Whoosh! Issue 24 - September 1998

Letters To The Editor

That Darn Episode Guide

Sunday, July 12, 1998
Subject: Re: About Whoosh!

Hi there, my name is Brandy and I usally check out your site (Whoosh) for up dates or other matters regarding Xena and Herc. However it appears that it has not been updated in awhile. I'm aware that at times there just nothing new to add, but the reason I'm writting is that I heard that your site were moving. Being that the Universal Studios Netforum has been down for almost a week and I can't get any info regarding this can you shed any light to concerning this matter. I really enjoy Whoosh! I recommand it to my other Xenites friends. Thank You!


Editor Responded:
I take total and complete blame for the state that the Episode Guide is in. The Episode Guide has been CURSED with eerie luck in never having an assistant that works out. So, that means I have to do it BY MYSELF. This also means that I can only get to it when I can get to it. I am sitting on a lot of updates and plans to expand, but it ain't gonna happen until I get time to upload the stuff. Sad but true, but life is sometimes like that. I have approached over fifteen people to work on the episode guide with me, but it has never really worked out. Strange but true. I swear, the guide is cursed...only I seem to bypass it. Currently, I am in the process of moving and have a lot less discretionary time that I did in the past. I am determined to get this stuff uploaded at some point, but it may still be quite a while. So, I beg your patience and if I could make it so, I would. And maybe I still will. Only time will tell. Thanks for your letter.

That Darn Last Issue II

Monday, August 03, 1998
Subject: Letter for Whoosh

To the Editor:

Although I realize that Whoosh's "Letters" section is not intended as a forum for ongoing debate, I feel that I must rebut Marryat Wright's letter of July 10 [re: "Gabdrag": Did She Deserve It?], Whoosh, August 1998.

In her missive, Marryat stated:

"Now it might be said (and to some extent it has been said) that Xena must take a share of the blame for the events leading up to the death of Solan and Hope. If this is the case then Xena is not entitled to put all the blame on Gab. Is it the case though? Let's take a look.

"It has been said that the warrior princess is to blame for the events in THE DELIVERER on the grounds that she ignored Gabrielle in Britannia. So what? The young bard has been left to her own devices before, probably the earliest example is in WARRIOR...PRINCESS (only the 16th episode made) where Gab is not only left alone outside the town, to be threatened by a menacing bandit, but also has to baby-sit a wimpy princess. We've seen the Bard on her own many times since and only a few episodes later, THE GREATER GOOD showed just how effective she could be. Has she lost it since? Not that I've noticed. No, you can't blame Xena for what happened in Britannia. You might be able to blame Gabrielle though. Either she lost or misused her ability to read people or she just wasn't thinking things through."

First, I would like to address several different points in the preceding paragraphs. Let me begin by stating that I do not believe Xena was responsible for Gabrielle's rape in THE DELIVERER. The entity responsible was Dahak, along with his conspirator, Khrafstar.

However, let's also admit that Gabrielle went to Britannia because Xena was hellbent in pursuit of revenge against Caesar. Because of this, the warrior princess was herself fooled by Khrafstar, and it was she who actually freed him - twice. Therefore, if Gabrielle's ability "to read people" is in question here, then we must also reassess Xena's judgment, for she was just as blinded by her own revengeful motives as Gabrielle was by her trust. If I may quote Steven Sears with regard to the motives behind Xena's song for forgiveness in THE BITTER SUITE:

"...on the greater level, Xena was reponsible for a lot that Gabrielle went through. People might say it was Gabrielle's choice to go along with Xena and, that's true. However, at a certain point, Xena took Gabrielle for granted. For example, during THE DELIVERER, Xena was so obsessed with Caesar that she wasn't even paying attention when Gabrielle was in danger. She knew Gabrielle was always going to be there and never really thought of her as getting into a unique danger of her own. And the consequences had to be paid."
    ---Steve Sears, Chakram #3

Further, blaming any woman for her own rape is an abominable thought. Because Gabrielle was taken in by Khrafstar, she should be blamed for the violent assault she suffered? Under what circumstances does any woman deserve to be raped?

Marryat went on to say:

"Now move on to GABRIELLE'S HOPE. When Hope is born, Xena wants to kill her, because Hope is nothing but evil. Gab disagrees, saying that Hope might become good if properly brought up. Well, she is Hope's mother so she is going to be biased, but she appears to have forgotten about Hope's father. This is a serious mistake on her part and one which firmly leaves her carrying all the blame."

Hope was not proven at that point to be purely evil. Saying that Hope had nothing of her mother in her is relegating Gabrielle to nothing more than an incubator, which is so incredibly misogynistic that I would "hope" that is not what the writers intended. So what are we blaming Gabrielle for here? Her own rape? Thinking no child is "born bad", and perhaps has the potential for good? Not committing infanticide against her own baby daughter?

"Xena is right."

Well, that did seem to be the message of season three. Yes, if Gabrielle would only shut up, sit down and do whatever she is told, even if that means slicing open her own child, why that's exactly what she should do (or any good little woman, for that matter), just because Xena is always right.

"Dahak is an evil God and Gabrielle (and others right now who adopt the same point of view in her defence) seem to ignore that. It cannot be ignored. It is the sole reason for Hope being there. Any who wish to take further the idea that a child of evil could be raised to be good should see what that argument looks like in its mirror image. Would Jesus have been evil had He been raised by bandits and murderers, or would the son of the (good) God have been good anyway?"

Hope was not solely the child of evil. Just as Jesus of Nazareth was also the son of Mary, Hope was also the child of Gabrielle. I think its very interesting that Gabrielle has been removed entirely from this equation, except that Dahak used her body. I for one am rather sick of patriarchal gods who use women's bodies at their convenience and them claim exclusivity on the progeny of that union.

If we wish to put a more human perspective on this, let's say the message you propose - that Hope is "hopelessly" evil - is the one intended by Xenastaff. Does this not perpetuate the dangerous and appalling notion of "bad blood"? It used to be said that a child born of bad parents or born of rape was doomed to be bad. I find that message to be frightening, and I do not accept it. A child could be born of two "evil" parents and still be a good person.

"Think about that and then ask why evil, in the form of Dahak's daughter, should be different?"

Because, as I had stated, she is also a part of Gabrielle. If there is no part of Gabrielle in Hope, then her rape was even more appalling because it was totally gratuitous.

"So, when Hope kills Solan, Gabrielle knows who is at fault. Herself. She had the chance to stop Dahak's evil daughter from day one and, not only did she refuse to take it, she lied about it."

So Gabrielle is at fault because she wanted to give her own baby daughter a chance, and did not commit infanticide. This is a classic case of revictimizing the victim, and any woman who has been raped can tell you all about that. No, the people responsible for Solan's death were Hope and Dahak, with Callisto as their co-conspirator. Period. I would even go further and state that Hope herself is just as much a victim of Dahak as Gabrielle and Solan.

"No wonder Gabby isn't saying much about the Gabdrag, in her opinion she deserved it. In her opinion? Well, she must certainly be unable to complain about the idea of punishment. In fact, she believes in it. See again FORGET ME NOT and also see FORGIVEN for an example of "Tough Love".

Let me interject here that I am one fan who objects to the use of the term "gabdrag". What happened to Gabrielle was *torture*, and to "cutsiefy" that abuse candy-coats an abominable act that was mirrored in two recent hate crimes in Texas and Illinois. As the editor of the Gabberish Lexicon, I can tell you that this is not a phrase which will ever appear in that tome of Gabfandom.

But I digress. Yes, throughout season three we were treated to the weekly degradation of Gabrielle, episode after episode in which she admits to hating herself, believes herself deserving of punishment, etc etc. The problem is, Xenastaff opened the season by raping her. Everything that happened after that unfolded because Gabrielle had been brutally betrayed and assaulted, and as I had stated before, we then watched as the VICTIM was revictimized over and over again, even by herself. This is not the treatment I would have expected from a rape storyline, and I was appalled that a victim of rape continued to be dragged through the mire of guilt and blame for her own victimization throughout the season. Now there's a message for all survivors of sexual assault! Whatever happened or will happen, it's YOUR fault, and don't you forget it! Whether or not that was the message intended, it was the only one that appeared on the screen.

With regard to FORGIVEN, I cannot adequately express my disgust at the notion that abused kids just need a little "tough love" meted out at the end of a big stick. Battering kids doesn't turn them into good people. How about love and compassion? Or are those "touchy, feely" words avoided in XWP these days?

"Given that she is in favour of punishment, she will be aware that she would not have much say in what it might be. Very painful, but if this is what Xena decides she deserves, then this is what she deserves."

Because, I would assume, Xena is always right? And if Xena thinks you need to be beaten or tortured or killed, well, that's what you deserve, then. There are names for people like that, and none of them polite enough for Whoosh.

"In fact, she does not believe she has suffered enough."

The writers decided that. They decided that having been crucified, betrayed and raped, having given birth to a demon child of that rape, having lost her blood innocence, then dragged to near death behind a horse, having been tortured by her own conscience and having poisoned her own daughter and nearly herself, that Gab simply hadn't suffered enough. I think many fans were sick to death of it. NO ONE deserves torture and abuse. Maiming and killing are not appropriate responses to grief and pain. Kids, don't try this at home!

"Even after the Gabdrag, even after IIlusia, Gabrielle is still feeling guilty. Without looking all over for clues on this (they're there) let's go straight to the ending of SACRIFICE. Why did Gab throw herself over the edge. It certainly wasn't her only option. By the Gods, what does the Bard normally carry? A staff, close to six feet long. One poke with that, while Hope was distracted by Xena, and its all over. OK, it certainly wouldn't have been anything like as dramatic but it would have worked."

Logical, but it didn't serve the plot, as it were.

"No, Gabrielle not only wanted to kill Hope herself anyway, quite apart from the intervention of the Fates regarding Xena, she didn't mind dying to do it. In fact, when she told Ares that, she sounded as though she was positively looking forward to it. She was. The Gabdrag wasn't enough nothing would have been enough, not even Xena taking her life. The only way was for Gabrielle to offer her life herself as the ultimate penance for her wrongdoing."

What wrongdoing? I'm not arguing that Gabrielle probably comitted suicide, but WHY? Because she is to blame for her rape, for not committing infanticide when she had the chance, which therefore gave Dahak and Hope the opportunity to kill Solan, etc etc. Is this the "trickle down" theory of blame? Had Gabrielle not suffered enough, been tortured and abused enough, and the only thing which could satiate revenge would be her death?

Whatever happened to that "other" message we used to see in XWP? You know, the one about love and forgiveness, about stopping the cycle of hatred and revenge? I find it incredibly depressing that the one person in the show who shared that message - even to the point of befriending and defending a mass-murdering warlord - would be denied the forgiveness she herself offered to others, even to a woman who had killed thousands. What a sad, mean-spirited show this has become.

"Want to bet that TPTB were ever going to leave the Bard alive at the end of this series?"

I think I'll take a pass on that one.

"For the record, and to keep the Clan MacGab from getting after me, I am a Gabfan, not even stopping short of Bardolatry. She did deserve it though."

For the record, I am not addressing you as a member of the Clan MacConnor, although you know that I am one. I am addressing your letter because as a person whose convictions run contrary to those you have stated above, I feel an obligation to speak out against certain sensibilities in third season XWP which I find not only to be nihilistic and spiteful, but in direct opposition to those which drew me to this show to begin with. If the message of XWP is now one of perpetuating the cycle of hatred and revenge instead of stopping it, then I'm afraid this is one viewer who can be counted among those fans who are leaving because they have, in essence, been invited to leave.

Kate Maynard

Thursday, August 20, 1998
Subject: Letter to the Editor

Great work, everybody. Congratulations! It's good to see vigorous debate, and so many ideas being discussed.

Reading the superb Xena Fever: Confessions Of A Cynic Who Succumbed And A Twelve Step Program For Relief: A Member Confession IAXS Project #447 By Stephanie W. Smith, I realised that "been" and "bean" have identical pronunciations in most English dialects I have heard (except for one in an old 50s western), and that the reason that XWP somehow reminded me of a circus was because of the harness-assisted trajectories in some of the stunts.

Like her, I was put off at first, in my case by a main character named with a title-honorific (X), and a sidekick with a modern (historically speaking) name (G). But I was won over, too.

Black Wolf merchandising
The two unfortunate things about the US market is that it (a) US, and (b) a market. Being so far behind in time and invisible in ratings, I can only watch (no pun intended), and have absolutely no effect on anything, ratings or otherwise.

So here are some random musings from the sidelines.

It hurts inside
The extreme depth of feeling in the emotions and ideas behind the words describing fan response to particular scenes and episodes caught me by surprise. It might be a US thing.

I was pondering how to respond or contribute, and after a long restless night, the next morning on the way to work, at the top of the stairs leading down to the local railway station, I saw the sun rise over the horizon, right at the distant spot where the railway tracks joined together, doing a perfect imitation of the sun at the end of THE BITTER SUITE. It was a "When they tango, the world disappears" moment. I went "Ahhh!" Even more coincidentally, there were clouds for a week either side of that dawn, and even if there hadn't been, the sun would have risen at a different point along the horizon. It was a special moment.

By another coincincidence, that morning's paper has a small essay about how America doesn't mind watching its people turn each other into "guacamole", but even Hollywood wasn't going near the recent Lolita film. Which in the Xenaverse translates as Gabrielle is too much the student/apprentice and Xena too much the teacher/master to allow any plot developments.

My idea of a coincidence would be Gabrielle's name in Sanskrit having something to do with either (domestically) mat, house, dwelling, mountainside; bier, burial ground, departed spirits; arrow; custom; royal calamity, royal capital; bracelet, circle, wheel or, more aptly, in a poetic-adventure mode, to be spoken or uttered; one that goes or moves

Following this vague thread, if "Xena" were an ancient Egyptian name, it would sound like it meant fettered, in restraints, united to another, spouse, of high birth and rank

Curiously, if "Sappho" were an ancient Egyptian name it would mean something like to keep safe and sound, to make happy; to tell, to relate, to describe. It makes it almost sound like the name of a group.

The Tradition
There seems to be tradition building up in US-exported stories that women are not allowed to be human (or at least natural). Star Trek: The Next Generation caught itself unawares by the logical consequences of its Trill story; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine attempted to deal with it admirably in "Rejoined" but that episode somehow ended in a mirroring of a celebrity non-relationship that was being reported around about that time (maybe that was just a coincidence); on Babylon 5, the actors were willing, but those behind the cameras were shy; Friends is having a go at it, but slowly (and gently).

Xena, the show, is following suite, it seems, notwithstanding what the actresses try to do in filling in the corners. I mean that, in ordinary scenes, where two men would slap each other on the back in joy at the victory, and a man and woman would shake hands at a conference or gathering, Xena and Gabrielle are more often at arm's length than anything else. As if there were an invisible barrier (a glass wall?) at the behind-the-camera level of things, railroading things into (or away from?) a certain direction. (It does make the occasional friendliness more memorable, though.)

Some years back there were gleeful reports in the media about the unexpectedly surprising answer some country folk (I think around the Baltic region) gave to the question: "What are you afraid of most?" "Vampires," they said. "How quaint," said the rest of the world. But consider: in the myth of Andromeda, a "sea-monster" approaches her while she has been immobilised by being chained to a rock by her friends and relatives. Luckily, she is rescued by the Pegasus-riding Perseus with his immobilising Medusa's head, and so on. If the attacking monster were described as a vampire, of the sort the Baltic folk were afraid of, how would that change our perceptions and interpretations of both ancient myth and modern survey response? What if we translated "monster/vampire" as "ethereal life-draining magneto-hydrodynamic being/organism"? (Are there people really trapped inside that transporter beam's pattern buffer, or is it all just an old engineer's tale?) And the Andromeda-seamonster constellation has grown into the "maiden and fiery dragon" group of stories, complete with rescuing knight.

Xena the show has often been called revisionist, but there may not be all that much to revise. The Greek myths and legends themselves are revisionist - or at least an attempt at trying to understand and explain certain things. Daughter-sacrifice for important events was an established plot-device by the time we get the dramatic poems the myths and legends are extracted from. Iphigenia at the beginning of the Trojan War, and Polyxena at the end, for example. Perhaps a dim recollection of the Abraham story, combined with travellers' tales of Celtic customs, combined with actual cases might begin to explain the shape the myths finally took. On the other hand, if your daughter were dedicated by you to a life of holiness, cleansed in body, mind and spirit in preparation for giving birth to someone who would, hopefully, help the world, that could be called a "sacrifice", couldn't it? And if you tried to explain that to the people on the other side of the hill, how would they interpret it? Nowadays, we would probably translate that act as "being put in a nunnery" or "going to college" or something to that effect. Perhaps I am trying to deconstruct Andromeda.

I had always thought that deconstructing a character was as impossible as weighing sappho-comet feathers to determine the direction of the Moon's dance around the Earth. But deconstructing a story (and the audience response to it) is another matter.

Didn't the Dracula story arise from the turberculosis folklore of 19th century New York? Even the red lining of his cape is not unexpected. Owl is the wise old bird, because he was Athena's symbol, and Athena, governor and protector of the tribes of Athens, strong upholder of the scales of justice, would spell her name with an owl (m-, as in 'mindful') if she wrote it in hieroglyphics (or had it stamped on coins). (Most of those words in the previous sentence begin with "owl" in ancient Egyptian.)

I picked up one of those "How to Write Screenplays" book the other month: a nice book, informative, and if I had to summarise it in a phrase, "profile of the audience" would do it.

THE DELIVERER is, on the one hand, classic Doctor Who: it has warring tribes, clandestine and ulterior goings-ons in the local temple, invasions of various sorts from other realms, the Doctor's assistant inadvertantly getting into world-destroying great danger, the Doctor going to the rescue eventually and a prosaic explanation for an historical conumdrum, in this case, Stonehenge. It is also classic Doctor Who in the amount of heated debate about what it says and who it is for. The equation was made back in the 60s and 70s: "Doctor Who is entertaining, and perhaps educational, for children. Doctor Who is science fiction. Alien is science fiction. Therefore, Alien is suitable for children. Ooops." The British and American definitions of science fiction didn't coincide.

It was like saying Gulliver's Travels is for children. (If it is, then why does the story of the sojourn in the land of the talking horses conveniently vanish? And the Royal Society satire is deemed too boring.)

THE DELIVERER, on the other hand, is also the story of Christmas from Herod's point of view, with the Knights of the Pierced Heart filling the role of the Essenes, and Xena being a sort of highway patrol officer caught in the middle. Not a "nice" story from any view.

On an entirely different track in the woods, if fans knew what scrolls are made from, would they be as enthusiastic? There's a hint in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER... "musty old leather".

If poets knew what Sappho's lyre was made from, would they be as enthusiastic about lyrics? (She calls her lyre her "poem" in one fragment, and thanks the tortoise that donated it in another.)

As an aside, her fragment about the Laurel tree describes Xena perfectly, and Say summarises Gabrielle's history quite well. Coincidence?

If XWP ever does a story about the inventor of the 11-string lyre, it would have to include The Nine-Muse Wedding hen's party at Mytilene, and Gabrielle dancing a roundelay, and being spun into/onto the poikilo-thronos, the "rich-worked throne". Or perhaps the real Sappho is Xena, because: The twelfth string of Sappho's lyre was, of course, her voice. She was an ancient Greek version of the mediŠval Hildegard, sweet and melodious. Favus distillans, honey and milk beneath her tongue.

What will the next season bring? Or, by the time I see it, what has it brought? Will it be something I should look forward to?

Edward Mazzeri

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