Whoosh! Issue 55 - April 2001

By Virginia Carper
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! Edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
3540 words

Joxer Shock (01-03)
Joxer's Brain, Part I (04-09)
Joxer's Brain, Part II (10-14)
Joxer's World (15-35)
If Joxer was Like the Rest of Us (36-37)
Joxers Among Us (38-41)
Joxer's Legacy (42-44)
Further Reading

Welcome to the World of Joxer


And if you think this is tiny, I got something even smaller!

Joxer first revealed his shortcomings in CALLISTO.

[1] Many XENA fans have expressed "Joxer Shock". Why does he have to mess up everything? He is a stupid childish man who has no business loving Gabrielle. How can anyone make him understand his place?

[2] Why does Joxer not fit in? Our perception of Joxer is based on our context of him in relation to ourselves. If we met him apart from Xena and Gabrielle, would he still be annoying?

[3] What no one notices are the enormous efforts that Joxer makes simply to exist in a universe where he is not wanted. Joxer is not allowed to be who he is, but instead he is expected to conform. No exception is made for him. No one understands that it is not for the lack of trying that he cannot keep up with Xena and Gabrielle.


[4] The consensus among people with disabilities is that the person as an individual supercedes the disability. For people with mental disabilities, however, separating the individual from the disability becomes more problematic since autistic people think of themselves as being autistic and not having autism. The semantics may seem a bit strange, but it is a window into the thinking of people with mental disabilities.

[5] Joxer has a hidden disability, which is that his brain works differently. He is a high functioning autistic person: someone with Asperger's Syndrome (AS). As a disability activist, I have known people with AS. Since I have a "strange" brain, I also had similar experiences because of my inability to "get with the program."

[6] What is AS? As described by Karen Williams (University of Michigan Medical Center) in her paper for teachers of students with AS, ("Understanding the Student With Asperger's Syndrome: Guidelines for Teachers") individuals have the following defining characteristics:

  1. Insistence on sameness
  2. Impairment in social interaction
  3. Poor concentration
  4. Poor motor coordination
  5. Academic difficulties
  6. Restricted range of interests
  7. Emotional vulnerability

[7] In her paper, Dr. Williams states that students with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, as well as difficulties with changes. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues, such as body language, and determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS prefers soft clothing and certain foods. The person with AS perceives the world very differently.

[8] Joxer fits this profile in some essential ways. He fails to understand the rules of social convention. He is naive and conspicuously lacking in common sense. He is overly preoccupied with Gabrielle. Inflexible in his pursuit of being a warrior, Joxer fails to understand how easily stressed and emotionally vulnerable he is.

[9] Dr. Williams stresses that children with AS (many of whom are boys) often possess above-average intelligence and superior rote memories. Their single-minded pursuit of their interests can lead to great achievements in life. Joxer matures to understand what being a hero really is. In THE CONVERT (86/418), he refrains from bragging about his first kill. Instead, he decides to tell the warlord's son about his father's death. Later in EVE (111/521), Joxer dies trying to defend Gabrielle against Livia.


Hey!  I got ''happy fists''!

Joxer the Hero in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS.

[10] In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor of Education at Harvard University, first described the theory of multiple intelligences. He defined intelligence as "an ability or set of abilities that allow a person to solve a problem or fashion a product that is valued in one or more cultures". He suggested that 'different intelligences' may be independent abilities. A person can be poor in one area of skill but excellent in another domain. Dr. Gardner labels the eight intelligences:

  1. Linguistic-Verbal
  2. Logical-Mathematical
  3. Visual-Spatial
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic
  5. Musical-Rhythmical
  6. Social-Interpersonal
  7. Introspective-Intrapersonal
  8. Environmental-Naturalist

[11] Of these eight, the one most valued in Western European society is Linguistic-Verbal. As the Celebrated Bard, Gabrielle is the prime example of this intelligence. Meanwhile, Xena and Autolycus are superb examples of Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence. Joxer, by contrast, is poor in these skills. In the Xenaverse, Linguistic-Verbal and Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligences have more value than Joxer's skills in the Musical-Rhythmical and Logical-Mathematical realms.

[12] Joxer excels in one intelligence that neither Gabrielle nor Xena has: Musical-Rhythmical. Xena sings well, but she does not usually express herself through music. Joxer, on the other hand, enjoys creating and singing a variety of music styles. He plays the lyre and can reproduce a melody after hearing it only once. Joxer expresses himself by composing more verses to his "Joxer, the Mighty" song. Orpheus, master musician, recognized Joxer's talent when he entrusted Joxer with his lyre to defeat the Bacchae [GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204)].

[14] Another intelligence that Joxer possesses is Logical-Mathematical. He sees patterns and relationships that Xena and Gabrielle miss. One manifestation of this is his ability to win at gambling. He also cooks, which involves mathematics, logic, and puzzle solving. Xena knew this when she asked him to retrieve the Hind's Blood dagger to destroy Hope in SACRIFICE II (68/322). She knew he had the ability to retrieve the dagger and get into the cave without anyone suspecting.


[15] These selected episodes demonstrate aspects of Joxer's world, as he perceives it.


[16] Joxer's fixation on Gabrielle is revealed in this episode. Joxer directs all his attention to saving Gabrielle, whether she wants to be saved or not. This preoccupation with Gabrielle is a prime AS characteristic.

[17] A verse of Joxer's song expresses his feelings about Gabrielle:

Joxer the Mighty, he roams through the countryside
He never needs a place to hide
With Gabby as his sidekick,
Fighting with her little stick,
Righting wrongs and singing songs,
Being mighty all day long,
He's Joxer, Joxer the Mighty.


[18] By focusing on Xena's efforts to stop the day from repeating itself, this episode portrays a world of people with AS. Imagine Xena is the one with AS. Then consider how she operates in a logical and rational manner. Now, examine Joxer's and Gabrielle's reactions to Xena. Note their confusion and firm belief in her insanity.

[19] Xena's conception of the world versus Gabrielle's:

Gabrielle: Xena, you're saying that I forgot everything that happened yesterday?
Xena: You didn't just forget, it never happened to you.
Gabrielle: Well, if it never happened, then what's there to forget?
Xena: Today.
Gabrielle: But today hasn't happened yet.
Xena: Well, it happened to me.
Gabrielle: Yesterday?
Xena: No, the other today.
Gabrielle: So you're saying that today is actually yesterday for you, but for us, you're saying that today is today because we can't remember that yesterday was today, right?
Xena: Right.
Gabrielle: I don't get it.

[20] This episode also demonstrates Joxer's relationship with Xena and Gabrielle. He is their "odd relative". They tolerate him with good humor and mourn his death. However, from time to time, Xena and Gabrielle remind him how annoying he is.


And how many different parts did *you* play, you Brisco has-been!

Joxer's evil twin, Jett, confronts Autolycus in KING OF ASSASSINS.

[21] This episode offers background into Joxer's family. Joxer tells Gabrielle that he is the black sheep of his family. The rest of them are successful warlords and criminals. His father is proud of his brother Jett, the hired assassin, who had burned down a nearby village.

[22] Joxer's family demonstrates a strong family history of mental disabilities. Jett is strange in his own way. He does not seem as competent as Joxer believes him to be. As an assassin, Jett fails to kill Cleopatra. Meanwhile, Joxer's father is in prison. The other brother Jace is "strange."

[23] Unlike Joxer's tortured relationship with Jett, his relationship with their mother was loving. She sang to him and encouraged his musical talent. Through her actions, she saved him from a life of dependency. Joxer's mother gave him the strength to follow his own path.

[24] Several AS characteristics become apparent in this episode. First, Xena finds Joxer alone in the prison stocks singing to himself. Why was he alone in a crowded prison singing to himself? His song keeps him focused on what he is supposed to be. The prison environs seem to be less important to him. Second, Autolycus lectures Joxer about personal space. As an autistic, Joxer has no concept of territoriality. He needs to be taught. Autolycus, who is the master of kinetic space, has no tolerance for Joxer, his exact opposite:

Autolycus: There's a concept called "personal space," look into it.
Joxer: Hey, I'm just trying to broaden my knowledge. You might be the King of Thieves, but I am Master of Mayhem. There's a lot we could learn from each other, you know.
Autolycus: Sure. Hey, why don't you start by teaching me how to disappear without a trace?

WARRIOR. . . PRIESTESS. . . TRAMP (55/309)

[25] Many people think of people with mental disabilities as asexual entities or unbalanced sex fiends. Joxer is neither. He is a man who takes care of his needs by going to Meg's bordello. The prostitutes there sing his manly praises by referring to his shoe size. [Note 01]

If you want a special tryst,
He's the man you can't resist,
By every measure he's a prize!
Just check out his shoe size!
He's Joxer, Joxer the Mighty!


[26] In Illusia where Xena and Gabrielle try to resolve their difficulties, Joxer has two roles. He is the "Master of Geography" guiding Gabrielle through her grief. Later, he stands over her body as the hermit with a lamp to light the way for her spirit. Joxer acts as the guide into the unknown. How can he do that? He does it everyday like everyone else with mental disabilities. Their world of the mind does not correspond with the physical world. To navigate in a society that offers no concessions for disabilities, Joxer must constantly test his way.

KING CON (61/315)

[27] At Titus' gambling establishment, Joxer employs his Logical-Mathematical intelligence: he wins the take. How could a seeming inept man like Joxer be an accomplished gambler? His talent in music offers a clue. Music is governed by mathematics in sound. Tones, scales, and rhythms can be reworked on a mathematical basis. Joxer's "gestalt" style of thinking enables him to intuitively understand the laws of probability and statistics.

[28] This episode demonstrates how the world treats people with mental disabilities. Titus, an accomplished gambler himself, does not like the fact that Joxer wins against house odds. He challenges Joxer to a game ("double or nothing"), but Joxer declines. In response, Titus sends Leo, his son, to beat Joxer to a bloody pulp. Why would Titus want Joxer dead? If Joxer is an incompetent fool, then Titus, master gambler that he is, would not be concerned with him. Joxer challenges Titus' mastery and beat the house odds. Titus senses in Joxer a usurper to his gambling prowess.

[29] Other questions rise out of this episode. Because of his severe beating, Joxer suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). How would Joxer's TBI affect him, particularly considering it was severe enough to cause seizures? Would he suffer blackouts in addition to his other problems?

[30] Why can Gabrielle abuse Joxer and not allow anyone else? Xena searches for the people who beat Joxer but looks the other way at Gabrielle's mistreatment of him. What did Joxer do to deserve such abuse from people who claim to be his family and protectors?

THE CONVERT (86/418)

[31] Joxer demonstrates that people with mental disabilities have moral lives. Instead of rejoicing over his kill of a vicious warlord, Joxer feels guilt. He faces what killing a person means. Later, he decides to make amends to Arman, the warlord's son.

Joxer: It's a lie—you know, my whole life. I'm not a warrior. What kind of warrior kills somebody then has nightmares about it every night?
Xena: You're not alone in feeling guilty, Joxer. It's only natural.
Joxer: That's it, though. That's my point. It's not natural. I killed somebody, so you know what that makes me?"


[32] Annie (Joxer reincarnated) believes that she is the Xena vigilante. When she explores her past life, much to her dismay, Annie learns that she was Joxer. Meanwhile, Harry, her lover, finds out that he is Xena reincarnated. Knowing that she has lost Harry's love, Annie pushes him towards Mattie. Afterwards, he cruelly ignores Annie to love Mattie, who is Gabrielle reincarnated. Dismissed but undeterred, Annie goes out singing, in the sunshine, her version of the Joxer song. She will follow her own path without help from anyone else:

Annie, Banannie
She kicks fanny!
Dangerous with sword and knife,
Learned her skills in that past life!
Never will you outfox her,
She's as good as all Joxer!
I'm Annie, I'm Annie the Mighty!


My brother Joxer is more into Saturday Night Hay-Fever

Jace makes a big entrance in LYRE, LYRE.

[33] Jace, Joxer's other brother, exhibits his musical talent and outrageous flamboyancy. The Xenaverse's Liberace, Jace sings, prances, and flounces his way into Xena and Gabrielle's hearts. Like Joxer, Jace is treated cruelly for being who he is. Although Jace seems more accepting of himself, he still puts on an act much like Joxer.

[34] Jace and Joxer also have an uneasy relationship. The brothers seem to keep each other at arm's length. Joxer is more embarrassed by Jace's lifestyle than Jace is by Joxer's.

Joxer: Jace, how are ya, Bro? Listen—I know whatcha thinkin', I've been acting crummy to ya and I probably shouldn't 'a said what I said.
Jace: Really?
Joxer: Look—you're a grown man. You wanna dress like a clown, and act like a spaz, that is none of my business.
Jace: Joxer, back in the old country—
Joxer: Jace, you're not from the old country and you're not from Spain and I doubt very much if you've ever even had a plate of Paella.
Jace: I am your older brother by half an hour and I see that is going to make all the difference in the world. I 'cept your apology because I know it is as good as I'm ever gonna get from you, because you obviously don't know any better. Adios.

EVE (111/521)

[35] Joxer died as he lived, defending his friends. His love for them and his children shines through this episode. Joxer admits to his son Virgil that he was not the warrior that he had led everyone to believe. Expressing unconditional love for his father, Virgil tenderly holds Joxer's hand.


[36] The HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS episode STRANGER IN A STRANGE WORLD (H64/405) offers a glimpse into a Joxer who is like the rest of us. This Joxer, who leads the rebel forces against the Sovereign (Alternative Hercules), is in prison. He tries to convince Iolaus, who he thinks is the alternative Iolaus, to kill the Sovereign. Neither wants to kill in cold blood, but Iolaus finally agrees to the plan.

[37] The alternative Joxer is clear thinking, but still has problems since he is in prison. He wears leather instead of hand-pounded armor. Neither the crush of people nor the noise bothers him. He is a grimmer version of the "AS Joxer." Would he fit in with the Xena and Gabrielle of AS Joxer's world? Perhaps, but they would not have the same warm feelings for him.



My theory of relativity?  I hate my relatives!

The older Joxer could be mistaken for Einstein. In the dark.

[38] One person who had AS was Albert Einstein, Nobel Prize winning physicist. My former physics professor, Dr. Henning Leidecker remembered Dr. Einstein, his student advisor. Dr. Einstein wore loafers because he could not tie shoelaces and sweaters because he had trouble buttoning his shirts. Dr. Einstein sensed the world differently from the average person, much like Joxer.

[39] Dr. Einstein's entry on Space-Time for the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA is Joxerlike in its explanations:

All our thoughts and concepts are called up by sense-experiences and have a meaning only in reference to these sense-experiences...Consider the concepts referred to in the words "where, when, why, being," to the elucidation of which innumerable volumes of philosophy have been devoted. We fare no better in our speculations than a fish that should strive to become clear as to what is water. [Note 02]


[40] President George W. Bush has been ridiculed in the American press for his mangled sentences and mispronounced words. "Never again in the halls of Washington, D.C., do I want to have to make explanations that I can't explain". He used the word "resignate" instead of "resonate" in "issues that resignate with the American people."

[41] While he was campaigning for President, the then Governor Bush (Republican, Texas) explained his problem as "Sometimes my brain gets ahead of my words" [Note 03]. However, Governor Bush is "a cunning, ruthless, street-smart man" [Note 04] who, despite his disability, was able to become the President of the United States.


"Live your story: Faith, Hope, and Glory
Hold to the truth in your heart".
-- "If We Hold On Together", James Horner, THE LAND BEFORE TIME (Don Bluth, 1988)

[42] Throughout his life, Joxer retained his independence. Like everyone else, he married and had children. Many people with disabilities are discouraged from being parents since society believes that they cannot cope with raising children. With his loving relationship with a mature Virgil, Joxer effectively refuted this notion.

[43] Joxer remained a loving man in spite of the cruelty shown to him. After his death, his son Virgil said, "My entire life, I never saw my father be cruel to a man, woman, child, nor beast. He brought joy to everyone who knew him."

[44] Joxer lived in our world but in his own way.

Further Reading

Andjamgeo, 'Asperger Syndrome and Joxer', WHOOSH! Issue 42, March 2000

Carper, Virginia, 'Joxer From A Disability Perspective', WHOOSH! Issue 9, June 1997

Morris, Clifford, Special Education Website: Multiple Intelligences

Autism/PPD: One Mom's View

Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support


Note 01
The reference to shoe size is from the folk tale of 'if a man has large feet, then his male organs are just as large.'
Return to article

Note 02
"Space-Time", ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA (Thirteenth Edition: 1926).
Return to article

Note 03
His father, President George H.W. Bush admitted that he has dyslexia, and that several of his children have similar learning disabilities.
Return to article

Note 04
Jake Tapper, "Dumb chic", SALON.COM/POLITICS, November 2, 2000.
Return to article


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virginia carper Virginia Carper

My goal is to be a garden-variety human being. My friends know me as a squirrel. I am, however, a card-carrying member of the Squirrel Lovers Club, and do squirrel studies. My family watches XWP for the marvelous things Xena does and for Joxer, the warlord with autism.

Favorite episode: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
Favorite line: Joxer to Xena and Gabrielle: "A great many people have become allies because of their hatred of me". Xena and Gabrielle nod 'Yes!' BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109)
Least favorite episode: Most of the Third Season.

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