Whoosh! Issue 35 - August 1999

IAXS project #710
By Dana Hlusko
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
1291 words

Nurture vs. Nature (01-03)
Making Someone What They Are (04-09)
Gabrielle (10-12)
Making Someone What They Are, Part 2 (13-14)

Am I Really Who I Am Or What You Made Me?

Nurture vs. Nature

Why Lava soap works best

Xena has to deal with serious issues in DEATH MASK.

[01] The theme of nurture versus nature is a recurring theme throughout Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP). Starting with DEATH MASK (23/123), one character or another has spoken of "making" someone what they have become. Most often, it is Xena who receives this accusation.

[02] In THE DIRTY HALF-DOZEN (49/303) Xena breaks four criminals out of prison for a mission. Xena had known them in years past. Gabrielle asks Xena what type of people the criminals were before Xena met them. All of the criminals had been peasant villagers before Xena met them during her evil years. Under her influence, they turned into disciples of hate and war. Gabrielle wonders what would have happened to her if she had met Xena during those times. A hint of worry can be seen in her wondering if a similar fate awaits her now. She asks, "Am I really who I am, or am I what you made me?"

[03a] In THE DEBT II (53/307) Ming T'ien tells Xena, "You made me. You taught me to be the monster I am." He was referring to his kidnapping by evil Xena and how he learned, from seeing his father cry, how to lead by fear and terror. Obviously being kidnapped by the Xena of that time was a terrifying experience. But seeing Ming Tzu in action should belay any belief that Xena was ultimately responsible for Ming T'ien's development. Ming Tzu was already teaching his son to lead by fear, terror and intimidation. He took his son on the human hunt for Xena and no one in the hunting party seemed to display any distaste. Also, Ming T'ien's treatment of Lao Ma when she offered her gift, indicates that he was already selfish and self-centered. There is no record of who raised Ming T'ien after Ming Tzu was killed by Xena. Whoever raised him, continued him on the path Ming Tzu had begun for him. Xena terrified him, yes, but responsible for his leadership style? No. [03b] What follows is an exploration of the question: Is it possible for one person or experience to transform someone so completely that they turn from all they have been taught? This is not to infer that any one event cannot alter and traumatize someone so that their life is forever changed. No, it is to explore the idea of one event causing a 180 degree turn from one path to another.

Making Someone What They Are

[04] The Xenaverse logic of "making" someone what they are goes as follows in the next several examples:

  1. [05] Because Cortese attacked Amphipolis, Xena is transformed from a peaceful villager, interested only in defending her village, to an evil bloodthirsty warlord, intent on conquering the world. In DEATH MASK (23/123), Cortese even brags about making Xena the warrior she is. Also in DEATH MASK, Toris accuses Xena of leading Gabrielle down the warrior path, molding her into Xena's image, just as Toris accuses Xena of having done with Lyceus.

  2. [06] Xena herself gives Caesar credit for making her turn into a harbinger of death for death's sake ("Kill them, kill them all!!") In DESTINY (36/212), after M'Lila is killed by Caesar's soldiers, Xena states, "A new Xena is born tonight with a new purpose in life -- Death!" Xena was already on this road so Caesar can only be credited with giving her a renewed, albeit fanatical, focus, and a weakness for vengeance

  3. [07] Xena attacked Cirra, causing Callisto's family to perish, thereby emotionally scarring Callisto forever. Callisto blames Xena for making her turn from a peaceful village child to evil revenger. Callisto is an exception to the argument that someone can be transformed into evil by a single act. Because she was so young at the time of the Cirra attack, the trauma of losing everything caused her to go mad. Xena can truly take credit for making Callisto what she was, unintentional though it was.

[08] All of the people in these scenarios, excepting Callisto, were adults, when they first encountered Xena. There had to have been some character formation during their growing up years so that a fairly formed human psyche presented itself to Xena. Assuming this is true, and we have no proof that it is not, then their moral, ethical, legal values were in place. Therefore, they either had a serious character flaw making it easy for Xena to teach them to accept her evil ways, or Xena's influence was almost Rasputinesque over them.

[09] What does this then say about Xena's own flaws? After all, she was also an adult when she began her career of terror and destruction. But she allowed her obsession for revenge to take over whatever humanity and values she had been taught. She rationalized her actions by maintaining that she was protecting Amphipolis. This is a fatal flaw that Xena is aware of and against which she struggles daily.


...and several butcher's aprons

Gabrielle is for healing over harming in THE PRICE.

[10] Why does Gabrielle seem to be immune to the influence of Xena's forays into her dark side, for example, in THE PRICE (44/220) and TIES THAT BIND (20/120)? When Gabrielle joined Xena, she was considered to be an adult, as were the others. Therefore her core was essentially formed. She had a sound basis of high moral, ethical standards. But unlike the others, Gabrielle knew herself. She knew what she could tolerate, what was right, and what was just. She had the strength to reject those parts of Xena she deemed unacceptable and embrace the good in Xena. Those whom Xena met in her early career did not have the strength or moral foundation to lean on, to be able to filter what Xena taught them.

[11] In GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305), when Gabrielle is in despair because she feels that she is being punished for killing, and that she has evil inside of her, Xena tells her, "What happened in that temple cannot destroy the core of your goodness." Xena acknowledges that Gabrielle has the foundation to continue on her path and not let this one horrifying experience turn her to evil. Although it did change Gabrielle, as it would all of us, it did not send her down a path she would never accept for herself -- the path of evil.

[12] Xena finally answered Gabrielle's question at the end of THE DIRTY HALF-DOZEN (49/303), "Nobody made you who you are. It was already there." Xena did not mold Gabrielle into who she was. The foundation of her character was already present. Gabrielle made the choice to use what Xena offered, in terms of experience and insight into others, to continue her maturation in her own way.

Making Someone What They Are, Part 2

[13] In the end, can one person's actions really "make" another person turn out a particular way? Probably not. In FORGIVEN (60/314), Xena tells Tara, "You are what you do. You can recreate yourself every second of your life."

[14] We are the sum total of our experiences. It would be unlikely that any one experience would negate the moral lessons (assuming there were some) of our youth. We are influenced by those around us and we have a choice, as do all of those in the Xenaverse, to either choose evil from what we see and learn, or to choose good. Even those who learn evil can turn from it. Xena has.


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. Writing about XWP allows me to write on a topic about which I have a real passion.

I gave up my passion for Star Trek: TNG for Xena. I am the mother of two wonderful children who make fun of Mom for her passions. I have three 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 (58/312), FORGET ME NOT (63/317), ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202), IDES OF MARCH (89.421)
Favorite line: Xena: "I have many skills" KING CON (61/315), THE BLACK WOLF (11/111), etc.
First episode seen: THE GAUNTLET (H12/112)
Least favorite episode: THE PLAY'S THE THING (85/417)

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