Whoosh! Issue 39 - December 1999


IAXS project #730
By Filippa Morgan
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
4977 words

Introduction (01-02)
Who Are These Jedi? (03-04)
Xena: The Dark Side Reformed (05-26)
Gabrielle: Which Skywalker Is She? (27-34)
Joxer: Potential Jedi Master or Jar Jar Binks? (35-41)
Influences of Star Wars in the Xenaverse (42-44)
Conclusion (45-46)

The Force Is With Them:
Xena, Gabrielle, And Joxer As Related To Star Wars

You think you got subtext problems? I almost did it with my sister!

The film that started the STAR WARS saga. If you existed, where were *you* when it opened?


[1] What does Star Wars, a science fiction movie series [Note 01] involving distant planets, space battles, and eye-popping creatures, have to do with the gravity-defying exploits of a leather-clad Warrior Princess and her two boon companions in the ancient world? Easy. Both are amazingly popular cult sensations with legions of fans, thousands upon thousands of licensed products, and the time-old conflict of good against evil.

[2] Furthermore, one must remember that George Lucas, Robert Tapert, and Sam Raimi did not create these worlds by themselves. They are borrowed from sources as varied as the "Siegfried" saga of German literature and the films of Akira Kurosawa. The sci-fi series and the Warrior Princess are thematically similar to their predecessors in that in all these worlds, one chooses his or her own destiny from the good side or the dark side of the Force. So is Xena really supposed to be a female Darth Vader, or are Joxer and Jar Jar Binks long-lost cousins? As Obi-wan himself once said, "Patience". We shall see.

Who Are These Jedi?

[3] Jedi Knights, defenders of justice and freedom in the galaxy, can be seen almost as descendants (or ancestors) of King Arthur's knights, the French Resistance, or any similar group. In the four installments of Star Wars so far [see Note 01], we have seen a few of these noble fighters: Obi-wan Kenobi, mentor to Darth Vader who was once Anakin Skywalker; Yoda, the Zen- like master of the Force; Mace Windu, the Jedi Master who has only appeared in cameo thus far; Qui-Gon Jinn, seen only in The Phantom Menace (PM); and eventually, Luke Skywalker, himself. It is implied there were once many Jedi, but as Yoda dies in Return Of The Jedi (ROTJ), Luke is the last. All Jedi, and their dark counterparts, the Sith Lords, have the Force and a lightsaber as their only weapons. It is interesting to note that both Xena and the Jedi Knights have such a symbolic weapon: the chakram and lightsaber respectively (more on this later).

[4] The term "Padawan" refers to the apprentice in a master-student relationship, such as Obi-wan to Qui-Gon in PM. The three main faces in the Xenaverse will be examined to great detail in terms of their stages of learning. A Jedi's ultimate goal is to become at peace with him or herself, and as Lucy Lawless once said regarding Xena, "The day she finds peace with herself will be the last day of the series" [Note 02]. Yikes, if I had all that baggage in my past, I do not think even Yoda could help me.

Xena: The Dark Side Reformed

[5] Many folks seem to forget that while Xena may ride around now fighting for justice, she is a reformed mass murderer [Note 03], child torturer [Note 04], looter of villages [Note 05], and that is just a start. Whereas Hercules and Iolaus fit perfectly the mold of classical heroes, in essence adult Boy Scouts, Xena is more intriguing since she is constantly fighting her dark side, and it shows. The producers originally wanted a busty Aryan type for the role of the Warrior Princess, but the darkness of her clothes and hair fits her soul much better.

[6] Xena fits none of the molds exactly, but she seems to be pieced together from numerous Star Wars characters. She is far too experienced and cynical to be Luke, with the possible exception of the black- clad, bitter young Jedi seen in Return Of The Jedi. The early Luke persona is largely seen in the first-season Gabrielle.

[7] The events that set Xena on the path of the dark side seem to be borrowed from the script of the 1977 Star Wars episode: A New Hope (NH). As seen in REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202), it is assumed young Xena led a fairly peaceful life in Amphipolis, just as Luke lived unassumingly on the remote planet Tatooine. While Luke had ambitions to join the Rebellion against the Empire, it is never indicated that Xena had any aspirations to become a warrior. REMEMBER NOTHING seems to show a normal village life for Xena had she never taken up the sword. Just as Luke must contend with the murders of his aunt and uncle, so must Xena's life change when Cortese raids her village.

[8] What follows the destruction of Amphipolis has been the subject of many a classic episode: DESTINY (36/212), THE DEBT (52- 53/306-307), and ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402), to name a few. It is safe to assume that both Xena and Luke were around eighteen to twenty when their tragedies occurred, though with the skewed timeline of the Xenaverse, it is hard to tell. Yoda said to Luke that anger, fear, and aggression lead to the dark side, and that is precisely the road the young Warrior Princess traveled. At this point in her life one is tempted to ask whether Anakin Skywalker, who ultimately became Darth Vader, was seduced the same way by the dark side. No one will know until Star Wars episodes II and III arrive.

I've heard the camera adds five pounds, but I didn't know it
added a psychic shadow!

A good guy goes bad, as opposed to Xena, who went from bad to good.

[9] Another juicy comparison between Xena and Anakin is in PM, where Qui-Gon and Obi-wan discover that Anakin has an unusually high "midichlorian" count in his blood, possibly an explanation as to why the Force is so strongly with him. Could it be that Xena, raised in a remote village with no apparent warrior training, has some midichlorians of her own, such as the blood of a god? With all the Ares-paternity theories flying around, my answer would have to be yes. The first episode after the raid of Amphipolis is presumably DESTINY (36/212), and although rash and impulsive, the young Xena already demonstrates deadly fighting ability. We will leave it to Olympian DNA testers to figure that one out.

[10] As she wanders further down the path of the dark side, Xena meets influences purely evil and those who are good but flawed, just as Luke does. It is easy to imagine Ares saying, "I am your father" to his warrior daughter, although the god of war is probably not intended to be Darth Vader.

[11] Alti, with her hooded face, raspy voice, and sunken eyes, is probably the closest equivalent in the Xenaverse to Emperor Palpatine. Perhaps M'Lila and Lao Ma die tragic deaths, but they bear only certain similarities to Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda. It is remarkable how much of THE DEBT (52-53/306-307) is borrowed from the training of Luke in The Empire Strikes Back (ESB). Lao Ma's Way, is, in essence, the Force: finding inner serenity and strength, levitating things in midair, repression of baser emotions. Her philosophy is based on the teachings of Lao- Tzu, just as Yoda's are.

[12] The direct counterpart, of course, is Alti's dark side, though Xena does not realize this at the time. Alti mocks Lao Ma's teachings, just as Grand Moff Tarkin and occasionally Vader, mock Obi-wan. The vase-smashing scene recalls eerily Luke's sunken X-wing fighter of ESB, for example. Xena and Luke, at these crucial moments, cannot perform the tasks given them because they cannot believe in the Force. Even Luke's encounter with the alternate version of himself in the cave on Dagobah recalls the black-eyed evil Xena doppleganger in DREAMWORKER (03/103). Neither Jedi nor Warrior Princess can move on until they accept the fact that the dark side is part of their souls.

Not M'Lila am I!

Jedi Master Yoda.

[13] Obviously some of Xena's mentors, for better or worse, are homages to the characters of Star Wars. M'Lila, the Gallic slave girl, teaches Xena, for the first time, skills that use cunning, speed, and dexterity, rather than simple brute force. The neck pinch scene from DESTINY (36/212) comes to mind. Luke similarly has his first lessons in the Force from the aged Jedi Obi-wan Kenobi. Obi-wan shows Luke how to use the Force in wielding his lightsaber, and then there is the infamous Jedi mind trick Kenobi uses with Vader's storm troopers. In both cases, the respective hero is learning that physical strength is not everything. M'Lila takes out a boatload of pirates with her bare hands; Obi-wan uses his cunning and quickness to survive in the Mos Eisley cantina.

[14] In PM, Qui-Gon Jinn, perhaps the most compassionate Jedi depicted in Star Wars to date, specifically avoids violence, yet he fights with passion and great power when he is roused to attack. Yet this compassion proves to be his undoing. One can see a remarkable similarity between a scene in Star Wars, Qui-Gon's death at the hands of the Sith Lord Maul and Obi-wan's subsequent enraged attack, and both Xena's berserk rage after M'Lila's demise and Gabrielle's in IDES OF MARCH (89/421).

[15] Immediately after DESTINY (36/212), in terms of chronology, comes THE DEBT (52-53/306-307). In this episode, Xena is betrayed and broken by Julius Caesar and rides East to take vengeance upon the human race. Luke, although his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are killed early in NH, never contends with such trauma, although the death of M'Lila at the hands of the Roman guards is similar enough to Obi-wan's forfeit to his former student Darth Vader, though Obi-wan was not defending Luke as M'Lila was defending Xena.

[16] As Xena travels to the land of Ch'in, the character of Borias is introduced, and he simply represents a seducer ironically similar to Caesar. Although he has no real counterpart in the original Star Wars trilogy, it remains to be seen whether Episodes II and III will offer one.

[17] The Jedi knights (who are seemingly exclusively male, though Leia displays Jedi tendencies, and several female Jedi council members appear in PM) have no love interests, and it seems highly unlikely that Anakin Skywalker's future mate, Queen Amidala, is a villain at all.

[18] "Scoundrels" in the Star Wars universe, Greedo, Watto, Jabba the Hutt, Sebulba, Boba Fett, et al, are largely alien, played for comic effect and/or shock value, and have little real place other than a convenient excuse to menace the heroes. No such characters seem to exist in the Xenaverse. Xena's gallery of villains are, for the most part, genuinely evil, or at least misguided.

[19] The real Star Wars homage in THE DEBT (52-53/306-307) is, of course, Lao Ma, the courtesan with telekinetic powers. She is meant to be neither Obi-wan nor Yoda, or even Qui-Gon Jinn, but perhaps she is an amalgam of all three. She offers to help Xena turn away from the dark side and is, for a time, successful with her defiant pupil. Lao Ma first notes that Xena is "so full of anger". Yoda in PM, and again in ESB, says the same of Anakin and Luke, respectively. Like Yoda, Lao Ma teaches the need for control, which the feral Xena is unable to achieve fully. Luke's aged mentor also says that a Jedi craves neither adventure nor glory, but of course the Warrior Princess, at this point in her life, wants only these things.

Denied the role of Life Cereal spokesman for his generation,
Anokin embarks on a life of crime

Separation from home and family can contribute to going astray.

[20] It was only when ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402) aired that the viewer discovered what really happened to Xena after Lao Ma. The execution of the mysterious Lao Ma recalls more the death of Obi-wan than anything else, or even Luke's refusal to kill his father Darth Vader: the victim refuses to use his or her power out of love. However, Lao Ma has not, as of yet, returned in shade form to guide her pupil as Obi-wan does for Luke.

[21] Measure for measure, it is Alti of the SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402) episodes who personifies the Dark Side more than anyone else. The fact that she resembles Palpatine is no accident, and even her young apprentice Anokin is aptly named (Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader's former name). Like the Emperor, Alti possesses supernatural powers and is feared by her people. It seems a bit of foreshadowing in PM when then-Senator Palpatine pats little Anakin on the shoulder and tells him that great things are in his future. Alti promises Xena the conquest of the known world, but, like Darth Vader and Palpatine, it can only be a master-slave relationship, as the Amazon Queen Cyane warns Xena. Like Darth Vader, however, Xena chooses the false glory promised her and converts to the Dark Side.

[22] The chronology from the time Xena meets Alti up to the Battle of Corinth is somewhat unclear, although we know DESTINY (36/212) took place "ten winters ago", and that she gave birth to Solan almost two years afterwards. Her reform is somewhat of a gradual process, although the first sign of her compassion is when she gives away Solan to be raised by the Centaur Kaleipus in ORPHAN OF WAR (25/201). Probably most Star Wars fans recall the fact that Luke and his twin sister, Princess Leia Organa, were hidden from their true parents. As Xena puts it, she would not want her son to see certain things, and it is assumed Obi-wan was thinking the same when he hid the twins from their father, Darth Vader.

[23] Alti's curse on Solan in SIN TRADE (69- 70/401-402) was perhaps too obvious, but in Star Wars, Luke and Leia also grew up not knowing the love of either parent (Anakin Skywalker and Queen Amidala of Naboo). It is interesting to note that while Solan's father died and his mother was a warrior, the opposite holds true for Luke. In addition, the child is reconciled with the warrior only when it is too late (Xena with Solan in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), Luke with Vader at the end of ROTJ).

[24] Xena is still feral and bloodthirsty when she appears in THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), although that shred of compassion leads to much more. In that initial Hercules appearance she is perhaps a villain-of-the-week, but obviously the producers had greater things in mind for her.

[25] In THE GAUNTLET (H11/111), what should have been the initial Xena appearance, her character is more rounded and three-dimensional. Perhaps thinking of her son, she saves a baby from her lieutenant, Darphus, and this is the beginning of her conversion. By the time she has run the gauntlet of her own mutinous soldiers, we are fairly sure her transformation is complete. Like Luke Skywalker, she can only come to the side of good when she has stopped wrestling with fear, hatred, and aggression, and even then she is not finished.

[26] Xena's dark side comes to the surface more often than she would like, most notably in THE PRICE (44/220), THE DEBT (52-53/306- 307), and IDES OF MARCH (89/421), to name a few. Like the Jedi, she might walk the way of the warrior, but no one ever said she was going to like it very much. No one questions why Qui-Gon, Obi-wan, or Luke became Jedi Knights; so Xena must be the Warrior Princess for a good reason.

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