Whoosh! Issue 31 - April 1999

IAXS project #694
By Dana Hlusko
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
1010 words

Christian Symbolism (01)
Rebirth (02-03)
Temptation (04-08)
Faith (09-10)
The Golden Rule (11-13)

Christian Theology in THE BITTER SUITE

I can't hear you, I can't hear you, LA LA LA!

Xena and Gabrielle have issues in THE BITTER SUITE...

Christian Symbolism

[1] THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) is a story of the triumph of good over evil, told brilliantly and creatively by writer Steven L. Sears and actors Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor. This paper discusses how THE BITTER SUITE, specifically the Land of Illusia, uses extensive Christian symbols in telling this tale.


[2] After Callisto introduces the Land of Illusia and Xena orients herself to her environment, the animals sing:

The fates have a fix on you
We can play tricks on you
We deal in truths you're too troubled to face
Gamble the worth of you
On the rebirth of you
Don't turn away
Don't start to fade
What's still unwritten you can erase

[3] John 3:3-7 relates the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus tells Nicodemus that "no one can see the reign of God unless he is begotten (born again) from above". Christian beliefs center upon death to oneself in order to be reborn into the life of Christ. The animals are the first teaser that a rebirth of some sort is on the horizon for both Xena and Gabrielle. Who among us has not felt at some time that a rebirth, a new start, would save us from the past?


[4] Ares' interactions with Xena are rife with Christian symbols. It is significant that Ares uses Christian symbols against Xena. In his first encounter, he flatters her warrior skills, pulling her under his influence. Is this not the way the devil is described? The Genesis story of the serpent and Eve is a model for Ares' seduction of Xena.

[5] The final encounter with Ares in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) shows how easily evil can come disguised as good. Many of the words used by Ares have been used by Christian theologians from the beginning of recorded time:

You're lost and confused
But I understand
This once beloved friend
Has been slain by your hand

You feel all alone
Betrayed and adrift
But maybe her loss
Can be viewed as a gift

Now I'll be your rock,
Your strength and support
Your close confidante
With whom you can consort

I know you completely
Come melt into me
Unleash the power
Of your destiny

You've proved to yourself
Now that you've made the kill
That you're just like me
With as evil a will
Our forces were meant to be merged into one
The world will be panicked
When our work is done

[6] Ares first plays into Xena's emotions by being sympathetic to her solitude and then by emphasizing that because of her great sin, i.e. killing Gabrielle, she has caused her own situation. If it were not for sin, the Christian religion could not get a foothold.

[7] Ares then images himself as a rock, someone in whom Xena can confide and use as a support. The image of the Rock is used by Jesus in Matthew 16:13-18 when he refers to Peter as the Rock upon whom His church will be built. Peter and the church are designated as the foundation for spreading the news to all the world. How easily Ares twists this concept around to try to win Xena over.

[8] Ares cunningly tries to convince Xena to "melt into me" and "merge into one". Again, the idea of becoming one with God and allowing God to lead are major teachings of the Christian church.


OK, you first

...but they see things through in the end.

[9] The beautiful ballad by Xena and Gabrielle, "My Heart is Hurting, part 2", gives the listener the idea that they have hit rock bottom; they have no human resources left on which to call; and they must face their weaknesses and sins toward each other if they are to survive. Throughout the Bible, one is told that without God, we are nothing. We are further told to live in faith and to realize we can do nothing without His help. At this point in the libretto, Xena and Gabrielle are willing to let everything go and take that step of faith toward the future. Their embrace of the rebirth begins with both acknowledging their "sins", i.e., hurt, fury, pain, and their determination:

If we can turn again to love
If we can heal these open wounds
We'll leave this hatred far behind
So not a trace of hate remains
We'll overcome our damaged past
And we'll grow stronger side by side
To stand together through the storms
We're safe 'cause love will be our guide.

[10] As Gabrielle and Xena go through the water to Solon, they are ritually washed clean of their transgressions, as in the water of baptism. And they have been literally baptised by their own emotional journey through Illusia and are now clean to begin a new life together, unfettered by the past. That is the core of Christianity, that "love will be our guide". For as St. Paul told the Corinthians in I Corinthians 13:13, "There are in the end three things that last, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love". Xena and Gabrielle have recaptured these virtues by the end of the song.

The Golden Rule

[11] The final nod to Christianity comes in Xena's tearful song to Solan: "Forgive those who harm you. Do good for those who hate". It is as if composer Joseph LoDuca and company had gone straight to Luke 6:27, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you".

[12] For many of us, the battle of good and evil does have a spiritual aspect to it, and Xena has tapped into that source. Xena has had such a profound effect because of episodes like THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) that show how the seduction of evil can be subtle but all-consuming.

[13] Luckily for us, the veil which disguised evil was pulled off by Hercules and Gabrielle so that Xena could be redeemed. In the end, as in all of history, goodness wins out and the false power of evil is destroyed.


Dana Hlusko Dana Hlusko
I am a Registered nurse working in the field of computers, trying to convince nursing that a computer is a good patient care tool. I have published scholarly articles in professional journals. This is my first article on something about which I have a real passion. I gave up my passion for Star Trek: TNG for Xena. I am the mother of 2 wonderful children who make fun of Mom for her passions. I have 3 more dreams in life, to study theology, work on an archeological dig and, first and foremost, I dream of being able to work on the Xena set.
Favorite episode: The Bitter Suite, Forget Me Not, One Against an Army, The Greater Good, Remember Nothing
Favorite line: Xena: "I have many skills" King Con, The Black Wolf, etc.
First episode seen: The Gauntlet
Least favorite episode: Haven't found one yet

Return to Top Return to Index