Whoosh! Issue 50 - November 2000

By S. L. Nelson
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
1308 words

In the Beginning (01-03)
Meeting the Challenge (04-12)
Staying a Fan (13-18)

Cry Murder Redux

In the Beginning

Callisto makes sure Pericas gets the point.

Perdicas enjoying his 15 minutes of fame in RETURN OF CALLISTO.

[1] I wrote my article, "Cry Murder" ("Cry Murder: The Politics and Ethics of Homicide in Xena: Warrior Princess" Whoosh! #17, February 1998, at the close of the apex of my frantic fan-ish feeling. I had never experienced anything like the obsession I had for Xena: Warrior Princess. The rise of the Internet and my own use of email, Usenet, and the web certainly contributed to this obsession. Of all the places on the Internet to post comment, Whoosh! stood highest. To write an article there would serve as a kind of merit badge of fandom.

[2] I could not remain so frantic, though I could settle into a plateau of bonnie captivation. The article remained my proof to myself that it was worthwhile to engage my whole thought process in my enjoyment of this discretionary diversion, this entertainment trifle, our Xena: Warrior Princess.

[3] Challenges did arise! I, along with many other fans, found the third season discombobulating to comfortable assumptions. I had written my Whoosh! article during the November break in new episodes. THE DEBT (52-53/306-307) had aired, but not MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311) or THE BITTER SUITE (58/312).

Meeting the Challenge

Close call, Gabrielle!  I could have killed you *again*!

Xena sneaks up on what she thinks is an unsuspecting Ming Tien in THE DEBT

[4] I wondered how I could reconcile the Xena of THE DEBT (52-53/306-307), ready to murder Ming T'ien in his sleep with the Xena I thought I knew from the preceding episodes. I could not do this, as it turned out, even though my article predicted that I would be able to. TPTB (the powers that be) tarnished my merit badge! The ethics of murder on Xena are much less understandable than I thought. What to do?

[5] Many fans decided to go the self-pity route. Some of my friends urged this on me. I could not do this. If I had kept to the organon that I used to frame my article, I would no longer be a Xena fan. My grandmother taught me that complaining is the lowest form of cowardice.

[6] To remain a Xena fan, I had to do two things. One, I had to develop enough interpretive suppleness to continue to enjoy a show with a murderer as the main character. Two, much of my enjoyment of the show depended on also enjoying Internet commentary. To enjoy the Internet Xena experiences from the third season onwards, a new attitude towards critics and criti- casters had to be found.

[7] After the fact, we learn that Ming T'ien deserved to be killed in his sleep as an act of tyrannicide. After the fact, we learn that Hope deserved to be killed as a baby, without trial or further evidence of guilt. To make sense of that, I found a new form of teleological reasoning, and new ways to frame my understanding of art forms.

[8] During the first and second seasons, it seemed that people were supposed to believe that because evil Xena had only killed men and spared women and children to starve later, that somehow her evil was less. This travesty of a moral view was ended by implication in the third season, and confirmed by the scene of evil Xena killing the Amazon leaders in ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401- 402). Appropriately, from the third season, TPTB toned down the cartoon aspects of the violence which earlier encouraged complacent dismissal of Xena's past evil doing.

[9] We, as viewers, took the lazy and morally shallow way out if we thought that the Xena of Season 1 and Season 2 was a better hero. The ONLY value of the "spared women and children" aspect of Xena's old evil days was the insight into her distorted conscience. Complete psychopaths have no empathy at all. Hitler thought he did right by the world; Xena, although perhaps as evil as Hitler, nevertheless knew she did wrong. Evil Xena showed remorse when she hurt Thelassa in LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407).

[10] Xena deserved imprisonment there; Xena deserves capital punishment. Xena does not stand in need of imprisonment; Xena does not stand in need of capital punishment. Forgiveness and atonement in the vast mythical fiction of the space where Xena "lives" proves, artistically, the difficulty of forgiveness and atonement.

[11] Forgiving small transgressions is not easy. Forgiving the greatest requires a call upon the infinite. MYTH may imagine this, and perhaps Gabrielle embodies our myth of grace and mercy.

[12] Meanwhile, Internet fans divided into warring camps. Those disgusted with the third season took pretty much the same view of murder that I did in my Whoosh! article and used it to deride the moral view of the show. They sneered. They derided some more. They tried with might and main to act as spoilsports. Trying to ruin the fun of others is immoral. Reveling in disgust is immoral. Only if the show really were advocating murder would such behavior be justifiable.

Staying A Fan

[13] I did not quit watching the show. I did not take up complaining. I did find a new way to frame my interpretations. The tools in my organon doubled or tripled. Not bad for a chop-socky TV show featuring scantily clad babes!

[14] My Whoosh! article, then, was the old foundation, a building of imperial empiricism, trying to make sense of the absurd. I am glad I wrote it, and it functioned well as a counterexample of loopy fundamentalism.

[15] Since writing it, I found a node here and a node there of little roots of shamrocks peeking out at me from other interpretive frameworks. I read most all of Kierkegaard to understand Manheim, and Schopenhauer to understand Stewart. I learned tidy bits of ancient Greek to guess at Sears' and Armus & Foster's sources. I re-learned some German to read Wittgenstein. I spent way too much time figuring things out. I am become unearthly.

[16] I see that Gabrielle's pain comes from her goodness. No good deed goes unpunished, because that is how art can show fortitude in adversity. Hers is the jewel of infinite suffering.

[17] Xena, meanwhile, took up her role as Icon. She lost part of her humanity. But then, even if she had not become a god killer, familiarity would have robbed her of this. How many bad warlords or crooked casino operators can she thwart before the tedium of these actions made her appear small? How many times has Superman stopped bullets with his chest? Unlike Superman, Xena moves beyond comic-book torpor. Xena remains large, mythical, potent and impossible to chain to one moral view, or one pigeonhole.

[18] The show continued past its ripe period, but, rather than rot, it sprouted. Around, around, around, all the days of life until the end. Sic transit gloria mundi.


S. L. Nelson S. L. Nelson
"Cleanthes" aka S.L. Nelson
Born: South Dakota. Education: Bachelor Medieval Studies, U. of Iowa 1976, J.D., U. of Iowa 1978. Boring jobs as a lawyer, then some history writing for magazines. Delightful twenty-seven year marriage and three fine children, one a dedicated Xenite. Lived in 9 states and Ireland, now in Florida.
Favorite episode: FINS, FEMMES & GEMS (64/318), the smartest and most mythically-rich hour ever to appear on television.
Favorite line: Janice Covington: "The most important archeological find of the century - it has the power to turn myth into history, history into myth: The Xena Scrolls!" THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210)
First episode seen: BEWARE GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (12/112)
Least favorite episode: The first episode after the last. "For of all the sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" --Whittier, in "Maud Muller"

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