Whoosh! Issue 52 - January 2001

By Virginia Carper
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
1865 words


Lao Ma: a Questionable Character

Laugh at my hat all you like, but I'm warm!

Lao Ma rescues Xena in THE DEBT.

[01] Lao Ma is one of the most beloved characters of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (XWP). She rescued Xena from being torn apart from Ming Tsu's dogs. While healing Xena's crippled legs, Lao Ma tried to impart her teachings to her. Later after receiving Lao Ma's urgent message, Xena was willing to kill her evil son, Ming T'ien. Lao Ma was remembered with love by Xena.

Questionable Lessons

[02] To me, Lao Ma's healing and teaching sessions with Xena were troubling. After Xena kidnapped and abused her son, Lao Ma chose to save her from Ming Tsu's punishment. Then, Lao Ma encouraged Xena to be 'her Warrior Princess' and help her rule more of Ch'in. She focused more on healing Xena, a violent stranger, than on her small son, who was in badly need of her help.

[03] Lao Ma also robbed Xena of her free will. She knew that Xena would be indebted to her for saving her from Ming Tsu's dogs. Lao Ma also knew that a vulnerable Xena could be molded into what she wanted Xena to be, a controllable killer. Lao Ma did not save Xena to prove that she could let go of hate towards Xena. She saved Xena to achieve her goal of ruling in Ch'in.

[04] Lao Ma had the power to stop Xena from killing Ming Tsu, her son's father, but refused. She wanted Xena to learn humility from an enemy by serving Ming Tsu. Believing that she could control Xena, Lao Ma acted cavalierly. During the dice game with Borias and Ming Tsu, she let Xena take control and set up the bets of blood. She was more focused on Xena learning her lessons than on her son's safety. (Ming T'ien had been present during the ill-fated dice game.)

[05] Lao Ma's pride and vanity got the better of her. She tolerated Xena killing Ming Tsu, whom she disliked immensely. Only when Xena tried to kill Ming T'ien, did she cast Xena out of her home. Lao Ma was more outraged by Xena's rebellion against her teachings than by Xena's murderous rages.

Questionable Morality

And here is a recipe for a really good lintel soup!

Lao Ma wrote a Book of Wisdom, but kept her husband in a coma to do it.

[06] Lao Ma and Xena were alike in many ways. They used power supposedly for the 'greater good'. However, they forgot where those boundaries between "naked power" and "power for the greater good" were. They excused their amoral actions for 'goodness for all'. In the alternative universe presented in HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS' ARMAGEDDON (73-74/413-414), where Hercules did not exist, Xena became a female Ming T'ien. The lessons learned from Lao Ma enabled Xena to become the Conqueror.

[07] Lao Ma also indulged in abusing others. She excused keeping her husband Lao Tsu in a coma because it enabled her to the 'greater good' for her people. She refused to work in a partnership with him or convince him of her advanced ideas. Lao Ma's morality enabled her to rob her husband of free will to choose, as well as keep him in a vegetative state.

Questionable Role Model

[08] Lao Ma is not a good role model for mothers. This may be a surprise for fans that see her as the 'good mother' archetype. Although, Xena had claimed that all the goodness that remained in her came from Lao Ma, she still became a bloodthirsty warlord. After loving Lao Ma, Xena still chose to befriend the shamaness Alti and learn her dark ways. Only later after Xena met Hercules, did she decide to atone for her deeds.

[09] Lao Ma obviously loved her three children. Unable to raise Ming T'ien, her son herself, Lao Ma strove to demonstrate her love to him. When Ming T'ien was a young boy, she embroidered a banner for him. Lao Ma faced more sorrows when she was forced to give up her daughters, K'ao Hsin and Pao Ssu, to protect them from their evil brother. So deep was her love that when Lao Ma was faced with execution by her son, she refused to fight Ming T'ien.

[10] Lao Ma acted irresponsibly toward her son Ming T'ien. As the de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Lao, she saw his rise to power as the Green Dragon, the ruler of the Kingdom of Ming. Instead of stopping Ming T'ien, Lao Ma hid her twin daughters, Pao Ssu and K'ao Hsin, to save them from their brother's depredations. She had the power and opportunity to stop her son, but failed to use either; instead, she sent Xena to kill him.

[11] Lao Ma, who knew of her son's future and had the power to stop him, did nothing. Because of her reluctance to deal effectively with Ming T'ien, she lost her daughters and her own life. In addition, she had to live with his reign of terror visited on her beloved people. Why could not she 'make the Green Dragon small'? Why did she have to have Xena do it for her?

Questionable Parenting

Hello?  Hello?  The batteries in this cell phone are worthless!

The hospitality of Xena and Borias left something to be desired.

[12] Lao Ma never made Xena responsible for her actions. She also never seemed to want to understand how badly Ming T'ien was abused and emotionally wounded by Xena's sadism. His father, Ming Tsu, acted as the responsible parent. He punished his son's abuser and tried to insure that Xena would never hurt Ming T'ien again. He tried to give Ming T'ien a sense of safety and closure by encouraging him to watch Xena's punishment.

[13] Although Lao Ma disliked Ming Tsu, she had to respect him as the custodial parent who was responsible for their son's upbringing. Instead, she allowed his death, thereby causing Ming T'ien to be raised by others. If Lao Ma had enough political power to rule the kingdom of Lao while keeping her husband in an enforced coma, she certainly had enough political acumen to oversee the upbringing of her son in the kingdom of Ming. After Ming Tsu's death, Lao Ma seemed passive about raising their son herself.

[14] The mystery lies in what happened after Ming Tsu's death. Did Lao Ma try to heal her son's psychic wounds? Did she try to contain his power? Did she try to divert him from his evil ways? The only answers that are presented are that Lao Ma let her son kill her and that she asked Xena to kill him. Both answers point to a disturbing relationship between mother and son.

Answers On Mothering

[15] Motherhood on XWP for the major characters is depicted as child-centric. The mother preserves the child at all costs even when that child is a danger to society. Mothers act in a 'my child right or wrong' mode instead of an 'I am responsible for the upbringing of another' mode.

[16] One of the exceptions was Xena's mother, Cyrene, who protected her daughter from a murderous husband. After his death, she held her family together until Cortese burned their town. To provide a home for her children, she also ran an inn. Although Cyrene loved Xena deeply, she practiced tough love when Xena became a bloodthirsty warlord. Cyrene refused to associate with her daughter until Xena demonstrated that she had reformed her ways. Cyrene remained protective of Xena but continued to hold her responsible for her actions.

[17] Xena learned to take responsibility for her evil deeds from her mother, Cyrene. Xena knew her mother loved her but expected her to act morally as well. Xena decided to atone while Ming T'ien enjoyed being cruel. He enjoyed killing his mother, which shocked Xena into killing him.

No Final Answers, Only More Questions

[18] Why am I so hard on Lao Ma? I view her as a person like Xena with great power and potential, but with many flaws and weaknesses. However, I do not accept that she is a force for good like Hercules.

[19] Since she is introduced to us through Xena's memories, we feel as Xena does: with gratitude and love. Therefore, we accept the fact that Ming T'ien is evil and deserved to die before we meet him. We fail to ask critical questions.

[20] How did the child Ming T'ien grew up to be an evil man? My answer is that through Xena's sadism and Lao Ma's neglect, he became twisted and wicked. This leads to a more troubling question: If Lao Ma could see the future, why did not she stop Xena from hurting her beloved son? The most troubling question of all for me: Why did Lao Ma choose to heal Xena, a stranger, over her small son?


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virginia carper Virginia Carper

My goal is to be a garden-variety human being. My friends know me as a squirrel. I am, however, a card-carrying member of the Squirrel Lovers Club, and do squirrel studies. My family watches XWP for the marvelous things Xena does and for Joxer, the warlord with autism.

Favorite episode: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302) Favorite line: Joxer to Xena and Gabrielle: "A great many people have become allies because of their hatred of me". Xena and Gabrielle nod 'Yes!' BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302) First episode seen: THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109) Least favorite episode: I stopped watching the show regularly after FALLEN ANGEL.

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