Whoosh! Issue 55 - April 2001

By Dana Hlusko
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
2473 words

Author's Note:

Before someone tells me that Xena and Joxer were not real people, let me make it perfectly clear that I am aware of their status as fantasy characters in the best fantasy films that have ever been offered on television. However, allow me to stay in my fantasy world long enough to treat them as historical figures for this literary and highly (un)scientific treatment of their psyches.

Introduction (01-02)
Joxer (03-08)
Xena (09-16)
Self-Esteem Issues (17-21)
Success Issues (22)

How Can I Be A Success If I Do Not Like Myself?


You think it sounds great now, wait 'til I plug it in!

Joxer is actually a man of several skills.

[1] At first glance, Xena and Joxer might seem to be diametric opposites in many areas. Certainly, there are vast differences in their wisdom, fighting abilities, and life experiences. This essay will demonstrate the similarities in the bankrupt self-esteems of our hero and almost-hero. It will also show where their paths diverge: into success for one and only attempts at success for the other.

[2] Where do we start with Joxer and Xena? What do we know of their lives that could give us an idea about their feelings of self-esteem and how they measure success?


[3] Joxer was the youngest of a set of triplets. His older brothers, Jett and Jace, became quite successful in their chosen lives. Jett was the over-achieving, big brother, warlord-wanna-be, following his father's example. Joxer admits that everyone in the neighborhood admired Jett for his warlord activities [KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308)]. Jace followed his own drummer, becoming a successful lounge singer-showman [LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510)].

[4] Joxer, as we know from various episodes, stayed close to his mother when he was young. He learned to cook and play the lyre, not exactly masculine behavior in that era. One could assume that he received a good deal of teasing and put-downs from others because of this, along with the usual brotherly torment at home. Looking at his physical prowess, one could imagine that he never won a school foot race, was never on the javelin team, could not climb the rope in the gym, and was the last picked for the gladiator games. He was never able to best his older brothers in anything. He was always second, third, or fourth best at everything.

[5] One can easily see how such experiences could affect Joxer's self-esteem. Even his body language said, "I'm a nobody, I can't do anything, I'm a failure, slap me, kick me, spit on me". He looked like the most inept, non-ambitious, under-achieving failure. On the one hand, he accepted those opinions as true. However, Joxer had a kernel of stubbornness and, perhaps, courage, which would not allow him to give up.

[6] He wanted to prove to everyone that they were wrong. His first goal was simply to be accepted by his family. He WOULD be a warrior! He tried to follow the family tradition in the career of warlord. When he could not be a warrior for Callisto, he still believed that being a warrior was his destiny. Gabrielle almost had him talked into being a farmer at one time, but he was insistent on being a warrior. He might have excelled in other areas in his younger years if he had been able to abandon his dream. Yet, he continued to pursue a warrior's life, even in the face of constant failure.

Struggling with his thought, Joxer is losing the battle

Joxer is entrusted with a special mission in SACRIFICE II.

[7] When he worked with Xena, even when he was most often a hindrance to the mission [PURITY (96/506)], merely because he was there and the mission was a success, he must (he felt) have been important to its success. He deluded himself into thinking he was an integral linchpin in each mission. Not to say that he did not have some grandstand times where he *was* a critical player [SACRIFICE II (68/622)], but for the majority of the time, he needed to be protected or sent away to avoid doing harm.

[8] Moreover, unlike Gabrielle who perfected her fighting skills, Joxer's skill never improved from the day he entered their lives until the day he left. He never excelled in his chosen profession. Although he might deceive himself into believing he was a mighty warrior, he knew in his heart that it was a lie. How could he have possibly felt good about that?


[9] Xena, on the other hand, looks like she has been successful at everything she has ever done. Everybody loved Xena. Even the evil Xena had her fans. Her warriors adored yet feared her. The people she saved in her new life had only good things to say about her. However, Xena suffered from a lack of self-esteem and, consequently, never felt that she was a success.

[10] Xena was only a young child when her father disappeared. We do not know how Cyrene explained away his disappearance. She certainly did not tell Xena how he died, which we now know is a fact [THE FURIES (47/301)]. How did Xena take the news? It is common for children of divorce to feel they were the cause of the divorce, that they "made" one parent leave. Did Xena feel that she made her father leave? From the age of approximately 7 years, she might have felt a burden of guilt for the absence of her father. "He left because I wasn't good enough", might well have been her thoughts. When she thought she had found him [TIES THAT BIND (20/120)], what did she expect to hear from him? Her first question most likely would have been "Why did you leave me?"

Does this backlight make me look fat?

Xena ultimately cannot forgive herself in FORGIVEN.

[11] She did not have much of a male presence in her life. She admitted in FORGIVEN (60/314), "I used to hang with the young bucks in Amphipolis. I was pretty wild. If somebody had'a given me a little guidance, then maybe I would've been better equipped to handle what lay ahead". No positive role models in that group.

[12] She could not have started out at the top of the heap of the "young bucks". No, she would have had to fight her way to the top. One can see her always trying to be the better "man" in the group of hooligans. She learned that "might" not only "makes right", but also brings admiration and acceptance. She was eventually seen as a leader.

[13] She used what she had learned in the defense of Amphipolis against Cortese. However, even in the face of a successful defense, it was a bittersweet victory at best. As a direct cause of her actions, her baby brother, Lyceus, died. Cyrene's heart was broken, and she blamed Xena. When Xena left Amphipolis, her goodbye "kiss" from Cyrene was a slap across the face. Nothing like leaving home feeling good about yourself.

[14] Xena further disgraced her family by conquering all of the adjoining villages, although they had done nothing to Xena or Amphipolis. She must have felt shame for disgracing the family, but she was in no position to turn back. At some point, the lust for power overcame her desire for acceptance. Xena could never return home, not like that.

[15] Therefore, Xena decided to become the biggest, baddest, cruelest, and most successful warlord the world had ever known. In her mind, fighting for, grabbing, and holding ultimate power would eventually cause her family to accept her and to be proud of her accomplishments. It did not. She could not understand why. Her solution? Try harder. She continued to rack up even more conquests and riches, thinking that eventually it would make a difference. However, beneath that facade of fearsomeness was a young child wanting to be loved and accepted by her family for her accomplishments. Not until she understood that ultimate power was meaningless when looked at it from the needs of the heart, was she able to face her mother again. She came back to Amphipolis to try again. This time, Xena was welcomed with a sword to her throat and near stoning. Eventually she would be able to make her mother see that she had changed. Cyrene accepted Xena back into her heart.

[16] Self-esteem issues over? Hardly. Even then, she could not allow herself to feel good about her change of heart. Ten years of performing evil unspeakable horrors upon the innocent would pull her down repeatedly in her quest for redemption. She knew she could never reach that goal of being redeemed, never. She might feel strong enough, courageous enough, and smart enough to defeat evil (even the evil that still simmered in her soul), but she would never feel good enough to deserve love and acceptance. That was obvious when she was imprisoned on Shark Island. Who in their right mind would voluntarily be imprisoned on Shark Island if they felt they were worth one dinar [LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407)]?

Self-Esteem Issues

You've got the stance right, son, now just scratch under your arms and make monkey sounds!

Father and son (Virgil) in LIVIA.

[17] Joxer never overcame his feelings of inadequacy. His need to have someone proud of him forced him to lie to his children about his past. It was something he did in an effort feel good about himself, but in the end it came crashing down around him. Having to admit to his son that he was not all he had pretended to be dealt yet another blow to his self-esteem. It was heart-wrenching to see his "warrior" feats crumble when he had to admit to Virgil that Xena had done all the courageous acts he claimed to have performed:

Joxer: I always wanted to be a great warrior. It didn't work out. I tried to join every army from here to Egypt, but nobody ever wanted me.
Virgil: So, you never battled the dryads?
Joxer: That was Xena.
Virgil: What about the harpies?
Joxer: Xena, too.
Virgil: Sent Callisto to hell?
Joxer: Xena.
Virgil: Got Callisto out of hell.
Joxer: Xena.
Virgil: Wow-- sounds like you and Xena had some real adventures together, Dad.
Joxer: We sure did, Son. We sure did. [EVE (111/521)]

[18] Both Joxer and Xena had the same issues with their self-esteem. Both were rejected, or perceived they were rejected, by their birth families at a young age. They spent their lives trying to be what they thought their families wanted. One could picture them, after doing something they thought was spectacular, looking around and saying, "Look at me, see, I did it! I did it!"

[19] We must give Xena credit that, even in the face of her lack of acceptance in her self worth, she was able to accomplish great deeds in the name of The Greater Good. Xena knew in her head that she was successful in many things. However, in her heart, she felt she was not a success as a good human being. She was lucky enough, however, to be able to bask in some adulation from others because of her life of service.

[20] Joxer was never a success in his own mind. He could never accept himself for what he was, always thinking that he should be something, or someone, else. Virgil accepted Joxer as a loving father, and he truly was a successful father and businessman, but it was not exactly what he had hoped for in his life. Only in death was he able to be the hero he always wanted to be. Tragically, he could not even enjoy it.

[21] We certainly cannot change the feelings that Joxer and Xena had about themselves. Although they might have been disappointed in themselves because they never reached the goals they set, we have the luxury of looking at them through an historical lens. Could it be said that both were a success?

Success Issues

[22] History shows us that both Xena and Joxer became good, productive human beings in their own right. Xena succeeded in recognizing her extraordinary talents and putting them to good use in a spectacular fashion. Joxer, well, he never recognized that his talents were in loving his family, supporting them, and turning out good human beings in return. His success was not as spectacular or showy as Xena's, but it was a success nonetheless. Perhaps, when all is said and done, we can say that Joxer had many qualities he could be proud of: his loyalty, his kindness to strangers, and his pursuit of right. Coincidentally enough, Xena had those same qualities. They were both very successful in the grand scheme of things. They should be proud of themselves. Their families certainly are, are we not?


Dana Hlusko, "Christian Theology in THE BITTER SUITE" WHOOSH #31 (April 1999)

Dana Hlusko, "Way: A Spiritual Epiphany for Xena, The" WHOOSH #32 (May 1999)

Dana Hlusko, "Am I Really Who I am or What You Made Me?" WHOOSH #35 (August 1999)

Dana Hlusko, "Savior Figure: Eli or Xena?" WHOOSH #36 (September 1999)

Dana Hlusko, "XenaStaff - You Made Us What We Are Today" WHOOSH #38 (November 1999)

Dana Hlusko, "Way of Friendship Defined, The" WHOOSH #45 (June 2000)

Dana Hlusko, "Gabrielle: Peacenik to Warrior Chick" WHOOSH #47 (August 2000)

Dana Hlusko, "WHOOSH Started The Ball Rolling - Now It Is An Avalanche" WHOOSH #50 (November 2000)

Dana Hlusko, "Gabrielle's Little Sister Lila, Aka Willa O'Neill" WHOOSH #52 (January 2001)


Dana Hlusko Dana Hlusko
I am still struggling with the nursing profession and their use of computers. I no longer write for professional nursing journals but spend my time writing for pleasure. I am attempting to expand my writing topics from "just Xena" to other areas. (Are there any others really worthwhile?)
Some of the dreams I wrote about in my original biography have had to be put on hold or deferred. I am currently working on the theology dream by taking classes to become a minister of religious education in my diocese.
Archaeology will have to wait a few years until the kids are gone (or until they can be coerced into digging dinosaurs with Mom -- hey, it could happen!) Moreover, alas, the time for the last dream, to visit the set of XWP, is quickly ending and was probably never possible to begin with. What was I thinking, anyway? Just an example of the extraordinary power that superb writing, acting, directing, producing, costuming, choreography, and editing can have on an ordinary human's mind.
Favorite episode: THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), FORGET ME NOT (63/317), ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202), FALLEN ANGEL (91/501)
Favorite line:Xena: "I have many skills" KING CON (61/315), THE BLACK WOLF (11/111), etc.
First episode seen:THE GAUNTLET (H12/112)
Least favorite episode:MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (105/515)

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