Whoosh! Issue 52 - January 2001

By M.J. Marin
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
4371 words

The Beginning (01-06)
Bitter Rivalry (07-11)
Ares the Multi-faceted Character (12-15)
The Perpetual Debate (16-32)
Finally, Coming Home (33-40)
Conclusion (41)

Evolution of the Ares–Xena Relationship

The Beginning

Whoa!  You're a little chunky to be wearing white, doncha think?

Ares makes an overture in THE RECKONING.

[01] The episode THE RECKONING (06/106) introduced the Xenaverse to the interesting and complex interaction between Ares, God of War, and Xena, Warrior Princess. Ares as an egotistical, arrogant, and cynical, but ever-so-charming God, while Xena as the Redemption-Seeking Warrior.

[02] In THE RECKONING, we got the opportunity to appreciate the interaction between these two impressive and magnificent beings. Ares, in his most suave, conniving and seductive self tried his best to seduce and persuade Xena, one of his best warlords, to return to his side. As Xena was subjected to his manipulation and the delicious temptation he represented, we enjoyed the chemistry and blatant sexual attraction that emanated from them. RECKONING gave light to some of Xena's dark past and the indelible and passionate history she and Ares shared.

[03] We got a glimpse of what could become an interesting and intriguing relationship: the possibility of a romantic liaison between the Righteous Warrior and the Selfish God of War. But, the story of the series took a different path away from this relationship, leaving the fans that very much enjoyed the prospect of such a relationship craving for more.

[04] Surprisingly and pleasantly so, we were indulged once more in THE TIES THAT BIND (20/120). Ares again tried to manipulate a situation to gain Xena back to his fold. Ares was a determined God who stopped at nothing to obtain his goal, which was to bring Xena back to his side. We saw innocents pay for his determination and saw that human-like emotions drive Ares. We got the chance to identify with him, even if we did not agree with his unethical methods. He used Xena's vulnerability to manipulate her, causing confusion in her soul. He almost accomplished his deed, and Xena for a moment lost sight of her new path. But the very clever and wise warrior was able to see through him with the help of Gabrielle, and for a second time was able to thwart his plans.

[05] The fascination revolved in the complexity of these two characters. Xena represented regret and the need for absolution. She was an empathetic creature ready to atone for her sins, and to unselfishly fight for the greater good. Ares, on the other hand, was the synthesis of these feelings. He was the dark side, the selfish notion of self-greatness, and the apathy in which he lived. These were palpable contrasts that, when united, made a perfect whole.

[06] The cat-and-mouse Game was established. The fans that enjoyed it were fascinated and enthralled. They craved even more episodes starring these two great actors, Lucy Lawless, and Kevin Smith. The Ares and Xena relationships community woke up, and was solidly established.

Bitter Rivalry

Somebody needs  mint!

Ares sings an overture in THE BITTER SUITE.

[07] After The Powers That Be (TPTB) in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS decided to explore this intricate relationship, there has been a surplus of negativity and contempt towards this turn of events. This coincided with the introduction of the phenomenon known as "subtext." The dissenting community is composed of both subtexters and non-subtexters, but it is my personal observation that the bulk is composed of subtexters. Subtexters want to see an established relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and feel that a union with the God of War would alienate the Bard from the spotlight and from Xena. Please note that I specified this to be my personal perception.

[08] Before the Ares and Xena relationship blossomed, the God of War was accepted as one of the best villains in the show. That entire acceptance was replaced by contempt as soon as this relationship started developing into something more meaningful. The Ares character has been savagely attacked ever since, and every single deed scrutinized and criticized without mercy. It could not be fathomed by some that Our Heroine could under any circumstances be attracted to such a despicable villain. The fact that Ares is the villain and far from being a goody two-shoes did not make him an acceptable partner for Xena, though I truly believe that the real reason for such contempt is that he is considered a threat to the Gabrielle and Xena relationship. And something which people tend to forget is the fact that this relationship had been established way before "subtext" was introduced to the show. Fortunately, fans out there were able to appreciate the complexities of this relationship.

[09] The Ares and Xena Relationshippers have definitely become a legitimate and strong presence in the Xenaverse. The "Shippers", as we call ourselves, are a solid and persistent entity that deeply believe in what TPTB in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS gave us: a romantic relationship between these two characters.

[10] The subtext movement is a powerful force unto itself. More often than not, shippers and subtexters clash in heated debates that border on the irrational with insults as the entree of the day. They label Ares as a stalker and rapist, a label that we shippers do not agree with and actually perceive as a blatant insult to our integrity. Such statements lead to more unpleasantness between these two groups. Both shippers and subtexters are a passionate bunch who do not stand idle when their integrity and perceptions are challenged, a fact that has brought this situation to a bitter crescendo.

[11] I am saddened to say that things worsened because TPTB in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS have not helped matters at all by trying to cater to both groups. In some episodes, we lacked Ares and Xena moments, only to soon have it replaced with the Gabrielle and Xena ones. In others, we had Xena frolicking around with other characters that were neither Ares nor Gabrielle. This is an unprecedented situation and a foolish technique that has done nothing but embitter many fans that would have give anything to see their loved characters come together at last. Such technique had done nothing but perpetuate the bitter rivalry between shippers and subtexters. I cannot help resent this situation for there has never been a show that has caused so much discontent among its fans because of their lack of identification.

Ares the Multi-faceted Character

If I cinch this any tighter you'll be singing soprano permanently!

Ares gets a taste of mortality in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS.

[12] Emotion is a complex and psychological construct that evades simple definition. Researchers have agreed that emotions involve several components, including physiological arousal (and we know how "physiological" our God of War tends to get), overt or expressive behavior, cognitive appraisal, and subjective behavior. Ares manifested these characteristics, and so we assumed he was capable of emotions.

[13] What is so intriguing about Ares is his complexity. He instills in those fans that are capable of seeing the hidden depths of objects and the abstract characteristics of a personality the need to understand his motivations as an individual. He has the power to provoke passionate reactions and opinions concerning him. His idiosyncrasies parallel those of human beings. It is no coincidence that the Greek Writers created their Gods in their own image, as human looking and human acting deities with omnipotent powers. Ares, being one of these Gods, was not the exception. Unfortunately and unfairly, though, Ares has been the recipient of rejection and contempt throughout mythological history. The Intellectual Greeks were not interested in war. They despised war and anything that had to do with it, and so Ares was more often than not portrayed in a negatively manner.

[14] Ares is the "underdog" of the Greek pantheon. He is depicted as a hated being, disliked by his siblings, hated by humanity, and neglected by his Father Zeus, the God of all Gods. Ares was left to grow under the over-protective wings of his bitter mother, Hera. No doubt, his aggressive and egotistical behavior is the product of his father's favoritism of his other children and neglect, and his mother's dubious and vengeful motivations. Although suffering sometimes builds character, it may also bring out the worst, and that has been the case with Ares. Frustration created anger, which generated aggression. Ares grew up amidst these aversive stimuli evoking hostility and resentment in him.

[15] Ares is a very emotional being worthy of sympathy. He demonstrated he is capable of experiencing all the emotions that makes us human beings unique: hatred, indifference, love, pain, sadness, happiness, selfishness, and self-sacrifice.

The Perpetual Debate

I... uh... What was the question?

Creating a distraction in AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE.

[16] The adverse reaction to the Ares and Xena relationship is constantly manifested in the Xenaverse. The objections are mainly composed of two issues: Ares "abusive" behavior towards Xena and Ares' "rape" threats. I will not dwell on the fact that the Xena/Gabrielle relationship turned out to be as abusive, if not even more so, than the Ares/Xena one highlighting the hypocrisy of those that condemn Ares for his transgressions. What I imply by worse is the fact that Gabrielle has been the constant recipient of Xena's volatile rage without once defending herself, while Xena on the other hand has been more than capable of thwarting Ares' every manipulation.

[17] I would like to clarify and defend as a shipper my personal perception of these accusations. In the episode THE RECKONING (06/106) we were introduced to the complex and competitive relationship of these two characters. Clearly it was a battle of will and wits between them. For the sake of plot development, Ares became the villain of the story and Xena the hero of the same. Both characters gave glimpses of a shared past, and Ares' obsession with Xena became a new theme in the series. It became his goal to bring Xena back to his side, and in return, it became Xena's goal to thwart his every attempt. The obsession became a link and established the relationship between them.

[18] This intricate construct of the story sparked the interest of many fans that enjoyed the constant banter between them. Were we aware of Ares' deceptions and selfishness? Yes we were aware of it, and we did not ignore it. We analyzed it and tried to understand its motivations. Ares has been portrayed as the villain since day one, and as such, many fans, I included, expected him to behave as one. This is what made the relationship so interesting and exciting. Xena's capability to thwart his every scheme no matter the odds against her was what made this so exciting. The fact that Ares had never killed her, although he possesses the power to do so, was very intriguing. The fact that Xena had never killed him, although she has had many opportunities to do so, was self-explanatory and intriguing.

[19] It is this constant battle of strength and will that captivate the audience. Some call Xena the victim and Ares her abuser, but in this series Xena has never been anybody's victim, much the less the God of War's. She is more than capable of fighting back as the magnificent warrior and the brilliant strategist she has demonstrated to be.

[20] Why do some fans perceive this relationship as romantic and exciting? The popular media, be it the present one or past ones, always celebrated the rugged individual, the bad boy who was true to himself and bucked social conventions, the intriguing loner who answers to none but himself. It became an icon of sexiness. Personas like Marlon Brando and James Dean are icons of the bad boy image. Ares portrays this image to perfection. This was the first factor that induced fans to take a second look at him. The rugged individual Ares became obsessed with the Warrior Princess, and he set out to do whatever it took to bring her back to him.

[21] This is what dissenters refer to as stalking and abuse something that ironically has been an integral ingredient of the plot. What dissenters consider stalking, many fans consider as what is presently known as foreplay, lover's banter, and flirtation. The constant interaction between the two individuals enshrouded in apparent hostility veiled an obvious attraction between the two.

[22] An example of such gender representation is a contemporary movie called THE CUTTING EDGE (Paul Michael Glaser, 1992). In this film, two individuals were united by adverse circumstances and immediately treated each other with hostility and contempt, when in fact they were sexually attracted to each other all along. The more they interacted and treated each other with hostility, the more attracted to each other they became. Such gender constructs were widely popular in the Golden Era of Hollywood movies, portrayed by characters like John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, and Marlon Brando among so many Hollywood Icons. The popular media has always exploited the Romantic Notion of the seduction. It might be considered an unrealistic script, but so far, such writing gender has maintained its popularity.

[23] Another example is in the Oscar-winning GONE WITH THE WIND (Victor Fleming, 1939). Scarlett O'Hara was carried to bed screaming and unwilling and woke up singing and overmuch content. This romantic notion has been part of life since the earliest of times. All we have to do is read from Shakespeare to The Iliad, to contemporary romance writer Johanna Lindsey.

[24] Unfortunately, instances of true rape cases are used as a connotation to this relationship and have overshadowed a legitimate gender that until now has been very popular and entertaining. Xena is a prime example of this gender. Do I condemn Ares' behavior towards Xena? No, I do not. Do I approve of it? Many times, I have not. Ares has only manifested human emotions, and as a sinner of such emotions, I cannot condemn him. I do not approve of his schemes, and in many instances, I wished he did not behave in such an aversive way. Yet, all of the characters in the series, including Xena and Gabrielle, behaved in unethical manners at one time or another even though they are the heroes of the show and their responsibility is to convey a positive moral message at the end of the story. Suffice to say they have not behaved in a heroic manner always and Xena herself has behaved worst than Ares himself in many instances.

[25] Ares acts characteristically. He is the villain of the story and behaves accordingly. One could understand Ares' motivations even if one did not agree with them. Ares is no worse or better than anyone else in the series. Ares is only manifesting human emotions, being blocked of a goal that increases people's readiness to aggress.

[26] This is a phenomenon known as frustration-aggression principle. Frustration creates anger, hurt feelings create frustration, and rejection creates hurt feelings. Ares' vulnerability is Xena, and her constant rejection led him to act like a spurned lover, a hurt individual who in a moment of frustration tries to cover his hurt with mean but empty words. His self-preservation mechanism triggers itself when his feelings are hurt.

[27] This was the case in many episodes, one of them being EVE (111/521) where Xena once more rejected Ares with words of steel. Ares, in his hurting anger, acted like a spurned lover, demanding Xena to give him what he wants. It was funny how many were so ready to condemn Ares over this incident when in fact, have not many of us acted in a similar manner to try to hide hurt feelings? Again, this was an expected and appropriate human emotion and behavior. Nothing to be proud of, but nothing to be horrified of either.

[28] Perhaps this relationship would have never been established if Xena had never manifested an attraction towards Ares. Amidst all her rejections and denial she indulged herself in his arms whenever she got the chance, and many times before permitted Ares his intimate advances, obviously enjoying them.

[29] In THE RECKONING (06/106) Xena gave us a glimpse of her attraction to Ares, and then again in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208). Her behavior suggested she was subconsciously attracted if not downright in love with Ares. He became some sort of challenge in her life and Xena indeed recognized he represented the part of her she tried to deny from the first episode (01/101). She declared she despised him, she asked him to leave her be, but she was not able ever to ignore him.

[30] This all called up the extraordinary psychological loaded film called THE BREAKFAST CLUB (John Hughes, 1985) where the girl treated the "bad boy" of the movie with disdain when in fact she was attracted to him. In one instance, he told her "Honey, you could not ignore me even if you tried". Hatred is not the opposite of love; on the contrary, it is another facet of it. Indifference is the real opposite of love and indifference is not an active ingredient in this relationship.

[31] Xena is in denial. She is trying to protect herself emotionally, for she is not prepared to deal or cope with the terms of her feelings for Ares. She cannot allow herself to assimilate the truth. That would be admitting her dark side is an essential part of her being, a dark side she tried to vanquish from the day the Greater Good became her main objective. Admitting her true feelings would be returning to her Warlord Self. Her denial only keeps her from the introspective reality that she needs to embrace the truth in order to change for the better. Her admission would finally set her free, for she would understand that she is the balance of light and darkness. She is a Defender of the Greater Good, but a Warrior as well, a warrior who revels in certain aspects of war and its darkness.

[32] In this show, Ares is neither a stalker nor a rapist; he is the ultimate villain who is challenged by his ultimate obsession. Xena has never been anyone's victim. She could never stand idle as the receiver of injustice and stay calm about it. She is a warrior through and through who is always ready to give as good as she gets, and this is what makes this relationship unique: the constant battle of wills and wits between these two magnificent beings. Call me a hopeless Romantic, but a romantic none the less. This relationship contains the major ingredients of a Romance of Epic proportions.

Finally, Coming Home

Whoa!  You *have* put on weight!

Ares kills Xena but regrets it in COMING HOME.

[33] From THE RECKONING (06/106) to COMING HOME (113/601), we experienced the intricacies of this relationship. We witnessed the development of their feelings. We witnessed Ares' manipulations and Xena's resourcefulness to thwart his plans. We witnessed the changes the Ares character has undergone. I did not always like Ares, in fact, many times I have criticized his selfish methods, but I could never deny Xena belonged with him.

[34] In THE RECKONING (06/106), we were introduced to the blatant attraction between the two. THE RECKONING had much to tell, starting with the fact that Ares respected the agreements of the bet and let Xena go, for the time being. Soon, we were graced with the episode THE TIES THAT BIND (20/120), where Ares' determination truly evolved into an obsession. It was a telling moment when Ares was willing to slay Xena in a spurt of anger, but could not bring himself to do so. TIES was an episode that gave us a glimpse of the true relationship these two shared. Ares was very well aware that Xena's estranged father Atrius was one of her vulnerabilities, and who could be participant of such intimacy if not someone who knows you very well indeed?

[35] From INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207) to TEN LITTLER WARLORDS (32/208), we were finally introduced to a new side of Ares never seen before, a God of War who experienced the liabilities of humanity in his mortal state. We also had a new Xena who was aware of it and heralded in a magnificent moment of tenderness and softening towards him. Because of this, the relationship became a solid one.

[36] We were then taken through a myriad of episodes where our favorite characters interacted and perpetuated the cat and mouse game. Ares, in many instances, acted in his most despicable self, episodes where he epitomized the word Villain, and even in those moments Xena could never ignore him, and in fact still gave us glimpses of her real feelings.

[37] In THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (49/303) we were again confronted with the fact that Xena is the only human being who has the uncanny ability to sense Ares' presence. In SACRIFICE (67-68/321-322), we were lead to believe that their relationship had forever been severed, for surely even his supporting fans disapproved of his actions. This assumption was soon revoked in following episodes. In SUCCESSION (93/503), Ares tried to recruit a new protegee, another obvious scheme to bring Xena back to her darkness. Xena again demonstrated how clever she was, and how deeply she knew Ares when she tricked Mavican into calling Ares for help. In SEEDS OF FAITH (99/509), she had the ability and willingness to kill him, but again she could not bring herself to do so in the same way he could not kill her in THE TIES THAT BIND (20/120).

[38] GOD FEARING CHILD (102/512) was the culmination of many confrontations. Ares openly admitted to his father Zeus how important Xena was to him. From then on Ares took a roller coaster of reaffirmation of Love. In ETERNAL BONDS (103/513), for the first time, Ares openly admitted he loved Xena and tried to help her. We were deliciously indulged with moments of intimacy between them. We had Xena having sexual fantasies with Ares and openly enjoying them. In AMPHIPHOLIS UNDER SIEGE (104/514), Xena unnecessarily plotted to use Ares' help. She used that as an excuse to lure him to her and indulge in some frolicking with the God of War. We had an actual affirmation that she did feel something when she was in his arms at the end of the story.

[39] Another affirmation of Ares' love for Xena was manifested in LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE (109/519), only to bring us to the episode LIVIA (110/520), where Xena herself acted in a jealous manner when she found her daughter in Ares' arms. We were rewarded with a moment of intimacy when Xena kissed Ares a little bit too passionately as an excuse to open her daughter's eyes. In the episode EVE (111/521), Ares acted in his most hurt and spurned self after Xena's constant rejection to give him the son he wanted. In EVE, we had a vengeful and spurned lover trying to hurt the person that caused him so much hurt. The scene where he told Xena "How does it feel to know the person you love the most in this world despises you" clearly explained his own feelings. He wanted Livia to hurt her, just like she hurt him, a very common human emotion. He had the power to physically hurt her, yet he did not. At this point, he loved her too much and it was the same love that caused him to do what he did which was to reveal her to the Greek deities.

[40] Finally, in the episode MOTHERHOOD (112/522), the shipper's theory was corroborated and our loyalty compensated when the God of War committed the ultimate sacrifice to save Xena's loved ones. He gave up his godhood to save Eve and Gabrielle, for nothing in return. Ares' feelings had evolved from desire, to obsession, to unselfish and self-sacrificing love and so had the relationship. In the sixth season opener, COMING HOME (113/601), Xena affirmed her feelings for him when she risked her life to save him. The tenderness at the end of the episode was self-explanatory and the admission that he always got to her only showed that she enjoyed the cat and mouse game as much as he did, AS much as All the shippers did.


[41] From the episode THE RECKONING (06/106) to COMING HOME, we witnessed the development or evolution of these characters. It cannot be denied this relationship possesses the major ingredients that make up a romance of epic proportions, with a complexity and dynamic that enthralled thousands of fans. It does not matter how much the subtexters berate Ares and his dubious motivations, bottom line is this relationship has been validated by the powers that be (TPTB) themselves repeatedly. If TPTB were not interested in pursuing an exploration of this relationship, they could have easily killed the Ares character on many occasions before. COMING HOME was only an affirmation that Ares and Xena are anything but over. The Ideal that Love conquers all has been magnificently depicted in this romance, not to mention the philosophical expressions that have been raised within the relationship itself. We have been part of Xena's character evolution and the many relationships that have been part of her life, but never have any of these relationships been as romantically complex and engaging as the one she has maintained throughout these five years with Ares. XWP has always been about Redemption, and what better way to depict such a positive message than to have the Personification of War itself reaching it for the love of a Warrior Princess?


M. J. Marin M.J. Marin

I am 25 years old living in New Jersey, USA. I am currently working for PaineWebber Inc., and attending The Chubbs Institute, studying Network Engineering. I love to read and write poems whenever the Muse visits me while I listen to my new age music CDs, and of course, my favorite TV show is Xena Warrior Princess.

Favorite episode: THE RECKONING.
Favorite line: Ares: "Wh–why do you continue—to deny us? We had a deal. When we were fighting side by side, it was like we were one....can you tell me you didn't feel anything?" AMPHIPHOLIS UNDER SIEGE; Xena: "I felt Something" AMPHIPHOLIS UNDER SIEGE.
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST.

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