Whoosh! Issue 55 - April 2001

THE DEATH OF THE LIDADOR:
JOXER'S DEATH AND THE PROBLEM OF SELF- FULFILLMENT


Page 2

Why Joxer Was Not Allowed To Develop

[20] In the fictions of a pre-bourgeois class society, where inequality is openly avowed as a fact, Joxerite fictional characters can be safely left the role of laughing-stocks. They function like characterizations of all that is base, vulgar, and lower, and, at the same time, have definite places and functions in such overtly unequal societies. As such, the braggart soldier, the conniving slave, the matchmaking lady-in-waiting are not "good" or "evil", they are, and that is all. By so being, they become unmistakably funny, as they are supposedly to be watched from "above", as offering a baser contrast to the more elevated moral standards of the higher and loftier.


Some cameras also add years as well as pounds
Meg and Joxer bicker like an old married couple (because they are) in LIVIA


[21] The scene in the beginning of LIVIA (110/520), when Xena and Gabrielle emerge from their 25-year sleep on the slopes of Mount Etna to find Joxer, now married to Xena's baser doppelganger Meg, as the owner of tavern bedecked with Xena and Gabrielle memorabilia, having a silly argument in the open with his old fart of a wife ("Aw, shut up"- "You hush up!" - "No, you hush up!" -"Oh, yeah? You hush up first!"[Note 11]) could come straight from a comedy by Menander: two vulgar types indulging in vulgar behavior to the patronizing laughter of the happy few. For modern viewers, however, the scene offers more possibilities: It is undoubtedly comic in content, and, at the same time depressing, as we see the scene from the same viewpoint as Xena's and Gabrielle's, who watch it from the same point as the camera lens.

[22] For us, Joxer is not only the base shop owner engaged in a vulgar argument, he is also the loser who, although having striven during most of his adult life for achieving his true love for Gabrielle, from some point on had his possibilities of genuine self-fulfillment removed from him by an arbitrary power from above. In this case, it was Ares who dragged Xena and Gabrielle to the icy coffins from which they would be released only by accident[Note 12]. Therefore there was slight discomfort felt by the modern viewer[Note 13], whereas a viewer from, say, second century BCE Rome would find grounds only for happy laughter. The fact that we cannot surrender ourselves so entirely to the same laughter comes from our awareness that two centuries of a developed capitalist society have given us the ability to realize that "the losers are not always those who deserve it most"[Note 14].

[23] Granted, the idea of a peaceful communion between the "higher" and "lower" that was the hub of most of the romantic historical novels was hopelessly reactionary, as it was only an attempt at a throwback to the pre- Revolutionary society through a high selective reading of the historical evidence: feudalism without the absolute monarchy, the bourgeoisie without capital concentration, and so on. Surely it is no accident that the partial demise of Romantic fiction, at least in high literature, and its superseding by the Realistic school, coincided with the wave of bourgeois prosperity brought about in the wake of the 1848 democratic revolution, when individual possibilities for meritocratic self-achievement began to appear as actually unlimited, and the paternalistic tutelage of the lower by the higher began to lose interest quickly as a political ideal.

[24] Thinking in terms of the literature of Portuguese speaking countries, I remember Herculano's chief adversary in the succeeding generation, Eça de Queiroz (1845-1900), and his idealizing of Tory conservative democracy of merchant princes

"pointing everything in the moral direction, forming mores and inspiring literature, living with luxury and speaking with taste, example of higher ideas and looking-glass for patrician manners..."[Note 15]
In short, a native bourgeoisie intent on preaching the contemporary Anglo-Saxon gospel of Free Enterprise and Success through Hard Work, something very like the contemporary Russian Westernizers as against Slavophiles. The problem for us is that one hundred and fifty-odd years of such developed capitalism have not, in any way, rescued the Joxers of this world.

[25] That does not mean only to realize that to each "Gabrielle" raised to soaring heights there are thousands of "Joxers" who remain stranded "below", but that the divide between those who make it good and those who do not is, above all, a purely arbitrary , as arbitrary as the Market system. Actually, the kind of social totality sought by the nineteenth century writers and critics -- Romantics or Realists -- where anyone and everyone could "fit", even Joxer, is so removed today from our everyday experience as to make it a myth even from the viewpoint of the bourgeoisie.

[26] The historical novel of the early nineteenth century was, above all, the outward signal of a societal crisis of legitimacy. The old feudal absolutist society, organized as a kind of ecosystem where every species, lower or higher, had its proper place, had disappeared and there was nothing to put in its place, yet. Therefore, the Romantic strivings for a new social order that could put things again into their proper places popped into existence. Nevertheless, in order to propose a new order, the romantics had to acknowledge that things were presently out of joint, therefore their sympathies for the underdog and for the primitive rebels. When the development of the Free Market and the industrial system seemed to put things "in their places", there was no room for such sympathies. For the developed bourgeois society of the late nineteenth century, it was easy to put, in place of the Romantic historical novel, another kind of mass culture fiction, namely, the detective story.

[27] As the Belgian Trotskyst economist, Ernest Mandel, would develop in his study of detective stories, Delightful Murder, the detective story developed from a subgenre of romantic historical novels, namely, the bandit story, where the primitive bandits and highwaymen were taken as the paragon of all humble people unjustly wounded by the desegregation of late feudal society. During the early nineteenth century, the bandit novel moved its whereabouts from the countryside and from peasant rebels to more urbane settings, at least in Western Europe. Nevertheless, the bandit as a fictional character profited from the sympathies of the mass public, until the development of the capitalist world economy in the second half of the nineteenth century seemed to empty the complaints of the underdog of anything approaching a valuable motive. The primitive rebel, in the eyes of the petit bourgeois readership, became a villain, therefore, the necessity of the detective as a middle-class or overtly bourgeois hero intent on curbing the disorderly strivings of the lower class villains as against the established social order. In Mandel's words, as bourgeois prisons began to empty from middle class debtors and fill with lower class thieves and murderers, the police became, from a tool of oppression, the guardian of law-abiding citizens[Note 16].

[28] It can be easily remarked that Xena: Warrior Princess is, in a certain way, a throwback to the origins of the action mass culture novel, as it is also a bandit story, where Xena plays the part of the former warlord hero who roams the countryside righting wrongs committed against the humbler folk, at the same time remaining, proudly, outside of the state apparatus. As the crisis of the twentieth century Welfare State deepens, the state cannot again be trusted as a helping hand for all underdogs, and the hero, once again, returns to the countryside, at the same time inside and outside the fabric of society. In Xena: Warrior Princess, the state apparatus and the ruling ideology are always viewed with suspicion. Above all, organized religion -- the cult given the Olympian gods -- is seen, crudely, as an "Opium of the People", a kow-towing before distant, cruel, vain, and arbitrary authorities.

[29] As said in one recent article in WHOOSH!, Xena does not doubt the actual existence of the Olympian gods, only the purity of their motives. Even Judeo-Christian religiosity is not exempt from scathing and bitter criticism. In ALTARED STATES (19/119), there is a remembrance of the homophobic slant of early Judaism ("abomination") and the evil cult of Dahak is presented as a cult of the "One God". The series had even to invent, from scratch, the convenient ad hoc fiction of the New Age teachings of Eli in order to be able to say something kind about Christian ethics.


I'd rather be spying on Amazons
Joxer is again on a mission in LIVIA and EVE.


[30] Given, therefore, the bundle of all kinds of dissatisfactions with the present social order that fills so much of Xena: Warrior Princess, one could be allowed to expect that Joxer, as the loser par excellence, would be allowed to raise to preeminent fictional status. The aging Joxer who resurfaces in LIVIA (110/520) is, above all, an honest worker, almost a proletarian, who has lost his youth, deprived of Xena and Gabrielle, in the toilsome and boring routine of a "McJob" (his aged and ailing condition after the 25-year sleep of Xena and Gabrielle being nothing but a metaphor, albeit poor, for the differentials in quality of living between classes: Xena and Gabrielle remain youthful while Joxer ages faster). That being, why is it that he receives so little sympathy?

[31] To understand that, we must make another throwback, to Marx and Engels and the 1848 Communist Manifesto. In the third part of their pamphlet, that almost no one reads today, the authors busy themselves with the subject of "Socialist and Communist literature", "literature" being, above all, political publications. Surprisingly, Marx and Engels speak of "feudal socialism", "petty-bourgeois socialism", and even "bourgeois socialism", in what seems to us a whole series of oxymorons. But actually there is no oxymoron, as the development of capitalism is so thorough a process of "constant revolutionizing of the instruments of production" as to create causalities in all classes, even the ruling one.

[32] The constant attrition between private interests brought about by capitalist free market competition is constantly creating wounded ones, from all classes and class fractions, which constantly pile on a heap of losers of all kinds and types: the unemployed Brazilian metalworker turned street vendor, but also the Wall Street yuppie who has lost heavily at the 1987 Stock Exchange crash; and the Pakistani 9-year-old who earns a living making soccer balls, but also the bored suburban housewife from Harrisburg, Pa., who has a husband who cannot perform his conjugal duties properly because of a mortgage. Every one of these types is, in his/her own right, dissatisfied with the present condition of things, and each one can tailor him/herself some kind of an anti- capitalist ideology of sorts.

[33] There are so many socialisms as there are wound from capitalist competition, each socialism being no less "true" than the next. In the words of Marx and Engels, the hallmark of bourgeois society is that "for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation."[Note 17]. No wonder, therefore, that it has aroused oppositions in all quarters. In principle, the exploitation suffered by wage earners is no "harsher" or "lighter" than the exploitation suffered by the sexually exploited woman, the indebted peasant, or the bankrupt businessman. It is simply different, a point no Marxist should be allowed to forget. The proletarians are not in principle more revolutionary than anyone, a Marxist point finely made by no one less than Lenin:

"It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed (anymore than it is to explain to them that their interests are antagonistic to the interests of the employers). Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of oppression ... inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spheres of life and activity - vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc., etc."[Note 18]

[34] The relevant issue, however, is that the "proletarian" character of Marxism is, above all, a question of viewpoint, and the working class being, above all, the locus tenens, the vantage point, of a collective, general interest as opposed to the antagonistic, private, sectional interests no less wounded by capitalism. There is a whole multitude of vested sectional interests that want to preserve their positions in terms of retaining parcels of private property, be it material (capital) or immaterial (affirmative action, political correctness). Such interests being no better or worse than the next. As much as they strove one against each other, or against the (bourgeois) authorities, in terms of their relative merits, they only reinstate the already prevailing logic, that of private interests, each no better than the other.

[35] There is an ever increasing, and irritatingly reactionary, kind of political literature that entertains itself with proving the impossibility of socialism by proving the cheap point that no society could ever give everyone everything necessary for its private -- personal or sectional -- self-fulfillment, and therefore, that socialism is doomed from the start. Such literature is represented today by the works of the so-called RCMists, or Rational Choice "Marxists"[Note 19]. The point, however, that this foul and enervating literature fails to grasp, is that Marxian socialism is not in the slightest way concerned with the a priori impossible task giving everything to everyone, in terms of personal self-realization. It is concerned with giving to all what could be called the lumpy, general, and indivisible conditions for general self-realization.

[36] Since social wealth is above all a collective product, the whole of which is far greater than its composing parts, the Marxist socialist program must be concerned not with dividing such wealth equitably, but on the contrary in supplying as far as possible such wealth collectively. For instance, the Marxist program is not concerned with an economic arrangement that would make it possible into giving every adult individual a motor car, but with providing a collective transportation system that would render private car ownership, as much as possible, useless (as far as I know, the fact that New York City is the only American great city provided with a far-reaching subway system, where a private car is a costly luxury given the expensive parking facilities, does not make its quality of living that inferior as compared to, say, Los Angeles). The idea behind the Marxist program is, above all, to disconnect general quality of living from personal money income -- naturally, a long-range task with a lot of still unanswered questions.

[37] The proletarian viewpoint of Marxism is a conceptual one, the working class as a whole being taken as the concrete societal embodiment of a more general interest. That is why the Marxian program always has aimed at the working class as its necessary political hub -- but not as its exclusive basis - - as the working class is the only class to have a necessary concrete notion about the collective and indivisible character of the general production process. That is why, also, any developed socialist order must develop some kind of public ownership scheme as opposed to general private property of the means of production, which does not necessarily imply some kind of authoritarian and closed Stalinist Five-year-plan, rather the contrary.

[38] Which takes us to the unsolved Joxer problem in Xena: Warrior Princess. The character's premature demise from the episodes appears to be, not that he was from the lower folk, but, above all, the fact that the logic behind the character was that he wanted to receive the conditions for his self-realization without showing himself as individually deserving.



Joxer's Death: Concluding Remarks




I can't strain pasta in this armour
Joxer died whilst defending the life of Gabrielle in EVE.


[39] It must be remembered that those who wrote and produced Xena: Warrior Princess episodes did not, in any way, want to prove anything resembling a socialist viewpoint and cannot be held responsible for that. They only wanted to produce decent and profitable mass entertainment. They had, however, to tap from the source of older action fictions, and were influenced by the climate of their own times. Also, they had to preserve the internal consistency of the characters. Each episode in which Joxer, as any other character, appeared created new demands in this field. Firstly, Joxer was incompetent as a warrior and could not become, as the early Gabrielle, a skilled fighter. Secondly, he had inordinate (hetero)sexual appetites. Thirdly, he was in love with Gabrielle. All said and done, Joxer was a regular bloke, but in no way a hero.

[40] Early in the history of the show, it had become established that the symbolic backbone of Xena: Warrior Princess would reside in its skilled use of "subtext", that is, of all kinds of allusions, innuendo, and double-entendres that could lead to the understanding that there existed an established homosexual relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. We can gather that, besides from informal censorship, most of the charm of the "subtext" resided precisely on its being a sub-text, that is, on its supposedly "underground", hidden character. Were Xena and Gabrielle to become an open lesbian couple, their relationship could only limit itself to exist in a bogus everyday reality, devoid of charm and dramatic tension. The tensions around the relationship consisted exactly in it appearing as something secret and occult, impossible to receive open avowal and to become openly praiseworthy.

[41] Nevertheless, outside from the cover of homophobic abuse -- or any other cultural systemic evaluation, abusive or appreciative -- there is something prodigiously banal about homosexuality, when taken in itself. It is only a fact like any other. But that is exactly what the petit-bourgeois politics of middle-class groups in some way or other wounded by capitalist competition cannot in any way admit. Such politics has its basis, above all, on an all too real fact: the existence of a general mechanism of exploitation and constraint forcing people to accept the decisions and ideological values of the ruling class. Well and good, one cannot accept the particular value-system of a given group to parade itself as a priori common sense. Any open-minded Marxist (a rare species, I concede) will admit that it is necessary to fight the existing homophobia of the ruling class as much as the wage-labor system.

[42] The problem begins, however, when the stick is bent too far in the other direction, when the oppressingly disparaged trait becomes a value in itself, something precious that turns anyone who has it into a breed apart -- which is not the case, of course. In the eyes of some notional viewership of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena and Gabrielle tend to be seen, not as heroes who partake in a homosexual relationship, but as heroes because they share a gay relationship. The show, of course, toys with that notion and supplies the public with what they (supposedly) want to see. It is easy to see, in a particular bourgeois society where all matters sexual have always run onto a head-on collision with the ruling class values, how to offer an appreciative regard towards the reality of gay couples can be progressive, as an opening towards the generalized Other. However, it is not everything.

[43] Coming from a society where the ruling ideological attitude towards the Other in all matters sexual, racial, religious, personal, vocational, etc., is that of general tolerance mingled with paternalism, and which is, precisely for that reason, one of the most deeply exploitative "semi- colonial" existing capitalist societies ("A monument to social neglect", according to British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn), I cannot regard gay, race, ecology, etc. post-modern politics as something a priori progressive, as much as I could not regard them, also a priori, as something entirely useless or noxious either.

[44] Granted, the homophobia of the Anglo-Saxon ruling class, its inability to accept anything that runs counter to "family values" -- that is, the nuclear two-generation male-headed family composed of a chief breadwinner, his mate, and their small children functionally intent on reproducing the capacity to sell labor-power -- cannot be accepted as an a priori. But I cannot regard, on the same token, a gay liberation ideology to be a priori progressive either. In Xena: Warrior Princess, what is shown is not a gay couple in itself -- something devoid of any real sustained interest -- but the dream of a gay couple as something, from the start, praiseworthy and special. Xena and Gabrielle are, supposedly, gay and therefore unorthodox from the viewpoint of family values. At the same time, they are individual "winners" in the most banal sense, in that they are pretty, strong, and skilled fighters both ("I have many skills", says Xena, repeatedly). Which inevitably begs the question that, were they less pretty and strong, would they be less deserving of tolerance and praise, or on the contrary, become subjects of blame?

[45] Postmodern radical politics is mostly partial radicalism: it wants the emancipation of a given group because of its supposedly superior values and characteristic traits. By so doing, it reinstates the idea of a closed hierarchy, only peripherally modified. In Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena and Gabrielle, acting as primitive rebels, right some wrongs, but do not -- in fact, cannot -- modify the system as a whole. The only hope of general redemption coming from the artificial device of the Deus ex machina -- the Twilight of the Gods and the coming of Eli's teachings, in the last episodes of the Fifth Season -- in so blatantly artificial a fashion as to become actually empty: Xena and Gabrielle rescue Eve from evil, the old gods are killed, but the known world is still ruled by Augustus Caesar. Were it only for that, I could limit myself to agree, with Ernest Mandel, that the adventure mass culture story began, in the early nineteenth century, as a bandit story, and ends the twentieth century as a bandit story, and that, therefore

"The 'noble bandit' of yesteryear was a petit-bourgeois who heralded the coming bourgeois revolution; the 'noble bandit' of today is a petit-bourgeois rebel opposed to a decaying bourgeois present, and his/her sensitivity, even heroism, cannot hide the social incapacity of their own class. They are rebels without a cause, because their class has no [independent] social perspective ... They shall not be the heralds of a socialist revolution."[Note 20]
Was it not for the fact that the problem of Joxer remained as one of the most interesting in the internal economy of the series?

[46] Joxer, of course, is only a regular bloke, without much more as some moments of sensitivity and wit in the entire series. However, what is surprisingly in him is precisely his inability to forswear his right for a superior, worthy remembering, life. His entire heroism consists precisely in the fact that, in his old age, he recognizes himself for what he is: not particularly beautiful, bright, or strong, as he ultimately admits in conversation with his son at a campfire:

JOXER: Listen---Let me finish. 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 ---and, ah ---- well -- that's all[Note 21].

[47] Actually, that is all. He should not be there, as far as superior skill is concerned (Xena is preparing to engage Livia in Ostia in a give-no-quarter battle). Nevertheless, instead of running away and staying home without shame, he chooses to stay and die. Gabrielle, of course, hastens things, by failing to stay in the camp and proposing herself, instead, idiotically, to have a private interview with Livia and making her see the light through-love- and-forgiveness (Gabrielle's "forgiveness" talk, in my view, can only be an ironical function in the tale, it simply never works). Actually, Gabrielle functions in this particular episode as the petit bourgeois philistine who thinks that all antagonisms between interests can be solved with fairplay and a nice talk, a mistake Xena never does, and Joxer, at least in the end, neither.

[48] This is, by the way, a point that will require a separate article to be developed: Xena, out of love to Gabrielle, is always prone to pay lip-service to her companion's "love and forgiveness" set of values, but in fact honors such values more in the breach than anything else, in that the approval Xena gives to Gabrielle's views in CALLISTO (22/122), or in THE PRICE (44/220), cannot actually keep her from engaging Callisto or the Horde in a fight to the finish. Like all real-life social actors, the only method Xena actually employs when aiming reconciliation between contending parties is to force such reconciliation through coercion - a technique she employed, with wonderful results, for instance, in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124).


Line?
Joxer has guilt issues in THE CONVERT.


[49] In an earlier episode, THE CONVERT (86/418), where Joxer has to deal with the guilt for having, almost accidentally, killed the warlord Kryton, the ghost of the slain man appears to haunt Joxer:

KRYTON: ... Soon you'll be as bad as me--'cause underneath it all, we're just the same, you and me--two bad-*ss, b*tt-kicking, slaughter-happy---
JOXER: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Go away.
XENA: You talkin' to me?
JOXER: Xena
XENA: Or are you just beating yourself up over Kryton? Hmm? Joxer, the guilt of killing never goes away--nor should it be ...
JOXER: How do *you* live with it?
XENA: I don't have a choice. And now, neither do you ...[Note 22].

[50] The dialogue above is one of the best of Xena: Warrior Princess, ever, because it reaches what the Greeks already took as the root of all things tragic. At the beginning of Time, according to mythology, the god Kronos separated Heaven and Earth by castrating his father Ouranos and therefore preventing him from uniting with his mother Gaea. Since then, Being became possible, as the elements ceased to meld and all things could assume their proper places. However,

"that cut, in which Being could come into existence, was procured at the price of a monstrous crime for which one must pay. From now on, no agreement without strife; one cannot separate the powers of struggle and of union. Ouranos' bloody testicles fell partly over earth, partly over water; in land, they gave birth to The Furies ... and other powers of 'bloody revenge' and warfare ... in the sea, they gave birth to Aphrodite[Note 23] ... The cutting asunder of Heaven and Earth created an universe where beings are engendered by an union between contraries ... that at the same time struggle and unite."[Note 24]

[51] Beneath it all, we are all the same: no one can begin properly to exist but at the price of opposing others, and all human creations must pay a bloody price to come into being. There is no other choice. There is no way to find one's proper level except through struggle, a lesson Xena is the first to point out to Joxer. The specter of strife lurks beneath all that is human, and finds its most finished expression, of course, in class strife, whose history is the sum of all human history[Note 25].

[52] A lesson, of course, that would be lost on Gabrielle, who, like her great fictional ancestor, Hamlet, is averse to any kind of sharp antagonism and strives above all at being "good". The results, in both cases, are very impressive, although not in the way foreseen by either the Prince of Denmark or the Bard. Hamlet, through his well-meaning hesitations, kills Polonius, drives Ophelia mad, and so on until the bloody conclusion. Gabrielle's record on that count is no less impressive. Gabrielle falls easily prey to Khrafstar's babble, lets Hope live, allows her afterwards the chance needed to kill Solan, betrays Xena to Ming Tien, gives Crassus a torturing and dishonorable death, offers herself willingly to Najara, treats Joxer in the most crude and insensitive manner (without facing him with a clear yet good-mannered rejection and thereby allowing him to search for another woman), has no nerve to detain Alti in the spiritual world, etc., etc. -- without ceasing, for a single moment, to think of herself as "good". Maybe she is right, her (philistine) goodness is her chief pathology. A pathology, by the way, introduced in entirely intentional fashion, otherwise, how could an episode like FORGET ME NOT (63/317) be conceived?


It says in the script right here -- you gotta kiss me!
Joxer tries to convince Gabrielle he really is the man of her dreams in FORGET ME NOT.


[53] Behind the philistinism of the Gabrielles of this world, that is the idea that present society can be made, in some way or other to reward people found deserving. That is, the idea that society can be made to function according to some standard of "commutative justice", to offer back things to people according to their capacities and abilities. Gabrielle thinks she deserves to be rewarded because of her superior wits and character, or, to put it short, her general "goodness". However, as there is no suprahistorical measuring-rod for private abilities, how could anyone reward everyone and anyone according to such abilities? The idea of commutative justice can function, historically, only in a society where the possession of private social wealth is the historically established criteria for personal rewards. Something like the idea of "just distribution of the proceeds of labor" proposed by the German socialist whom Marx criticized in 1875:

"The distribution of the means of consumption at any given time is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves; the distribution of the latter, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production ... rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are at the hands of non-workers in the form of capital and land, while the masses are only in the possession of their personal conditions of production, labor-power. If the elements of production are distributed this way, the present distribution of the means of consumption follows automatically. If the material conditions of production were the cooperative property of the workers themselves a different distribution of the means of consumption [...] would follow of its own accord."[Note 26]

[54] The fact is that, if most people in our present society are found individually undeserving of more than the bare minimum, their individually "undeserving" nature comes, above all, from the fact that they are actually devoid of the very means to make themselves "deserving", something that is not altered by the fact of some upstarts having made good in special circumstances. Where would Gabrielle be were it not from Xena's helping hand? To expect to make oneself "deserving" through hard work and individual effort means to accept the rules of the system and therefore, in most cases, to find oneself wanting.

[55] There is only one way to turn the tables in such circumstances, namely to take one's own desire as a law unto itself and to consider it as something that deserves to be fulfilled because it is. The interests of an emerging social group must of necessity ascertain themselves by regarding themselves as something self-justified.

[56] We can now return to our Joxer. When he finally ceases his endless bragging about his imaginary deeds, and freely admits to his son that the glory for his exploits belongs to Xena, only then, paradoxically, can he become an actual hero, as he finally realizes that, no matter how false the deeds, his desire remains, nevertheless, the same. By remaining true only to himself, he can then begin to act in truly heroic fashion. So, when Gabrielle does her useless "goodness" number, going away foolishly to try to stage some big reconciliation scene between Xena and Livia, Joxer knows for the first time in his life exactly what to do: to try to rescue Gabrielle, even knowing crystal clear he will not get any real recognition out of it, or perhaps exactly because he knows he will not get any recognition from her. It is perfectly clear, in the episode, that Joxer's real purpose was only to die heroically. When he puts himself between Livia and Gabrielle, Xena yells from a distance for him to get down. Knowing Xena's skills, one could take it for granted that the situation could be solved by means of a chakram throw. However, Joxer does not move and gets a deadly stab in the belly.

[57] As Nietzsche once admitted, the lower folk like to uphold ascetic ideals in order to deny the noble and high-placed the value of life that wants, above all, to affirm itself. However, to deny life fervently, to desire annihilation, to offer oneself meekly to the enemy's knife, is still a form of desire -- sometimes the only one. Therefore, self-denial can become another form of self-affirmation, even a higher one. For "Man will prefer to desire Nothing than to desire no thing" (The Genealogy of Morals), desire being exactly what need not be explained.




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