Whoosh! Issue 29 - February 1999


IAXS project #617
By E.A. Week
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
This edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!

5771 words

Introduction (01-04)
Hair as an Indicator of Good Or Evil (05-22)
Hair as an Indicator of Power (23-28)
Hair as an Indicator of Sexuality (29-42)
Hair as an Indicator of Family Ties (43-50)
Hair as an Indicator of Innocence (51-68)
Miscellaneous Functions (69-73)
Conclusion (74-75)
Acknowledgments (76)
Disclaimer (77)

Hair as a Function of Personality in
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess

Twisted sister

Xena's hair gets more than teased in IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL.

"I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy,
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty,
Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen,
Knotted, polka-dotted,
Twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered, and confettied,
Bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied".
   --Hair by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, music by Galt MacDermot, 1967


[01] Hair is an important part of a person's look. One of the first things mentioned when describing someone's physical appearance is usually something about their hair. However, hair is more than a mere fashion accessory. As an outward indicator of a person's life, the presence or absence of hair, its style, length, abundance, and color communicate a wealth of information. Age, occupation, socioeconomic status and roles, gender or gender orientation, political affiliation, tastes, beliefs, and much more can all be reflected in an individual's hair.

[02] Hair can be used as political statement (e.g., the long hair of hippies; the short hair of punk rockers; the dread locks or Afros of the Black Power movement), or a sign of an affiliation (e.g., the shaven heads of the military; the tonsures of monks). Hair also has many sexual connotations, and how a person wears his or her hair is often interpreted as a marker of femininity, masculinity, sexual orientation, innocence, worldliness, etc.

[03] Hair is often associated with power. In the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah, the powerful Samson can only be weakened by having his hair shaved. When this happens, Samson is blinded and imprisoned by the Philistines, but when his hair grows back, he regains his strength, and is able to destroy the Philistines' temple (Judges 13-16).

[04] Hair and costume are integral parts of characterizations on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (hereafter Hercules or HTLJ), and Xena: Warrior Princess (hereafter Xena or XWP). Both series are heavily visual in style, and the outward markers of hair and clothing are used as indicators of personalities of characters. This article will discuss various characters in Hercules and Xena and describe how hairstyles are used to communicate information about these characters to the viewing audience.

Hair As An Indicator Of Good Or Evil


[05] Xena is perhaps the most complex character on either Hercules or Xena because of her years spent as a ruthless warlord, and her subsequent decision to reform her evil ways. Since her introduction in the HTLJ episode, THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), viewers have seen many aspects of Xena's character: `good' Xena in the present, `evil' Xena in the past, and the Xena of alternate dimensions and timelines. Each facet of her character has its own unique hairstyle.

  1. Good Xena

    [06] The Xena seen in the majority of XWP episodes wears her hair very neatly. Her hair is shoulder-length and straight, often kept out of her face with a comb, a clip, or a headband. Her bangs are cut above her eyes. This style is feminine and attractive (Xena uses her beauty to its advantage, and never attempts to make herself appear masculine), but is still functional for riding, fighting, etc.

    [07] When Xena is under stress, or struggling with her violent tendencies, her hair often becomes disheveled. When she is cursed in THE FURIES (47/301), her hair becomes increasingly wild as her madness progresses. Xena's worst hair day is seen in the episode IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL, in which her hair is infested with lice. Not only does her wild ratty mane indicate the physical affliction, it also communicate her generally disoriented state in much of the story.

    [08] Xena's hair is an integral part of her personality to other characters. When Gabrielle masquerades as Xena in THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), she dyes her hair dark. When Gabrielle describes Xena in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER? (56/310), one of the first things she mentions is Xena's long, black hair. In HERE SHE COMES, MISS AMPHIPOLIS (35/211), Xena disguises herself as a beauty pageant contestant, and covers her hair with a blonde wig to conceal her identity.

  2. Evil Xena

    [09] When Xena makes her debut as a villain in THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), she wears her hair unbound, in long waves around her shoulders, which reflects her role as seductress in this episode. In the pivotal episode, THE GAUNTLET (H12/112), she begins wearing her hair drawn back away from her face, suggesting the beginnings of self- discipline that come with her change of heart. UNCHAINED HEART (H13/113) cements her decision to fight for good, and her hair is swept up softly and appears very feminine to emphasize her newfound sense of justice and compassion. This style also makes her eyes appear big and warm, most noticeably when she beams adoringly up at Hercules.

    [10] In the flashback XWP episodes, DESTINY (36/212) and THE DEBT (52-53/306-307), Xena's hair is very long, unkempt, and ratty. This is especially noticeable when she is hanging from the cross in DESTINY and being chased by dogs in THE DEBT. It is interesting to note that when Lao Ma takes in Xena (THE DEBT), the first thing she does is to give Xena a bath, wash her hair, comb it, and pin it up - a symbolic attempt to civilize Xena and focus the warrior's wild energy.

  3. Alternate Xena

    Xena Boop.

    A new 'do' for a new Xena.

    [11] In the HTLJ episode STRANGER IN A STRANGE WORLD (H64/405) alternate-world Xena is a humorous dominatrix character, who wears her hair in a short bob. This hairstyle is reminiscent of Uma Thurman's character, Mia Wallace, in the film Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino 1994). Like Mia Wallace, alternate-Xena is the mate of a powerful `gangster' (the Sovereign), and she uses her looks and wiles to advance her own interests.

    [12] In another HTLJ episode, ARMAGEDDON NOW II (H73/414), Hercules is never born, and Xena subsequently never changes from evil to good. The viewers see her at the time she conquered Cirra, and she appears much as she does in THE DEBT (52-53/306-307): her hair is long and unkempt. However, later in the episode, she appears as an evil Empress who has conquered the known world. Here, her hair is very neat and pinned up under a striking headdress, reflecting the control and focus she has acquired.


[13] Callisto's hair is typically a mess, reflecting her insane personality. Unlike Xena, who keeps her hair drawn back out of her face, Callisto's hair often hangs into her eyes, suggesting a lack of order and discipline in her thought processes. In the HTLJ episode SURPRISE (H49/312), Callisto's hair is filthy, and she plays with it obsessively, further reinforcing the impression of madness.

[14] When Xena inhabits Callisto's body in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208), she wears Callisto's hair in a very plain and severe style, drawn tightly back off her forehead, as if in an effort to differentiate herself from Callisto. Gabrielle even suggests dyeing it another color.

[15] The Callisto seen in Illusia [THE BITTER SUITE (58/312)] wears a short bob. This pageboy cut emphasizes her role as The Fool, who guides Xena through a journey in which the warrior must make a choice between good and evil.


[16] The god of war is possibly the most hairy character on either Hercules or Xena. In addition to his long, curly mane, Ares sports a goatee and extravagant sideburns. He also wears his tunic slightly open, to show off an abundance of chest hair. All this hair reflects a number of personality traits: power, evil, and excessive masculinity. His hair and beard are black, like his clothing, and communicate his evil personality to the audience. His goatee is styled to give his face a sinister appearance.

Other Villains

[17] Other characters in Hercules and Xena are identifiable as good or evil by their hair. Villains typically have an overabundance of hair, and flaunt it in outrageous fashions and headgear (e.g., Draco, Dagnine, the Horde), or, at the other extreme, are sometimes completely bald (e.g., Zagreus, Thersites). One interesting exception is Julius Caesar, whose short, cropped hair reflects his obsession with control and power. Further, his rival, Pompey, wears his hair very much like Caesar, while the seemingly loyal Brutus, historically involved with Caesar's death, wears his hair full and curly - a difference that may ultimately prove to be a harbinger of dissension between the two men.

[18] Another Roman villain, the evil Postera [GLADIATOR (H10/110), wears her hair tightly bound up, symbolizing her repressed sexuality and sado-masochistic tendencies. Ming T'ien [THE DEBT (52-53/306-307)], another tyrant, is shaven-headed, save a single, bound pigtail, which reflects his petty, mean-spirited personality.

[19] Velasca, although far from repressed, is certainly a sadist, as seen in THE QUEST (37/213); however, even upon her transformation into the god of chaos [A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214)], her hair remains neatly braided. Viewers might expect such a violent, destructive deity to have wildly messy hair, and Velasca's orderly plaits are a surprising deviation from standard Hercules and Xena villains.

Other Protagonists

Should've tried it on a horse's tail, first.

Ephiny is a semi-'permanent' character.

[20] Good characters often have long, soft, flowing tresses, generally pale in color, and wavy or curly. For example, the hair of Ephiny, who begins XWP in an antagonistic role [HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110)], grows progressively longer as the character becomes less rigid and more sympathetic.

[21] Male heroes tend to have shorter, neater hair than villains. Hercules, Iolaus, and Jason, for example, all wear their hair to about the base of their necks. When a good male character wears a beard (e.g., Salmoneus, Amphion), it is always neatly trimmed. Good female characters typically have neatly-styled hair. Guest characters can almost always be recognized as either good or evil: the good characters are well-groomed, and the evil characters look badly in need of a bath and a haircut.

[22] Like Velasca, Cecrops [LOST MARINER (45/221)] provides an interesting exception. His long mane of dread locks is typical of warlords and other villains. However, his abundance of hair may have more to do with not having had a haircut for 300 years than a reflection of an evil character.

Hair As An Indicator Of Power


[23] Ares is the most obvious example of a character whose power is reflected in his hair. When he loses his sword in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208), he loses his godhood and all his powers. His normally immaculate hair becomes a scruffy mess. Most interestingly, his chest hair also vanishes, which the audience sees when he has to remove his shirt so that Xena can tend a wound on his back.

[24] When Ares first appears in Xena, his hair is short and controlled. This reflects his mysterious nature, and his skill at manipulating other characters. As Ares has become more accessible, his hair has become longer and less disciplined. Often when he fights Hercules, his hair becomes very messy, perhaps reflecting an inability to control his anger and violent impulses.

[25] Disheveled hair signifies a loss of godly power for other Olympians as well. When Ares and Aphrodite lose their powers in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER...(56/310), both suffer from `bad hair'. When Hades loses his helmet of invisibility in MORTAL BELOVED (16/116), his normally sleek hair suddenly becomes a mess of unruly curls. When he regains the helmet, his hair returns to its previous condition.


[26] Xena also uses her hair as a demonstration of her power. In an early battle scene in THE DEBT (52/306), she removes her headgear, figuratively displaying her menace to the world. In THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210), Xena, in the body of Melinda Pappas, lets her hair down in preparation for her fight with Ares - even before she rips her skirt and kicks off her shoes for greater ease of movement - to symbolically unleash her power. In a more literal example, Xena uses her hair as an actual weapon in DESTINY (36/212).

Other Characters

[27] Lao Ma [THE DEBT (52-53/306-307)] wears her hair pinned up immaculately, and sometimes covered with a hat, which reflects her subtle, controlled powers. The hair pin that passes between her and Xena throughout the episode is itself emblematic of the discipline Lao Ma is trying to impart to her difficult protegee. Lao Ma pins up Xena's hair, as noted earlier, in an effort to focus and control Xena's violent energy. Later, she tells Xena that the hair pin can be used to kill a man. At the end of the story, Ming T'ien gives the pin to Xena in an effort to taunt the warrior. Xena kills T'ien with the pin, and in doing so, symbolically severs her ties to Lao Ma. By returning to her `unenlightened' violent state of mind, Xena rejects her mentor's philosophy, and loses her newfound telekinetic powers in the process.

[28] Hera, the queen of the gods, also wears her hair pinned up beneath a headdress [REUNION (H81/422)]. Unlike so many of the gods, whose power often seems to wax and wane, Hera's power seems constant and focused, which is reflected in her disciplined hairstyle.

Hair As An Indicator Of Sexuality


The deleted 'chest waxing' scene.

Hair only where it needs to be.

[29] Ares provides the best example of how a character's sexuality can be indicated to the audience through his hair. The god's wild curls, beard, and abundant chest hair all signify his hyper-masculine personality. Ares' power is very much tied up in his sexuality. When he loses his sword, a phallic symbol, in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208), he loses all his power. As noted earlier, he also evidently loses his chest hair in this episode. In SACRIFICE I (67/321), Callisto sets Ares' chest hair on fire, symbolically representing her wish to castrate him, i.e., to diminish his power by lessening his masculinity.

[30] In STRANGER IN A STRANGE WORLD (H64/405), Ares, the god of love, lacks the war god's beard and long sideburns. Together with his white costume, this emphasizes the character's more effeminate nature. The alternate-world god of love seems far less powerful than his god of war counterpart.

Hercules/ The Sovereign

[31] Hercules has light brown hair and is always clean-shaven. Interestingly, he also has very light, fine chest hair, which corresponds well with his personality. Hercules is a romantic hero. His sexual activity has been mostly within the context of marriage. His light hair indicates a man who is masculine and sexual, but not aggressive or a womanizer.

[32] The Sovereign, an evil alternate-world twin of Hercules [STRANGER IN A STRANGE WORLD (H64/405), ARMAGEDDON NOW (H72-73/413-414)], is the complete opposite in terms of costume and hair style. Like Ares, the Sovereign is almost comically hyper-masculine: he wears a beard and his clothing, tight black leather set off by an outrageously oversized codpiece, reveals more of his body than the modest attire of Hercules. The Sovereign demonstrates the chief characteristics of Ares: evil, power, and excessive masculinity, all of which are communicated through his hair and clothing.


[33] Iolaus, like Hercules, is fair-haired and clean-shaven, and he has no chest hair at all. Although he has never been married, and has had a wide variety of sexual liaisons over the course of the series, Iolaus is still portrayed as an honorable, decent man. His encounters with women have all been consensual. The lack of facial and body hair gives him a boyish look, which underscores his good-hearted, playful personality.

Autolycus and Salmoneus

[34] Autolycus wears short hair, but his `trickster' role (he is often shown as a rogue and a womanizer) is indicated through his witty moustache and chin patch.

[35] In the HTLJ episode, MEN IN PINK (H71/412), Autolycus and Salmoneus both shave their beards to disguise themselves as women, a symbolic removal of their maleness. Over the course of the episode, the two men learn the potential pitfalls of being female: both must dance in `bunny' costumes and perform a striptease; and Salmoneus is seduced by a lecherous prince. At the end of the episode, the Widow Twanky tells them, "I think all men should walk a mile in women's shoes. You might learn a thing or two," suggesting that Autolycus and Salmoneus have gained some insight through their experiences as `women.'


Note to self: Date only men with hair longer than mine. -Xena

Borias often wants more than 'a little off the top'.

[36] Xena's late lover, Borias (shown in flashbacks), flaunts a long mane of black hair. This reflects his wild nature, which Xena prizes, his lawlessness, and his sexual prowess.

Female Characters

[37] Almost all the women in HTLJ and XWP, whether good or evil, have long hair. Evil female characters often wear their hair in more full and extravagant styles than good female characters, whose hair tends to be neat. However, this is also true of male characters. Evidently, while hair is an indicator of personality in female characters, it is a less reliable marker of sexuality. Excessive feminine sexuality is not equated with evil, as seems to be the case with excessive masculine sexuality.

[38] However, when a female character's sexuality is emphasized in a particular episode or scene, this will often be reflected in her hair. Xena pins up her hair when seducing Iolaus in a hot tub [THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109)]; the flashback sequences of DESTINY (36/212) show that she also pinned up her hair to seduce Caesar. The most comical emphasis placed on Xena's hair is seen in the episode A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215). When the warrior emerges from having a bath, she tosses her long, wet hair in exaggerated slow-motion.

[39] Very few female characters in either Hercules or Xena have short hair. Atalanta, the blacksmith, wears her hair shorter than most of the women, and she ties it back off her face to keep it out of the fires in her forge. Hera's second enforcer [NOT FADE AWAY (H42/305)] has short, spiky, bright orange hair, which reflects her primal essence, fire. Cleopatra wears a short, braided pageboy [KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308)]. Seraphin [SACRIFICE (67-68/321-322) also has very short hair. It is hard to make generalizations among these very different characters based on their hairstyle. Atalanta is good; the Enforcer is destructive, but hardly seems to have a soul; Cleopatra is politically ambitious, but not evil; Seraphin seems more misguided than genuinely malicious.

[40] The autumn of 1998 saw the introduction of two new femal characters with short hair. On HTLJ, Hercules travels to Ireland in the episode RESURRECTION, and meets th enigmatic Morrigan. Like Hercules, Morrigan is half-god, half-mortal. She wears her bright red hair very short Morrigan is initially antagonistic toward Hercules; however at the conclusion of the episode, she kills the Druid who represents Justice, and so must take his place. In the episod RENDER UNTO CAESAR, Morrigan makes a slow transition from evil to good, fighting off the influence of the sinister go Cernunnos, and reclaiming her daughter, Brigid. In a late episode DARKNESS RISING, Morrigan travels with Hercules to Sumeria to fight against the demon-god Dahak.

The classic ice skater 'do'.

The Joan-of-Arc 'bowl' cut.

[41] In the XWP episode CRUSADER, Xena and Gabrielle meet Najara, a warrior who possesses seemingly mystical powers, and who claims to fight "for the light." Later in the episode Xena learns that Najara in fact executes her adversaries afte three days if they do not agree to follow her beliefs.

[42] Both Morrigan and Najara demonstrate that they are capable of great good, as well as considerable evil. Like Seraphin, the short hair of Morrigan and Najara might reflect that these two women are somewhat misguided: believing in a higher purpose, but at times employing questionable means to achieve their ends.

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