Whoosh! Issue 68 - May 2002

DID WE SAY VIOLENCE?
By Xiomara Suro
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
2507 words


Introduction (01-03)
Xena in Chains (04-05)
All Hung Up (06-07)
Three Times Lucky? (08-09)
THE DELIVERER (10-12)
Who Is To Blame, Anyway? (13-14)
GABRIELLE'S HOPE (15-16)
MATERNAL INSTINCTS (17)
THE BITTER SUITE (18)
How Low Can You Go? (19-22)
Fourth Season (23-24)
Seasoned Lightly (25)
Season Six (26-27)
Violence and More Violence (28-30)
Articles
Biography



DID WE SAY VIOLENCE?



Introduction



Whoa!  She *is* tall, even without a head!

Gabrielle sees the headless body of her friend.


[01] I was sitting at my computer, cup of coffee in hand, reading some commentaries about the end of Xena. To my surprise, one of the major things people complained about was how brutal Xena's death was. I agree that it was a bit over the top, but this is not something new on this show. The violence against our lead characters has been very prominent on the show since day one.

[02] Walk down memory lane and reflect on this a bit. On the second installment of the Hercules trilogy, THE GAUNTLET, Xena's armor is stripped off and she is forced to walk down a double line of men who mercilessly pound on her and leave her for dead. Now, tell me, that is not a bit on the harsh side. The reason Xena got that preferential treatment: she dared to save a baby.

[03] This was Xena's first step toward becoming a better person. This gauntlet was an indication that the path to being a good and thoughtful person was paved with many "hard knocks," no pun intended.


Xena in Chains

[04] In the first season of Xena, in THE RECKONING, Xena stands in the middle of a room chained to two walls. Her tormentors, townspeople, enter the cell and proceed to whip her. Xena then goes off into a place created by Ares, in which Ares tries to seduce Xena into returning to him. Apparently, in this case, we are to assume that a good beating is the equivalent of a good seduction.

[05] I am not including in this article those injuries or physical violence that are part of Xena's fighting. Those injuries are part of doing her everyday job and they come with the territory. What I am more concerned with are those moments where brutality toward our lead characters were unnecessary.


All Hung Up



Oh, I'm just hangin' out.

Xena is crucified for the first time in DESTINY.


[06] With that said, we move on to the second season and to a very defining moment in Xena history: Julius Caesar and the cross. It could be said that this moment is part of Xena doing her job. If you are a pirate and are caught, you have to pay a price, but breaking Xena's legs was a bit over the top. I know and I do understand that this was a common practice, and that in a very brutal and painful way they were showing some kind of mercy to the condemned prisoner. Nevertheless, I still found it harsh, for at this time in Xena's history she thought she was in love with Caesar. Perhaps that is the price you have to pay for love.

[07] In a way, I was thankful to The Powers That Be (TPTB) because when we see Xena being tied to the cross, we see her in her cotton shift and not in the clothes in which she was captured. We also see some bruises that she did not have before. This leads me to believe that Xena was beaten while in the custody of Caesar's men and at least we are spared that image. Again, brute force is the instrument used to demonstrate and emphasize a change in Xena's life.


Three Times Lucky?

[08] For me, the third season was the most disturbing and brutal season of them all. At this point, I am going to take a sidebar and get on my soapbox before I continue. I could have totally done without several of the episodes in this season. I have problems when a show uses a pregnancy when the actor portraying the character is not pregnant. I did not think it was necessary for Gabrielle to get pregnant and have a child as a way of creating not only a rift between the leads, but as a form to bring evil into the world. There were a multitude of different ways to accomplish both ends.

[09] The idea of using a pregnancy as a way to boost ratings is, in my belief, totally over the top. The show usually ends up with a child and, on many occasions, the child is set on the back burner with little if any thing to do. Now that I have said this, I will get off my soapbox and continue.


THE DELIVERER

[10] Let us take a closer look. In THE DELIVERER, Gabrielle, true to form, meets a young man whom she considers interesting, forgets about everything else, and follows him. Caesar's men catch Gabrielle and this man. Caesar, being the great and wonderful man he is, condemns Gabrielle and her male friend to the same fate to which years earlier he had condemned Xena -- that is, the cross and breaking Gabrielle's legs as a reminder to Xena. Only half of it is accomplished because Xena stops Caesar from breaking Gabrielle's legs.

[11] Gabrielle continues to follow this young man and finds herself in a situation where she ends up killing a person. It could be said that it was self-defense, but nevertheless she did kill someone and by doing so, she lost her blood innocence and became a murderer, just like Xena.

[12] However, TPTB were not happy with all this. Gabrielle had to hit rock bottom and while Xena was trying to fight evil. Gabrielle was raped by evil at evil's altar. Talk about total violence committed against our lead characters!


Who Is To Blame, Anyway?



Hey, this isn't a curling iron!

Gabrielle kills for the first time in THE DELIVERER.


[13] Again, at this point I have to take a sidebar. Most people have blamed Xena for what happened to Gabrielle in THE DELIVERER and, in a way, Xena was responsible for what happened. If Xena had not had so much hatred for Caesar, she would not have gone to Britannia and nothing would have happened to Gabrielle. At the same time, people have to take responsibility for their actions and Gabrielle is not innocent of blame.

[14] Had Gabrielle not been infatuated with Khrafstar, she would have been close to Xena when they landed in Britannia. Caesar's men would not have caught her. Again, had Gabrielle been close to Xena when the battle started or even at the medical area, she would not have been at the temple and would not have been forced to kill. Both women have to carry the burden of their actions.


GABRIELLE'S HOPE

[15] We move on to GABRIELLE'S HOPE. Xena is fixated with killing Gabrielle's child, Hope, because she is evil. Sorry, but that does not fly with me. No matter how evil (and children are not evil) you think a child might be, that is no reason to kill a child. Talk about violence! Can we say child abuse?

[16] To save her child, Gabrielle is forced to lie about the death of her child. This is something I would definitely have done to save my child from a crazed woman who wanted to kill it, even if that person was my best friend or my partner. More forced violence on our characters.


MATERNAL INSTINCTS

[17] Still not satisfied with all this, in MATERNAL INSTINCTS, TPTB have Hope kill Solan and then they have Gabrielle kill her own daughter. With this, Gabrielle has now become a bona fide cold-blooded killer. She has just committed the ultimate crime: she has killed her own child. Talk about the ultimate child abuse.


THE BITTER SUITE

[18] MATERNAL INSTINCTS was merely warming up the engine. By the time we get to THE BITTER SUITE, we get a taste of true domestic violence. Xena, grieving for her dead son, blames Gabrielle for his death. She drags Gabrielle half way across the countryside and tries to throw her off a cliff. This leads to both of them going over the cliff and more violence against our characters.


How Low Can You Go?

[19] In a few episodes, Gabrielle has gone from an innocent, kind-hearted person to a murderer, child abuser, and battered woman. How much lower could Gabrielle go? TPTB had not finished with Gabrielle. To top it off, they add betrayal to the list.

[20] In THE DEBT, Gabrielle betrays Xena. Her betrayal causes Xena to be captured and, in the end, Xena ends up killing the same person she had set out to kill. We are told by TPTB that Gabrielle's betrayal was based on jealousy, as we find out later in FORGET ME NOT. Nevertheless, Xena killed the Green Dragon as an act of revenge for what he did to Lao Ma. It was just plain cold-blooded. The crowning jewel on this was that she lied to Gabrielle about it. Our favorite characters are shown to us during those episodes as very unlovable and unsympathetic characters.

[21] By now, both our characters are very dark. After all of this, later statements that Gabrielle has a pure heart sound unreal. It is true that Gabrielle does not have as dark a past as Xena, and that the darkness Xena must control is not as deep as Gabrielle's. However, Gabrielle's crimes are just as hideous as Xena's. Xena has killed many in her past, but Xena tried hard to protect her family, while Gabrielle killed her own daughter.

[22] With this said, I need not continue and beat a dead horse. On a parting note, did I mention that I did not like the third season?


Fourth Season

[23] In the fourth season, the violence goes back to Xena and TPTB take vengeance on that. We have Xena thrown hog-tied into a pit of rats. We also have a guest bitten almost to death by crabs in LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN. In THE WAY, Xena is brutally maimed, mutilated, and cut up. The images of that fight scene between Xena and the evil god were so gruesome that as much as I fought to get the episode back, I still have trouble watching it.

[24] I know the question that comes to everyone's mind at this time is that if I disliked THE WAY so much, why did I help bring it back? The answer to this question is very simple. I believe in the liberty of speech and the liberty of people to watch and believe in what they want. I have the liberty to turn the show of if I do not like it, if it offends me. I have the liberty not to buy a magazine whose writing and pictures offend me. That is my right and believe me I do exert it. I have the privilege to express how I feel about something that I do not like. Those are my comments and articles. For I do not believe that one group should dictated to the world what the world should see and not see. That is the reason why I fought to get THE WAY back. With this said, let us move on.


Seasoned Lightly

[25] Season Five was a good, mild season. There was no unnecessary violence toward our leads. Perhaps because Lucy Lawless was pregnant, they spared both the actor and the character from those types of scenes, for which I was most grateful.


Season Six



Famous bat impressions

Xena gets the stuffing beaten out of her in WHO'S GHURKAN.


[26] However, that did not last long. In the fourth episode of the sixth season, WHO'S GURKHAN, we were shown a very battered, tortured Xena. We even saw the whole torture process, something we had not experienced before. However, TPTB did not stop there. In THE ABYSS, Gabrielle was the main course meal to a bunch of cannibals. How much more physical pain and agony were these characters supposed to endure to keep TPTB and the viewing audience satisfied?

[27] I have purposely not touched on the crucifixion scenes in Season Four (IDES OF MARCH) that were so very painfully presented and another gruesome example of more violence toward both of our characters.


Violence and More Violence

[28] After all this is said, what is the bottom line? The bottom line is very simple: violence against women has been presented on this show from the beginning. We have seen it and even accepted it in some way or the other. We have come up with excuses for it and even, as cruel as it sounds, embraced it. Then, why are we so upset at the way Xena ended? After all, considering the prior incidents of brutality against our leads, the way Xena ended seemed to be just about par for the course. There was very little else left that TPTB could have done to the characters they had not done before.

[29] By protesting about how Xena ended her days, we sound a bit hollow and a bit on the late side. Maybe she might have found a less violent death if we had protested the abuse of women from the first season and not waited until the end of the series to protest and be outraged.

[30] As I sit and look back at six years of a great show, I feel sorry that I, just as so many others, simply accepted the violence as part of the show and did not state how I felt about it from the first time I saw it. Maybe if I had said something sooner, it might have changed the way Xena ended. However, of course, quite possibly it might not have changed a thing. At least then, I would be able to say with a clear conscience that I tried to do something about the unnecessary violence against women portrayed in the series.


Articles

Xiomara Suro. A View of Xena: Warrior Princess. WHOOSH #42 (March 2000)
Xiomara Suro. A Pregnant Action Hero: What a Concept. WHOOSH #58 (Jul 2001)
Xiomara Suro. Why This Ending. WHOOSH #59 (Aug 2001)

Ms. Suro also writes reviews for the Whoosh episode guide.

Biography

a woman of mystery Xiomara Suro
Xiomara Suro (Beboman) was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After retiring from the military and a ten-year stint in law enforcement, she went to hide in Nevada and now works in the surveillance department of a casino in a Nevada hotel. When she is not writing short stories, poetry, or commentaries for Xena episodes, she enjoys riding her Harley-Davidson in the company of her husband "Wolfman". She is the mother of two and the grandmother of two.


Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) and IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)
Favorite line: Xena: "Be Nice". THE GREATER GOOD (21/121)
First episode seen: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) (after a bad spill on a Harley)
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

 

 

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