Subjugating SubtextDate: Sun, 27 Dec 1998
Subject: Whoosh! article
I read your article (Why Subtext Should Never Become Maintext, WHOOSH #27, December 1998) and agree that shows like Lois and Clark, Moonlighting etc. did fall down when the sexual tension between their leading characters became a focus of the shows.
But I think there's a difference between those and XWP, and it centres around use of the word 'subtext'. This word has come to mean different things in Xena fandom - sometimes a euphemism for "same-sex romance", in effect.
That Xena and Gabrielle love each other is not subtextual in later seasons, it's maintextual. 'Subtext' in the show is perhaps best defined as an ambiguity, deliberate or otherwise, as to whether that love is also sexual in design and/or practice (that invokes yet another debate, but for another time :g:).
In the other shows mentioned above, the *sexual* nature of the tensions in the relationships was not ambiguous. The people concerned were male/female couples, and the possibility that they might get together was never an issue. Only whether that possibility would come true.
With Xena and Gabrielle, it's different. The show makes the possibility itself ambiguous and subtextual. By contrast, heterosexual attraction for characters (e.g. Ulysses) is not ambiguous, it's maintext, so there's a double standard there.
Xena and Gabrielle could be an overtly romantic couple without the show being *about* their romance. It's not a question of whether it becomes maintext (i.e. unambiguous), it's a question of whether or not it becomes an issue for storylines. The former would be nice to see (and a significant step for US TV). Only the latter would turn the series into a different show as you fear.
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998
Subject: letter of comment on December issue
I'd like to commend you on the December 1998 issue of Whoosh (WHOOSH! #27). Congratulations on another job well-done.
I especially enjoyed the article "Why Subtext Should Never Become Maintext," and its comparison of various TV series. However, I do have some additional comments about The X-Files. Ms. Hough states:Although producer Chris Carter has repeatedly stated that none of the agents will become romantically involved, we have seen and have been told of evidence to the contrary, to wit, the near kiss in the feature film The X-Files: Fight The Future (Rob Bowman, 1998) and the expected apparent kiss that will happen in season six.
Much to the credit of Chris Carter and his associates, the romantic/ sexual tension between Mulder and Scully has been dealt with very skillfully, without having the two leads become personally involved. In the fourth season episode "Small Potatoes", Mulder and Scully have a 'near kiss', but the man in question turns out to be an adolescent shape-shifter who has disguised himself as Mulder. Later, the agents themselves seem highly embarrassed by this turn of events. The next 'near kiss' is in the above-mentioned movie, and it occurs when both agents are in a highly vulnerable state emotionally. The moment of potential intimacy is interrupted when a bee stings Scully, infecting her with an alien virus. In the sixth season episode "Triangle," Mulder passionately kisses a Scully-double, and the woman responds by promptly punching Mulder in the face. Later, Mulder awakens in a hospital bed, apparently having dreamed most of the episode's events. He tells Scully "I love you", for the first time in the series, and she responds by rolling her eyes and walking out of the room.
Over the fifth and sixth seasons, Mulder has obviously fallen more and more in love with Scully, but she does not return this feeling, although she seems to care for Mulder a great deal, both as a friend and as a colleague. This unrequited love provides a plausible reason for the sexual tension between the two characters, as well as a reason why they are not romantically involved. In addition, the situation provides a great deal of poignancy, as viewers witness Mulder's pain over the conundrum.
Carter has stated that if Mulder and Scully ever became personally involved, the series would cease to be about their investigations into the paranormal, and would become a show about their relationship. While the romantic side of me would enjoy seeing Scully one day return Mulder's love, the practical side of me would rather continue watching a series about their work together, not a soap opera with some otherworldly flourishes.
Similarly, if Xena and Gabrielle ever 'came out' and became overt lovers, XWP would cease to be a show about Xena's quest for redemption, Gabrielle's growth, and the two women's adventures together. The series would become a show about their relationship. Moreover, it would become a show about their lesbian relationship. Of late, the XWP writers and producers have demonstrated that they would not be able to handle such a development with any degree of sensitivity or insight. At worst, the series would degenerate into a mass of overdone fight scenes and tasteless gay jokes.
Furthermore, I disagree strongly with Ms. Hough's final analysis:As a final shot, however - if and when Xena finishes, could I cast my vote for Xena planting a smacker on Gabrielle just to clarify the matter?
In my view, this is quite possibly the worst way the series could end. A coming-out earlier in the series would at least force TPTB to face the consequences of their decision. Tacking this event onto the final episode would be like tossing a grenade into a building and running away, leaving someone else to deal with the explosion.
Elsewhere in this issue, I very much enjoyed Jessi Albano's "The Joxer Scrolls". In addition, I was heartened to see letters to the editor expressing enthusiasm for Joxer, and continuing frustration at the appalling way this character has been mishandled and underdeveloped. Given the intense dislike Joxer has generated among some Xenites, it's refreshing to see Whoosh present such a nicely balanced perspective. Please keep up the good work!
Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998
Subject: Letter to the editor
Re: Why subtext should never become maintext in XWP
As some of you might know there is this television show starring two women, a raven haired woman and a redhead. They get to know each other and slowly but surely they fall in love with each other. The writers take a chance and let them consummate their relationship: we get to see a love scene between the two women. It is on par with any heterosexual love scene (passionate kisses and stuff, you know the drill). The viewers take it in stride: there is absolutely no fuss at all about it, it is accepted right away. Most of them are happy that they have finally giving in to the sexual tension/subtext between the two.
Several months later, the two women are still together, still sharing intimate moments on screen. People are still not tired of it since the relationship is only a small part of the bigger picture. After all, they watch the show because of its storylines.
After a while the writers want to 'spice up' the relationship a little: after focusing on developing storylines (and not the relationship) they are going to introduce another woman, an adversary if you will: a woman with short blonde hair. She falls in love with the redhead and tries everything to get her. The redhead actually feels something for the blonde woman as well. She doesn't want to hurt the raven haired woman but her feelings for the blonde cannot be denied. The twosome becomes a threesome: a lesbian love triangle on television.
Oh, before people start wondering: I am not talking about XWP or a 'subtexter's dream come true' future episode of XWP. I am talking about an actual television show (a prime time soap series) on Dutch television (aired by the same network that airs Hercules and Xena).
This example shows that consummating a (lesbian) relationship on television doesn't hurt ratings at all and that one can show lesbians kissing on television without people getting mad about it. It didn't even get much attention from the media.
It also shows that when it's done well, the sexual tension will remain between the characters and people will keep watching the show since the relationship is 'just' another part of the series. Just like the subtext being just another part of XWP. Not to mention the fact that the relationship is kept interesting.
Then again, it probably isn't fair to compare the Dutch situation with the American situation since there is much more possible (with regard to gay couples on television (and sexuality in general)) on Dutch television then on American television. I am probably not the only Xenite who is hoping that XWP will pave the way for more tolerance towards gay couples/individuals on American television. XWP already paved the way for strong female action heroes on television (Nikita, Buffy), why not go one step further and do the same for gay characters?
Petra de Jong
President Dutch Hercules/Xena Fan Club
A Dutch threesome.
Still Dissing DahakDate: Thu, 26 Nov 1998
Subject: Kudos: Dissing Dahak
That was a great article in WHOOSH!, "Dissing Dahak" [WHOOSH! #26, November 1998]! Thank you. I especially agree with a central theme that bigger and more wows does *not* make a better show. I didn't bother with Sacrifice II, but I hear there are six Dahak-baddies next season. Oooo, wow, maybe there'll be 36 in Season five! Awesome! Count me out, I can find better TV. And I loved your point that Dahak's awesome power can't be taken seriously for long because you realize how much help he needs just to arrive on the scene. :-D
I loved The Debt, too, but I didn't find Gabrielle's part in it believable. In fact, when I think of that episode, my mind edits that part out: for me, it's simply the awesome story of Lao Ma and Xena.
Expatriate FanDate: Sun, 22 Nov 1998
Subject: ex xena fan
I LOVED the XENA show ... then they moved the show to another channel, of which I do not get [:-(],now, I have to live XENA through sites like yours ... just not the same.
Can't Get Enough ForeshadowingSubject: Letter To The Editor
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998
Re: Suzanne Goodman's letter as printed in WHOOSH! 27: I would like to suggest that knowing the climax of a story ahead of time does not necessarily make it "anticlimactic".
Such foreshadowing of future events has been a standard feature of storytelling throughout the ages, from heroes fulfilling ancient prophesy as part of any of a dozen mythic tales, through to modern fantasy like Tolkien (et al) and bang-up-to-date with Sci-Fi and possibly the worst "offender" of the age, Babylon 5, where key points of the very last episode were revealed in the very first, and where the philosophy has always been that the pleasure of a tale is in the journey, and not merely the outcome.
Perhaps the crucifixion flash-forwards *are* melodramatic, but I can forgive that. As for their spoiling of some supposed plot "climax", XWP's being a television show notwithstanding, I believe that the old Bloom County maxim applies:
"Foreshadowing - Your sign of Quality Literature".
Growing ViolenceDate: Tue, 12 Jan 1999
Subject: Letter to the Editor
I would just like to comment on the increased graphic violence in the fourth season. Normally, with the constant barrage of whoosh sounds to de-emphasize the violence, that doesn't bother me to much. When I saw the Amazon Murder sequence, that was a little to much, but still, not compared to what they could have done. But when I saw the Death of Borias scene, I was appalled. The sheer graphic nature of the depiction of Dagnine murdering Borias was not what is normally seen on XWP. Now I know that that episode had strong dramatic value, I hope they cut back on the graphic content next time.
Fans!Date: Sun, 3 Jan 1999
Subject: Letter to the Editor
I just want to let you know that I find your Xena/Herc site one of the best around. I use to watch Xena and Herc in the earlier days and then stopped. I thought that the shows had gotten sillier. Now, as I watch the reruns, I can't believe that I had stopped watching. I love seeing the Herc reruns but it's Xena that I love the best. Her relationship with Gabrielle is so deep and moving. I have just finished watching the whole rift episodes and I loved them. I had my doubts about ending it with a musical show, but somehow it worked! I even cried at the end with Xena's moving song on forgiveness. Is there anything Lucy Lawless can't do? She acts, fights, sings, etc. Your WHOOSH site is the best! I go to the episode guide every time I watch one of the shows to get an in-depth synopsis. Don't ever stop what you guys are doing with this site. I know I keep it in my favorite places! Keep up the good work.
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999
I just wanted to write you a short note and tell you how much I enjoy WHOOSH.ORG.
I am newly obsessed with XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and I have found your episode guides extremely informative and insightful. Needless to say I have had my VCR going non-stop trying to collect all past episodes on USA.
I was, however, alarmed to read on your editor's page that ratings were down for the fourth season. I hope with the recent episodes that will turn around.
Again, thanks for taking the time and energy to make WHOOSH.ORG a great place for all of us Xenites to come and enjoy.
Subject: Hi Bret!
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999
I just wanted to drop you a quick line saying how much I've enjoyed your interviews and such on Whoosh's site! It's great taking a peek into the people behind the characters on Xena. It must be very exciting for you to meet such intriguing and interesting people... on a regular basis to boot!
I can't tell you guys enough how much your site gives to Xenites all over! Contributors and interviewers like Bret add to the enjoyment and satisfaction Xena gives us every week, and I'm happy there are people like you guys out there keeping us up to date and happy! I wish only the best of things to everyone at Whoosh!
Thanks for keeping Xenites like me happy, and keep up the great work! Battle on!
The Joxer CornerDate: Sun, 17 Jan 1999
Subject: letter to the Editor
This may be a little off topic, but it's something that I have to say. I must warn you, this is probably going to turn into a rant. I am constantly disgusted at how Joxer is treated, not only on the show, but by the fans. Why is everyone so mean to him??? Does he deserve it? Hmm, let's see. He's loyal, kind, he's always trying to do the right thing, he likes to help people, and he would do just about anything for Xena and Gabby. Oh yeah, I can understand their need to constantly abuse him. But, people might say he DOES deserves it. Why? Because he's annoying? Do people really think this is right? That it's justifiable to insult and abuse people because they are annoying, and then laugh at their misfortunes? Oh, I forgot. People also say they don't like him because he's stupid. Xena and Gabby say the same thing. Is being mean and hurtful to people okay just because they have certain problems? I agree Joxer has some problems, as Virginia Carper described wonderfully. As she said in her article published here a while ago, Joxer is NOT stupid, he has certain disabilities which causes him act the way he does.
It's not his fault, he isn't TRYING to annoy people. He just thinks differently. I hope people take this stuff into account the next time they watch a Joxer episode. Remember that different people are STILL people. They deserve the same respect as anyone. I just hope Xena and Gabby learn that.
Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998
Subject: Letter to the Editor- "The Joxer Scrolls"
I'd like to offer congratulations to Ms. Albano for her article, "The Joxer Scrolls". Not only has she offered a terrific interpretation of Joxer, but she's created some lovely poetry to accompany her analysis. Bravo!
Of course, I do disagree with her interpretation of Gabrielle... the "obscure and mediocre" bard? I hope people realize that not all Joxer fans feel that way about our lovely Bard... whether she realizes Joxer's affections for her or not. :)
This is a small complaint about an otherwise terrific article! I hope Ms. Albano keeps sharing her views with Whoosh! Thanks to the author who wrote the article, and the 'zine that printed it.
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998
Subject: Kudos and thoughts on Whoosh Joxer ariticle
Thank you Jennifer Waldeau for writing your fine, thoughtful article about Joxer. I thoroughly agree that the Joxer you outlined Wallace Shawn playing would have added to XWP, rather than confounding it.
A few thoughts arose from your paper:
I don't find Ted Raimi (TR) *attractive*, but I saw what you meant about people like him playing warriors on XWP. I could see TR wearing a tan, long hair, and some unkempt, cool armor. One unavoidable thing about TR is his height. I remember reading that Spencer Tracy argued that he could shave before playing a grizzled, unshaven fisherman because he'd play it as if he were unshaven so well that the audience would think he had not shaved. I don't buy it, and anyway why set up this obstacle for the audience? Just to prove a point? Ted Raimi can act like an eight year-old with a crush, but he's still as tall and at least as heavy as Xena. It's clear that we're supposed to see Joxer as being as unthreatening as a boy but it's not convincing. And if we're not convinced, the story isn't engaging us. It's downright distracting that the characters and the writers treat this grown man as if he were a child. And a worthless child, at that.
On buffoon-Joxer needing a talent/skill/interests outside of following Xena and company around: I agree. In fact, this is a reason I found him threatening (I no longer watch the show). The mind wonders what he's there for, what he wants. Anyway, I suspect that Joxer's mentioning that he can cook was a hint of something they were going to have him do: be Xena's cook. Universal's Xena site used to have the Xena Scrolls up, fictitious correspondences between anthropologists and the like deciphering Xena's scrolls. Well, if you've seen these, much of the content of the scrolls was reflected in the series. In the last installment of the correspondences, they found out that Joxer was Xena's cook! If this reflected plans the producers and writers had for Joxer, it's unfortunate that they dropped it. You clearly illustrated how it could enrich the story.
On the qualitative difference between the Joxer you describe Wallace Shawn playing and the Joxer we got: I can see Wallace Shawn saying confidentially to people that he's gotta go protect these two women. Pathos and humor, like you said. He'd have subconsciously got himself into a situation where he'd both be protected and yet could believe he was the hero. It would emphasize Xena as a *woman* hero and subtly make her more heroic to be his friend. It was heroic of Gabrielle to (in Callisto) try to empower buffoon-Joxer, get him to find a real strength (he said he liked fishing). In contrast, it isn't heroic of Xena (and Gabrielle) to allow him to uselessly follow them around while hardly considering him.
I can't help thinking that someone very thoughtful and invested must have left the production, because the original Joxer (as you described he'd of been) does seem to be the sort of thing that XWP used to do. They used to craft and weave stories and issues. Then they increasingly wrote stories that gave me the impression of carelessly slapped-together formulas. Broad-brushed applications of ideas such as "comic relief," "love and hate are both passionate," "strife and difference can strengthen a relationship," "a hero must be exceptional." It's amazing how fleshing things out well can make the sort of compelling stories and issues that we used to see on XWP (while neglect makes boring, tiresome, or downright confounding episodes).
My best theory about Joxer's presence had been that he was someone to complete the mirror of traditional action-hero shows. The A-Team was about macho hero *guys* but there was one *woman* sidekick who didn't do much at all. Well, that never really made sense, but that apparently was the formula because when the actress insisted on being in on the action, they replaced her. I didn't like that change at all. Your essay shows that, instead, the Joxer character started out as a *great* idea that went horribly awry. Not just an imitation of something crappy, not just the confounding sight of the three stooges walking into a hero's show and staying for good.
Again, it's astounding to consider the difference that such thoughtful fleshing-out could make. Joxer would have been an integral part of the XWP scene, not drawing special attention in viewers' minds. I'm not a writer but it seems clear that side characters are very important but they must be woven into the story carefully and in a rich, relevant way.
I just thought I'd share my thoughts. Thank you again for the brilliant, thought-provoking analysis.
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998
Subject: The Joxer Scrolls
AWWWW!!!!! When it comes to love sonnets, Joxer may not have the talent of a William Shakespeare or a Jewel (*snicker*), but the simple devotion to Gabrielle expressed in his scrolls broke my heart ten times over. What a fitting (and LONG overdue!) counterpoint to your "Why Joxer is Seen as a Threat" & "Joxer Syndrome" articles. I thank Whoosh! & Jessi Albano for remembering that there are still legions of losers out there who don't have the skill beauty or talent to win our true loves' hearts, so we must try by simply loving them as much as we can. Joxer represents all of us, & if he ever does end up with Gabrielle, I'll be on my couch cheering like an idiot, bad for the show though it may be.
More Recovery Over The Third SeasonDate: Mon, 18 Jan 1999
Subject: Responding to one of the letters
I was reading Ariadne de la Montagne's thoughtful letter regarding various aspects of the show and I felt compelled to respond. I too, was one of the many viewers who was angered by the events of Season 3 and especially the Gabdrag scene in THE BITTER SUITE. To me, it was unnecessary violence and a horrible excuse to give some viewers and cheap thrill.
I was not happy with most of the first part of this season ("In Sickness" was the absolute worst), but after the break, the second part seems to be proceeding more smoothly. As of "Daughter of Pomira" the stories have been much better than before.
She goes on to disagree with Suzanne Goodman's and Macara's thoughts about some scenes being 'mushy' and 'sheep's eyes' and the many 'I love you's" in the episodes. Personally I understand that many people like this and watch the show primarily for these moments. I, however, don't worry that it is in the show so much as the frequency that they use the same tired old phrases over and over and over. It got to the point where you could nearly bet the house that either Xena or Gabrielle were going to utter the same phrase "I love you". Personally I would get sick of hearing Xena say "I have many skills" or seeing her blow fire in some oaf's face each and every episode. I also get so tired of watching the inane acrobatics and tumbling that appear to be copied from bad "Power Ranger's" episodes. If there were some semi-realistic point to it, I wouldn't bother to mention it. However, most of this stuff is not fluid, clumsy, not beautiful to watch and certainly serves no purpose in combat. I would much rather see Xena defeat her enemies with the skillful use of brilliant sword-play than to see her run up a wall, fly around, or whatever else it is that she does.
Now, here's my point. Though we complain about certain aspects of the show, there are still tons of things that we enjoy about it. Ariadne commented "As Angie Cabrera pointed out, enjoy the show for what it is, to which I will add if you don't like what you see, change the channel or turn off the screen. Very simple. Personally I'm getting very tired of people dissing the show. I still think it's head and shoulders above a lot of the vapid crapola that's being passed off as entertainment on the tube these days."
I respectfully disagree with this line of thinking. Change the channel because there are some things we don't like about it? It is because we love XWP so much, that we complain about various aspects of the show. If we didn't like it, we simply wouldn't watch at all. This show is better than many other shows out there. We simply hope to hold it to the highest quality and standards that we can.
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