Whoosh! Issue 21 - June 1998

IAXS Research Project #540
By Shelley Sullivan
Copyright © 1998 held by author
5778 words

Attributes of the Bard (01-06)
The Joxer Syndrome (07-09)
Joxer, the Mighty Recurring Character (10-14)
Joxer, the Mighty Lover (15)
Gabrielle, the Mighty Insensitive (16-17)
Season Three's Syndrome (18-19)
Joxer, Mighty King of Character Assassination (20-24)
Gabrielle, the Mighty Tramp (25-27)
The Mighty Quill (28-31)
Gabrielle, the "Mightier" Insensitive (32-34)
Gabrielle, the Mighty Inarticulate (35-37)
A Mighty Bitter Amazon Nation (38-40)
Joxer, the Mighty Incapacitated (41-44)
Joxer, the Mighty Peeper (45-47)
Fishing for Compliments? (48)
The Mighty Serious Conclusion (49-53)

Gabrielle And The Joxer Syndrome

Attributes of the Bard

These Gabby blowup dolls are so lifelike.

Gabrielle swoons in Joxer's arms in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS.

[1] Life ain't easy in ancient "NewGreeceland", and what's a girl to do if she doesn't want to marry her "dull, stupid" fiancee? Why, she takes off for life on the road with the Warrior Princess, of course.

[2] From her initial encounter with Hector in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), Gabrielle showed herself to be, if not a monument to good judgement, brave and resourceful. These were further illustrated by her escape from the Cyclops. In a way, her bravery exceeds Xena's at times. It's not easy facing opponents when armed only with words, and her clever "re-interpretation" of Xena and Draco's relationship saved Xena's life.

[3] It's with words that Gabrielle found her niche. In CHARIOTS OF WAR (02/102), the second episode, Gabrielle is already telling stories, to Xena in this instance. Her cleverness and verbal ability, recognized by Xena, is what enables her to stall the priest of Morpheus long enough for Xena to reach her through the dreamscape in DREAMWORKER (03/103). And in the famous "rules of survival", talking your way out is added to the list by the Warrior Princess herself, who has complete confidence in Gabrielle's ability to do so.

[4] Gabrielle's ability at "barding" is implied in every episode, even when it's not explicitly shown. After all, Gabrielle is the sole support of the income-challenged Xena (and Argo, who no doubt appreciates a bucket of oats from time to time). Only in ALTARED STATES (19/119) do we actually see Xena and Gabrielle accept supplies. When Xena's not mining and forging her own weapons, tanning her own leather for boots, or raiding treasure caches she's left dotted all over Greece, the Bard is the one bringing home the bacon.

[5] Even when she's armed with her staff, Gabrielle is still not an opponent to be underestimated in an intellectual sense. The manner in which she tests Velasca's suitability for the leadership of the Amazons in THE QUEST (37/213) demonstrates insight and the ability to weigh conflicting views. Her planning ability provides Xena with her whip and chakram in BLACK WOLF (11/111). Logical thinking and skill at rhetoric is Xena's main defense in THE RECKONING (06/106), and they are all that kept the Warrior Princess from a half-hearted advocacy by the village elder and an early, painful death.

[6] Love her, hate her, fail to employ her, Gabrielle stays alive, and supports the Warrior Princess and Argo, by her wits and words. The staff sure comes in handy from time to time, though.

The Joxer Syndrome

[7] So what, you might ask, has this to do with the Joxer Syndrome? And what is the Joxer Syndrome, anyway? Is it terminal? Is it contagious?

[8] The Joxer Syndrome is a mysterious illness that occurs when a normally capable, three dimensional female character (yes, I do know all XWP characters are fictional) suddenly and inexplicably suffers a complete loss of the abilities and instincts she's had all her life (or at from the beginning of the series, if you'd rather) when in the vicinity of another character of dubious skill and questionable intellect, who is the carrier of this dreaded disease.

[9] The fact that the afflicted character is female [generally Gabrielle], and the afflicting character is male was an unimportant point until COMEDY OF EROS (46/222), but it is rapidly escalating in importance as the third season progresses. Think recurring virus, re-activating in Gabrielle's system whenever she's in the vicinity of Joxer. This virus affects both her abilities as bard/breadwinner and her overall IQ (which is substantially higher whenever Joxer is not around), and thus we have The Joxer Syndrome.

Joxer, the Mighty Recurring Character

This complicated.  Me want Gabby's stick.

Gabrielle has just broken Joxer's crossbow, and is about to break his face, in CALLISTO.

[10] In CALLISTO (22/122), the episode where Joxer was first introduced, he was clearly the teenager in a man's body who dreamed of greatness and heroic deeds far out of proportion to his abilities. ("Mighty" what? is a question unanswered to this day, except possibly around a certain quiet campfire at night. Certainly, a significant number of internetties have a suggestion, but I digress). He received sound bardic advice as to future career paths, which he ignored, and so a recurring virus, er, character was born.

[11] Joxer continued on his merry, oblivious way through WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), in which he distinguished himself by bragging publicly about sleeping with Xena (a faux pas committed by no gentleman, but carried on in boys' locker rooms across the country, and the Xenaverse's equivalent), and destroying a plan conceived by Xena. The insidious virus had no affect on Xena, but alas, after the initial confrontation with Joxer in the tavern, the bard was contaminated. The Gabrielle, who in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204) wouldn't have hesitated to "just ask her", apparently didn't think of that when she was trying to identify which of the lookalikes had freed her from the dungeon. No, Gabrielle required a demonstration.

[12] Semi-hysterical ranting about "the plan" is new as well, and rather odd, considering that she travels with the communication-impaired Xena. But Joxer is there, and the virus is taking hold, manifesting itself in loss of temper, loss of memory, and a decline in maturity. The Bard, who defended herself so well against a dangerous serial killer in MORTAL BELOVED (16/116) and without weapons against Daemon's men in THE PRODIGAL (18/118), is nowhere to be seen during the "catfight". If Joxer is "the boy", when around him, Gabrielle is definitely "the girl". Xena: Babysitter Princess?

[13] In TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208), Gabrielle's next fairly lengthy exposure to the virus' carrier, Ares' loss of his sword affected the control of everyone, causing anger and belligerence to manifest itself. Xena wasn't affected, according to her, because she'd already had a great deal of practice living with anger. Gabrielle certainly was, as was everyone else, with one exception. Joxer's personality traits were firmly controlled by the virus, thus his usual "boy warrior wanna-be" persona remained intact. Gabrielle's usual character traits, including her IQ, were saved by the lack of a sitting God of War, thus demonstrating that a partial relief from the effects of the virus can be obtained.

[14] In FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), Gabrielle is largely insulated from the effects of the virus, no doubt due to the encapsulation that coats it -- a beneficial side-effect from the fall-out of Aphrodite's spell. Certainly her intelligence remains intact, which is evidenced by both good planning and execution. This is fortunate indeed for both the Royals and Joxer. Rather unusually, Xena suffers a moment of contamination by failing to tell Joxer that it's time to face reality before he's killed. Joxer remains Joxer and continues on his "boy warrior-wannabe" way, which was likely no surprise to the bard.

Joxer, the Mighty Lover

[15] COMEDY OF EROS (46/222) was famous throughout the net for its last scene. Comments ranged from "oh, poor Joxer, he really loves her", to "Gabrielle is so insensitive, she doesn't deserve him" to "I really hate endings that try to make me feel sorry for a character I can't stand. This doesn't look good for the future". And it's really the "Gabrielle is so insensitive" comments that say it all about the progression of this virus, and its effect on the third season.

Gabrielle, the Mighty Insensitive

Joxer finally realizes that his costume looks goofy

Joxer fights back tears upon learning his love is unrequited in A COMEDY OF EROS.

[16] Gabrielle isn't insensitive. She's proved that time and again, as early as CHARIOTS OF WAR (02/102), when she was discussing Cygnus with Sphaerus (say that five times, fast). It's one of her most identifiable characteristics, and she doesn't discriminate between the good guys and the bad guys until she has to. In CALLISTO (22/122), she reaches out to Melas a number of times, and there are other examples in almost every episode of her charity.

[17] So what happened? Two choices: either Gabrielle doesn't want anything to do with the boy warrior-wannabe (and really, as warriors go, the bard supports the best of the bunch... she certainly isn't impressed by his fighting skills, hers even exceed his), or the dreaded virus has taken a firm grip on the bard. The proof? The same Gabrielle, who expressed enough sympathy for Joxer's feelings in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216) to have Xena talk to him, has apparently ruthlessly trampled on his feelings this time. Thus, a sympathetic Joxer is born by selectively diminishing the established characteristics of the bard.

Season Three's Syndrome

[18] Season three presents the most varied of the symptoms, all of them related to "Joxer-Loves- Gabrielle-But-She-Doesn't-Know-He-Exists-itis". In some circles (mostly enclaves of Joxerites), this is called character development. In others (primarily the bard's admirers), it's called character assassination. And in other circles, comprised of those who have seen this happen on other shows, it's called character predictability. In smaller circles, it's referred to as "ugh" by young boys, and "yuck" by young girls, but they're largely immune to the effects of Joxer Syndrome by virtue of age. If this was ER, we could operate, but since this is Xena, we tolerate.

[19] The first third season episode that Joxer appeared in was BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302). A flat out comedy, it pursued the "Joxer loves Gabrielle" theme right from the wonderful "first" death of Joxer. But was Gabrielle insensitive? She cried after all. Of course, even Renee O'Connor mildly complains about the amount of time her character spends in tears, so this is no indication really. She was close to tears when she gave Tobias to the couple in A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209), too. And she certainly appeared to go right to sleep with Joxer's funeral pyre floating close by. Hmmm, Joxer and an ass have something in common....

Joxer, the Mighty King of Character Assassination

Next time you lose your head, I'm not screwing it back on.

Gabrielle once again perfects her 'jerk' grip on Joxer in KING OF ASSASINS.

[20] One can only draw the conclusion that Xena's close presence has a major mitigating effect on the virus. Quick Xena, hug your bard today!

[21] Unfortunately, Xena appears to have stayed too long at the retreat weekend for reforming ex-warlords, leaving Gabrielle in extended contact with Joxer. Xena hasn't been back long, because by the time of the events in KING OF *SS*S, er, ASSASSINS (54/308), the virus has taken hold with a vengeance. Xena leaves again, and, almost immediately, Gabrielle's IQ plummets to new depths. Let's review the symptoms as presented: The bard (who recently conceived, planned and flawlessly executed the saving of her baby in Britannia, under pressure from the relentless pursuit of the Warrior Princess herself) is sadly and deeply affected by the encompassing nature of her illness. It never occurs to her to inform the intended victim, as she just did in Chin, and her verbal abilities have been so affected that she is no longer able even to talk her way into an audience with Cleopatra to explain the situation. Diagnosis? The virus has taken hold so that its victim can be firmly matched with its host.

[22] Further symptoms are evident of the deterioration of the bard's IQ: even Joxer is able to outwit Gabrielle, locking her in a jail cell. The bard who made her way alone to Athens and Poteidaia in the first year of her travels with Xena, the bard who tested Velasca and found her wanting, the bard who conceived and directed a plan to defeat the warlord in THE PRODIGAL (18/118), is helpless at best, and gullible at worst. Why?

[23] The purpose of this malignant infestation named the Joxer Syndrome seems to be to engender the idea of growth for Joxer by diminishing the abilities of Gabrielle. Does this situation meet the criteria necessary for a diagnosis of the Joxer Syndrome at work? Yes. For Joxer to appear noble and protective, an "equal" to the object of his adoration, the bard's innate abilities must be affected. Gabrielle has proven herself able to talk her way in and out of situations, and she can handle herself in a fight much more capably than Joxer. This is the same woman who fought her way through Talmadeus' army to retrieve Xena's body. Even her memory is sadly affected, the same memory that enables her to recite stories and tales in public, earning the dinars necessary to provide herself and the Warrior Princess with a crust of bread and a drop of port (as well as the odd loaf of nutbread). Fully in the grip of the virus, Gabrielle is forced to rely on fragments of her memories of Xena in her attempts to escape from the jail cell.

[24] Once Xena returns, the antibiotic affect of her presence begins its mitigating work against the viral effects. It's unfortunate that the Warrior Princess is more of an emergency room specialist than a virologist or she would recognize the cause of Gabrielle's otherwise inexplicable loss of ability.

Gabrielle, the Mighty Tramp

Gabrielle, you have shrimp growing outta your head.

Joxer tries to convince Gabrielle to give up a life she doesn't even lead in WARRIOR...PRIESTESS...TRAMP.

[25] Joxer continues to stalk, um, be compelled by the virus to follow Xena and Gabrielle, and while the bard doesn't know he's in the area, his presence is felt because her behavior is altered. While Xena is on the other side of town attending a seminar on Caring And Sharing With Your Best Friend/Traveling Companion, she's close enough so that the full effect of the Joxer Syndrome is diffused somewhat, and Gabrielle is able to rescue the woman she believes to be Xena in WARRIOR... PRIESTESS... TRAMP (55/309).

[26] With the affects in abeyance, Gabrielle is able to maintain her patience at Joxer's slighting of her abilities as a bard when he assumes that she's so reduced in circumstances that she's forced to work as a whore in Meg's tavern. Apparently, that kind of employment is fine for Meg, and, obviously, for Joxer as well. Possibly, Meg supports him in the same manner that Gabrielle supports Xena. Joxer is as income-challenged as the Warrior Princess, and Meg seems to care enough about him to push the odd dinar his way. Sharing remarkably coincidental genes with Xena renders Meg immune to Joxer Syndrome, as it's evident that her business is thriving.

[27] Joxer spends much of his time isolated and unconscious, so Xena's antidotal affect on Joxer Syndrome enables the bard to carry out her part of their plans. This is a particularly insidious virus, however, and its recurring symptoms strike to the core of the bard when next it manifests itself.

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