Whoosh! Issue 55 - April 2001

JOXER: DEFENDER OF SUBTEXT
By Gail Futoran
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
3545 words


A Subtextual Device (01)
Avoidance of Long-Term Relationships (02-06)
Appreciating the Relationship (07-08)
A Xena Figure? (09-37)
Summary (38-39)
Biography



Joxer: Defender Of Subtext



A Subtextual Device

"Xena? Well, you know, you love her more than anybody in the whole world."
-- Joxer in SACRIFICE II (68/322)
You're getting sleepy, you're getting...zzzzzzzz

Joxer and Hope have a heart-to-heart in SACRIFICE II


[01] Joxer's main function on Xena: Warrior Princess was comic relief. In most of the thirty-nine (39) episodes in which he appeared over five seasons, that is precisely what he was. Nevertheless, he served another valuable function: Defender of Subtext. Joxer defended or facilitated a subtextual (romantic) interpretation of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship in three ways.



Avoidance of Long-term Relationships

[02] First, he ensured that, as a steady male presence in their lives from his introduction in CALLISTO (22/122) at the end of Season One until his death in EVE (111/521) at the end of Season Five, there would be no need for any other steady male presence.

[03] Think about it. If Marcus [THE PATH NOT TAKEN (05/105), MORTAL BELOVED (16/116)] had been Xena and Gabrielle's traveling companion for 39 episodes over five seasons, do you really think Xena would have thought of him solely as a friend, an often annoying friend at that? If Perdicas [SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), BEWARE GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (12/112), RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205)] had been Gabrielle and Xena's traveling companion for the same period of time, would it be likely that Gabrielle rethought where her home was? We know what happened when Perdicas showed up as a reformed warrior [RETURN OF CALLISTO] rather than as the farmer who bored Gabrielle in SINS OF THE PAST. Furthermore, Xena's friendship with Gabrielle did not stop her from making love with the temporarily resurrected Marcus while Gabrielle slept nearby [MORTAL BELOVED].

[04] Despite the many past loves of Xena littering the landscape, most of them appearing in backstory episodes, there has been no serious male attraction for Xena since Season Two, the last being Ulysses in ULYSSES (43/219), discounting backstory episodes featuring Caesar and Borias. Despite assorted redshirts for Gabrielle, there has been no serious male attraction for Gabrielle since Season Two, that being Perdicas in RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205).

[05] Hercules and Iolaus proved their manhood with women on a frequent basis throughout their six seasons, either by expressing red-blooded male interest in the opposite sex, or by actual intimacies. In contrast, for Xena and Gabrielle there were only occasional attractions or flirtations that were often mission-oriented, not serious and not lasting past one episode, e.g., Rafe in KING CON (61/315) and Lin Qi in BACK IN THE BOTTLE (97/507). Admittedly some fans believed Joxer had a real chance at being Gabrielle's lover, but other fans disagreed, and the latter point of view was borne out in ETERNAL BONDS (103/513) when Gabrielle told Joxer she could not love him except as a friend. Ares does not count as a threat to subtext, because Xena has rejected him so many times that he is more like Joxer in that part of his role that has him pining after Xena.

[06] How did Xena and Gabrielle manage to mostly avoid the opposite sex and be presented as committed partners, forsaking all others, yet not become maintext lovers? Joxer, like Ares, serves to deflect attention from the fact that Xena and Gabrielle have forsaken all others for each other.



Appreciating the Relationship

[07] The second way that Joxer defended the subtext was through a maintext appreciation for Xena and Gabrielle's relationship, however one cares to define it. Joxer recognized the special nature of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship as demonstrated by the quotation from SACRIFICE II (68/322) opening this paper. Other instances include: BEEN THERE DONE THAT (48/302) when he asked Xena if there was a hickey on her neck; and FALLEN ANGEL (91/501) when he stated his intention to return Xena's body to Amphipolis to be buried next to her brother, and Gabrielle next to her. Gabrielle echoed that sentiment in THE ABYSS (118/606):

GABRIELLE: I don't want to be buried with the Amazons ... Xena, I want to lie with you, with your family in Amphipolis.

[08] However, despite his initial attraction to Xena and eventual marriage to Meg, a Xena-lookalike, and despite his unsuccessful pursuit of Gabrielle across years, countries, many leagues, and assorted deaths (his and hers, most notably), in his heart he knew Xena and Gabrielle were meant for each other.



A Xena Figure?

[09] The third way Joxer served the subtext is more complicated, and highly speculative. Following Season Two, whenever Gabrielle (or a Gabrielle-like character portrayed by Renee O'Connor) became attracted to someone tall, skilled, handsome, charming, and so on, it was Joxer (or some character portrayed by Ted Raimi). It was Joxer as he would be if he could be the person for whom Gabrielle would sacrifice her home, her family, her blood innocence, and her child. It was Joxer as a Xena figure: maintext supporting subtext.

[10] The following episodes presented in chronological order provide some support for this speculation. Notice that the earlier episodes seem to be taking baby steps in the direction previously described, whereas later episodes take giant strides into the subtext defense zone.


FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216)

Uh, Gabby, you're swooning on my foot.

Gab falls for a heroic Joxer in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS.


[11] This is the prototype episode, the first where Joxer portrays a Xena-like character. Joxer is spelled by Aphrodite to react to a bell ringing by becoming a skilled warrior who is handsome, witty, charming, and has a cool outfit. Throughout the episode, Gabrielle treats Joxer as she always does, immune to his bell-enhanced charms whether he is acting like a Xena-clone or his usual bumbling self. Then during the big fight scene near the end of the episode Joxer, the competent warrior version, kisses Gabrielle. At first, she goes limp and smiles ecstatically. Then a look of horror passes over her face. "Ah!" she exclaims, and slaps her face with both hands as though to wake herself up. "That was scary."

[12] Perhaps she recognized an attraction to a well-dressed, super-suave warrior of many skills. Earlier she referred to him as a "super sexy warrior", a description that fits Xena quite nicely, and Joxer, in his usual state, not at all. Gabrielle's response was to a warrior like Xena, not like Joxer.


A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222)

[13] Cupid's infant son, Bliss, shoots arrows into unsuspecting people causing them to look for love in all the wrong places. Xena is the first to go, hit by Cupid's arrow just as she sees Draco. Gabrielle is the next victim. Her response is to call "Xena? Xena?" as though looking for the one person for whom these odd new feelings might be appropriate. Instead as she turns around Joxer moves between Gabrielle and Xena, and Gabrielle falls hard for Joxer. Gabrielle is not at all shy about going after what she wants, and is all over Joxer like fungus. Joxer does not know how to handle her advances. His response is to choke up, and send her off to the lake for water. If she had fallen for Draco, that would not have been the case. The only reason Draco and Xena did not get intimate is that Xena, ever on top of the mission, ran off to take a cold swim. By falling for Joxer rather than Draco or someone else who would have taken advantage of her, Gabrielle's potential, or actual, romance with Xena is protected.

[14] This episode does not fit well into the speculation that Joxer (or any character played by Ted Raimi) is attractive to Gabrielle (or a character played by Renee O'Connor) only when he is portraying Xena or a Xena-like character. However, A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222) is important to this analysis by emphasizing the possibility of a Joxer-Gabrielle affair, and showing that Gabrielle is capable of responding to someone other than Perdicas. As Xena tells Draco:

XENA: Gabrielle could never love someone who lives off hurting others. You can't change her. So if you want to win her love, you better change yourself.

[15] A desire to serve the greater good is one quality that Joxer has in common with Xena.


FORGET ME NOT (63/317)

[16] This is an essential episode in the analysis. It is the most overt in terms of subtext even without Joxer's contribution, but Joxer raises FORGET ME NOT (63/317) to a level that makes it the most pro-subtext episode in season three, more so even than ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313). FORGET ME NOT is also a rare episode in that all three of Joxer's subtext defense functions are present.

[17] Gabrielle has "terrible pain" because she is haunted by memories she cannot access. In the Temple of Mnemosyne, she is sent on a journey across three rivers symbolizing different aspects of her memories. The rivers consist of blood, ice, and fire. Each one she walks through brings back another painful memory. Finally, the memory she has been suppressing for a year or longer can no longer be denied: She asked Ares to take her to Chin ahead of Xena so that she could betray Xena [THE DEBT (52-53/306-307)]. Why did she betray Xena? As she tells Ares, whom turns out to be an aspect of herself:

GABRIELLE: I wanted to get there before Xena so that I could betray her. I wanted to betray her. I gave her everything and had been nothing to her. I hated her for loving someone else [Lao Ma]. I wanted her to hurt. I wanted her to be punished. And I almost got her killed. My hatred and jealousy almost destroyed my best friend.

[18] Then she had a choice: to keep her memories, including the painful ones, or lose her memories, including the good ones.

[19] While Gabrielle is facing her painful memories, Joxer is trying to restore her memories, but only the good ones by reading to her from her scrolls, and leaving out anything painful.

JOXER: I am going to teach you about yourself. I'm going to give you your memories back, ok? But - just the good ones, none of the painful ones. It's what you wanted, isn't it?
Later Joxer reads from the CALLISTO (22/122) scroll about their first meeting:
JOXER: But a warrior like no other, so inept, so clumsy --
Joxer stops reading and changes what is in the scroll to suggest his incompetence is faked to foil his enemies. He goes on:
JOXER: Then I realized ... that's you talking ... then I realized that I was completely taken by this handsome, mysterious, dark, leader of men.
GABRIELLE: I'm in love with you?
JOXER: Yes. Yes you are.
GABRIELLE: I think I knew that. [She rests her head on his shoulder.]

[20] Gabrielle and Joxer did first meet in CALLISTO (22/122), but the individual described as "handsome, mysterious, dark, leader of men" is Xena, not Joxer. Still later Joxer finishes telling her about her life:

JOXER: Yep, that's it, that's your whole life right there.
GABRIELLE: By the gods, I am so incredibly in love with you. I wish I could feel that again.
JOXER: Yeah, so do I.
GABRIELLE: Take me, Joxer, now, like the time just before you saved Ulysses.
JOXER: Ok.
Gabrielle starts kissing him. Joxer stops her.
JOXER: Wait.
GABRIELLE: I want to remember. [Kissing him again.]
JOXER: Help, help, so do I, so do I.
[Stopping her again.]
GABRIELLE: Is this that centurion and gladiator game we used to play?

[21] Eventually Joxer admits "elaborating" on the scrolls.

JOXER: A lie is me thinking I could give you back all your happy memories. I'm just not a part of those and I really wanted to be. Look, I didn't rescue Ulysses, that was Xena.
Later, after Gabrielle is restored to herself, she makes it clear that she is not attracted to him:
GABRIELLE: Joxer, I have never nor will I ever dance in the nude in the rain with you anywhere near me.

[22] An anti-subtext view of FORGET ME NOT (63/317) would assert that Joxer's romantic "memories" were completely his invention, and that Gabrielle's reference to "good" memories were the good times with Xena which had nothing to do with romance, i.e., them helping Ulysses regain his throne, and all their other good deeds. Yet, Gabrielle's line in reference to THE DEBT (52-53/306-307), about jealousy and loving someone else is hard to interpret in a non-romantic way, and her reaction to the warrior Joxer described in the scrolls as himself, but who actually resembled Xena, seems more romantic than friendly.


FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS (64/318)

[23] On a mission to restore the Mystic Diamond to its place in the night sky, Aphrodite, who wants the diamond for herself, puts the "Pesky Posse", Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer, under a spell. Joxer thinks he is Attis the Ape Man who won the love of Princess Gaia. Gabrielle falls for her own reflection in the mirror. Xena becomes obsessed with fishing.

[24] This episode provides negative evidence for the speculation. Joxer portrays a different character, but he is not unusually competent. He does rescue Gabrielle from the bad guys at one point, just as on a few other occasions he carried out missions for Xena. Nevertheless, as Attis, he cannot get the animals to do his bidding, and he crashes into a tree. Yet, he is still Joxer, with a different name and costume, and not someone Gabrielle is attracted to. Only in his spelled mind is Gabrielle, as Gaia, attracted to him and desires "zug zug".


IF THE SHOE FITS (80/412)

[25] The device in this episode is a fairy tale, with the main characters (Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer) taking on different roles from Cinderella. Tyrone (Joxer), the stepbrother, has no social skills. He says to Harmonia, Fairy Godsmother (Lucy Lawless) who has promised to get him to the ball:

TYRONE: Well, let's see. I could use social skills.
HARMONIA: Trust me, you'll have many skills.

[26] When the transformed Tyrone gets to the palace, the Princess says on first sight of Tyrone: "What a hunk of a man". They dance, he dances, they dance, sing a romantic duet, and she looks at him in adoration. Admittedly, the Princess is not Gabrielle, but O'Connor portrays a character that is the only version of Gabrielle attracted to Joxer in this episode, and only when Joxer has "many skills" like Xena has.


DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (90/422)

The contract negotiations went well until Joxer realised he was out of uniform

It's not what... or who... you think in DEJA VU.


[27] This is the most explicit episode in terms of Joxer (or rather Ted Raimi) supporting the subtext. It takes place in the present. Annie (Lucy Lawless), a serious Xena: Warrior Princess fan, believes she is the "Xena Vigilante", a mysterious crime fighter. Her boyfriend, Harry (Ted Raimi), takes her to see a "past lives counselor", Mattie Merrill (Renee O'Connor). Even before being revealed as Xena, Harry portrays a normal guy, concerned about his girlfriend Annie: assertive, direct, forceful, and self-contained. He is not much like Joxer, but more like a modern Xena might be.

[28] As Annie regresses to her past life, she discovers to her great dismay that she is not Xena, but Joxer. Attempting to help Annie deal with this new crisis, Harry lets himself be regressed by Mattie and eventually discovers that he is Xena, and Mattie is Gabrielle. Annie/Joxer identifies Mattie and Harry as soulmates, "Harry, I got some bad news for you. You and I aren't made for each other. She's your soulmate."

[29] She describes a scene from ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), shown in clips, ending in Xena's: "Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you." After Annie leaves, Mattie says: "Harry. It's funny. I do feel strongly attached to you."

HARRY: What do you remember?
MATTIE: I think I remember ... when we first met. (clips)
After the clips come to an end:
MATTIE: It's been a long time.
HARRY: It's been too long, friend.

[30] They kiss, not as friends but as lovers, a sweetly passionate kiss that lingers. This is not Mattie the New Age con woman falling for Harry, the health care worker. They are in their modern bodies, but they have full memories of their past lives, and what they were to each other as demonstrated by clips ranging from SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) to BETWEEN THE LINES (83/415). When Harry asked Mattie what she remembered, she remembered she was Gabrielle, who loved a warrior woman named Xena.


MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (105/515)

[31] Hit on the head by tackle released during a fight between Aphrodite and Discord, Gabrielle is knocked into the water and almost drowns. While unconscious she experiences a fantasy involving herself as a mermaid, a man named Hagar (portrayed by Ted Raimi) who claims to be her husband, and three fishy children. The reason for the fantasy is that Gabrielle has been having trouble finding a place for herself in her real-life family unit consisting of herself, Xena, and the infant Eve. The fantasy teaches her patience with children that she then applies to Eve after she is rescued from drowning.

[32] Hagar is a character much like Harry in DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (90/422). Gabrielle, whom Hagar pretends is his absent wife, Crustacea, does fall for him, but she believes they are already married, had once been in love, and that she has simply forgotten. However, it was not Hagar she had forgotten, it was Xena.

[33] Gabrielle refuses Hagar's advances at first, but he grows on her. Why? Not because he is like Joxer, but because he is like Xena: conniving (his plot to keep Gabrielle unaware of her true identity); manipulative (leading on Sturgena and Crabella); and ambitious (his desire to be Council President). Hagar also demonstrated a fast learning curve (a Xena trait, not a Joxer trait); sensitivity to others (he comes to appreciate Gabrielle); and decisiveness.

[34] There are other similarities between the relationship developing between Hagar and Gabrielle, and Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. For example, Hagar takes Gabrielle for granted at first, something Xena has been known to do. Hagar, recognizing his error, tells her: "After the way I treated you, you could have left but you didn't." Gabrielle looks away in thought, as though recalling a similar sentiment spoken by Xena.

[35] Later, in the Coral Gardens where Hagar first asked Crustacea to marry him:

GABRIELLE: Thank you.
HAGAR: For what?
GABRIELLE: For having a learning curve. Hagar, I never dreamed you could take me seriously, but you have risen to the occasion.
HAGAR: You have no idea. You know, I should thank you, because I am always at my best when I'm around you.
That is another of Xena's sentiments.
I have a present for you too, Joxer.  It's called a restraining order.  Let me show you how it works...

Gabrielle and Hagar almost get married in FISH STICKS.


[36] Gabrielle accepts Hagar's proposal to renew their vows, and they kiss. The wedding scene is next, but Sturgena and Crabella have replaced the memory-suppressing liquid with a placebo. Gabrielle remembers herself and Xena, and the wedding is off.

[37] Appreciating what she learned while with Hagar, and she gives him a farewell kiss that carries over onto the docks where Joxer has been giving Gabrielle mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. At first Gabrielle is thinking about Hagar and kisses him, but then she realizes it is Joxer who is bending over her and she slugs him, emphasizing rather conclusively the disconnect between Hagar and Joxer.



Summary

[38] What would the travels of Xena and Gabrielle have been like without the near-ubiquitous presence of Joxer? He protected subtext in three ways:

(1) By making it unnecessary to have Xena and Gabrielle fall in and out of love with men every third episode or so;

(2) Through dialogue and action that acknowledged the special relationship Xena and Gabrielle share; and finally

(3) By serving as a stand-in for Xena so that Gabrielle could fall in love with someone with the attributes of Xena but who looked like Joxer, thus keeping the Xena-Gabrielle romantic relationship subtextual.

[39] Without Joxer defending subtext, some fans might never have become hardcore nutballs, because for us the heart of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS is the two lead characters, and their deep and abiding "friendship" that has lasted through the ages.



Biography

Gail Futoran Gail Futoran

I have been a SF/fantasy fan for nearly 50 years, and a feminist for almost as long. I am retired from college teaching but interacting with other XWP fans provides intellectual stimulation as well as fuel for various "obsessions". These include rose gardening dominated by "theme" beds where roses represent various XWP characters. Our Tonkinese kittens are named Lao Ma and Ephiny. I have made two month-long trips to New Zealand (1998, 2000), an intention I formed in the 1960s but did not act on until XWP reminded me of the beauty of the country and the friendliness of the Kiwis. My husband does not share any of my obsessions, but he is fully supportive.
Favorite episode:ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
Favorite line:Xena to Gabrielle: "You gave my life meaning and joy, and you will be a part of me forever." SACRIFICE II
First episode seen:late Season One
Least favorite episode:THE KEY TO THE KINGDOM




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