Whoosh! Issue 13 -
October 1997


IAXS Project #328
By Richard LaFleur
Copyright © 1997 held by author
5526 words

Introduction (01-04)
     The Core Quest (04)
Xena (05-22)
     Xena's Quest for Identity (05-08)
     Xena's Quest for Redemption (09-12)
     Xena's Quest for a Sense of Community (13-16)
     Xena's Quest to Define Her Relationship to the Cosmos (17-19)
     Xena's Quest for the Father (or, the Non-Quest) (20-22)
Gabrielle (23-43)
     Gabrielle's Quest for Identity (23-26)
     Gabrielle's New Quest (27-28)
     Gabrielle's and Xena's Mutual Quest (29-36)
     Gabrielle's Initiations (37-41)
     Gabrielle's Larger Community (42-43)
Callisto (44-58)
     Callisto's Core Quest (44-46)
     Xena as Callisto's "Soul-Surrogate" (47-52)
     Callisto's Quest to Destroy Her Own Soul (53-58)
Joxer (59-65)
     Joxer's Quest for Identity (59-65)
Conclusion (66-67)

Xena: Warrior Princess Quest Update


Come on, Argo! We've almost outrun that title!

Season Three begins the week of 29 September!

[01] For some television shows, three seasons is a long time. For others, like Xena: Warrior Princess, three seasons are not nearly enough. Since the time it all started with Xena's introduction to us in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, things have changed for Xena and the people around her. Along the way, many of these peoples' hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations have somehow touched us as well.

[02] Why is that true? Xena: Warrior Princess is only a television show, right? Well, yes and no. Xena: Warrior Princess is one of the select few television shows that does more than simply entertain us. The Powers That Be (TPTB) have often seen fit to weave into their stories something else -- something better. Sometimes -- not always, but sometimes -- Xena: Warrior Princess stories speak to us in a silent language. It is a language that speaks directly to our heart and soul. It is a language we understand although we ourselves may never have handled sword, chakram or staff. This silent language is the language of myth. It is the language of our own day-to-day heroism and quests.

[03] Heroism and quests lie at the very heart of Xena: Warrior Princess. With the second season drawn to a close, and as we look forward to a third season, it seems to be a good time for a "core quest update." Where are Xena, Gabrielle, Callisto and Joxer on their road to achieving their own core quests? Where do they go from here? What might it all mean to us?

The Core Quest

[04] First, what is a core quest? For purposes of this discussion, a core quest is the fundamental story behind the story. It is the thing that often invades our own dreams as well as those of our heroes. Quests like these include finding one's identity and working out one's relationship to our parents, relatives, friends, and to our community in general. They also include defining one's relationship to the Cosmos: life, death, God/gods/Transcendence, and the afterlife, as well as others.


Xena's Quest for Identity

Got a light? I haven't been on the cover of 'Cigar Smokers' yet...

If you throw something at Xena, you'd better not mind if she throws it back!

[05] Xena received her first call to the hero's quest when the warlord, Cortese, threatened Amphipolis [DEATH MASK (#23)]. In answering the call, she broke free of the requirements placed upon her by her society, both as a woman and as a potential victim of the warlords and bandits that ran rampant. Her major core quest at that time was a quest for identity. The initiation through which Xena achieved her identity was her defeat of Cortese's raiders. After passing through this initiation, what Xena found was herself -- that is, she established her own identity. She became the Lord Protector of Amphipolis and Environs. Although Xena achieved her quest for identity (and routed Cortese along the way), the price she paid was a heavy one. Her mother and the community she had sought to protect shunned her!

[06] Later, as we saw in DESTINY (#36), Xena fell victim to the lure of revenge, power and conquest. In effect, she found herself a second time. This time, however, it was not pretty! She became "The Destroyer of Nations." She truly became "the Warrior Princess." Then, through Hercules' intervention, she was able to realize that the path this quest had led her to travel was not the road she wanted to be on. In effect, she found herself yet a third time.

[07] Xena's search for identity hits home for all of us. We all want to know what we are and where we are going. We all want to feel confident in our choices -- a confidence that comes from our grounding in ourselves. Xena's change of identity harkens back to the many paths we travel in our own lives. Many of us change not only jobs, but also entire careers. In the mythic sense, these changes are just a reflection of the fact that we are all on a quest for our own identity.

[08] Is Xena's third identity her last one? This is a hard question to answer. Just because Xena seems to have found herself again, it does not necessarily mean that she has finally achieved her quest. It is often clear that she feels that she has much to make up for from her past. Finding oneself and finding satisfaction with oneself are two very different things. This leads us to another of Xena's quests -- her quest for Redemption.

Xena's Quest for Redemption

[09] What does Redemption mean to Xena? Stated very simply, Xena was bad and she wants to be good. She needs to absolve herself of the guilt she feels for the many evils she committed during her second identity.

[10] How will Xena be able to achieve Redemption? It is certainly not by merely confessing her sins. She tried that in A NECESSARY EVIL (#38) and everyone around her ignored what she said, Callisto included. This was a very important point. It suggests that, no matter what else happens, the only one who can truly forgive the "Xena of the past" is the "Xena of the present."

[11] Xena's quest for Redemption works at two levels. At her first level, Xena needs to fight evil in the land. She will have to continue to uphold the cause for good by helping to put down the many warlords, bandits, and other despicable types unfortunate enough to cross her path. However, there is also a second level to this quest. Because Xena internalized her own evil, she will have to continue to battle the remnants of the evil still inside her.

[12] Xena's road to Redemption is a difficult and winding one. This is not to say that she will ever succumb to Ares' temptations to lure her from her quest. Xena seems to have outgrown him. However, as we have seen on a number of occasions, the path she follows now is still full of obstacles, obstacles that lead her dangerously close to the very edge. Luckily for Xena, she has a patient and loving guide along the way to keep her on the straight and narrow: Gabrielle. Achieving her quest for Redemption will mean finally gaining a sense of peace to absolve herself of the deeds of her past. Can she ever complete this quest? Only time will tell.

Xena's Quest for a Sense of Community

Have you all heard about AMWAY?

Xena confesses her 'crime' to an indifferent community

[13] Xena, now in this next (read "later") phase of her life, has entered on an entirely different quest in addition to her quests for identity and Redemption. She needs to regain her sense of the community she first helped and then left behind. Xena needs to be rejoined with the society that has barred itself from her. She also needs to regain (or at least be reconciled with) her son Solon.

[14] Xena may already have achieved part of this quest. She seems to have been fully reconciled with her mother [SINS OF THE PAST (#01)]. She also saves Amphipolis again, this time from Callisto [INTIMATE STRANGER (#31)]. At the end of INTIMATE STRANGER there is plenty of celebrating and a nice group hug, but most of the Amphipolis villagers hold themselves apart from Xena. It seems that the villagers are willing to put up with Xena's saving them a second time, but they are getting more than a little tired of finding themselves in these situations in the first place! The good citizens of Amphipolis are not yet prepared to accept Xena as one of their own - they are just glad not to be dead!

[15] If Xena sees this quest only as regaining her place in Amphipolis, she might never succeed in her goal. Amphipolis is just too wary of Xena for her to return to that fold, at least for now. While this might be problematic for Xena, it does not mean that she has failed in this quest. It is all a matter of scope. Xena's "community" is no longer just Amphipolis. Xena's horizons have broadened in the years since Cortese's attack. Her community now extends across Greece and beyond. Her core quest for a place in this extended community really means finding her place in history. She is well on her way to doing just that!

In the meantime, Xena's son Solon is still out there. She has yet to reconcile herself with him, so she has not completed this core quest yet.

[16] At some point in our own lives, many of us feel ourselves to be on a "sense of community" quest too. Using terminology from humanistic psychology, we are searching for feelings of Belongingness and Love. Just as for Xena, our own lives shape our quest's scope. Our community might be anything from one other special person to the millions of an entire nation, or beyond.

Xena's Quest to Define Her Relationship to the Cosmos

[17] Xena is on yet another core quest that no doubt strikes home for any number of us: finding one's relationship to the Cosmos. By "Cosmos" I mean life, death, the afterlife, and the gods or whatever Transcendence might exist beyond standard physical reality. Xena's relationship with most of the Greek Pantheon is generally rocky at best and outright confrontational at worst. Usually the "worst" parts involve Ares and "rocky" often means Hades.

[18] There are times, though, when something else, something very special, is at work. Two events come immediately to mind. Both of these events center on vitally important experiences in Xena's life. We saw the first of these in REMEMBER NOTHING (#26) when the Fates helped Xena realize that she is exactly what she needs to be. We saw ("witnessed" might be a more appropriate term here) the second such event in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29). I am referring to Xena's prayer for Gabrielle addressed to Anyone Who Might Be Listening. Nonetheless, this core quest is still an open road for Xena.

[19] Most of us have experienced this quest, too. If you say there is no Transcendence beyond normal reality, then you have already defined your relationship and you have achieved your quest. On the other hand, maybe you feel that there really is something else out there. This feeling might find its expression in religion or in a feeling of awe and connection to the universe around you. If this is so, then you are sharing yet another quest with Xena.

Xena's Quest for the Father (or, the Non-Quest)

This won't hurt a bit.  Oh, heck, I'm lying.  It will hurt like Tartarus!

Xena binds the wounds of the man she thinks is her father... and maybe he is!

[20] Some have seen another core quest for Xena. The quest I am referring to here is the "quest for the father." In this quest, one seeks to come to terms with one's relationship with one's father. This quest is generally based upon the psychological tension arising between the father and the maturing son. In TIES THAT BIND (#20), we see what, on the surface, seems to be Xena's version of this quest. In that episode, she meets someone who appears to be Atrius, the father who abandoned Xena and her mother many years earlier.

[21] Her anguish around this "reunion," however, does not reflect a true father quest. In the classic father quest, the goal is to defeat and eventually replace the father. In its full blossoming, the son's goal is to kill the father and marry the mother, thereby assuming the father's role. (Not too Freudian!) We see examples of this in other myths. We see examples of this in other myths. Cronus, for example, maims his father, Uranus, at his mother's request, and eventually takes over in the role of King of the Gods. In another, perhaps better known, example, Oedipus kills his father, marries his mother, and assumes his father's throne.

[22] This sort of behavior is nothing at all like Xena's. What we see in TIES THAT BIND (#20) are Xena's hopes to reconcile with a father she loved and lost. This is really an extension of Xena's quest for community. This part of THE QUEST for her sense of community is also an open road for Xena.


Gabrielle's Quest for Identity

[23] When Gabrielle started out following Xena in SINS OF THE PAST (#01), her core quest was to find her own identity. Much has changed since she first imposed herself upon Xena. Gabrielle has grown, matured, married! We even had a chance to watch Gabrielle's own initiation. In an Amazon ceremony [THE QUEST (#37)] she was offered and accepted the mask to become their Queen. She may have given it back later (or, at least "put it on hold"), but she did go through her initiation. Gabrielle's marriage to Perdicus [RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29)] was another initiation. There might have been more -- Gabrielle has been very busy!

[24] In the mythic sense, Gabrielle has now found her identity and is happy with what she has become. She is a bard. She is confident and self-assured. She can defend herself reasonably well (a non-trivial skill, considering the places Xena takes her)! She is a true and loyal friend. She has come to know love from Perdicus as well as Xena. She is also Xena's chronicler and biographer, keeping her records in what have come to be known as the Xena scrolls.

[25] Gabrielle is now far more mature and self-sufficient than she was before, even compared to the first season's episodes. Just think of how she pushed herself through the physical and emotional trials of dealing with Xena's death (and resurrection) in DESTINY (#36) and THE QUEST (#37). I doubt that the "early" Gabrielle could have been able to deal with all of that so courageously.

[26] Gabrielle has become the Caregiver. Her ongoing quest, as an extension of her quest for identity, is to help others. She will continue to give of herself with compassion and generosity. She will always be aiming to give without harming herself or others. (Self-defense does not count!) We saw these traits come out clearly in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (#24) and THE PRICE (#44) to name just two of many examples.

Gabrielle's New Quest

I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. Levine!

Gabrielle has embarked on a Quest for Costume Changes throughout the seasons.

[27] So what is Gabrielle's core quest now? The question seems to be "Where does Gabrielle go from here?" I believe Gabrielle's major core quest now is a variation on one of Xena's themes. Gabrielle needs to come to terms with her place in the "community."

[28] Gabrielle's quest to find her place in the community means at one level that Gabrielle needs to work to better define her relationship with Xena -- the two of them being a mini-community, if you will. Early on, their relationship was one of mutual dependence. Xena depended on Gabrielle to keep her firmly on her path to Redemption. She still does, for that matter. As we saw in THE PRICE (#44), it was Gabrielle's persistence that finally shook Xena out of "survival mode" and allowed her finally to realize her potential as a Warrior Leader against the Horde.

Gabrielle's and Xena's Mutual Quest

Ow!  Gabrielle, quit poking me in the eye!

Gabrielle wipes a tear... or what she thinks is one... from Xena
in one of many touching campfire scenes,
this one from CALLISTO (#22).

[29] Gabrielle still depends upon Xena too, but much less now than before. With Gabrielle's newfound independence, "dependence" just is not going to cut it anymore. Earlier on, Gabrielle was dependent on Xena to help guide her (Gabrielle) on her own quest for identity. Gabrielle has achieved that quest. Of course, she will continue to grow, but she will grow from a strong base. Now, as Gabrielle's earlier dependence melts away, she will no doubt continue to become increasingly independent. Gabrielle and Xena will need to pass through what could be a rocky "independent" phase in their relationship. Hopefully their relationship will evolve to "interdependence."

[30] In their earlier dependent relationship, each was directed, nurtured and sustained by the other. The current stage in their relationship's evolution has been toward "independence": I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; and I can choose. We have seen Xena express her independence many times, often at the expense of Gabrielle's feelings. As we saw in THE PRICE (#44), Gabrielle is feeling independent too, and she is occasionally colliding with Xena. These collisions will lead to problems until (and unless) they achieve the final stage in their relationship: "interdependence."

[31] This evolution could be problematic for both of them. It is one thing to have a relationship defined by mutual dependence, as it was earlier between Xena and Gabrielle. It is another thing when one side of that mutual dependence (namely, Gabrielle's on Xena) starts to disappear. This is not a bad thing. Actually, it is a very good thing. It just means that the relationship has to evolve into something else.

[32] When Xena and Gabrielle finally achieve interdependence, their relationship will be more like this: We can do it; we can cooperate; and we can combine our talents and abilities to create something greater together. That is not, however, where Xena and Gabrielle are now! We sometimes see them working together, but interdependence is not at the foundation of their relationship. All one needs to do is review any of the Xena/Gabrielle confrontations we see in THE PRICE (#44), THE EXECUTION (#41), or in any number of other episodes, to see evidence of that!

[33] Gabrielle's newly emerging independence will not be the only cause of any rift opening between her and Xena. No, the root cause will be an out-of-focus mutual interpretation of their relationship. Xena, because she is what she is, sometimes belittles or outright ignores Gabrielle's best efforts. Xena's own assertiveness and self-reliance, echoing her days as an army commander, probably cause this.

[34] There is nothing wrong with Xena being self-reliant. The problem is that the result often flies in the face of Gabrielle's eagerness to be accepted on her own new terms: as a mature and independent adult with important things to contribute. Nobody likes to be ignored, especially when that same person is on a steep learning curve of self-reliance and emotional independence. That is exactly where Gabrielle is now. Unless Xena becomes more sensitive to Gabrielle's feelings in this matter, Gabrielle might choose to be away from Xena for a while. The problem with that approach, of course, is that this quest toward interdependence must be achieved together!

[35] As I said earlier, Xena is not out of her own dark woods yet. In many ways, it is still the light that shines off Gabrielle's face, ala RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29), that helps Xena find her own way through that darkness. Xena and Gabrielle will have to work together if they are ever to achieve their new quest. The good news is that both will grow because of this quest.

[36] The question, however, is this: Is Xena flexible enough (mature enough?) to help this relationship evolve from "dependence" to "interdependence?" We shall have to wait and see.

Gabrielle's Initiations

[37] We spoke earlier of two of Gabrielle's initiations: her initiation as Queen of the Amazons and her marriage to Perdicus. Initiation rites are extremely important in the mythic growth of the individual. They mark one's passage from one psychological level to another. In the mythic sense, an initiation rite portrays one's death to what one was and one's subsequent rebirth as something new and different.

[38] In general, an initiation rite is a door. On this side of the door is the individual, the autonomous Self. On the other side of the door is the individual as part of something greater then the Self. In effect, these initiations mark the transition from a quest for personal identity (the Self) to THE QUEST for a place in the community.

[39] As I mentioned earlier, two major events in Gabrielle's life were initiations. One of Gabrielle's initiations was her marriage ceremony with Perdicus. The marriage rite marks the death of the individual as a self-contained Ego, and the individual's rebirth as partner with the spouse in a special mini-community. Gabrielle participated in the rite and literally kissed Xena goodbye. Of course, this all came tumbling down with Callisto's treacherous murder of Perdicus.

[40] Later, in her initiation as Queen of the Amazons, Gabrielle was offered the chance to solidify her participation in a different community, the community of Amazons. Before this occurred, as is the case with many societies, Gabrielle was more of an "honorary Amazon", a sort of "Amazon in Training." This rite offered her a permanent place in that society.

[41] Gabrielle performed the rite, then refused the participation. One might say that she simply deferred her position temporarily to Ephiny. Nevertheless, her refusal of the call to this quest was very real. It points out Gabrielle's priorities. Her priority was to her relationship with Xena, and the mini-community the two of them have been forming.

Gabrielle's Larger Community

I have this strangest sense of deja-vu!

Gabrielle returns to her home town
in THE PRODIGAL (#18).

[42] Like Xena (indeed, like many of us), Gabrielle is also searching for her own voice in history. In this sense, hers turns out to be a very modern quest. Rather than carving out empires (or working to see that empires are not carved out), Gabrielle has a far more subtle role. As a bard and as Xena's chronicler, she is shaping her present and future with information.

[43] Gabrielle has grown and matured. She has much to offer not only to Xena, but to all of us as well.


Callisto's Core Quest

[44] Callisto's core quest provides us with a very different challenge. We usually think of quests as being positive and broadening. There is nothing positive or broadening about Callisto. Callisto is truly an anti-hero. By "anti-hero" I mean someone who has internalized a quest that is fundamentally counter to whatever truths the rest of us hold to be "right" or "sensible." Callisto's archetype is that of the Destroyer. She is perfectly willing to have her personal "dragon" (Xena) destroy her as long as she can achieve her own metamorphosis by killing Xena too.

[45] On the surface, it looks as though Callisto's quest is simple: destroy Xena (more specifically, Xena's soul) at any cost! However, I do not believe that this is the limit of her core quest. To examine the core, we have to dig deeper. If we examine things below the surface (and play a few games with mythology along the way), we come upon a slightly different view.

[46] We can all agree that Callisto's obsession with Xena is so total that all Callisto can think about is Xena's complete and painful destruction. Xena is Callisto's entire universe -- the sum total of her own existence -- the totality of her very self! Everything Callisto does is a part of this totality. Even the supposed respite we see when she "helped" Xena in A NECESSARY EVIL (#38) was only a trick to get close to Xena.

Xena as Callisto's "Soul-Surrogate"

I *hate* doing interviews!  Except when they're done by
that cute WHOOSH! guy!

Callisto demands a price for her assistance

[47] Now, the "totality of one's self" -- one's defining principle -- is often thought of as being one's soul. Therefore, it seems "reasonable" to say that Xena has become an external surrogate for Callisto's own soul! In fact, I would say that Callisto's internal soul has long since withered away. In the mythic sense, the only soul she has left now is Xena.

[48] If the reader can see even the possibility of accepting Xena as Callisto's soul-surrogate, then some interesting mythological/psychological implications come to light.

[49] What, then, is Callisto's core mythic quest? I would say that Callisto is on a quest to destroy her own soul! Callisto said that she wanted to destroy Xena's soul. By mythic extension, Callisto is also saying that she is out to destroy her own soul too. In the end, that would mean wiping out the very meaning of her own existence! As such, Callisto becomes much more than just an antagonist. Callisto is truly an anti-hero.

[50] More specifically, Callisto is an "anti-Gabrielle." Gabrielle's quest with Xena is to achieve a mutual sense of community, and, consequently, help Xena with her quest for Redemption. Callisto's quest, on the other hand, is to destroy Xena and end any chance for Xena's Redemption! [Refer to Bret Ryan Rudnick's article, "An Interview with R. J. Stewart" in Whoosh!, Issue #09, June 1997 for a similar, though less mythic, discussion of "Callisto as the Opposite of Gabrielle."]

[51] However, even if Callisto was ultimately successful in destroying Xena, it could never bring her any real satisfaction. After all, how much satisfaction can you get from destroying your own soul?

[52] This train of logic (a broadly used term in this case!) leads us to another interesting question: Can one ever destroy one's own soul? There is the suggestion of an answer to this in INTIMATE STRANGER (#31).

Callisto's Quest to Destroy Her Own Soul

You say I'm not a natural blonde?!  That is sooooo mean!

Do we see a tinge of sorrow from Callisto after Xena's 'confession' scene

[53] In INTIMATE STRANGER (#31), Callisto (in Xena's body) prods Gabrielle to kill Xena (in Callisto's body). On the surface, it is an interesting plot twist. If we dig a little deeper, however, we find that there is more.

[54] Callisto's greatest joy should be to be looking into Xena's eyes as she thrusts the killing blade into Xena's heart! Why, then, would she want to have that much fun passed off by trying to have Gabrielle do the deed for her? Could it be for the elegant strategy of having Xena killed by her closest friend? Such a strategy is not only very dangerous but ultimately would be very frustrating for Callisto.

[55] We know that there is a very good chance that Gabrielle's skills and emotions are not up her succeeding in killing Xena/Callisto. In a face to face match-up against Xena, Gabrielle would certainly come out the loser. Even if Gabrielle were to surprise Xena/Callisto while she slept, there is little chance for success.

[56] First, Callisto knows that Gabrielle is scarcely capable of such an act. In RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29), for example, Gabrielle was still flush with rage and grief over Callisto's murder of Perdicus. Nevertheless, she could not bring herself to kill Callisto. Second, the closest Gabrielle ever had to surprising Xena was when she finally hit Xena with her staff in A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39). One missed attempt on Gabrielle's part would only alert Xena and make her even more dangerous to Callisto. Callisto had to know that her plan to have Gabrielle kill Xena would easily be thwarted. All Callisto would have succeeded in doing would be to make things more difficult for herself.

[57] If Callisto ever could get to the point of killing Xena herself she could just as easily revisit her original ploy. She could get a poison arrow and shoot Xena from ambush, as in THE GREATER GOOD (#21), then watch her slowly die. Callisto's continued extension of her soul out to Xena has made that approach impossible for her. In the mythic sense, she cannot kill her own soul. She has to find someone else who can! She wants Xena to suffer. She wants her dead. However, (mythologically speaking, of course) Callisto cannot be the one to kill her.

[58] Callisto is still on her core quest. She needs to destroy Xena's soul. However, if Callisto cannot destroy Xena (Callisto's own soul), then those close to Xena are in dire peril. With Callisto's being immortal now, she should prove to be Xena's nemesis for some time to come!


Joxer's Quest for Identity

Look, Xena, leave the singing to me.

Joxer is once again confronted with having to deal with Callisto

[59] The way I see Joxer in the core quest is this: he is not really on the quest he thinks he is on! On the surface, Joxer thinks he is on a quest to make the world safe for, well, him. However, he continually wavers between thinking of himself as "Joxer the Mighty" and "Joxer the Mild." In the core quest sense, Joxer thinks that he is on a quest to achieve harmony within his version of society, the quest for a "sense of community" mentioned earlier. The reason that Joxer can never seem to get a focus on just what all this means (as exhibited from his vacillation) is that this is not really this quest at all!

[60] Joxer is really back where Gabrielle started out long ago. He is on a quest to discover his own identity. Every now and then, Joxer stumbles (often literally) over his identity, but he always ends up missing the point. He may even have passed through any number of "trial by fire" initiations that should have turned something on in his brain, but did not. (Hormones maybe? Too many? Too few? Wrong ones?) Unless he figures out what he really is, he is going to be merely "Joxer" all his life.

[61] Joxer might very well change (read "find his own identity") through his feelings for Gabrielle. [It is interesting how Gabrielle seems to be the catalyst in so many of these core quests!] Joxer's identity is there, buried deep (probably very deep) inside him. As Gabrielle says to Joxer at the beginning of FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (#40), "Someday you'll find out what it really means to be a hero."

[62] Joxer's feelings for Gabrielle might be just the thing needed to allow his facade finally to melt away. From Joxer we have often seen, and no doubt will continue to see, spontaneous acts of kindness emanating from a good and gentle soul.

[63] Meanwhile, however, Joxer is stuck in a bad spot. For the humanistic psychology buffs out there, Joxer is desperately trying to get a foothold on stage three of Maslow's "hierarchy of needs": Belongingness and Love Needs. Until and unless he is able to achieve this level, the higher stages of the hierarchy (4: Esteem and Prestige Needs and 5: Self-actualization Need) will be forever out of his reach.

[64] In the meantime, Joxer tries to give the impression that he is riding high at stage five (Self-actualization). However, since he is not really there, he cannot quite pull it off very convincingly, not even to himself, and not for more than a few minutes at a time! Every now and then, though, his facade cracks completely. We saw this happen at the end of FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (#40) when Joxer admits, "I don't know what I am anymore." We saw another example at the end of COMEDY OF EROS (#46) where we catch a fleeting glimpse of the "real" Joxer.

[65] The bottom line for Joxer, unfortunately, is that his feelings for Gabrielle are not by themselves enough for him to change in any permanent way. It will only be when he feels belongingness and love (from Gabrielle? from Meg? from Argo?!?) that he will be able to make any substantial and long term behavioral change. This change in behavior will then signal Joxer's finally coming to terms with his quest for identity. It will not mean that he has achieved his quest. It will just mean that he has finally figured out what quest he is on!

I think I just sat on my knife.

Joxer the Dejected fights back a tear at the conclusion
of A COMEDY OF EROS (#46).


[66] We can examine a television show on four levels. On one level, the show tells a story: a beginning, a development, and an end. On another level, a television show is a business enterprise complete with stars, production staff, conventions, action figures, collectibles, and the like. Of course, without good stories, and the occasional subtext, the business enterprise quickly shrivels and dies. Another way to analyze a TV show is by seeing it as a sequence of real events. This allows us to study the show's historical life and time, including laws, customs, dress, and weapons, as well as the lives and personalities of the show's characters.

[67] Xena: Warrior Princess, however, does something that few other television shows do. Xena: Warrior Princess allows us to look into yet a fourth level! At this level, the stories talk to us in a different language. This language is the language of symbols, of metaphors. It is a language that does not use words. This language speaks directly to our own experiences, hopes and dreams. It speaks to us in the language of myth. We understand that language even if we cannot always give voice to it. Very few television shows ever try to speak to us in that language at all. However, when it is at its best, Xena: Warrior Princess does, and it does it very well.

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