Bitter "Bitter Suite" MemoriesSun, 21 Jun 1998
Subject: Letter to the Editor
Insensitive to abuse by TPTB? First I wish to say that Kate Maynard's 'Marketing Abuse' was an excellent post about TPTB marketing of an abused woman (Gabrielle).
The second thing I wish to say is TPTB shows a lack of regards in the topic of abuse, a topic which they themselves seem not want to talk about, but include it in the scripts.
There had been a number of times, Xena has been shown abusive to Gabrielle, (A couple examples, Xena pulling Gabrielle by the hair in 'A Day In The Life' Xena roughly shoving Gabrielle in 'Gabrielle's Hope' and of course the repulsive Gabdrag in 'Bitter Suite'.) It is a topic that is talked about in the Xenaverse, but not by TPTB or questioned in any interviews. (Like the recent 'The Chakram #3' which Sharon Delaney missed several opportunities to ask questions about the abuse topic)
I still have trouble with the gabdrag, TPTB seem to understand that it was too much. But refuse to try and repair the damage some fans see that they have done to the Xena/Gabrielle relationship. Steven Sears said that just assume that they (X&G) talked about it off-camera, and since that it happen before Illusia, it's in the past.
But TPTB are not following that quote, Gabrielle has shown a lot of guilt since 'BS', 'One Against An Army' showed the bard regretful for Chin, and of course a whole episode about her guilt in 'Forget Me Not'.
Xena has shown no remorse over the Gabdrag, or any action she did before 'BS', which the episode was about forgiving each other. But as shown by later episodes about Gabrielle, not forgiving themselves. Xena like most abusers seem to feel comfortable about her attack on Gabrielle, which is a bit frightening. Cause I am just waiting for Xena to again explode and use Gabrielle as her punching bag.
Wed, 27 May 1998
Subject: Topps Bitter Suite Cover, Issue #3
After watching the episode "The Bitter Suite" a half-dozen times, I have been inexorably drawn to the conclusion that this episode, despite its happy ending, raises more problems than it solved from the previous "Rift" stories in the 3rd season of Xena Warrior Princess.
Let me start by noting that this is the greatest episode of Xena ever made. I want the CD to this episode, complete with foldout lyrics for every song! The brutal confrontation between Xena and Gabrielle, the musical sequences of Illusia, and the awesome performances by all involved, this episode was made to look and feel like a movie. But does this movie merely evoke pathos for cheap effect, or does it neatly fit in with the previous episodes of the series?
While Xena's actions in this show are fine for a one-shot movie, they are inexcusable in a loving, ongoing relationship in an episodic series. A relationship with Gabrielle that the writers would have us believe will proceed as if nothing bad happened between them. If that is the writers' position, what are they saying to us, the fans? My question is, when will Xena lose her temper and beat the Hades out of Gabrielle again? When it's time for the 4th season ratings sweeps? Let us review what actually happened in Bitter Suite.
The Facts of Bitter Suite:
1) After being spoken to by Ares, Xena decided that the best way to extinguish her pain and guilt was to torture and murder Gabrielle, her best friend/soulmate.
2) Xena was not drunk, possessed, or under mind control. It was not an evil Xena twin. It was not under duress, an accident, or a whim. Our Xena made a conscious, deliberate decision to murder Gabrielle.
3) Xena first attempted to slay Gabrielle instantaneously via a Chakram toss. Failing that, she hopped on a horse and dragged Gabrielle over two miles of terrain. There are many points during this horse dragging that she had the opportunity to stop, and many times where she dragged Gabrielle through material that could have killed her instantly.
a) Dragged through Timbers: Gabrielle could have died the instant her head struck one of these deeply planted timbers in the Amazon village. As it was, she got deep splinters and bruises from having her body bludgeoned through them.
b) Pulled through an Open Fire: In a sort of macabre reprise of her encounter with Dahak in "The Deliverer", Gabrielle is dragged through a raging fire. While not fatal, this undoubtedly caused her 2nd to 3rd degree burns, being pulled through those super-heated logs and embers.
c) Dragged through Open Fields: This was far more dangerous, as Xena spurred her horse to greater speeds. Rather than simply being buffeted from side to side along the ground, Gabrielle now began bouncing high up in the air and landing hard on her back. This could have paralyzed her for life if the vertebrae of her back were popped or twisted by such buffeting. (If not for her miraculous healing after visiting Illusia, Gabrielle almost certainly would have had recurrent back pain for the rest of her life, given the nature of back injuries. They can't even be healed in our time!)
d) Gabrielle hits a Big Rock: Galloping along in a wide empty field at full speed, Xena deliberately steered her horse towards the only big rock in view. Remember that when a body like Gabrielle's meets the rock, one of two things will happen: if the rock is only on the surface, it will give way to the body impacting against it. But if the rock is only the top of a large boulder that extends deep underground, it is the body that will give way, after a tremendously shocking impact.
As Xena had no way of knowing the size of the rock underground, she must have been trying to dash Gabrielle's brains out on the rock. Were that rock to have merely been the tip of a large boulder, it would have either shattered her pelvis, back, or head. Not only would this have probably killed her instantly, but also it certainly would have prevented her from finding the strength to stop Xena from throwing her off the cliff. As it was though, the rock gave way and Gabrielle probably only suffered a foot-long bruise along her rump.
e) Dragged through a Stream: Finally, Xena pulls Gabrielle through a stream, which was a trade-off I suppose, pain-wise. On the one hand, bouncing through the water was probably smoother than scraping along the ground. On the other, the cold water on her open cuts and abrasions probably was painful enough to shock Gabrielle into unconsciousness, for once they leave the water, and she no longer makes any groans of pain. (Does this commentary on Gabrielle's pain disturb you? It does me. Then why didn't it disturb Xena, huh?)
f) Throw Gabrielle Over a Cliff: After stopping at the edge of a cliff, Xena looks back at her handiwork, and grins. She is clearly quite happy, without any sign of remorse, at the damage and injury she has caused to her once-best friend. Xena unties her bloodied ankles (Believe me when I tell you that I really hate writing this) and gathers her up to heave her off the cliff. (With a little help from some standard Xena harness wires.)
The episode, of course, progresses, and our heroines confront one another again in Illusia.
g) Murder in Illusia: All right, maybe this example isn't a clear-cut case of premeditated murder. (The Illusory) Gabrielle screamed, charged Xena, and attempted to kill her with her scythe. Xena easily blocked the attack, disarmed her opponent, and sent her tumbling to the floor.
At this point, Xena twirls her sword and, with her victim sprawling helplessly before her, plunges the sword through her chest. The next scene puzzles me. Clearly, the director and Lucy Lawless wanted to convey to us Xena's evil joy at slaying Gabrielle. They succeed admirably, as Xena breaks into a triumphantly evil grin after finally killing her bard.
Was there some point to showing us this, perhaps lost in an early version of the script? We shall never know. What we do know is that in the show that aired, at no time while inflicting pain or death on Gabrielle did Xena show anything but glee.
Some might argue that this killing was merely a case of self-defense, which is a plausible occurrence during combat. There's just one problem with this: This is Xena! We have seen her disarm a dozen warriors at once and send them running on their way with a whack to their backsides with the flat of her sword. She can disarm and force surrender from any foe. How many times have we seen her defeat a foe without killing him, or her? Case in point, how was Callisto not worthy of death, but Gabrielle was? And what would Gabrielle think if she compared the two?
Gabrielle's visit to Illusia wiped away her physical wounds. But as far as I know, Gabrielle's memory of her trauma at Xena's hands remains. Won't she suffer nightmares of that awful journey for the next several seasons? Forgiving Xena is one thing, but how could you easily fall asleep with that person inches away from you? What were the writers thinking? Grab the February ratings sweeps with a little violence? In addition, at what cost?
There are many reasons given to question what the writers were thinking when they wrote this episode. Did they think this plot through? Did they give it enough thought? Well, unfortunately, I have proof that they did think this plot through. An example I can give is Xena's choice of steed to drag Gabrielle. This is what happened early in the episode:
1) Faced with Amazon spear-maidens, Xena does a super-flip off of Argo (a light-brown horse) and flies all the way across the village.
2) There she grabs a bullwhip that is on a dark, Amazon horse, uses it to snare Gabrielle, and mounts the dark horse to drag Gabrielle across all of the sets used on the show. (Sorry, I'm going over the top here. She didn't drag Gabrielle through either the quicksand set where she let Callisto sink, or the snowy mountain that Gabrielle drug her body up in "Destiny". Oh gosh, I don't want to even contemplate comparing that dragging to what Xena did here.)
3) By the end of Bitter Suite, Argo is still presumably milling around the Amazon village, waiting for her owner to return.
Why go to all this trouble to get Xena off Argo for the horse dragging scene? Some writer must have raised an objection to Xena using Argo to drag Gabrielle. He must have asked: Would Argo actually carry out such a deed, given the examples of "horse intelligence" we've portrayed her as having in previous episodes? Would the fans resent Argo for participating in this deed? And in later episodes, would Gabrielle resent walking alongside a steed that would happily drag her to her death, if Xena commanded it?
And so they came up with the above ridiculously extravagant sequence to get her off Argo, and onto an "amoral" Amazon horse, one that wouldn't mind dragging a semi-conscious young woman behind it.
Of course, the obvious question is that if the writers were so careful to avoid this, to avoid resentment in future episodes, why didn't they think of this concerning Gabrielle and Xena? Obviously, they did not think of that, yet they did spend a lot of time thinking this episode through. It just does not make any sense.
I would like to ask the writers why they decided to turn Xena from Feminist Icon to Wife Beater. Think of any case of Battered Spouse Syndrome that you have heard of, and the plot of Bitter Suite matches it perfectly. Specifically:
1) Abusive husband (Xena) beats his spouse nearly to death, in the belief that doing so will ease his pain.
2) Battered wife (Gabrielle) forgives her abusive husband, because she loves him, and she tells herself that "he didn't really mean to do it".
3) Battered wife then insists to the police (in this case, the Amazons) that they drop all charges, as she believes she can change him and re-make him into a better person, despite his past history of battery.
Lucy Lawless did a Public Service Announcement a while back for a Domestic Violence Hotline. In it she said, "You have a weapon Xena doesn't, the telephone." I never would have imagined that you could apply that commercial to the character Xena herself.
Even more horribly, I try to picture a public service poster being made from this episode. It would show Gabrielle standing in her toga, bloody and bruised from head to toe. The caption would read: "DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. CALL 1-800-SPOUSE-ABUSE"
And, my gosh, I wonder what message this episode sends to the gay community, who held out Xena as a godsend? A story on last season's "Melrose Place" was considered daring, for exploring the relationship between two gay men, one of whom was violently abusive to the other. I never would have dreamed that the term "gay basher" could ever be truthfully applied to Xena, but here we are.
Xena: Warrior Princess is admittedly a fantasy, and a television show to boot. Maybe I am being too harsh in my analysis here. (Zeus, I hope I am.) Yet are we right to ignore an episode of clear-cut Domestic Violence, and sweep it under the rug? Isn't that wrong in itself? Imagine if Xena were replaced in this episode with Draco. At the end, Gabrielle would have forgiven his beatings and his trying to kill her, because she loves him and forgives him.
If that happened on any other show, feminists around the world would unite in protest over a story clearly offensive to women. The National Organization for Women (NOW) would picket Universal Studios, they would urge a boycott of all Universal merchandizing and products. This episode would not be allowed to stand if it were a man doing these things to Gabrielle. Why then was it acceptable to the writers to have Xena do these things to her?
I have no guesses and no answers on this. While Bitter Suite is admittedly the greatest episode of this show I have ever seen, the questions it raises after its happy ending will remain unless the writers can address them somehow. Is the love between Gabrielle and Xena the love that all of us hope for and aspire to in our own lives, or has it been twisted into a textbook case of a sick, one-sided, abusive relationship?
To conclude, I think that as a fan, maybe I have thought about this episode too much. My analysis certainly has not made me happier. It disturbs me to consider it all so seriously. Maybe we should all just sing along with the songs in this episode and move on to the next one. Just don't think about it. Drive it out of your mind.
Hey! It's Joxer TimeWed, 03 Jun 1998
Subject: Letter to the editor
1. Joxer is a part of the show. Deal with it. The venomous rage blasted out by the Joxer haters is overwhelming. If Joxer was that bad of a character, nobody would watch the show. His character can be inconsistent at times, but that is the writing. Get of Ted's case.
The real reason I wrote in:
2. Please update the episode guide for HTLJ. It is almost a month since the episodes played in Canada, and still the last three eps are not done.
1. I am only one person. Deal with it.
Heh heh. Just kidding. My copious spare time seems to be shrinking at an amazing rate. All I can say is that, the editor is willing, but the time is short. I plan to get the episode guide in top notch shape someday. The good news is that I have found two more people who want to try assisting me with the episode guide. The bad news is that they will be volunteers number ten and eleven!!! For some reason, the episode guide chews up and then spits out the volunteers. And all that always remains is me and my incredible shrinking time.
Sat, 13 Jun 1998
Subject: Letter to the editor: Joxer bashing
This is getting ridiculous. I read the article in issue 21 "Joxer and Gabrielle" or something like that. I was apalled! I would just like to say, LAY THE H*LL OF JOXER ALREADY! He is a funny character that takes the pressure of Gabrielle to provide comic relief all the time. I am open to other's opinions, but that was just mean!
Fri, 12 Jun 1998
Subject: What's so wrong with Joxer?
Even though I AM a Joxer fan, I can still be objective, unlike the PRO-Joxer ANTI-Gabrielle crab this website has published. First of all id like to say few things about what I think about the Anti-Joxer articles. Where did you get this idea that Joxerites hate Gabrielle? Are you so annoyed that there has been a diversion from just Xena and Gab? Do you really just want to see Xena and Gab all the time, no emphasis been placed else where? What is your problem with Joxer? Sure, Joxer does act very silly most of the time and Xena and Gab save him a lot, you really fail to try and look at the other side of the coin. I mean, Joxer has saved Xena's life at least once at the end of SII with the hind's knife, Xena trusted him to get that knife and he did, and he has mostly shown good intentions (I know you say that's not good enough). I can't say I don't see his faults, he does have a few, and that's the problem with people who hate Joxer. He is not perfect, which is not liked to be seen, especially when he supposedly "drags" Gab and Xena down to his "level".
Have you ever thought that Xena and Gab are MORE humorous with Joxer around, or would you like it to be all serious, without any breaks. I think you have made some very one-sided generalizations without any proper balance of the facts. Well, I'll stop right there, before this becomes more of a slinging match. is Joxer so bad because he is an "odd" person, not fitting in with the mainstream? By the way, if you are annoyed a lot with Joxer, you are going to hate a lot of season 4 because he is in it for almost half a season, so its us Joxerites who get the last laugh.
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