Xena. She argues that when Ares told Xena he loves her in the rain, it was "solely meant as a distraction for Xena". That simply cannot be true! It might have elements of both: Ares means it and he's working for the gods--rather passively, but distracting Xena is not the "sole" purpose of his courageous declaration. The author says Ares "inexplicably" brought Gabrielle and Eve back to life. THat's another extremely inaccurate statement. Ares obviously did it for Xena. Frankly, I agree with Kevin Smith that Ares is the ultimate survivor, but he also has a great deal of pride and dignity. In that situation, I believe that Ares would rather die than live pathetically as a mortal was it not because he loves Xena and desires to prove it. The author of "Sexual Imagery" claims that "some fans" want to see Ares and Xena's relationship blossom. That appears very much directed at the Ares fans. The author also says that these same group of Ares fans feel that Xena "owes" Ares at least a roll in the sack for his heroic sacrifice. I must say that as an Ares fan myself, I am very much offended. No, I do not think Xena owes Ares sex. She owes him much MORE than that. She owes him understanding. She AND Gabrielle both try to rub this hypocritical, sanctimonius, cliched moral superiority over Ares. In that respect and many others, Xena and Gabrielle appear much less respectable than Ares.

Xena's mind is good at problem solving, but Xena is not a keen reader of complex characters such as Ares. Xena simply does not understand him and his motives. She simply does not bother to think about his situation: stuck between Olympus and mortal world, an outcast. What Ares did in the end of Looking Death in the Eye and Motherhood are very heroic because he is supposedly the bad guy. While he is capable of dire atrocities, he is also capable of such selfless actions. That is one of the great many things that makes Ares' character intricate, complex, and interesting. The earlier Xena displays this kind of complex quality, but that was no longer true since the third season. Xena and Gabrielle--they're not complex--but often hypocritical. Understanding Ares requires a lot more thought and insight. Apparently, the author of "Sexual Imagery" lacks this very insight and is not able to appreciate the intricacy of Ares' character.

There IS one thing about Ares that I do not like though--his OBSESSION with Xena. Wake up! When is it time for him to move on and find a woman that can understand him and does not preach sanctimony and claim moral superiority over him?

Thomas Robertson





Season Five In Review

Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000
From: Perdicus

In Defense of Eve: A Response to John Baber's "Season Five In Review" (WHOOSH! #48)

I wrote this piece to put in my own two cents on Season Five and more or less defend RenPic & co. (including the writers, actors, etc.) against some of John Baber's criticisms. Specifically, the way Eve was dealt with at the tail end of the season and how it compares with Hope's fate. It may be a lost cause, but as Xena says, "Causes are only lost when people give up on them." Let's see how we do.

"Well, they made a mistake. You made a mistake. When you went after my little girl, that was entirely unacceptable."
--Clint Eastwood, from "Absolute Power"

The Rift

1) Hope & Eve

One cannot discuss Season Five without first going back to Season Three's "Rift" saga and its' profound effects on the Xenaverse. Let's start out by comparing the kids.

"Even after Eve is shown to be evil and just like Gabrielle's own daughter, whom Xena condemned to death, Gabrielle gives her unconditional support and love to Xena, and even the murderess Eve. This is how the Third Season Rift could have been handled, but it was not. Issues of justice and accountability aside, this is how Xena and Gabrielle should have treated each other before."
--John Baber, "Season Five In Review", WHOOSH! #48

I see it differently. Hope clearly started out evil, strangling one of the Knights of the Pierced Heart only hours after she was born. I believe that this theme was supported throughout all of Hope's appearances; that she was, in fact, irredeemably evil. Granted, Xena and Gab didn't handle the situation all that well, but let's face it; they never had a chance.

And as for Eve, even Xena and Gabrielle gave up on her eventually. Xena was prepared to kill her own daughter--until she lost her nerve at the last minute. The main difference here, I think, is destiny. Hope was always destined for evil, but Eve was always supposed to be destined for good. As Xena said in "Motherhood", "I was chosen as the mother of the messenger."

"For the writers to make no mention of what went before means Xena was always right in condemning Hope, and reforming Eve. This is not to mention the difference in how Xena attempted to "reform" Lao Ma's teenage son, Ming Tien. It makes Xena look arrogant and petty and Gabrielle gullible and stupid. This is not the look you want for the Hero and her sidekick."
--John Baber, "Season Five In Review", WHOOSH! #48

Again, I disagree. Bringing up Hope and Ming Tien at this stage would only reopen old wounds. It took a lot of time and energy for Xena & Gab to get past that; they couldn't afford to let it cloud their focus. If you will forgive a trite epigram; that was then, this is now.

2) Ming Tien and Callisto

"Finding out that Ming Tien murdered his own mother, Xena murdered him by ramming a hairpin through his temple. Her reason was vengeance for Lao Ma. This is a common theme for Xena. Recall her stated reason for the "Gab drag" in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) was "Vengeance!" And when Xena stabbed Callisto in SACRIFICE II (68/322), again it was out of vengeance for Callisto mocking Gabrielle's death. All well and good, yet when presented with a similar despotic young adult, her own daughter Eve, Xena made no such rush to judgment."
--John Baber, "Season Five In Review", WHOOSH! #48

All those in favor of rushing to judge your own daughter and condemn her to death, no matter how you feel about it personally and regardless of any mitigating circumstances, raise your hands. I thought so. Xena killed Ming Tien and Callisto when she was wild with anger. Both of them knew what she was capable of and deliberately provoked her to push her of the edge. Also, the "Gab Drag" was provoked by Ares and committed in a state of anger bordering on insanity. Eve was raised by a Roman emperor and seduced by the God of War. Given that, and her heritage, the result was understandable.

Xena tried to kill Eve when she (Xena) was more rational than when she killed Callisto or Ming Tien. It is not so easy to kill a helpless enemy in cold blood, especially when it's your daughter.

"Inadvertently, in writing Xena as giving her own daughter a chance to reform, the writers throw questionable light on Xena's prior acts of vengeance. Recall that Xena's whole production number in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) revolved around what she did to Ming Tien. She was not sorry she killed him ("I killed ya, you b*st*rd!"). So it merely comes down to favoritism when her daughter is involved."
--John Baber, "Season Five In Review", WHOOSH! #48

If you will forgive another trite epigram: "Duh!" Naturally, Xena will show favoritism towards her daughter. After being separated from her for 25 years, she's not about play this scene:

Eve: "Hi, mom."
Xena: "Hi, Eve." [runs her through] "'Bye, Eve."
Eve: "Urgh...That was harsh, Mom..." [dies]

Xena would never forgive herself for killing her own daughter without trying everything she can think of to save her. Even then, I don't think she could forgive herself. No matter what your child is like, it is never easy to lose them, let alone kill them yourself.

Conclusion

Yes, the circumstances Eve and Hope were in were vaguely similar; they were both conceived in unusual ways and born under extreme conditions. They were both separated from their natural mothers from extended periods of time, only to resurface as agents of evil. So why did Eve get saved and not Hope? I think there are three main contributing factors. In chronological order...

1) Solan--Xena had already lost one child; she couldn't bring herself to admit that she'd lost another.

2) Hope--This is a little shaky, but I think that unresolved guilt over the way she'd treated Hope may have spurred Xena to make the supreme effort to save her daughter. Plus, the point was made abundantly clear (to me, anyhow) that Hope could not be saved.

And last but not least, of course, is...

3) Eli--Much had been made of Eli's contribution to the Xenaverse, but one fact is clear; Eli has come through for Xena again and again.

EXHIBIT A) In India, Eli's bodyguard prompts Xena to pray to Krishna. Result: Victory over Indrajit. ("The Way", XWP #84)

EXHIBIT B) When Xena and Gab were crucified, Eli prayed and the Angel Callisto answered him. Result: Xena and Gab come back to life. ("Ides Of March"-"Fallen Angel", XWP #90-91)

EXHIBIT C) When Xena couldn't figure out what to do with the Chakrams, it was Eli who gave her the crucial information on how to neutralize them ("Chakram", XWP #92).

I could go on and on, but I think I've proved my point. Who else could Xena turn to in her hour of need? The Olympians who are trying to kill Eve? No. Hercules? Wherabouts unknown. The Amazons? Yeah, right. No, she turned to the one man (or God, if you will) who had a proven track record. Eve had a lot more support than Hope did; that, I think, is what tipped the balance in her favor.

EPILOGUE: Final Thoughts

The whole Eli issue...it's not much of an issue with me. "Xena" has a long, proud history of "Fairly Obvious References to Judeo/Christian Beliefs/History" (as I put it). O.K., so we're going from "Fairly Obvious" right over the edge into "We're Beating You Over the Head With It". No biggie; just don't let the "Deus ex Machina" concept take over and it will be O.K. Borrowing Saul of Tarses (blinding light from the heavens, remember?) and John the Baptist is pushing it, but Melissa Good has written the season opener (YESSSS! A SPECTACULAR MOVE!), so I think we will be alright.

The death of Joxer...as much as I have wished for five seasons that someone would drop this character off the edge of the Xenaverse (thanks for the inspiration, Beth Gaynor), I'm really going to miss him. We won't have Joxer to kick around anymore...or will we?

"...there is talk from Ted Raimi himself that Joxer could return in the Sixth Season..."
--John Baber, "Season Five In Review", WHOOSH! #48

Robert Trebor, Robert Trebor, why have you forsaken us?






Date: Fri, 01 Sep 2000
From: Sara Ellis
Subject: great article!

I read your article in Whoosh and just wanted to say it was a great review of the mire known as the fifth season. I completely agree that much of the responsibility lies with Rob Tapert. I think he started to confuse the fans admiration for the show with admiration for him and the show's star. I also feel that Sam Raimi taking a lesser role is a big reason why things have gone downhill since season two. The show used to be a perfect balance of comedy and drama i.e. camp, Rob Tapert isn't talented enough to keep that balance. Just a theory. Anyway, great job!

Sincerely
Sara Ellis



Thank you very much, I'm glad my essay was readible.

Longtime Xena viewers like myself found a huge drop in quality this season regarding the writing. But if you compare the 5th season of Xena to the other RenPics shows, you do start to see a consistency between the shows.

The writers of Cleopatra 2525 and Jack of All Trades are interchangable with the Xena writers, most notably RJ Stewart and Rob Tapert themselves. When I see sleazy, sexist garbage put forth on those shows, it makes some of their decisions this season on Xena understandable.

The writing teams between the shows are interchangable, and to some extent, the quality of the scripts as well. If Rob and RJ as producers can't see why Cleopatra 2525 is insulting and mindless trash, then I don't believe they will have any reason to return Xena itself to the empowering and intelligent show it used to be.

Thanks for writing, and keeping up hopes that things will improve. :)

-John Baber






Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2000
From: Name withheld
Subject: thanks for speaking out

Thanks for your intelligent, reasonable and logical look at the way the show has changed and how the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle has changed. I don't blame the actors -- I blame the directors and the producers (the actor and writers follow their guidance after all). The indecision over Gabrielle's character and her shrinking importance to Xena has also been distressing.

What's especially distressing is the lack of civility among fans -- anyone who mourns the changes in the shows is ripped as a Xena basher, as though we don't have the right to be disappointed in a show we still love and want to continue to love -- even though it disappoints us.



Thanks for writing. Yes, that sort of reaction can happen, but you can't let it get to you. Some fans question criticism at all, their reaction is usually to tell you to stop watching the show. But criticism can also be borne of love for a show, and I fell in love with the representations of Xena and Gabrielle from the early seasons.

Fans of the 5th season are entitled to their opinion. What I take issue with is when they say you are not entitled to yours. We all want the best for this show, and here's hoping the 6th season exemplifies this.
-John Baber






Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2000
From: Andrew Shaughnessy
Subject: Your Whoosh! Article

Your article was certainly hard-hitting, and I have to say I agree with your comments. In my letter this month I also commented on the move from character to plot-led stories, though obviously not in as much detail.

What I find particularly disturbing is the (apparently deliberate) marginalisation of Gabrielle and, by association, Renee O'Connor. Gabrielle, even in Season One, was always more than "just another freakin' sidekick", and her relationship with Xena made the series what it was.

In my opinion, all writers for the show (including Messrs. Tapert and Stewart) should be made to watch "The Greater Good", "The Quest", "The Price" and "One Against an Army" to remind them of how the characters should be portrayed.

Regards,
Andrew



This is most certainly true. As others have noted, this can be most directly tied to the passage of several Xena writers off to other venues. Many writers, notably Steven Sears, were real fans of building Gabrielle up, of charting her story. They considered her character to be as important as Xena's (shocking as that may be to some).

Such writers have not been easy to spot in recent seasons, most notably the 5th. This show is now the story of Xena's service to the one true God of Michael, and her raising of Eve. Despite Xena's wonderful family comment at the end of Motherhood, she rebuffed any attempt at intimacy this season by Gabrielle. You can see it even in such well-regarded episodes as Little Problems. (Watch the closing scene.)

This show used to be about charting Xena's journey of reformation. As Lucy Lawless herself said a while back in an interview, the day Xena finds inner peace is the day the show should end. The conflict would be gone. Well, Xena is no longer questing for reformation, and Gabrielle is no longer written to question Xena in any way. She dares not to. It leads one to wonder what the show is now about. Reading the Bible?

-John Baber





September Issue

Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000
From: Andrew Shaughnessy Subject: Letter to the Editor

I'd just like to say how much I enjoyed three of September's articles.

Virginia Carper's "Roman History Versus Xenaverse Myth" was a great factual piece. I've always been interested in this period, and it was nice to see events in the Xenaverse placed in historical perspective. Virginia has also recommended that I read up on the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt. Intrigue, incest, murder - with history like this, who needs "Melrose Place"?

Nusi Dekker's "Sexual Imagery in Xena: Warrior Princess" raised some disturbing points, as did John Baber's "Season 5 in Review". As Nusi observed, Xena seemed to be thinking with her hormones for most of the time, acting like a predatory version of Season 1's Gabrielle. Speaking of whom, isn't Gabby supposed to be Xena's best friend? Where did the intimacy go? If I miss it, I dread to think how major subtext fans must feel!

John's implication that Gabrielle's relegation to "plot device" was a deliberate act may be questioned by some. The fact remains that an intelligent, complex character played by a beautiful, talented actress was reduced to a mere cypher for much of Season 5.

I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for Season 6. After all, looking at the hash Renpics' "veterans" have made lately, maybe the new writers will be an improvement!





Kudos

From: Jennifer
Subject: Great Page!
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000

Just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I've enjoyed your page!! It's a lot of fun and I spend quite a bit of time there.

Thanks!
Jennifer






From: JALSTAR
Subject: At Last!!!!!
Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2000

THANK YOU!!!!!

I finally found a site that told me if Xena was coming back for a 6th season! I have been anxiously awaiting to find out. I really enjoy the fantasy element of the show. I hope Lucy Lawless will continue acting on TV or movies for a while I think she's great.

Sincerely
Thanks again
A fan
JALSTAR





Charity Abounds

Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2000
From: Mist
Subject: S&S: Starship Safe and Sound Appeal

As many of you have read on the lists, over the past week New Zealand newspapers have reported that Lucy was very much upset with reports of child abuse that has cost the lives of several NZ children. Lucy offered her help to combat the problem, and she has now joined with others to raise funds to create New Zealand's first multi-agency CARES (Child and Adolescent Recovery, Empowerment and Safety) center near Starship Hospital.

In response to the requests I've received from fans to support Lucy's efforts, S&S will be taking donations for the Starship Children's Hospital Foundation's Safe and Sound appeal to help support the creation of the CARES center. In addition, I will be posting a new auction up to the Sword and Staff site within the next few days. The proceeds from that auction will also go to support the CARES center.

Anyone wishing to donate to this cause can send a check or money order payable in US $ (no postal money orders, please -- they cannot be cashed in NZ) payable to: STARSHIP CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL and I'll forward the donations down with a cover letter indicating that the donations should be used to support the CARES program.

Mail donations to:

Sword and Staff
P.O. Box 224
Floral Park, NY 11002
USA
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me privately.

Sword and Staff is a fan run organization. It has no official status, and has no affiliation with Universal Studios, StudiosUSA, Creation Entertainment, Renaissance Pictures, Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, or any other person or entity associated with the television show Xena:Warrior Princess.

All the best,
Mist
http://sword-and-staff.com








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