Whoosh! Issue 22 - July 1998
Letters to the Editor

Shelley Sullivan: Agent Of Evil?

Mon, 01 Jun 1998
Subject: Letter to the Editor- regarding Joxer

The debate that never ends continues on...

I just have to say that it blows my mind that people are so unwilling to let Joxer have a chance. Some of my favorite episodes are the ones that many of the HCNB detest, and just because Joxer is in them. The "Joxer Syndrome" article was really the one that sent me over the edge.

Before I get into it, a little background perhaps? I'm a 20-year-old female, I love XWP, I liked it before I saw any Joxer episodes but I didn't start loving it until after he came into the foreground. Most people in my family feel the same way. Those who don't simply don't like XWP- it has nothing to do with Joxer.

I was not a rabid Joxer fan for a while, and I had no opinion on subtext for most of the pre-3rd season episodes I saw. As far as I cared it could go either way; in fact I would have supported a definite relationship between Xena and Gabrielle prior to "A Comedy of Eros". Now... I just can't, because I feel for Joxer so much. Basically, I've been there too many times. I know that the chances of Joxer and Gabrielle ending up together are very slim and I won't push for that. I know how many viewers XWP will lose if that happens. All I want is some recognition and as much respect as a well-meaning bumbler can get-which is DEFINITELY more than he is being given right now. Because I sympathize with this character, it hurts to see him never be given a chance, and to see each attempt that TPTB make to improve him be shot down by so many fans. What also hurts is that so many of us Joxerites (and I know you're out there! I'm on a mailing list with more than 30 of you!!) do not speak up for ourselves, making it look like everyone hates Joxer, and we who do not are alone. Not only that, it makes the Joxerphobes feel as if everyone agrees with them. It reinforces to them that no one likes Joxer and he is on the show just for nepotism. Well I'm speaking up now to tell you that that is not true; we are here, we like Joxer and we want more of him. Not only that, but fans of Joxer are growing in number. We're just quiet, probably because we know that by speaking up we're drawing fire.

I am not against a lesbian relationship, I never have been. What I am against is breaking someone's heart. In the past I'd thought that maybe Joxer needed someone else, a new character, but that idea doesn't appeal to me. Why? Because Joxer's love for Gabrielle is so defining, it is bringing out many more positive characteristics than he'd had before. He still can't fight, but he can be an effective romantic. It would detract from the character to see him just suddenly drop Gabrielle and go after someone else. His lasting love for her is what drew me not just to him, but to the show. Yes, I've enjoyed episodes without Joxer... Just not as much. In fact I often think they're over done, a little too dark, too melodramatic. I have found that, while Lucy and Renee are wonderful actresses in serious episodes, they shine when they do comedy. As does the rest of the cast. I can't stand Ares as a serious character, but he kills me when he does comedy (as in TQIM). Same for everyone else in that episode.

Now as for the "Joxer Syndrome" article... Well, I'll admit that I agreed with the basic foundation for the article. Gabrielle's character does suffer somewhat in the comedy episodes, and some established character traits are ignored. But to blame that on Joxer? I don't think that's right. For one thing, the comedy episodes are farces. No one is at their best in them, often not even Xena. In TQIM, everyone is at their worst. I'll admit, Gabrielle's writing should have been better (I remember thinking "Yeesh, she's not a very GOOD bard, is she?"), but I don't think they were trying for great talent. And everyone has her off-days. Xena was effective in that episode, but she was barely in it. Looking back, Xena was not at her best in CoE either, and these two episodes are my favourites along with "The Xena Scrolls".

Cannot the changes in Gabrielle's character- some of them, at least- be blamed on the Rift? She went through a LOT, and to come through that unscathed is impossible. I always felt that, after her loss of blood innocence, Gabrielle tried even HARDER to keep from killing and violence, and this went too far for her. But it was natural. Gabrielle and Xena made mistakes and I don't think many of them had anything to do with Joxer. So they dumb the characters down somewhat when Joxer's around... It's farce. It happens. You don't like it, don't watch the episode, don't tape it, no one's making you watch it. I stopped complaining about Xena's "Mary Sue" complex a long time ago, after all... I still don't think she has to be "in on" so many historical events, but if those are the episodes the fans like, so be it. I don't have to watch them.

I, too, get tired of seeing Joxer fall on his face. There are only so many times I can see a character show up, threaten the people he's fighting, and promptly get knocked out. Fight scenes which Joxer is in get irritating. I want to see him get in ONE good hit, even if it's lucky. I want to see him learn. I don't want him to change his line of work; everyone has a dream and this is his. But I want to see Joxer gain some credibility.

Someone once said that Joxer cannot gain any skills, because if he did the show would be about him and not about Xena. Yeah, right. No matter how good Joxer might ever get, he will never outrank Xena, and he will never overshadow her or Gabrielle. The writers aren't stupid. They may not do what all the viewers want, but who can please everyone? If Joxer is written out of the show, I and all the viewers I communicate will stop watching. If Joxer gains any abilities, other viewers will stop watching. Well, who can win with that? They've written themselves into a tight spot.

And you've misinterpreted many a Joxerphile, as well. I am a Joxerphile, as is rather obvious. Before Joxer, however, Gabrielle was my favourite character. And she still is. I have never thought of her as insensitive, nor as cruel, nor stupid, nor any of the negative signs that you showed. We are not a mindless collective that believes Joxer is perfect. We are fans, we would like to see him win the heart of the woman he loves, although we do realize how unlikely that is. And, admittedly, I cannot even generalize that all Joxerphiles are hoping for a Gabrielle-Joxer relationship; there are many who are also subtexters. We do not, as one, cry out that Gabrielle is "the Betrayer" like Hope worshippers, for crying out loud!! Joxer doesn't make Gabrielle look bad to me! I think of it as the reverse; Gabrielle is helping Joxer to look better, and not at her own expense. I feel that in some ways the Rift did more damage to how many of us see both our favourite ladies than the Joxer episodes do. My point is, Joxerphiles are generalized and stereotyped in this article, and not very favourably.

"The same Gabrielle, who expressed enough sympathy for Joxer's feelings in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216) to have Xena talk to him, has apparently ruthlessly trampled on his feelings this time. "

Ruthlessly trampled? I guess you've never been in love. Gabrielle can be forgiven right off for her "ruthlessness", because she simply does not know. Joxer made no effort to tell her, and since then, the only attempt he's made was the poem and the necklace. I happen to know that most women who are the objects of someone's affection will not know unless it is brought to their attention; this has happened to me and quite a few of my friends, even when it's been obvious to EVERYONE else. Gabrielle just doesn't know, and if she did, she would NEVER be so insensitive. Most Joxerphiles agree on that point.

"Thus, a sympathetic Joxer is born by selectively diminishing the established characteristics of the bard. Season Three's Syndrome [18] Season three presents the most varied of the symptoms, all of them related to "Joxer-Loves- Gabrielle-But-She-Doesn't-Know-He-Exists-itis". In some circles (mostly enclaves of Joxerites), this is called character development."

You don't have to make it sound like we squat in caves shoving berries up our nose, dearie.

"Duh, Grog, you see Xena yesterday?"
"Yeah! Joxer good! He funny."
"Not only funny! He deep, too."
"Yeah. Pass more berry."
I continue to view this love as character development; for the first time, Joxer is beginning to mature. He has something he places above himself and his own instinct for self-preservation; he has never bragged about anything with Gabrielle, even though he's smooched, fondled, and seen her naked more than once. His bar-room boasting about Xena was juvenile and stupid; his feelings for Gabrielle have shown a growth in him that many of us have been awaiting for a while. His treatment of Gabrielle has rarely been anything but shy hopefulness, "Forget Me Not" being VAST exception (which I will get to later). Gabrielle is inspiring him to make something of himself, to try harder to be a warrior, and this might lead someplace. I hope it will.

"In others (primarily the bard's admirers), it's called character assassination."

I will state again that I am and have always been a Gabrielle admirer. I began watching the show because of her. When I'd seen only one and a half episodes I told all my friends that I liked Gabby. "She's cute", I said. I eventually learned enough about the character to deepen that analysis of her a little. ;) Now I think she's smart, quick-thinking, sensitive, and MANY other qualities. And still cute.

Another thing that irked me, at times violently, about the "Joxer Syndrome" were the constant assumptions on the part of Ms. Sullivan.

"King of Assassins":
"For Joxer to appear noble and protective, an "equal" to the object of his adoration, the bard's innate abilities must be affected. "

No one ever said anything about Joxer being an "equal" to Gabrielle. He caught her completely by surprise coming out of the cell in KoA; the only reason he was able to get her in that cell in the first place was because she wasn't expecting it from him and he, for once, used that to his advantage. Joxer isn't even close to being an equal to Gabrielle. We ain't stupid. We know that.

"Durk, you know Joxer Mighty warrior?"
"He Mighty like Gabrielle!"
"He Mighty like Xena!!!"
"What? No could understand you, Grog, you put too many berry up nose."

"Even her memory is sadly affected, the same memory that enables her to recite stories and tales in public, earning the dinars necessary to provide herself and the Warrior Princess with a crust of bread and a drop of port (as well as the odd loaf of nutbread). Fully in the grip of the virus, Gabrielle is forced to rely on fragments of her memories of Xena in her attempts to escape from the jail cell. "

Funny, I watched this episode just a few days ago and I saw no sign of that. Her memory was affected? Can I get the copy you're watching? 'Cause mine seems to have been edited to make Joxer look better than he does in yours.

"With the affects in abeyance, Gabrielle is able to maintain her patience at Joxer's slighting of her abilities as a bard when he assumes that she's so reduced in circumstances that she's forced to work as a whore in Meg's tavern."

Let's take a look at that differently. Joxer shows up at a place he goes to for entertainment. Look in the corner, there's Meg, like normal. Hi, Gabrielle- Uh, hi, Gabrielle. Geez, what's she doing here?! Well, she sure wouldn't be here for the same reason JOXER is here, so that leaves only one other option. But she COULDN'T do that- could she? What else could it be?

"Reduced in circumstances" doesn't occur to him. All he knows is that Gabrielle is there talking to the woman who looks like Meg, with Xena nowhere in sight.

"Apparently, that kind of employment is fine for Meg, and, obviously, for Joxer as well."

Take it where you can get it? Again, no one ever claimed Joxer was a saint. I always rather felt that the fact that he "gets around" makes his act of "setting Gabrielle straight" (so to speak) in FMN and even in CoE that much more noble. It obviously isn't performance anxiety that is holding him back, but a genuine respect and affection for Gabrielle.

"The Quill Is Mightier":
"This, of course, would never have been possible had Gabrielle not been affected by the virus and her capabilities destroyed because Joxer, "the jerk", would already have been gone. "

Because she should have written "Joxer goes to Meg"? But this is an assumption of Ms. Sullivan's, an interpretation of what she believes Gabrielle is thinking, which is that Gabrielle wanted Joxer gone. And, if she had, all she would have had to write was "Joxer goes to the caves". She needn't have even thought about Meg. Why should she want him gone? He was a friend, company, and someone she could rightfully feel smarter than. She not only showed no signs of wanting to get rid of him, but she even spoke to him civilly and in a friendly way, and at one point took his arm- COMPLETELY of her own volition. It's true that many of the points of view that Joxer gives are so obvious that Gabrielle should have been able to think of them herself. Well, can't we explain this with the fact that after a while of thinking of complex plans, it takes a more simple person to think of the simplest explanation?

I may be a Joxerphile but I'm not blind. I don't deny negative Joxer moments or explain them away; I see them. I saw none in this episode, or at least no evidence of Gabrielle wanting to be permanently rid of Joxer.

"Several symptoms manifest themselves now. When Gabrielle awakens, she's wearing a necklace purchased by Joxer."

Actually it was lying on her midriff, apparently just dropped there when he got back. She then proceeds to pick it up and peer at it. I watched this episode recently.

"She's understandably bewildered, (or possibly fighting down the same reaction she had to Joxer's kissing her in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS [40/216]) and Joxer boasts that he sold his scabbard to buy it for her."

Boasting? The scene went something like this (I know, it's not verbatim, not even close):

Joxer: (shyly picking at a piece of hay or something) I had to sell my scabbard for it.
Gabrielle: ...What?
Joxer: (not as shyly) I had to sell my father's scabbard.
Gabrielle: Joxer. You said you'd NEVER part with that scabbard!
Joxer: Well, you know, Gabrielle, some things in life are more important than OW!!! (this said because Gabby does the nose grab)

I don't think that's boasting. Actually I think he was trying to tell her somehow that she was worth more to him than his scabbard.

"What symptoms do we see in this short scene? Gabrielle has progressed from "insensitive" to cruel, according to the internet Joxerites."

What, huh? Cruel?? No! Never!! Please stop generalizing us! I have yet to speak with ANYONE who thought Gabrielle was cruel in this scene, or at any other time. Some might have said that, but we do not ALL think that by any regards! She just was overcome by the fact that Joxer has essentially SOLD the scroll, and any recognition she might have had for his feelings was nullified by frustration and rage. We all need something to take anger out on, and Joxer's nose seems to heal quite quickly. Sheesh, Xena chakramed him in the chest one morning, and no one gets on her case for that!

"Bitter Suite":
"It was a sad day for the Amazon Nation when the virus infiltrated their territory."

Joxer barged in and tried to undermine Ephiny's authority, did he? Maybe he was wrong in his appraisal of the situation, but that doesn't mean Ephiny was cowing to him or anything. Joxer may be misinformed and not understand the purpose of the purification hut; Ephiny did not agree with him, necessarily, and Joxer doesn't exactly know a whole lot about dealing with royalty OR amazons.

Is it just possible that Xena's attack came so quickly and violently that they were unable to effectively defend their queen? I doubt anyone "stood back" and let Joxer ineffectively try to save Gabrielle; I think things happened far too quickly to get much done. Xena plowed through them to get to what she wanted, period. Ephiny got in a shot before she was felled, Joxer got the same.

"King Con":
"First, Gabrielle describes Joxer as "family". She thinks of him as the annoying little brother who tags along with his big sister and her friends simply because some attention is better than no attention."

Okay, I can't say what I thought, because I missed this episode... But I do not recall anyone telling me that she said that out loud. Especially the "younger brother" part. Telling someone that they are like family to you is telling them not only that you care about them but that they have a special place in your heart and you welcome them in your life. Joxer is not and never will be as close to Gabrielle as Xena, and even he knows that (he proved he was aware of that in "Sacrifice II"). But she likes him and cares for him, whether it's as a brother or cousin or whatever- her intent was not to call him annoying or unwanted, as the author of this piece implied. Sounds like she was so horrified upon hearing Gabrielle even imply that she cares about Joxer that she rationalized it into something she could stand. Lighten up!

And my final issue... "Forget Me Not":
"Joxer certainly knew that Xena would come looking for them, since we know from KING CON (61/315) that Joxer [NOTE from the writer of this letter: Do you mean Joxer, or Xena? I'm confused. As I said, I didn't see this episode so I don't know exactly what you mean] is always on time, so it's self-preservation at work."

Now, personally, I would have hated this episode if not for Joxer- he saved it for me. Otherwise it was just a rehash of all the dramatic episodes of the season, framed around Gabrielle getting beaten up and acting tough to Ares. I was really looking forward to this after "The Xena Scrolls", and was exceedingly let down. But, that's my tastes. If you don't like Joxer in that episode I won't insult you for it... Although how can someone say that HE intruded on a moment between Xena and Gabrielle, when technically Xena was the one who intruded on THEM!

Oh well... But I am angry at accusations towards Joxer like "attempted rapist". That is drastic and uncalled for and shows just how many people are totally unwilling to give Joxer the least amount of respect. Yes, he lied to Gabrielle to get what he wanted, but he himself chose to refuse her before anything happened. He did not know Xena was there- when has Joxer ever learned ANYTHING from past experience (as Ms. Sullivan so often pointed out)? He did not chicken out for fear of what she'd do to him later; he didn't even know if he'd ever see "his" Gabrielle again. He genuinely realized he was doing the wrong thing, and gave up what, as far as he knew, was his one and only chance at ever getting Gabrielle to love him. He didn't lay a finger on her of his own will. Yeah, I admit it, it was leading up to what looked like date rape, and had it continued I would have been very upset- but he stopped it and I think that makes a distinct difference, one that shows some learning on his part. If you were faced with the woman you loved, and realized that you could finally get her to love you in return, would you take the opportunity? The old Joxer would have gone through with it. The Joxer who has grown, however, finally realized why this sort of treatment was wrong and reined his hormones in. That, to me, shows growth. Growth preceded by a breach of trust (but is it on the level of the Gabdrag?), admittedly, but still definite growth.

"It's not enough for Joxer to simply fall on his face once an episode; give him a purpose, and a reason for being there, "a mission", as he says in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204)."

I couldn't agree more! He's been used and misused, and TPTB can't seem to decide if he's beginning to get more competent or if he's just as inept as ever. Even in "Sacrifice II", he couldn't do anything right for the majority of the episode and then suddenly comes up with the Hind's Blood dagger. This would be a lot more credible if we knew HOW he'd managed to do that! Not that I'm complaining; I only hope it's the beginning of a new era of Joxer starting to do things RIGHT for a change.

"Let him get over Gabrielle, and have him appear with a new woman on his arm each time, each of whom brings out something positive or at least different in him."

So Joxer should be the "love-em-and-leave-em" type? I should have seen that suggestion coming, since such dislike was expressed at the "sensitive, '90s kinda guy" Joxer in TQIM.

"Let him develop because of who he is, not by diminishing another character. It is not necessary to make Gabrielle "dull and stupid" to make Joxer interesting and still humorous."

I'm sorry you see Gabrielle as "dull and stupid" in these episodes. I see her as a human, who has flaws as well as attributes. Maybe her attributes are underplayed in these episodes; that's a valid point. But, oh, why must you blame so much of it on Joxer? It just makes me sad, and I'll admit, a little angry, that it is virtually impossible for Joxer to redeem himself to the public eye.

Sometimes I ask myself, after all these episodes that try to develop Joxer, and the results of them, what does he have to to get some respect? Become a better warrior? Fall down less? Brag a little less? Take a beating or two? Become a little more emotionally vulnerable? No, no, no, obviosly none of those. And I finally realized, despite all the "I'd like him more if..." comments that Joxerphobes tend to make, there really is only one answer to that question. Those who hate him are so close-minded that the only way they will ever forgive him is if he is no longer on the show. Maybe they don't even realize that, or maybe they just don't want to stir up too much trouble, but after all of this it's pretty obvious to me. And this has taken it's toll on me... I have never referred to myself as a HCNB, and there's a reason for that. I feel that a HCNB is, among other things, someone who communicates regularly with other Xenites, and I just can't do that, because my liking Joxer immediately places me in a defensive position.

So, am I offended that my oh-so-perfect Joxer has been bashed? No. I realize he's annoying. I just see his good side, too. Do I disagree with the fundamental point of the article, that Gabrielle's character and skills are at times sacrificed in comedy episodes? No. But I don't feel like it's exclusive to Gabrielle- EVERYONE looks like an idiot in the farces. Did I see this article as light-hearted, "tongue-in-cheek" and well done in terms of neutrality? No. I thought it expressed barely-concealed bitterness towards Joxer and made accusations that could only have come from rationalizing any affection Gabrielle might show to a fan-hated character into pity affection. Do I think this letter does a good job of concealing my own bitterness? No. But I had to write SOMETHING, just once.

Rebecca Littlehales

Wed, 10 Jun 1998
Subject: Outrage at the "Gabrielle and the Joxer Syndrome"

I must tell you that I was deeply offended by this article, not only as a Joxer fan but as a Gabrielle fan as well. This author showed absolutely no respect for either of these characters nor a firm grasp on Joxer's character at all. This article was not an insightful essay, but a blatant and undisguised "Joxer bash."

It angers me how with any other character receiving a "bashing" would create an immediate response but such a mean-spirited piece of writing whose sole purpose is to rip down Joxer and twist every good thing he did and mock all the truly noble qualities in this character would be published in Whoosh! of all places.

I must tell you it took an incredible amount of strength not to e-mail her the nastiest letter I could ever imagine, but I restrained myself. I did not want to sink to her level.

I have some thoughts concerning the Joxer-phobes. I can never understand why anyone would want to pick on, let alone "bash" a character like Joxer. He is one of the few "good" men on "Xena" who tries his hardest and never gives up despite his disabilities. There was a time I thought anyone exibitting that kind of behavior would be applauded and encouraged, but then I began to think back to high school.

If you were not protected by a clique or didn't fit into a "group" you fell into the unfortunate binary class of bullies and victims. More often than not you'd fall into the victims category. The bullies were always insecure, low-esteemed, scum-types who needed to put the struggling, overachieving students down to build up their ego. I think the phobes fit into the bully category because they are afraid of being classified in the "victim" category which Joxer often is--look at how many times he gets beaten up.

The phobes also view Joxer as "loser" and are afraid to identify with him, thinking that if they do, they're a "loser" too. What these phobes are really terrified of is not Joxer but they're own insecurities.

Bullies are the most insecure and pathetic people I've ever run into. Deep down they realize they are the real losers. The phobes don't want to face that there is a Joxer inside of them and instead of embracing it, they lash out at the character, who personifies their own fear/self-loathing. So when they "bash" Joxer, they are not bashing him parse, I think, but are projecting their frustration at apart of themselves onto the character.

Kimberly Schure

Shelley Sullivan: Agent Of Good?

Tue, 02 Jun 1998
Subject: Gabrielle And The Joxer Syndrome

I've read [the] article in "Whoosh" magazine, as the title implies. I'll admit my Joxerite credentials and Gabrielle/Joxer relationshipper identity upfront. That aside, I say that you've written an excellent essay. It takes a keen sense of character development and progression of events to notice the sacrifice of one character's abilities for the promotion of another's. Having written dozens of similar essays (relating to western historical evolution) in my undergrad years (and graduating with honors for 2 degrees), your paper would have gotten a university A, hands-down, for its consistency, insight, and originality.

You may be surprised to know that many Joxerites would agree with you. In almost every Joxer/Gabrielle relationship fanfic, Gabrielle never falls in love with Joxer in his present form. He must mature, usually by revisiting his past and acknowledging past mistakes and character flaws. I've seen probably the most ardent Joxer-bashing from people who like Joxer, usually out of frustration with how little his character has progressed. However, what separates the Joxerites from Xenites like yourself is that we see the potential for his change, preferably without any damage to the other characters' abilities, intelligence, well-being, what have you.

So why do I hold a pro-Joxer philosophy in light of his use as a one-demensional plot device? Being a non-subtexter doesn't hurt in swinging me in that direction. And get ready for the commonly-repeated pro-Joxer line (yes, I'm using it), I see a lot of myself in Joxer. Now you're probably thinking, "That means you have an emotional attachment to the character without any objective regard for his use in the overall series." If I wanted objectivity, would I be watching a fantasy show in the first place? Forgive me if I'm being overly terse, but this Xena:Warrior Princess, not Crossfire on PBS. Therefore, I have more leeway to play fast-and-loose with the logic (or lack thereof) because I don't have to take the show so seriously.

Of course having character consistency with Joxer would be a relief. If Joxer does remain in arrested development through the entire series, that would give me a sense of closure. In such a case, I would declare XWP to be a malovent alternative universe and cling to the belief that my chosen fan fiction is the real way the story unfolds. However, as long as there is room for Joxer's growth in the series, and that he begins to acknowledge his lack of warrior skills and starts being himself (maybe roaming the countryside helping people w/o all the braggadocio), then I'll still keep the faith.


Tue, 9 Jun 1998 21:15:41 EDT
Subject: Re: your recent article

First of all, let me say "thank you, Shelly [Sullivan]" for your recent Whoosh! piece: "Gabrielle and the Joxer Syndrome". Although I do not agree with all of [her] analysis (Yep, I'm pro-Joxer), I must say that your article has been the most literate in providing reasons for not liking the character. I found myself listening to your arguments that you put forth. I did not like his treatment of Gabby in "Forget Me Not", either. TPTB really need to sit down and figure out a way to let Ted Raimi's character grow, because its getting harder and harder to defend him (Joxer, not Ted). I would like to see him in tragic circumstances, like losing his brother, not because I want bad things to happen to him, but because I want character development.

Mary Tisera

Wed, 10 Jun 1998 08:04:55 -0400
Subject: Re: The Joxer Syndrome

Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed [Shelley Sullivan's] article in the June issue of WHOOSH.

It was a delight to read such an astute analysis (albeit tongue in cheek) of the decline in writing and continuity 90% of the time Joxer appears. It is a pity. He could add a great deal to the Xenaverse if given good writing.

M. Miller

Not Evil, Not Good, Just Got It Wrong

Wednesday, June 03, 1998 10:02 AM
Subject: Letter to the Editor

I notice a civil war being fought between Xenites called "The Joxer War" being discussed in the Letters to the Editor section of Whoosh! issue 21 and an article by Shelley Sullivan "Gabrielle and The Joxer Syndrome" in the same issue. and would like to present my views.

Let me say at the start I had heard there was a difference of opinion over whether Joxer's character should be in the XWP series and had no real strong opinion either way, except I did not want him booted out for a trivial reason like "I just don't him". I did not really like the character as he first was presented in the series; but came to like him by the end of the second season. Now I am not fond of his character; but, I believe the blame is due to poor scripting, a characteristic prevalent throughout this third season. His character, like many others, were changed during the season. I am not trying to convert anyone to stop disliking Joxer. There are many people we interact with every day we dislike, so having a dislikable character on XWP makes it more real life. I just want to call attention to what I think is responsible for the disappointing season, and I feel Joxer is neither the cause or the catalyst.

I do not believe, as Ms Sullivan asserts, Gabrielle's character, or any other character, was dumbed-down to accommodate Joxer. Her article, admittedly written tongue-in-cheek, is entertaining but really describes a symptom and not the disease: poor scripts and editing. The many inconsistencies Ms Sullivan pointed out can be added to many more inconsistencies, mistakes and shoddy plot-devices we've seen this third season.

The XWP series is seriously ill, and it won't be cured by tossing out Joxer like Jesus in the Biblical story cast out demons from an inflicted man into a herd of swine as they ran over a cliff. Using that analogy and the analogy that Joxer is an outsider to the world of Xena and Gabrielle and Dostoyevsky's The Possessed,the ills of the show will not be gone after Joxer leaves any more than mid-eighteenth century Russia's ills were after Verhovensky left. The Xena: Warrior Princess series has serious writing problems, and that I believe is the cause of the series' lack of performance, not Joxer's character.

Several major characters have been afflicted in the serious-to use medical analogy, the show's major organs are damaged:

Callisto wasn't a shadow of herself this season. Instead of being cunning and driven, she was just "going through the motions". She'll probably remembered by many late-coming viewers as the one who always had rocks fall on her or as the goddess of rockslides.

Autolycus lost much of his punch as he became a reformed wimp. The Raimi/Tapert producer team could have used him in a snipoff as an ancient prototype of a James Bond-type operative/ladies man instead of their Spy Game.

Caesar was a competent warrior in Destiny. Now he is a pedestrian warlord who parrots "Divide and Conquer" so you'll recognize him.

Ares was a wily sinister villain who became an incompetent punching bag who just quits when he gets tired of being thrown around.in the third season. Even Gabrielle can beat Ares up now.

These characters weren't all diluted to improve Joxer's performance-weak scripts were the cause.

The show is schizophrenic. The series began, I feel, as a spoof of the sword-and-sandal genre, then tried to become pseudo-historic with the Xena scrolls tact. Now it has become a cartoon or comic book fantasy or mystic warrior show and will probably change to another type in its fourth season.

Joxer's character has not grown during the course of the show's run. He got worse this third season. Before he could fight and hold his own for awhile. Now he rarely strikes a blow, except maybe to himself. The scripts train us to believe he is incompetent. There is nothing wrong with Joxer a good script would not correct. In "The Quill is Mightier..." Joxer can barely read, yet in the subsequent "Forget Me Not' he reads Gabrielle's scrolls. That is inconsistent scripting.

I remember when I did not prefer Gabrielle and Salmoneus. Then the stories gave them better attributes and motives and now they are favorite characters. As I said before, I did not prefer Joxer at first; but when his role expanded during the second season, I came to enjoy his character. I wonder if many fans would have had a good impression of either Lucy or Renee' as an apewoman in "Femmes, Fins and Gems".

I hope I've given you something to think about. I don't expect to change anyone's opinion on Joxer as a character. I do think his departure would not improve the show by that action alone. I don't believe any other character is being changed for Joxer's role.

Nicholas Nayko

Fri, 12 Jun 1998
Subject: Letter To the Editor

I disagree with the Joxer syndrome. What Gabrielle has is not the Joxer Syndrome, but "Vitamin Xena."

People around Xena tend to want to be like her. When Gabrielle is with Xena, she solves things in her own way. However, in "King of Assassins", she tries to solve a problem as she thinks Xena might, not as she would normally try herself. Gabrielle tries to become Xena, and Joxer becomes the sidekick.

As an unabashed Joxer fan, I am insulted by the implication that we are engaging in character assassination upon Gabrielle. Yes, Gabrielle is insensitive by not knowing that Joxer is in love with her. But the author engages in a bit of equivocation upon the word 'insensitive'. Gabrielle is an actively sensitive person. However, if you are unaware of a person's feelings, you are by definition passively insensitive. That is all that it means. It is just a state of knowledge, not an attitude.

Did "The Quill" denegrate Gabrielle's writing abilities? Absolutely not. Was the scroll to blame for the things that went wrong? Yes. Consider this. The scroll acted very much like the monkey's paw. The monkey's paw gave three wishes. But those wishes were granted in the worst possible way?

There is no way that you can conclude that writing "Joxer goes to Meg" would have caused Joxer to disappear. Because all of the other writings went badly wrong, it is safe to assume that this too would have gone wrong as well.

Gabrielle is also inexperienced at writing fiction. Writing fiction is different from writing non-fiction. I'm not saying that Gabrielle could not write fiction. There was nothing wrong with her writing in this episode, it was merely twisted by a cursed scroll. Xena does come up with a seemingly obvious solution. But many writers need to have something pointed out to them to get through something. Solutions often do not seem obvious to the one who needs the solution!

As far as Gabrielle hiding the scroll in Joxer's scabbard, it wasn't 'disrespectful', however, it was in no way Joxer's fault that the scroll disappeared after that. It wasn't a terribly bad idea, however, Gabrielle took a risk that backfired. It also wasn't disrespectful to read Gabrielle's scrolls to her in "Forget Me Not." I was surprised that anyone would think that it was, it had not even ocurred to me.

I also find no reason to think that Joxer's coming clean at the end of "Forget Me Not" is anything other than simple honesty. There is no reason to think that it has anything to do with fear of Xena.

As I said, I am an unabashed Joxerphile. The author seems to think that we go about insulting Gabrielle. I have not seen any of this. It has been my experience that Joxer fans are very supportive of all of the characters on Xena. I have seen Gabrielle being insulted on many forums, but not by Joxer fans.

Rob Lent

The Joxer Wars

Sat, 13 Jun 1998
Subject: Letters to the Editor

After reading Ms. Robillard's fascinating, well thought out and impassioned editorial in the latest issue of Whoosh! regarding the "New Joxer Wars" I felt moved to respond. Not only did she make several valid point concerning the interpretation of the character by many fans, but also expressed a very real concern about the latest outbreak of hostilities on newsgroups, chatrooms and mailing lists. It is a disturbing trend to say the least, particularly after having survived the first round of Joxer Wars with more than a fair share of virtual bumps and bruises.

Now, that said, I feel I should mention that I am a Joxer fan, have been since the character was introduced. As such I have my own perspective on the reaction of many Joxer fans during this latest outbreak. It can sometimes be hard for those who dislike the character intensely to understand the loyal opposition (and vice versa, admittedly), but I think it should be mentioned that those of us who have chosen to "out ourselves", so to speak, as fans are often on the receiving end of a lot of anger that is, to us, nearly inexplicable. Joxer fans have, and to some degree this continues, been treated as if they were the intellectual inferiors of their fellow Xena fans. I've certainly received my share of emails that addressed me as either slightly mentally impaired or have questioned my right to refer to myself as a feminist.

I don't deny that Joxer fans have undoubtedly engaged in name calling and flame-throwing with the best of them, but very rarely have I so much as heard of one resorting to a sort of intellectual elitism. The theory seems to be that one cannot be a Joxer fan and have a modicum of intelligence, and as with all stereotypes it is both widespread and sadly misinformed. Once again, let me assure everyone reading this letter that Joxer fans by and large are articulate, bright, thoughtful adults, and a great many are female fans who would define themselves as either feminists or as supporters of the women's movement.

It may come as a bit of a shock to some, but very few Joxer fans that I've met have fit the description of "hormonally overactive 13-16 year old white males", which seems to be the omnipresent description. Indeed this misconception has been, at least in part, encouraged by both mass media and TPTB themselves in their talk of reaching new demographics and younger audiences. The notion that the only reason for the inclusion of the character is to draw in the young male crowd may have some small basis in fact, but if one actually meets the fans it simply has no basis in fact. If TPTB intended Joxer to appeal to this specific audience they've badly miscalculated, indeed Gabrielle's ever-shrinking BGSB and Xena's somewhat less than probable stunts seems to have more effect on their viewership by this age range than an appearance by Joxer.

So, one myth tackled, many more to go. There are no end to the strange mythos cropping up about what both Joxer fans and phobes are "really" like, who comprises their ranks, etc. Just as Ms. Robillard pointed out, one of the most prevalent is that Joxer phobes' ranks are entirely made up of Lesbian subtext fans. This is just as maddening a misconception as the abovementioned discussion of the supposed intellectual level and maturity of Joxer fans.

Let me state clearly and for the record that I have met and talked to both straight and gay Joxer fans and phobes, male and female, young and old, and of every race imaginable. Appreciation of subtext and dislike of Joxer do not necessarily go hand in hand, and should not be assumed to under any circumstances. As a subtext fan as well as a Joxer fan, and the newly elected vice-president of J.E.S.S.S. (Joxer Enthusiasts Supporting Sapphic Subtext), I personally see no reason why the two elements of the program cannot function smoothly in conjunction with one another. Indeed, it seems to me that when they do we have some of the most beautiful and fulfilling episodes of Xena. Consider "Been There, Done That", an episode I think most folks, on either side of the debate would agree worked quite well as a comedy and an episode with enough subtext and Joxer moments to satisfy both camps.

In addition, as much as I would like to claim this phenomenon has ebbed lately, the demonization of both the character and the actor has continued from previous Joxer skirmishes to the present online battles. Everything from criticism of Mr. Raimi's acting technique (which I do believe is a valid area of discussion), to discussions of group walk-outs at his convention appearances have graced the mailboxes, usenet archives, and chat rooms across the internet. It is one thing to lead a campaign against a character, quite another to do so against the actor who portrays them. This may well be the sticking point of many of the most heated of posts, and certainly the cause of so much righteous indignation on the part of Joxer fans everywhere. This is not to say that the fans have been or are simply the innocent victims in these outbreaks of war; but I do believe that in many cases the defensiveness on the part of Joxer fans is justified.

This notion of course goes hand in hand with the "Great Conspiracy" theory that has been posited by many phobes as a means of a) vilifying TPTB for "daring" to sully "their" show with a male presence (for their own nefarious reasons, of course), b) conceiving of reasons behind Ted Raimi's presence on the show in the most insulting and mean-spirited terms possible, and c) explaining away through some sort of mental contortions, the rather inexplicable (to the phobe at any rate) affection and regard with which everyone in the cast seems to hold Mr. Raimi. Perhaps the most insulting notion, however, is that the Joxer fans are somehow either willing participants in the "Great Conspiracy" or mindless dupes to it. Of course, as is the nature of all true conspiracy theories, the exact point of and participants in it are far from clear, but the gist seems to be that TPTB have been pressured to include either Mr. Raimi specifically (the nepotism bogey man rears its ugly head here) or a male presence in general in order to undermine the feminist ideals, and subtext friendly environment of the program.

Should anyone attempt to argue that if one pays any attention to Raimi/Tapert projects since the original "Evil Dead" film the same names appear time and time again, including Joseph LoDuca and Bruce Campbell; or that not every fan of the program is necessarily in favor of a "grrrls only" or "women good/men bad" direction for the show, they are dismissed as part of the conspiracy. As you might imagine, arguing against this kind of thinking can be downright frustrating, if not maddening. One can only say, "I'm not a part of this!" and be answered with, "Yes you are, you simply don't know it." so many times before throwing their hands into the air and leaving the dicussion in disgust.

But let's set aside all of this, including the reasons behind Joxer's presence on the show, the nature of what is and is not funny (a slippery slope of an argument if ever I saw one), and all the other minute points over which both sides have bickered near incessantly for the past two years. It seems to me what is really important here is to remember that each and every fan of this program is an individual with her or his own feelings, views, and thoughts. There is not "right" or "wrong" when it comes to discussing either a television show or the characters on it, simply differing opinions. The one thing many individuals on both sides of the debate are losing site of is that whether one agrees or disagrees with someone else's opinion they should always treat that person with respect. At times the level of impolite, if not downright rude messages directed at individuals via the internet is horrifying. Would the participants be so willing to make barbed comments or speak with such obvious contempt to another if they were standing right there in front of them? I should hope not. So why then is it so rampant in cyberspace?

It's difficult to say precisely, but it is not something against which we are powerless to act. Far from it. All that is required here is that both sides of the discussion really stop to consider the feelings of others before posting, remember that respect must be given to be received. We are, or at least should be, a family within the confines of the Xena Universe, let's try to remember to treat each other that way.

Ellie Deyneka
VP of J.E.S.S.S. (Joxer Enthusiasts Supporting Sapphic Subtext)

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