Whoosh! Issue 55 - April 2001

THE WANNABE WARRIOR FOR GOOD MEASURE:
JOXER THE MIGHTY AS SIDEKICK IN
XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS

By Susan M. Schulz
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
2609 words


Introduction (01-04)
Joxer: A Nuisance (05-11)
Joxer: Sidekick in Spite of Himself (12-23)
Conclusion (24-25)
Biography



The Wannabe Warrior For Good Measure:
Joxer The Mighty As Sidekick In Xena: Warrior Princess



Introduction




Gabrielle and Xena plan their escape during Joxer's song
Joxer's detractors accuse him of coming between Gabrielle and Xena, while his fans laud his comedy and heart.


[1] Over the past five seasons, Joxer the Mighty, "wannabe" warrior of the mythic series Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP), has captured the hearts of many viewers for his innocent, bumbling nature, along with his solid devotion to his companions, Xena, the Warrior Princess, and Gabrielle, Amazon Queen and Bard of Poteidaia. However, as many fans as he has earned over the years, Joxer has also earned the animosity of many others.

[2] Joxer fans perhaps best love his "Everyman" personality, for he is the character that most often reflects humanity's innate desire to achieve the unfeasible and strive in the face of obstacles. The fact that the character often fails, or succeeds in spite of himself, has also endeared him to those who might identify with his character and/or predicament. Yet, it is this same ineptitude that has caused others to despise him, for he is not what Xena is, and thus is perhaps seen as being unworthy of traveling with her and Gabrielle.

[3] Joxer, admired for his confessed but ever-unrequited devotion to Gabrielle, which has developed into love over the years, has inspired many Gabrielle/Joxer [G/J] romantics. This same characterization has earned him the hatred of others. Perhaps this is for his perceived role as an interloper. One who poses a "threat" to the position of sidekick to Xena, currently owned by Gabrielle, as well as to the heart of the bard, which is thought by some to belong romantically to the Warrior Princess. The arguments are vivid with the battles fought in all arenas. From chatrooms to web forums, with flame warriors on both sides becoming increasingly angry, they inflict verbal abuse on each other over the seemingly harmless, erstwhile warrior.

[4] Are Joxer's opponents misdirected in their sense of "threat" engendered by this character? Are they "creating" a threat of him when, in reality, Joxer the Mighty has been essentially serving all along as not only a sidekick to both Xena and Gabrielle equally, but also as a yardstick by which we have been able to measure the progress, achievement, and development of the character of Gabrielle?



Joxer: A Nuisance




Gabrielle invents pepper spray after seeing Joxer's reation to pepper
The need for Joxer's presence in some episodes has been questioned.


[5] The opponents of Joxer the Mighty have often complained that the character is more a nuisance than an asset to Xena and Gabrielle. Others cite such topics as his lack of significant character development, his unrequited love for Gabrielle, and his ultimate desire to either be sidekick to Xena, or to have Gabrielle serve as sidekick to him, as reasons to degrade and dismiss him altogether. In any event, because these viewers believe these things, their arguments are worthy of note.

[6] Indeed, the character of Joxer has undergone far fewer changes over the past five seasons than perhaps any other recurring character on the show. While he has experienced many trials and tribulations as part of the adventuring trio, he has remained as a character with innate bumbling and perennial optimism.

[7] Up until his last appearance as a young man, he was still "goofy" in an extremely inept manner. His lack of skill as a warrior, in spite of his eternal desire to be a good one, kept him from his dream. Though the fault for lack of development surely lies with The Powers That Be, these flaws of character have earned Joxer ridicule and, ultimately, dismissal by his opponents, because he has not matured as quickly as the other characters. Thus, many conclude that he is a secondary character whose presence is unnecessary to the show and its development of story. In addition, because he cannot always hold up his end of a fight, one can logically argue that he is a threat to the safety of his two more-capable comrades.

[8] Those who subscribe to the Sapphic subtext of the show, whether that element was deliberately placed there or merely perceived by the subtext-friendly viewer, perhaps most keenly feel the threat of Joxer's unrequited love for Gabrielle. Indeed, there is obviously a great love between all three of the main characters, who have essentially created a "family unit" from their individual lives over the years.

[9] The so-called "subtexters", however, have seen a romantic love being shared by Xena and Gabrielle to the exclusion of Joxer. They have often perceived Joxer's undying love and devotion to the bard as being a threat to the development of that relationship. Furthermore, the series' scenes and episodes have encouraged such an idea of a romantic love between Xena and Gabrielle, thus causing the tagalong Joxer to appear as a possible threat to the development of that relationship.

[10] Whether that threat is real or merely perceived, Joxer has played an arguably strong role in the life of Gabrielle, and in the Fifth Season he was finally making headway toward earning the bard's good opinion. Of course, it might be argued that this situation was effectively thwarted in the episode LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE (109/519). In LOOKING, Xena and Gabrielle were literally put "on ice", and Joxer was set on a course of destiny that would lead to marriage with Meg. However, with the return of Ted Raimi to the cast, bringing promises of "ghostly" appearances in future episodes, and even the possibility that time might be reversed before the conclusion of the series, the wannabe warrior continues to be scourged by the subtext crowd. His relationship with the bard is sure to cause more arguments in the near future.

[11] Ultimately, the biggest mistakes Joxer seems to have made with the majority of "Anti-Joxerites" were his first attempts to replace Gabrielle as Xena's sidekick, and even worse, his suggestion that the Amazon Queen become his sidekick. These attempts were short-lived, and eventually ignored, or answered with a simple rolling of the eyes by the women warriors. However, the very act of wanting to be a sidekick or have a sidekick has made Joxer persona non grata with those who saw his fruitless efforts as an offense unworthy of forgiveness.



Joxer: Sidekick in Spite of Himself




No, really, Joxer!  Sidekick means I get to kick you in the sides!
Gabrielle and Joxer are PhD Sidekicks.


[12] For those who love the character of Joxer the Mighty, the situation can be seen in, more or less, completely contradictory terms to the vision of the basic Anti-Joxerite. To his proponents, Joxer's lack of character development is seen as either a gross oversight of The Powers That Be" or a deliberate measure to preserve his "Everyman" sort of character, in which many see qualities they, themselves, possess. Where Xena is generally seen as all-talented, all-powerful, and rarely in error, most viewers more closely resemble her two companions, who continually make mistakes and learn from them. Therefore, Joxer's bumbling naiveté is viewed with sympathy rather than hostility.

[13] The extreme humanity of Joxer, coupled with his seeming innocence, blundering ways, and his unconditional acceptance by Xena and Gabrielle, are further validations of these characteristics in those who watch. Joxer's ongoing desire to be better in spite of himself is universally shared by all, regardless of personal goal.

[14] Joxer's unrequited love for Gabrielle has become a sore spot for many G/J romanticists, who ultimately feel that the opportunity for the wannabe warrior to earn the romantic love of the bard was lost when time was sped forward at the end of Season Five. Even so, many are indeed glad to see that the character went on with his life and found some measure of love and happiness with Meg. They were gratified to see in EVE (111/521) that Joxer was obviously a far better teacher than fighter in the field of battle, judging by the excellent combat skills of his son, Virgil.

[15] Yet, these concessions are small consolation to fans that feel "shortchanged" by the Gabrielle/Joxer story line, or lack thereof. Even having elderly Joxer undeniably lifted to the ranks of hero by being killed in the defense of a bound Gabrielle was little comfort for those who had been watching and waiting for the wannabe warrior to get his chance with the Poteidaian Bard. Through his self-sacrifice, he might have finally earned the romantic love of Gabrielle, but whether he would have been fully accepted or denied by her is left for fans to ponder. The loss of this opportunity to earn her love is viewed by G/J fans with almost as much contempt as the very attempt is viewed by anti-Joxerites.

[16] Ultimately, Joxer the Mighty should not be, nor should he ever have been, viewed as a threat in any form or fashion to Gabrielle's position or heart. Contrary to the beliefs of both his proponents and opponents, Joxer has actually, in effect, been a "sidekick" for many years in the service of both Xena and Gabrielle, and he has essentially been of no real threat to anyone, literally!

[17] Having come from a family of warlords and assassins, it is not surprising that Joxer would attempt to assert himself into the position of sidekick, or second in command, to Xena. Certainly, he underestimated Gabrielle in the same fashion that he, himself, was probably used to being underestimated. However, with time and experience, he comes to see the capabilities of Gabrielle and learns that his best position in the trio is as a sidekick to both female warriors.

[18] When considering him as a sidekick, certainly the overwhelming perception of Joxer as being inept is undeniable. The basic tenets of his character belong to the realm of "comic relief", a title that ultimately condemns the character to act in ways that result in laughter or ridicule by viewers. However, while some hostile viewers may deem this "character flaw" as a good reason to get rid of him, Xena herself has often put that ineptitude to work for the good of the trio.

[19] Joxer has been enlisted as a full-fledged sidekick by the Warrior Princess many times to help out in a variety of situations, with her plans usually making concessions for the blunders he inevitably falls into, and often incorporating them. For example, in SACRIFICE II (68/322), he is selected to be the one to retrieve the Hind's Blood Dagger for the ultimate dispatching of Hope and Callisto. He is obviously the best for this job because he can be so easily dismissed, and neither of the goddesses, or even possibly Gabrielle, ever suspects Xena's true purpose when she sends him away for committing "yet another blunder". Here Joxer serves as Xena's "secret weapon", and his predictability works to her benefit. In addition, his unquestionable and unquestioning loyalty to the two women is invaluable to Xena as well, thus making him a secondary sidekick to the Warrior Princess.

[20] For Gabrielle, Joxer has been a more-than-willing accomplice and sidekick in a variety of her escapades, from THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER (56/310) to THE PLAY'S THE THING (85/417). While he argues with her almost like a sibling when she tries to tell him what to do or appears to question his skills, in the end he is as willing to follow her orders, as he follows Xena's. In return, she shows obvious care and concern for his welfare and well-being in such episodes as FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), KING CON (61/315), and ETERNAL BONDS (103/513).

[21] Neither the Warrior Princess nor the Bard of Poteidaia looks upon Joxer as merely a sidekick, even as Xena does not consider Gabrielle to be merely a sidekick. He is their friend, and ultimately part of the nontraditional family they have created together based on one all-encompassing and uniting factor: they are all familial misfits, and together they find the acceptance, friendship, and unconditional love each felt somewhat deprived of in their own families. Together, they are a trio, with Joxer's service as sidekick alternating between Xena and Gabrielle, and being equally valued by both women.

[22] Finally, Joxer the Mighty's character development, or lack thereof, should not be misconstrued as a result of the character being a mere "nuisance" to the story of XWP, brought out only for comic relief or when a "fool" is needed to be the butt of a joke. Certainly, the depth of Joxer's character is nowhere near the complexity of Xena or Gabrielle's, but the purpose for that may be seen when viewing the development of Gabrielle from runaway Bard of Poteidaia to capable Queen of the Amazons.

[23] Next to the incredibly strong, incredibly charismatic, and incredibly nebulous character of Xena, the character of Gabrielle had her work cut out for her as far as becoming a warrior was concerned. This very development, which satisfies the general literary concept that a significant change must occur in at least one character of a story, might have been completely overshadowed by the infinite skills of Xena, had it not been for the presence of Joxer the Mighty. By using the underdevelopment of Joxer and his eternal ineptitude as a sort of measuring stick, the progress of the bard could be made more outstanding. By employing Joxer's inabilities as a counterpoint, Gabrielle's achievements no longer paled in the shadow of the Warrior Princess. Instead, she began to emerge as a far stronger, more mature character in the storyline. In effect, Xena is perfect, Joxer is imperfect, and Gabrielle can be seen to go from one extreme to the other in Seasons One to Five.



Conclusion




Somewhere... out there... is my contact lens.
For all his faults, Joxer never lacked heart.


[24] Whether a viewer likes or dislikes the character of Joxer the Mighty, his realized role as a third member of the trio cannot be denied. Certainly, his blunders and ineptitude, and even his love for Gabrielle, can be considered sources of irritation for many viewers, but these same characteristics have also made him the favorite of many others. He is, indeed, a Fool walking innocently through the world, but he is a Fool in the service of Xena and Gabrielle, and so long as they see worth and friendship in him, so it shall be.

[25] Truly, if it were not for his presence, the development of Gabrielle to the ranks of warrior might have been harder to see, and might have been lost on many viewers altogether. He has been a willing and instrumental part of many plans and escapades at the behest of these women, and he went to his grave defending them. He certainly deserves serious reconsideration by those who have used his faults against him, in return for his many years of loyalty and unconditional love for two characters we purport to love so well.



Biography

Susan M. Schulz Susan M. Schulz

Editor, producer, and webmaster for Stryker-Indigo Publications Company, Inc. Author of The History of Lincoln School, and soon to publish two original novels including a romance and a western. In the Xenaverse, she is the webmaster and a contributing writer to The Power & The Passion (http://www.geocities.com/power_chakram). She is a lifetime devotee to Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and, of course, Ted Raimi.
Favorite episode: PROMETHEUS (08/108)
Favorite line:Callisto to Theodorus: "Love is a trick that nature plays on us to get us to reproduce. I want no part of it". THE RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205)
First episode seen:THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (15/115) back in the good ol' days of HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS. Where Sam Raimi leads, I always follow!
Least favorite episode:LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407)




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