Whoosh! Issue 52 - January 2001

WHO IS XENA'S FATHER?
A CONTROVERSY REVISITED


Page 2

The 180-Degree Change That Was Season Five



Eeww!  Onions!

Xena and Ares smooch in ETERNAL BONDS.


[30] After the airing of the ambiguous episode THE FURIES, there curiously was no more sexual innuendo between Ares and Xena. Ares by then had evidently deduced that it was Gabrielle who was the main factor keeping Xena away from the dark side and out of his influence. He therefore concentrated his efforts into separating Xena and Gabrielle, and almost succeeded in his season-long elaborate plan by directly orchestrating the apparent self-sacrifice of Gabrielle at the end of the third season. Ares was then not seen at all in season four of XWP, until the modern-day UBER episode DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (90/422), where he tried again to bring Xena over to his side. This time, however, it was a very half-hearted effort. Ares' main tools of persuasion have previously been flattery, seduction, and gift offerings. But TPTB would not touch these tactics with a 10-foot pole in this episode since Xena had been re-incarnated as a man.

[31] With the matter of Xena's parentage never having been satisfactorily resolved, many viewers were shocked at the vision of Ares engaging in sexual foreplay with a naked, child-like Xena in her bath, in CHAKRAM, the second episode of the fifth season. This made many long-time fans of XWP uncomfortable at the suggestion of an incestuous relationship, and at the TPTB's (the powers that be) disregard of the concept of continuity and of their own previous Ares-as-father episodes.

[32] In the next episodes that featured Ares, notably SUCCESSION (93/503) and SEEDS OF FAITH (99/509), Ares appeared to be focusing more on seducing Gabrielle as a means of getting Xena's attention. In fact, he created another rift between Xena and Gabrielle by successfully shifting the blame (and the ire of Xena) for his cold-blooded murder of Eli onto Gabrielle, in SEEDS OF FAITH.

[33] In the pivotal episode GOD FEARING CHILD (102/512), the normally arrogant, self-absorbed and omnipotent Ares realized that with the birth of Xena's daughter, the demise of the Greek pantheon, as foretold by the Fates, was imminent. Terrified at the thought of his own death (which is amusing, since as the God of War, he orchestrated the death of millions), his primary concern was self-preservation, using any means necessary to achieve his goal. Still obsessed with the desire to wage war with Xena at his side and confronted with the need to extend his own mortality, he first asked, then demanded of Xena that she bear his child, or suffer dire consequences.

[34] This at first seemed like a completely selfish endeavor on the part of Ares, considering Xena was heavily gravid and about to give birth of her own divinely-conceived child, and she was still in the mind-set that Ares was evil and manipulative and not to be trusted. Under these circumstances, Xena obviously refused Ares' demand. When she directly asked him why, he could not answer her. Then, in a shocking revelation, he said, "I love you, Xena", after she was well out of earshot. Was he just testing out the phrase to see how it sounded on his lips? It was definitely a new concept for him as well as for old-time XWP fans, especially since it implied "romantic love", as opposed to "fatherly love" or "mentor love", which were, up until now, completely acceptable and comfortable terms describing the Xena/Ares relationship.

[35] The have-my-child theme was further emphasized in the next episode ETERNAL BONDS (103/513), where Ares essentially mind-raped Xena by forcing into her thoughts images of the two of them performing sexual acts together. By showing in this way that Xena deep down, desired him sexually, why should she not bear him a child while she was at it? Although Xena enjoyed Ares' manipulations, she refused his generous offer yet again. It was very difficult to see Ares' feelings as "love" in this episode. As for the audience reaction to the above scenario, to say that this did not sit well with many XWP fans is an understatement.

[36] In later episodes, Ares does show flashes of selflessness that could be argued as true love for Xena. In LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE (109/519), Xena and Gabrielle have tricked the gods, including Ares, that they and the baby Eve are dead. Having drunk a potion that simulates death, Xena expected the gods to go away once they saw Xena and Gabrielle dead. Xena anticipated they would then be able to wake up and resume their life without interference. Ares, in grief, messed up their plans by burying them in ice. He loved Xena enough to want to give her a decent burial, something a family member would do. He also so respected the bond of Xena and Gabrielle that he placed Gabrielle at her side, although he had spent his energy previously trying to separate them, to have Xena for himself. Why do that, considering that he and Gabrielle were "rivals" for Xena's affection before ETERNAL BONDS?

[37] Finally, was Ares' apparent act of selflessness in giving up his godhood and immortality by saving the lives of Eve, Gabrielle, and ultimately, Xena in MOTHERHOOD done as an act of love? Immediately before this act, Ares lured Xena out of the way and distracted her so that the Furies-possessed Gabrielle could get to Eve to kill her, and later, he attempted to dispatch Eve himself. He certainly had no love for Eve, although it had been implied that he had been in a sexual relationship with her for years, or Gabrielle. Ares knew that Xena cared about him (she had multiple opportunities to kill him in the past, but always chose to spare him), and he also knew about her philosophy of "regardless of your evil past, if you do one good thing, then you are good, and your past evil deeds are negated", first revealed to Marcus in the first-season episode MORTAL BELOVED.

[38] What Ares did was good for Xena and her daughter, and saved Xena from the guilt she would have suffered from killing Gabrielle. But in so doing, Ares betrayed and destroyed his own family, including his sisters, brothers, and uncles. He essentially abandoned his own family to become part of Xena's (sort of like what Gabrielle did, and Joxer in the fifth season, if you discount his motivations as being paternal, i.e. "my daughter is more important than anyone else in the world," mirroring Xena's stance), and knew that Xena would forgive all his past transgressions because of this one act.

[39] In the sixth-season premiere COMING HOME (113/601), Xena repaid him big-time for that act of good by letting him beat her to a pulp, than "kill" her, in order to remove the Furies from HIS head (no killing chakram blow to the head here!). One would think that this had proven beyond a doubt that Xena loved Ares more than Xena loved anyone else and advocates of a Xena/Ares romance were chomping at the bit during this episode. But in the end, Xena left mortal Ares with a kiss, walking into the sunset with Eve and Gabrielle. Ares thought he would become Xena's lover. In Xena's eyes, he was back to "father figure" status, but the door remained open for possible sexual interludes in the future.


A XENA Producer Has Her Say

[40] Regardless of the strong suggestions in seasons 1-3 of Ares being Xena's father and mentor, the producers and writers of XWP have chosen to ignore the storylines of the episodes of the past four years. Instead, they have pushed the idea of Xena and Ares as romantic partners as well as sexual co-manipulators, while ignoring the gross transgressions that Ares committed against both Gabrielle and Xena, or previous episodes that touched on the possibility of Ares as Xena's father. In CHAKRAM #11, the publication of the Official Xena Fan Club, fan club president Sharon Delaney posed the question of Xena's paternity to Chris Manheim, producer, story editor, and writer of several XENA gems, such as ALTARED STATES, REMEMBER NOTHING, and PARADISE FOUND, and who left the series after season 5:

SD: Have you ever stated clearly that Ares is not Xena's father for viewers who think he might be?

CM: He's not. Xena would be repulsed if there was any hint that was true. And she'd make mention of it. She wouldn't keep quiet on that score. That's not Xena.

[41] In CHAKRAM #12, the Chris Manheim interview is continued with a discussion of ETERNAL BONDS, an episode that Manheim wrote which contains a graphic sex scene between Ares and Xena. The following is a pertinent excerpt from the interview:

SD: Speaking of being wrong, how about Ares and Xena!

CM: I must say that was my big push all last season.

SD: Rob [Tapert] has been saying for years that he wanted to put Ares and Xena together. They even had a scene together in the Hercules episode "Armageddon Now" that was cut.

CM: All I know is when we were talking about trying to get Xena romantically involved with somebody, Ulysses didn't work and Rafe from "King Con" didn't work.

SD: You said you were hunting for a love interest for Xena. Was that something they wanted to do last season?

CM: Actually it was a drum I continued to beat. But it's that quandary of who can match Xena. Who really looks good with her and can stand toe to toe with her and Ares was the logical choice for me.


Conclusion



You are *not* taller than me!  I'm sitting down!

Ares and Xena have a moment in COMING HOME.


[42] The overwhelming obligation of the producers of XWP to portray Xena as having a sexual interest in men only, combined with the lack of convincing chemistry between Lucy Lawless and more than a few of the available male actors, had produced a quandary. The only solution was to rewrite the Ares character primarily to take advantage of the comfortable chemistry shared by Smith and Lawless. Smith was also available, based in New Zealand, and had built a substantial fan base in his own right.

[43] To accommodate the believability of Xena reciprocating Ares' love for her despite his past despicable acts of violence, deceit, and betrayal against both Xena and Gabrielle, the Xena character of the fifth season was also rewritten as a non-questioning follower and agent of the unseen "god of love", who no longer had a moral conscience and considered herself exonerated of all of her past misdeeds. The "redeemed" Xena no longer fought for the greater good but solely for the protection of her grown daughter, a woman who slaughtered thousands of innocents for no apparent reason (as per her very thin backstory) other than being goaded by her erstwhile lover Ares. Xena prevented surviving family members of those slain by Livia/Eve from bringing her to justice. Xena waged war against all that sought to harm her daughter - including the gods, Virgil, and Gabrielle. In Ares' eyes, she had regained her focus and blase attitude toward mass murder and death. She had become as arrogant and self-serving as he was. And he loved her for it.

[44] Beyond being an unwitting sperm donor in his one-night fling with Cyrene so long ago, he had never given the idea that Xena may have been his daughter another thought. Ares was the God of War; children would be very low on his list to deal with. As for Xena, the idea that Ares may be her father did not seem to bother her in the least. The following exchange says it all (from the transcript of THE FURIES):

ARES: You don't really think I'm your father, do you? XENA: It doesn't matter. The Furies think you are. That's all that counts.

[45] Twenty-five years into the future, Xena's mother was long dead. Xena killed the last reminders of the father/daughter relationship, the Furies, in COMING HOME.

[46] Any vestige of doubt can be swept under the rug and forgotten. Three years in episodic television is an eternity, as the fifth season of XWP has demonstrated.


Notes

Note 01

Here are some articles dealing with Xena's parentage on WHOOSH:
"Is Ares Xena's father?", WHOOSH XENA FAQ

"Is Xena's Father A God? Yes! Is It Ares? No!", by Margaret Matthews

"Reflections of a Father", by Anita Louise Silva

"Who Was Xena's Father? Theories on the Warrior Princess' Origins", by Nusi P. Dekker

"Xena: A Demigod?", by Bret Ryan Rudnick

"Xena and Ares - A Match Made in Hades", by Ian Rentoul

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Note 02

Hercules possessed his incredible strength, which no other mortal man or woman possessed, by virtue of his godly parentage.
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Note 03

This was gleaned from Cyrene's account in THE FURIES (47/301). However, the name "Atrius" in not found in the transcript. Furthermore, neither Cyrene nor anyone else referred to Xena's father (and presumably Cyrene's husband) by name in this episode. This may have been a reason that the ghost Cyrene called her husband "Orestes" in HAUNTING OF AMPHIPOLIS (114/602), Orestes being a prominent character in THE FURIES but not Cyrene's husband.
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Note 04

This was related by Xena in TIES THAT BIND (20/120).
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Note 05

This was gleaned from Cyrene's account in THE FURIES (47/301).
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Note 06

Toris was featured in DEATH MASK (23/123).
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Note 07

Lyceus was featured in REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202).
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Note 08

As of December 3, 2000. However, the old "chakram of darkness" is observed on Xena's person at the time of her meeting with the Norse god Odin (THE RHEINGOLD (119/607)), which occurred approximately 35 years earlier (give or take a year) than the present timeline depicted in season 6, thus placing the events of the Norse interlude after the Battle of Corinth.
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Note 09

As depicted in PAST IMPERFECT (77/409).
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Note 10

Also referenced in THE RECKONING (06/106) where Xena and Ares see each other for the first time.
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Note 11

Persephone in Greek myth was Hades' sister, but this was not part of the HTLJ canon.
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References

Dekker, Nusi P., "Who Was Xena's Father? Theories on the Warrior Princess' Origins", WHOOSH #6, March 1997.

Delaney, Sharon, "Animal Attraction: Chris Manheim Interview", CHAKRAM #11, Xena Warrior Princess Official Fan Club, 2000, pg. 18-20.

Delaney, Sharon, "Eternal Bonds: Chris Manheim Interview", CHAKRAM #12, Xena Warrior Princess Official Fan Club, 2000, pg. 12-15.

Hayes, K. Stoddard, "Immortal Combat", Official Xena Warrior Princess Magazine #11, Titan Pub. Grp. Ltd., U.K., 2000, pg. 21-26.

Hayes, K. Stoddard, "War Games", Official Xena Warrior Princess Magazine #11, Titan Pub. Grp. Ltd., U.K., 2000, pg. 28-32.

Matthews, Margaret, "Is Xena's Father a God? Yes! Is it Ares? No!" WHOOSH #24, Sept. 1998.

Rudnick, Bret R., "Xena: A Demigod?" WHOOSH #7, April 1997.

Silva, Anita Louise, "Reflections of a Father", WHOOSH #15, Dec. 1997.

Souli, Sofia, GREEK MYTHOLOGY: THE CREATION OF THE GODS, THE GODS, THE HEROES, THE TROJAN WAR, THE ODYSSEY. (Translation from Greek by Philip Ramp), Ed. M. Toubis S.A., Athens, Greece (1995).

Transcription of THE RECKONING, WHOOSH Episode Guide.

Transcription of TIES THAT BIND, WHOOSH Episode Guide.

Transcription of THE XENA SCROLLS, WHOOSH Episode Guide.

Transcription of THE FURIES, WHOOSH Episode Guide.


Articles

Nusi Dekker, "Who Was Xena's Father? Theories on the Warrior Princess' Origins"
WHOOSH #6 (March 1997)

Nusi Dekker, "A Trip to Greece: Ruminations on Xena: Warrior Princess"
WHOOSH #13 (October 1997)

Nusi Dekker, "Depictions of Goddesses in Xena: Warrior Princess"
WHOOSH #31 (April 1999)

Nusi Dekker, "Sexual Imagery in Xena: Warrior Princess"
WHOOSH #48 (September 2000)



Biography

nusi dekker Nusi Dekker

A native Californian, I live in the Bay Area and work at UCSF Medical Center where I manage an oral pathology research lab. I run experiments on human biopsy tissue (mostly cancers), and I am the primary or co-author of over 30 research papers. I was an art major before I switched to cell biology, but I still love ancient art and mythology. I have never in my life done any fan thing until Xena!

Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) and THE PRICE (44/220)
Favorite line: Xena: "You are a part of my heart" ULYSSES (43/219)
First episode seen: DREAMWORKER (03/103)
Least favorite episode: KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308), KEY TO THE KINGDOM (78/410), FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), and most of the fifth season.


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