Whoosh! Issue 48 - September 2000


Sexual Imagery in Xena: Warrior Princess




The Seduction of Antony

[27] Even after viewing the episodes ETERNAL BONDS and AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE, long-time fans still had trouble adjusting to Xena's new "sexual predator" persona. Because of this, many fans preferred to view ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA as "Lucy Lawless pretending to be Cleopatra", and not "Lucy Lawless portraying Xena pretending to be Cleopatra". Even though there were several recurring characters from previous Xena episodes, and the episode itself was well made and acted, it somehow did not have the feeling of a Xena episode.

[28] Cleopatra [played by Gina Torres initially, and Josephine Davison in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA], who previously appeared in KING OF ASSASSINS [54/308], got unceremoniously "offed" in the first few minutes, after writing an emergency letter to Xena. Xena devised a plan to impersonate her "good friend" as a desperate nymphomaniac to lure a despot bent on becoming the next Roman emperor. Many things worked in her favor: Antony had never met either Xena or Cleopatra before; Antony was a heterosexual; and Antony accepted her aggressive advances because he thought he could use it to his advantage. This was not a love story, but a tale of treachery, deceit, and betrayal. It did show, however, many steamy scenes of gratuitous sex, which evidently was the primary purpose of this episode.


Sexual Imagery Involving Gabrielle and Joxer

Like most married couples, Joxer and Gabrielle would probably end up asleep in front of the TV in no time

MARRIED WITH FISH STICKS was the highest rated episode of Season Five summer repeats (those episodes airing after MOTHERHOOD).


[29] Considering that the recurring theme present in most of Season Five was the premise of Joxer desperately trying to get a mostly unresponsive Gabrielle to have a sexual relationship with him, there was very little sexual imagery in their relationship. Most of the sexual imagery was played for laughs, thus becoming very much diminished when compared to the intensity of the Xena/Ares relationship.

[30] Joxer has supposedly been in love with Gabrielle since the episode A COMEDY OF EROS [46/222] at the end of the second season. His pursuit of Gabrielle intensified greatly in the fifth season, almost to the point of stalking. Even more strange, Xena encouraged Joxer to attach himself to Gabrielle, as if to keep her one-time close friend away from her as much as possible. Joxer was in 14 of 22 episodes of the fifth season and that did nothing for his popularity, as the writers were hard pressed to have him do anything except continue his vain pursuit of Gabrielle. Barring that he was shown to pursue other nubile beauties [LYRE, LYRE, HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510); KINDRED SPIRITS (107/517).

[31] Comedic scenes included Joxer staring longingly at Gabrielle, making her uncomfortable, and causing her to drop a sackful of apples in a busy marketplace while trying to force his chivalry on her in ANIMAL ATTRACTION (94/504). In PURITY (96/506), laughs ensued while Gabrielle, her hands tied, attempted to remove a bag of black powder from Joxer's pants with her bare foot. Joxer, instead of disposing of the powder as instructed by Xena, had stashed the highly explosive stuff next to his testicles. The look of rapture on Joxer's face while Gabrielle rooted through his pants was the closest they would come to an actual sexual relationship, in spite of Joxer's dogged determination.

[32] Curiously, the only Gabrielle/Joxer "kiss" of the entire season occurred in the offbeat episode MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (105/515). Joxer, who apparently had just rescued Gabrielle from drowning and was applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, took advantage of the situation when a half-conscious Gabrielle, not knowing who he was, began kissing him. When she fully came to her senses and realized who she was exchanging saliva with, she immediately started punching Joxer. Strangely, this scene only fueled the fire for those fans starving for a Joxer/Gabrielle romance.

[33] With the episode ETERNAL BONDS (103/513), the Gabrielle/Joxer saga was resolved as Gabrielle, in the face of Joxer's whining protests, finally told Joxer that she did love him, but could never love him in "that way". This paved the way for KINDRED SPIRITS (107/517), where Joxer was rather negatively portrayed as a perverted peeping Tom who was caught "pleasuring" himself in the bushes while spying on bathing teenaged Amazons. Later, he was shown making passes at these young girls, then engaging in sexual foreplay with a young virgin in a barn. In real life, what Joxer did in this episode would be a crime punishable by law. Here, it was played for laughs, and most probably the young male audience at whom this episode was targeted, did find it most amusing.


Miscellaneous Sexual Imagery in Season Five

Get out of there!  If Xena and Gabrielle catch you in their hot tub you're toast!

Things are steamy for several people in Season Five.


[34] There were other fifth season scenes with sexual imagery or innuendo that were not part of the Xena/Ares or Gabrielle/Joxer themes. ANIMAL ATTRACTION (94/504) featured a budding romance between the young warriors Amarice and Armon. In LITTLE PROBLEMS (98/508), Gabrielle and Aphrodite crashed a theme party thrown by the Siamese twins Castor and Pollex. In a scene laced with broad sexual suggestion and innuendo, Gabrielle and Aphrodite were compelled to participate in an "oil wrestling" competition against the twins in order to swipe the special oil that hung from a pouch at Castor's waist. Many jokes were made about grabbing the wrong "pouch", accompanied by the appropriate sound effects.

[35] Perhaps the most sexual-image-crammed episode of the fifth season, or of any season for that matter, was the comedy/musical "sextravaganza", LYRE, LYRE, HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510). Although this was a Xena episode with a myriad of recurring characters, it was as if these characters were all playing different people. There were a multitude of storylines that were tied together with 1960's and 1970's pop musical numbers, and blatant stereotypical sexual imagery in each musical scene.

[36] One storyline intimated on the reunion of Joxer with his estranged brother Jace. It essentially portrayed Jace as a stereotypical flamboyant, effeminate disco "Queen", kind of a cross between Liberace and Sylvester, complete with a buff male chorus line in tight lame shorts. Although it was never mentioned that Jace was even a homosexual, Joxer rejected him for being "different", supposedly only because he liked to dress in frilly clothes and sport a pompadour, and because Joxer seemed to feel that this threatened his own "manly" sexuality. To compensate for his insecurity, he began a serious flirt-fest with an Amazon "band groupie", much to the chagrin of a very out-of-character Gabrielle.

[37] Gabrielle herself had her hands full with Draco, who was still under Bliss' spell from A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222) in the second season, and this time he was going to make Gabrielle love him, or else he would kill her. There was an intensely sexual dream scene where Draco imagines himself tango dancing with Gabrielle and bathing with her in a hot tub. These scenes were gentle and sensual. A very homoerotic scene of Draco bathing with six of his beefy warriors followed it. Later, things got ugly when Draco snapped after being rejected yet again by Gabrielle, and vowed, "If I can't have you, nobody can!" He captured Gabrielle, forced her into a white- fringed go-go bikini complete with the white go-go boots, and threw her into a gilded cage. The eye-candy factor here is used as a distraction as Draco got set to immolate Gabrielle with a flame-thrower. Draco, who in past episodes had been very likeable as an evil warlord, suffered from severe character defamation in this episode. Draco was supposedly in love with Gabrielle, yet he abused, humiliated, and finally tried to murder her while making it a public spectacle.

[38] The once noble Amazons depicted in this episode were placed there for nothing more than eye candy factor to draw the young male audience into the show. Their costumes consisted first of tiny leather bikinis, then strategically placed towels. One musical number evidently took place in a bath. Xena and Gabrielle, however, remained fully clothed. Xena ludicrously wore her heavy full-length sheepskin coat throughout the episode while every other female, except for Xena's mother, was practically naked.


Conclusion

[39] The fifth season of XWP marked a substantial change in the depiction of heterosexual themes. Changes in the production staff introduced comedies rife with crude heterosexual jokes prominently featuring the male anatomy. Previously, these "good old boy" jokes were confined to Hercules comedies and the Back2Back show, JACK OF ALL TRADES, both heavily male-oriented shows. Such jokes were particularly prevalent in, though not confined to, the "pregnancy" episodes.

[40] Then there is Xena herself, who almost immediately after her baby's birth, develops a sudden sexual passion for Ares, which is graphically depicted in cinematic detail. The fact that Xena would even do this for Ares' obvious pleasure as well as her own, after all the abuse that Ares has heaped on both Xena and Gabrielle over the course of the series is confusing. It is also slightly disturbing to those viewers who have been victims of abuse, as well as negating Xena as a role model for strong, independent women.

[41] Further disturbing is the concept of Xena using sex as a weapon of betrayal against both Ares and Antony. The implications of this are that Xena is capable of having pleasurable sex with any man, no matter how much of a monster he is, that she derives personal pleasure from it, and then she watches him fall as a victim of his own sexual needs, with minimal remorse or regret; and all the while she exhibits complete apathy concerning her erstwhile partner, Gabrielle.

[42] It will take some time getting used to this "new" characterization of Xena. Continued decline in ratings have shown that this dramatic increase in heterosexual imagery has not worked so far in attracting new fans, or keeping the old ones, for that matter. Perhaps a different take on this theme is in order, such as a healthy, old-fashioned, actual "romantic" relationship for Xena, as it has been hammered into the fans' heads this season that what Xena really wants is a man.



Biography

Nusi Dekker Nusi Dekker
A native Californian, I live in the Bay Area and work at UCSF Medical Center where I manage an oral pathology research lab. I run experiments on human biopsy tissue (mostly cancers), and I am the primary or co-author of over 30 research papers. I was an art major before I switched to cell biology, but I still love ancient art and mythology. I have never in my life done any fan thing until Xena!
Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) and THE PRICE (44/220)
Favorite line: Xena: "You are a part of my heart" ULYSSES (43/219)
First episode seen: DREAMWORKER (03/103)
Least favorite episode: KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308), KEY TO THE KINGDOM (78/410), FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), and most of the fifth season.


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