Whoosh! Issue 15 -
December 1997

By Virginia Carper
Copyright © 1997 held by author
2041 words

Xena's Changing Attitudes Toward Disability (01-06)
Blind Faith (07-09)
Living With Blindness (10-13)
Life With One Arm (14-17)
Disability In the Xenaverse (18-19)
Role Model (20-22)
Gabrielle's Secret Of Life (23-30)

What's the Use of Having a Sword if You Have No Arm?

That the milkman had blond hair is just COINCIDENCE!

Xena and her unacknowledged son, Solan, just hangin' out
in ORPHAN OF WAR (25/201).

[01] Xena wanted to convince her son, Solon, to get his broken arm tended. She told him, "What's the use of having a sword if you have no arm?" Actually, you can use a sword even if you have only one arm. Many noted generals have done so. However, Xena's original attitude toward disabilities probably colored her thinking.

Xena's Changing Attitudes Toward Disability

"Stop focusing on the destination. It's the journey that's the fun."
-- Gabrielle,

[02] In CHARIOTS OF WAR (#02), Xena was reluctant to admit to any weakness. When she was shot in the side by a thug's arrow, she suffered her pain in silence. Since Darius, the farmer, did not know how to pull out the arrow, Xena guided him. Then she instructed him how to care for the wound. Any ordinary person would have passed out from shock! With her attitude of 'I can take care of me and you too', Xena then fought Cycnus, the warlord who was threatening Darius' people.

[03] When she was hit by Callisto's poison dart in THE GREATER GOOD (#21), Xena did not tell anyone, including Gabrielle, that she was dying. Still, refusing to display any weakness, she acted as if nothing was wrong. When she finally collapsed, Gabrielle lectured her, "This was really a stupid time to try and keep something from me!" Xena feebly replied, "I didn't know how much Tolmic poison was on the dart." Angry, Gabrielle retorted, "I don't care. If there was even a chance of you being sick, you should had told me! You could have gotten killed!" Later near death, Xena told Gabrielle that the greater good lies with saving the villagers and not with saving her life. Xena died alone. When she was about to be pulled apart by horses, Xena was magically resurrected!

[04] As Xena began to trust Gabrielle, she became more open and vulnerable. While sitting around the campfire [CALLISTO (#22)], Xena revealed her anguish over burning Callisto's village. As she agonized about her role in making Callisto the evil fanatic, Xena told Gabrielle her fears of becoming evil. After witnessing Callisto's death, Xena tormented herself about whether she could have saved her. Gabrielle reassured Xena that she did the right thing.

[05] Xena's attitude toward disabilities changed again when Callisto forced her to switch bodies. Xena learned what it was like to live in a different body. When Ares, the God of War, jeered her for being in Callisto's body, Xena retorted, "My body doesn't make me who I am, my deeds do." [TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (#31)]

[06] While fending off an attack by Velasca, the rogue Amazon, Xena broke her arm. Ephiny, Xena's Amazon friend, watched Xena walk around with a limp arm. Incredulous, Ephiny said, "Xena, that shoulder's dislocated." Xena strolled over to a cave wall and banged her arm to reset it. The arm was magically better! [A NECESSARY EVIL (#38)]

Blind Faith

"A man loses part of himself, an arm, a leg, though he has been a fine soldier, he is never quite the same again; he has lost nothing else visible, but there is a certain softness in the man thereafter, a slowness, a caution."
      --- Robert E. Lee, General (U.S.)

You say this new miracle product is called'Visene'?

Xena gets an eye wash
in BLIND FAITH (42/218).

[07] In BLIND FAITH (#42), Xena was willing to lose her sight for Gabrielle's life. Her ability to show weakness came full circle when she allowed a stranger, Paelaemon, to help her find Gabrielle. Paelaemon wanted to kill her but refused to do so while she remained blind.

[08] With Paelaemon as her guide, Xena seems to know where things were by her other senses. "Stables...the castle is not far from here." Surprised Paelaemon says, "You can smell the horses from here?" Xena shrugs, "Well, not the horses themselves." Together, they save Gabrielle from being incinerated.

[09] Shocked at the sight of an uncertain Xena groping the air, Gabrielle asks, "What's wrong with your eyes?" When Xena tells her that she is blind, Gabrielle demands, "There must be something we can do." Fortunately, Vidalis, the Royal Chamberlain, has some Egyptian senna in his garden. He makes a solution that cures Xena's blindness which was caused by being squirted in the face with sumac oil.

Living With Blindness

"Life is only what you make of it."
      -- Gabrielle, IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (#24)

[10] What if Xena did not regain her eyesight? How would it affect her life? Her relationship with Gabrielle? The problem with being newly disabled is the frustration that you cannot do what you could do before. You struggle to regain your old life, but it is as different as day and night, except you forget what day was.

[11] Many people who are blind are fiercely independent. They prefer to ask for assistance rather than to have it thrust upon them. Xena's independent streak would serve her well in adjusting to her disability. Moreover, she would fight against becoming totally dependent on Gabrielle.

[12] Could Gabrielle adjust? Who will rescue Gabrielle when she gets into trouble? She is inept at keeping safe. Xena can still teach and guide her but Gabrielle will need to become more independent. She must not fall into the trap of being co-dependent: of saving Xena from herself.

[13] One trap that they may both fall into is Gabrielle being the "helper," and Xena, the "helpless." Rage can be the result of Xena struggling to be competent while Gabrielle overcompensates for Xena's disability. This is a common problem between a newly disabled and a non-disabled person. Xena needs to find her new path as does Gabrielle, hers.

Life With One Arm

"Only an arm. Got to lose something, might's well be an arm. Can part with that easier than the other mechanics of nature."
      -- Buster Kilrain, 20th Maine (U.S.)

[14] What if Xena's son Solan lost his arm? Could she teach him how to use a sword? One person who could teach Solan was Philip Kearny, an army officer who fought in several American and European wars in the 19th Century. Kearny, a Union general in the U.S. Civil War (1861-65), was known for his grit and his type of "Xenatude." At the U.S. Capitol, his home state of New Jersey honored Kearny with a sculpture in the Hall of Statues.

[15] General Philip Kearny lost his left arm in the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-48). While fighting, Kearny vowed that he "would give his arm" to lead a cavalry charge against the enemy. He got his wish. After losing his arm, Kearny advised people, "Never lose an arm; it makes putting gloves on difficult."

[16] One of the most respected officers in both the Union and Confederate Armies, Kearny made his men feel that they were the best soldiers ever. Waving his saber in the air, reins in his mouth, Kearny charged into battle, with his men following behind. At Chantilly (Virginia, 1862), Kearny rushed into a line of Confederate infantry. Before he could rein his horse back, Kearny was shot and killed.

[17] Serving under Kearny was Oliver Otis Howard, who had his right arm shattered by a bullet during Seven Pines (Fair Oaks, Virginia, 1862). After Howard's arm was amputated, Kearny came to console him. "General I am sorry for it, but you must not mind it; the ladies will not think the less of you." In rare humor, Howard replied, "There is one thing that we can do General, we can buy our gloves together." (Bruce Catton, MR. LINCOLN'S ARMY)

Disability in the Xenaverse

"Very little of a man is in a hand or a leg. A man is in his spirit and he has that in full no matter what part of his body dies."
      --- Robert E. Lee, General

[18] Only a few characters with disabilities live in the Xenaverse. The most prominent one is Hephaestus, the God of Fire. Burnt on his left side, he walks with a limp, and has a mangled left arm. Since he believed that he was judged by his looks, he mourns, "I am destined to be alone." In love with Aphrodite, the God of Love, Hephaestus tells his assistant, "Even an ugly god can dream." [LOVE TAKES A HOLIDAY (#H40)]

[19] When Aphrodite confronts him on his dismal attitude, he retorts, "You don't know what it's like to be judged by your looks." Angrily, she rebuts, "Oh, Yeah! Besides beauty is not what you look like, it's what you are inside." Enchanted with Hephaestus' gentle, kind nature, Aphrodite falls in love with him.

Role Model

"The lake may look the same, but it is forever changed."       ---Xena, DREAMWORKER (#03)

You want it?  Come and get it!

Xena confiscates Gabrielle's breast dagger
in DREAMWORKER (03/103)
"As if your breasts aren't dangerous enough!"

[20] When Lucy Lawless broke her pelvis, the producers of Xena: Warrior Princess chose to feature episodes in which Xena died, was missing in action, or gone on a mission. Xena could be shown dead but not disabled. A better choice would have been to have her be temporarily disabled as she was in BLIND FAITH (#44). Since Xena is a role model for many people, can she also be a role model for people with disabilities? The inventive Xena can fashion a wheelchair or have the crafty Salmoneus produce one. Yes, she cannot do the 90 foot leaps but she can wheel those rocky roads with an attitude. Living waist high in the world, anyone else would be invisible but not Xena.

[21] A series of stories about Xena's recovery and the changes in her friendship with Gabrielle would have possibilities. Gabrielle could be become an equal. Xena could learn how to ask for help; Gabrielle how to help. In several fan fiction stories, Ares offers to cure a disabled Xena if she deserts Gabrielle or returns to him. The strength and the morality of each character would be explored with such a plot.

[22] How about a murder mystery where Gabrielle acts as Xena's legs, and Xena figures out the clues? It could be the Xena version of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954). While being disabled, Xena sees a crime being committed. It opens a range of possibilities such as Xena's frustration at being immobile, and Gabrielle's skills in ferreting out information. Add another popular character such as Autolycus, and Rear Window will never be the same.

Gabrielle's Secret Of Life

Scant seconds before the first 'kiss'scene.

Gabrielle needs the kiss of life

[23] Sitting in a Thessalian temple of healing, Gabrielle tells General Marmax, who is a wounded Mitoan, a story [IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (#24)]:

"There was once a King named Liberius. He was a brave warrior and a great hunter. He was so proud of his hunting skills he decided to test them in the sacred forest of the great goddess, Artemis. Artemis was so angry that she turned him into a deer."

[24] Marmax interrupts her, "He became the hunted. The worse thing that can happen to a great hunter."

[25] Gabrielle answers, "That's what he thought, at first. But he became so fond of the peaceful ways of the deer, that he grew to love them. Of course, he still missed his human friends and family, and often he was very sad. Finally, Artemis took pity on him and turned him back into his human form."

[26] Marmax sighs, "A happy ending. But what a nightmare for a warrior to have to live the life of a deer."

[27] Gabrielle explains, "Actually, it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He became a better King after that experience and a much happier man. He'd learned that the true secret of life is to find peace in yourself and share it with the world."

[28] Shaking his head, Marmax tells Gabrielle, "It's a pretty story. Too bad it has nothing to do with real life."

[29] Softly, Gabrielle replies, "Life is only what you make of it."

[30] Perhaps, Xena can apply that philosophy to having a disability.


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. The FRB.GOV means that I am in U.S. Federal Government Service, and proud of it. My husband, the Civil War Buff, introduced me to things military. Together, we have visited every Civil War battlefield in PA, DEL, MD, W.VA., VA, and NC. I am also a disability activist. My family watches XWP for the marvelous things Xena does and for Joxer , the warlord with autism. (Yes, we all have various disabilities.)
Favorite episode: ULYSSES (#43)
Favorite line: Xena to Gabrielle: "Are you alright?" Gabrielle: "I just had to get rid of my squid friends." LOST MARINER (#45)
First episode seen: WARRIOR PRINCESS (#H09)
Least favorite episode: A NECESSARY EVIL (#38)

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