Whoosh! Issue 17 -February 1997


IAXS project #050
An IAXS Member Opinion
By Dyann Esparza
Copyright © 1997 held by author
1216 words

Author's Note: This article was originally conceived as a tongue-in-cheek exploration modeled after many of the self help books available on the market today. However, several events occurred that caused me to question my belief system including how I move through the world and the potential effect my actions or non-actions may have. Consequently, this article took on a life of its own while I was trying to sort through a few things. This is written in the first person, since I can only speak for myself.

The Warrior's Path (01-07)

The Warrior's Path:
A Survival Guide for Modern Day Heroes
as Gleaned from Xena: Warrior Princess

"It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero,
but precisely the reverse."

Joseph Campbell
(Princeton, 1949)

The Warrior's Path

You *said* take a little off the top!

Xena starts doing several shows weekly
when USA begins running the series this fall.

[01] It is a Sunday afternoon and I am preparing for the ritual of watching Xena: Warrior Princess. I settle into my seat, checking to ensure everything is as it should be. My phone should not ring, but if it does, it will not be by someone who knows me well. This is my time. What is it about the adventures of a tall, raven-haired, sky-kissed-eyed taciturn warrior and her strawberry blonde, emerald-eyed talkative counterpart that compels me so? What is it about her journey from her dark past toward redemption that resonates for me? Where does Argo go when she is not around for an episode?

[02] I meditate on words like noble, proud, loyal, kind, compassionate and heroic. These are always words I have wanted to claim for myself. I wanted to be a warrior fighting for the good fight. Yet there was nowhere to examine these things. Abstract words like virtuous and gracious would float by like so much dandelion fluff in spring. I spent years studying what they could possibly mean and how they could apply to me. They were nowhere to be examined until the day I started watching Xena begin her adventures.

[03] It began for Xena as it began for me, a realization that the old ways -- the tried and true ways -- were no longer enough. Sometimes, as in Xena's case, the proverbial two by four whacks her over the head. In THE GAUNTLET (#H12), Xena is forced away from the life she knew. In this episode, it is still not enough to be cast out from her army, she believes that the acquisition of some thing (Hercules' head on a platter) will restore her to her position at the head of her army. This exemplifies what I call, in my life, the "life is elsewhere syndrome." If I could just get: that new job, new lover, new car, bigger house, finish school, etc., then, my life would begin. Fortunately for Xena, her thing that would be the key back to her life, had other plans. Defeated but spared, Xena disappeared from the scene of her humiliation. This was the beginning of the hero's journey for her. The beginning of self-achieved submission. So began my baby steps as well.

[04] Xena, as a television character, is compelling because unlike most television shows, not everything is resolved in one episode. Her digressions and mistakes make her all the more human. The greatest virtue is the task of being human (Plato).

If I win, I get to get dressed, right?

Xena is caught unarmored, but not unarmed, in SINS OF THE PAST.

[05] By the time I got to SINS OF THE PAST (#01) as the series premiere, it was becoming clear that this show was cataclysmic. Life is full of unchosen circumstances (but) there are always moments of decision (Jean Shinoda Bolen: Goddesses In Everywoman, 1985, 279). The journey has begun, the path undertaken, and I follow along as willingly as Gabrielle to learn the lessons of a warrior's path. In watching the struggles that each character faces, I can see mirrored the battles I have in my life. While I may not be battling gods and monsters, I am battling for my right to exist, to love whom I want, and my own shadowed demons of depression and apathy. Callisto certainly reminds me of dates that I have had in the past. More importantly, speaking of Callisto, the recognition of responsibility for action/non-action is taken. To paraphrase the infamous villainess herself, I am a painful reminder of what you once were (CALLISTO, #22). The hero is the individual who has battled past personal and historical limitations (Campbell 19).

[06] In rapid succession, DREAMWORKER (#03), THE RECKONING (#06), and CALLISTO (#22) challenge Xena to confront and battle her dark side. Each of these episodes also serve as markers for the trust and relationship developing between Xena and Gabrielle. What of Gabrielle, the character that is the light to Xena's darkness? She too must confront certain dark emotions. Is Gabrielle on a hero's journey as well? Yes, but not a warrior's journey. Gabrielle's development stretches so much more in the second season. She is first confronted with darker desires in the light-hearted romp GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (#28), then the consuming fury of revenge in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29), and of course taking on the mantle of authority while dealing with grief in THE QUEST (#37). A quote that struck me as relevant about heroes is as follows, "A heroine is one who loves or learns to love" (Bolen 279). Xena and Gabrielle exemplify both of those statements, and provide yet another example by which to compare my life.

Did you hear the one about the travelling salesman?

Xena is the meat in an evil sandwich in INTIMATE STRANGER.

[07] What have I learned from the show? In this mortal's life I can only try to be a warrior/hero challenging the monitor of the status quo. To recognize when the old ways are no longer effective and have the strength and courage to change them. That my life is not elsewhere, my life is now, here, to be experienced in all its agonizing glory. There will always be crossroads and decisions to be made at these junctures, but that any decision I make, I take responsibility for. This includes, learning as Xena learned in INTIMATE STRANGER (#31), when to refuse to accept responsibility for someone else's choices. Every event that I have been involved in has occurred for a reason, to teach me a lesson that I could either learn from or wait to reappear again until I do learn it. To love, learn to love, and to accept love. To laugh because everything is not dark and intense all the time. That a fistful of dinars is not worth as much as someone who cares for you. After all, the equation is fairly simple -- what is sacrificed to have something else? What is the cost of the choice made?

The stanza of the hero-bard resounds with the magic of the words of power... The sword edge of the hero-warrior flashes with the energy of the creative force... (Campbell 337).


Joseph Campbell: The Hero With A Thousand Faces (Princeton, 1949)

Jean Shinoda Bolen: Goddesses In Everywoman: A New Pyschology of Women, (Harper Collins, 1985)


Dyann Esparza Dyann Esparza

A woman of mystery.

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