Whoosh! Issue 51 - December 2000

DECONSTRUCTING FAN GRIPES IN
SEASON FIVE

By Rich Furman
Content copyright (c) 2000 held by author
WHOOSH! Edition copyright (c) 2000 held by WHOOSH
1795 words



Subtext in Season Five: Another Kind of Another Kind Of Love (01-06)
Xena/Ares: Siring the Universal Soldier (07-08)
You Got Your Christianity in My Paganism! (09-12)
They Killed Joxer! The B*st*rds! (13-15)
Chak Attack (16-17)
Conclusion (18)
Notes
Biography



Deconstructing Fan Gripes in Season Five






Whom do I have to sleep with to get out of this episode?

MARRIED WITH FISHTICKS is the only episode in Season Five to do better in the repeat ratings than on its debut.


Subtext In Season Five:
Another Kind Of Another Kind Of Love

[01] I watch XENA. Then, I turn to WHOOSH! to see what people are thinking. Then I become confused. I am a little tired of the word "subtext". "Subtext" is the hidden agenda motivating words or actions. If what we mean is lesbian subtext, please let us say "lesbian subtext". Now that I have gotten that little pet peeve off my chest, I will return to standard fandom usage and abbreviate "lesbian subtext" as "subtext".

[02] I am confused that fans seem disappointed at the lack of subtext in Season Five. Here we see two women trying to build a family together, trying to figure out whether to settle down or remain errant, trying to sort out how to raise a kid together, and there are people out there complaining that subtext has been dropped? Come on people! If your idea of "subtext" is hot tub scenes and passionate kisses in the night, then you do not know what love is and have never made it past infatuation!

[03] There comes a time when people in a relationship must move past hot-tub scenes and deal with managing their lives together, and that is so much of what Season Five is about. Real intimacy is not about sexual tension. It is about comfort, sexual and otherwise. If the subtext in prior seasons was about lesbian courtship, then the subtext of Season Five is about lesbian marriage. It is about coming together as a family and presenting a unified front to the world.

[04] Make no mistake about it, Xena and Gabrielle are married. They have exchanged vows of loyalty and braved hell (literally) for each other in the presence of angels, who have agreed with Xena and Gabrielle that their destiny is to be together. They are facing the problems of any gay marriage. Cyrene, Xena's mother, is shoving men at Xena in an effort to give the pregnancy heterosexual legitimacy. The duo is trying to figure out where they are going to live. Ares is demanding to know who the father is, as if it matters somehow.

[05] Gabrielle is Eve's father. Xena was not kidding or playing a head game when she said as much. We see the evidence. In any patriarchal system, inheritance goes from father to child. When Gabrielle confers her rite of caste upon Eve, she is proclaiming to the community her responsibility for and interest in this child.

[06] When it comes to subtext, it may no longer be the hot and steamy stuff of erotic fanfic, but it is there. What Season Five is saying is more important than what has ever been said before: that gay couples have commitment, staying power, and family values. In an age where gay marriage is on trial, what could be more important?


Xena/Ares: Siring the Universal Soldier



Careful!  I just had that pierced!

Xena takes control in AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE.


[07] Before I walk down the path I am about to walk down, I want to make it clear that in terms of romance camps, I am strictly X/G (Xena/Gabrielle).

[08] Kym Taborn, in her August 2000 editorial in WHOOSH, described Ares as a "pathetic sexual predator" in Season Five. That was an oversimplification. It was not sex Ares wanted, it was a child. He accepted his impending mortality, even while the other gods were in denial. He advanced the events leading up to the twilight, and it was amazing how easily he sold his family down the river. He saw Xena as a path to immortality via reproduction, and he does, in fact, love Xena. He did the right and decent, albeit utterly inconvenient, thing when he perceived that Xena and Gabrielle were dead. He gave them a decent and respectful burial. In some small way, he proved himself as something other than a user by giving up his immortality to save Eve and Gabrielle. What are we to make of this?

[09] We are dealing with gods here, and in order to understand anything we must first stop treating them like people. Ares is not a man. He is War. Aphrodite is not a woman. She is Love. The entities are inseparable from the ideas. When the killing stops, Love and War are all that are left. And more than Love, War needs children: food for the ravens and fodder for the cannon. War needs reproduction to survive. So Love is left alive and immortal, and War is left alive with a reproductive imperative. Ares has always regarded Gabrielle as the most dangerous of rivals for this very reason. War is inimical to homosexuality because homosexuality does not yield food for the beasts of battle. The Xena/Gabrielle relationship is the greatest threat to Ares, because homosexuality is the greatest threat to War.


You got your Christianity in my Paganism!



Michael Douglas' evil twin?

Michael seems all sweetness and light, but that changes in Season Six.


[10] This may be one of my favorite camps. The people who, having been damaged by various churches of various sorts, found escapism in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS' paganism are shocked, dismayed, and outraged that Christ might come storming through their safe haven. Yet, Xena is responsible for Stonehenge, CPR, and the Hippocratic oath. Gabrielle gave us charades, Homer, and Virgil. Why not take a "chill pill", suspend your disbelief, and watch how our dynamic duo enables Christianity? Who knows, you might even come away in possession of some lies you like better than the ones your preacher told you.

[11] We have seen all kinds of religions: Greek gods, shamanism, Hinduism, and deities known only to anthropologists. We even saw Judaism when Xena returned the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites and when she helped David kill Goliath in GIANT KILLER (27/203), and saw Christianity peripherally in SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209) and ALTERED STATES (19/119). Therefore, how can we avoid Christianity? What makes this myth different from all other myths? What makes it so vile/holy that it alone should be directly excluded from/spared the XENA treatment?

[12] For many of us, it may be that the joy of watching XENA is the ability it has to teach us about our world using myths. Myths not linked to wearing oppressive clothes on a perfectly fine Sunday morning, which is consequently ruined by being forced to sit through a church service. But Christianity is one of the dominant myths of American culture [Note 01], and we owe it to ourselves to see what kind of "take" on this myth XENA will proffer. It will be interesting to see how it goes, since the central myth of Christianity is that Christ returns from the dead, but on this show, who has not?


They Killed Joxer! The B*st*rds!

[13] I am that rarest of things, a Gabrielle fan, a X/G fan, and a Joxer fan. I am not, however, a G/J (Gabrielle/Joxer) romanticist. I began as a Joxer apologist, but when he redeemed himself by retrieving the Hind's Blood Dagger in SACRIFICE (67-68/321-322), apologia no longer seemed necessary. When he disabled an army in IN SICKNESS AND HELL (72/404), I relaxed into simple fanhood, and waited hopefully, expectantly, that he would either become more skilled or get another life. As it turned out, Joxer got another life after losing Xena and Gabrielle to Ares' ill-timed nobility. He settled down with Meg and built a home and family.

[14] Joxer was always quixotic, and his delusions of grandeur were the things I wanted most to see him outgrow, but in LIVIA (110/520) he was Don Quixote, the aging landholder with the impossible dream. Like Don Quixote, he went out on that one last quest, that final great adventure. It was his reward, after leading a staid life of mundane stability, to journey out again with the companions of his youth and to attain for himself a hero's death on the plains of battle, noble and honorable, as befits a warrior.

[15] Was I disappointed? Yes. Was I satisfied? Yes. Gabrielle had already walked the path of the warrior-apprentice. Walking Joxer down that same path would be repetitious. So he was given the life he needed, and the death he wanted. Let us sing him a death-song more noble than songs he sang in life:

When a hero in battle, brave and big-hearted,
Loses his life to save those he loves
He is long spoken of in story and song
Thus a hero lives on, in their hearts and their heads.


Chak Attack



Chill, Xena!  I'm only doing what a lot of the fans want!

Xena sees a clear shot and takes it in MOTHERHOOD.


[16] Your best friend has gone crazy. Your hands are full of gods who want you dead. Your daughter's life is your key to killing the gods who want you dead. Your crazy best friend commences to kill your daughter. What are you going to do? Options:

1) Do Nothing. Best Friend kills daughter.Gods kill you and best friend.

2) Kill the gods really, really fast. Gods are faster.

3) Kill Best Friend. Daughter dies slow enough for you to dispatch the gods in front of you. You are still alive. You can make Ares do anything, so you know he can just resurrect the dead later.

4) Disable Best Friend. That is what you meant to do, but your throw was off. You are sorry. Because your throw was bad, the wound was mortal. See 3) above.

[17] How would YOU choose?


Conclusion

[18] I enjoyed Season Five. I enjoyed watching subtext move from the "I want you" phase to the "how are we going to run our lives" phase. I enjoyed seeing Ares actually display an emotion and behave honorably. I enjoyed Joxer's development and his stupid, noble, final scene.


Notes

Note 01

The other myth is science, which is why the creation/evolution debate will never be anything but a holy war.
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Biography

furman Rich Furman

Having attained an M.A. in English, I fix computers for a living, paddle canoes, edit the paddling club newsletter with my partner, Morgan, and obsess about the very interesting array of characters created by the good folks at RenPic.


Favorite Episode: A GOOD DAY (73/405). She threw to kill, but didn't know how to use a spear.
Favorite line: Xena to Tara: "You want to compare bad deeds, I'll bury ya". FORGIVEN (60/314).
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104) a/k/a "Baby-Toss".
Least Favorite Episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (105/515). Were they consuming wild mushrooms carelessly identified when they came up with this?

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