Whoosh! Issue 47 - August 2000


By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
3523 words

Intro (01-02)
Goddess Of Love? Or Nooky (03-09)
Trouble at Home (10-14)
Aphrodite As Emma Peel (15-29)
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (30-32)
Back To Basics (33-36)
Back To Bonehead (37-44)
Development At Its Best (45-48)
Never Say Never Again (49-51)

Aphrodite: Oh, My Goddess


[1] One of the most popular recurring characters on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, Aphrodite has appeared in some 15 episodes on both shows. Brought vividly to life by Alexandra Tydings, the Aphrodite character has done what Joxer and many gods have not: survived.

[2] The character has also developed quite well over the years, even after suffering setbacks in several bonehead comedies. This article will examine the character and how, over time, Aphrodite has evolved from just another self-absorbed god into a very sympathetic character.

Goddess of Love? Or Nooky

'Aphrodite Sings Unrequited Love Songs', not available in stores.

Diving into those tublar waves in THE APPLE.

[3] Aphrodite debuted in the second season Hercules episode THE APPLE (H30/217). It is the force of the character that makes such a strong instant impression. Ingeniously created as a "surfer babe", Aphrodite is not only shapely and beautiful, but she has a charisma that is impossible to resist.

[4] As we learn in THE APPLE, Aphrodite is no dumb blonde. Iolaus first encounters Aphrodite while on the beach. The goddess of love appears in a clamshell, evoking images of "Venus on the half shell". Iolaus has been "selected" to judge a beauty contest and has to decide who is the most appealing: Aphrodite, Artemis, or Athena (pity this incarnation of Athena was forgotten entirely in the sixth season of Xena).

[5] There is more at stake than a beauty contest between vain gods, though it takes Hercules to figure this out later. Two kingdoms are at war; one worships Athena, the other Artemis. Hercules later deduces that Aphrodite is fostering the rivalry so, in the end, she can walk in and have temples built to her after the war is over. Aphrodite feigns ignorance of the scheme, but Hercules tells her, "I know you. You're not as dumb as you pretend to be".

[6] In the end, the scheme is foiled. Aphrodite has been established as a character who is beautiful, crafty, and who makes mischief to achieve her own vain ends. Mortals are clearly pawns in her schemes.

Exposing the dangers of chaffing

Aphrodite has been able to stop war by showing her assets.

[7] Aphrodite's vanity and lack of concern for her responsibility are further demonstrated in her next appearance in the Hercules episode LOVE TAKES A HOLIDAY (H40/303). Aphrodite does not like the "work" required by a goddess of love and is bored by the numerous petitions and requests of her followers. Rather than simply remove love from the world altogether, she instead works an "anti-lust" spell on women alone. As she explains to Iolaus, "Men still want it, women couldn't care less". Iolaus asks her why she just did not end love altogether for everyone, but Aphrodite said there would be "no fun" in that.

[8] As Aphrodite seeks a different career path (huntress, wisdom, fighting hero) she encounters Hephaestus, the deformed god of fire and the armorer of the gods. Hephaestus has had a crush on Aphrodite for some time, but he has withdrawn from the affairs of mankind and gods because he is thought of as ugly. Aphrodite tells him she knows quite well what it is to be judged by appearance alone. By the end of the episode, the two are together as a couple, a relationship that lasts (with bumps from time to time) until MOTHERHOOD (112/522).

[9] As an additional note, throughout this episode, Alexandra Tydings refines her "Valley Girl" delivery of Aphrodite's lines to the level we have come to love and expect from this character. Aphrodite also has no problems "telling it like it is" with regard to the general nature of love and lust. She is quite honest about that, and this honesty in her character is another appealing aspect.

Trouble At Home

Put this around the neck of your graphics editor and you'll know where he is at all times -- like, duh, as if you need to know.

Aphrodite makes Joxer a hero in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS.

[10] In addition to being the goddess of love, Aphrodite is a mom. We meet her son Cupid in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), the first Xena episode in which she appears. Aphrodite and Cupid are at odds. Two rival kingdoms (different ones from THE APPLE) are not at war but are joining together when the son of one and the daughter of the other are wed. After this alliance, one of the kings plans to knock down one of Aphrodite's temples because it blocks his view of the ocean. Aphrodite is not pleased, but Cupid wants the alliance to take place because he wants the "true love" of the neighboring prince and princess to be consummated. Aphrodite has words about love and lust.

[11] Aphrodite does not really believe that love is more than thinly disguised lust, but Cupid objects to this. The end result is that, in order to keep the young couple apart, Aphrodite casts a spell on Joxer to make him a hero who will woo the girl away from her intended. At the very least, Aphrodite reasons, Joxer will unwittingly break up the couple. Gabrielle's problem-solving skills coupled with the true love of the prince and princess win out. Aphrodite loses that match.

[12] Just because Aphrodite and Cupid may have philosophical differences does not mean Aphrodite does not love her son. In fact, her concern for him "hanging out with the wrong crowd" brings Hercules into the situation in the Hercules episode THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER (H44/307). Cupid is growing up and away from his mother. He is no longer content to just do what he is told, and he has fallen hard for a mortal woman, Psyche.

[13] We get some sense of what Aphrodite, and likely the other gods, think of mortals when Aphrodite tells Cupid, "Mess around with mortals all you want -- that's what they're there for. But whatever you do, don't fall in love". Aphrodite's tone suggests that she herself may have fallen for a mortal in the past, only to be left heartbroken by the brief span mortals live compared to the immortality of the gods. Later in the episode, Aphrodite ages Psyche into an old hag to try to sway Cupid from loving her, but this does not work. Cupid still loves her.

*knock* *knock*  Hey, is anyone HOME?!

Aphrodite tells her son 'Don't be stupid, Cupid!'

[14] Her will thwarted, Aphrodite gives in, but does get her way to an extent. She cures the aged Psyche by giving her ambrosia, making her immortal. So solving the mortality problem itself has negated her initial complaint about her son loving a mortal. Aphrodite is, indeed, no dumb blonde.

Aphrodite As Emma Peel

The new 'leather bondage barbie' coming to a store near you...

Aphrodite in a catsuit in REIGN OF TERROR.

[15] Until MOTHERHOOD, the episode that develops the Aphrodite character better than any other would have to be the Hercules episode REIGN OF TERROR (H55/318).

[16] King Augeus, who apparently has not been very stable all his life, has gone totally off his nut and thinks he is Zeus. As a result, he has rededicated the local temple, formerly belonging to Aphrodite, to Hera. This does not sit well with the goddess of love, who has other plans.

[17] Meanwhile Hercules and Salmoneus are seeking Palamedes, stable master to Augeus and a man who, all his life, has looked after the king and kept him out of trouble when he became "unbalanced". Salmoneus wants to cut a deal for manure and needs some medical treatment for a bee sting from Palamedes' daughter, so this is how the characters all come together.

[18] The king is really far from reality at the moment. He has painted some rocks silver and is throwing them as thunderbolts. He has freed his "people" (which turned out to be the local livestock) from bondage and now the cattle are loose. Aphrodite still has revenge on her mind since losing her temple to "cow face" Hera.

[19] Aphrodite confronts King Augeus but does not harm him. She sees he is definitely sick in the head and lets it go at that. Augeus believes Aphrodite is his daughter, chides her for wearing clothes that are too revealing, and leaves the temple to go about his business of being godly. Aphrodite redecorates while he is gone.

[20] Hercules is now loaded with problems. Augeus had always been eccentric, but his latest fantasies have made him downright dangerous. He hurt Palamedes earlier, made the people suffer by releasing the livestock, ordered the death of an old man who did not work hard enough to rededicate the temple to Hera. The people want Hercules to kill the king. He cannot do that, but he must do something.

[21] Aphrodite does not really care about Hercules' problems. She has got her temple the way she wants it. "It's important to have one's priorities in order," he tells her sarcastically, but for Aphrodite, she is the priority.

[22] Palamedes explains his troubles are more with Aphrodite than they are with the king. He makes these complaints, unaware that Aphrodite is present. He says that for years the people have faithfully worshipped Aphrodite and have given her generous offerings. They have asked her to help them with their king problem, but she has provided no help.

[23] Aphrodite reacts angrily to this complaint, but as Palamedes explains his case, she relents. At first she is defensive: "Let's see you try to keep the whole world in bed and out of trouble". But soon she also says, "It takes a lot of guts to tell a goddess when she's wrong. I respect that". Aphrodite now shows an interest in the local mortal problems.

[24] Later in the episode, Palamedes runs afoul of loony "Zeus" and is killed. His daughter pleads for Aphrodite to help, but Aphrodite says, "I'm sorry. If you wanna marry a prince -- that I can do. But this is -- totally out of my league". Aphrodite is owed a favor by Hades, however, and places a protective "aura" around Palamedes to keep his spirit safe until nightfall.

[25] Hercules finds Aphrodite crying and expresses surprise that she would grieve over a mortal. "He respected me -- for what he saw below the surface," she responds, and adds, "Did you think I don't have feelings? Maybe you don't know me as well as you thought you did". Indeed, Aphrodite has shown hints of being quite clever before, and she is well aware of what most people think of the goddess of love: a nice package but not too bright.

[26] As the episode progresses, Aphrodite distracts King "Zeus" Augeus long enough for Hercules to formulate a plan. While doing so, Aphrodite herself is captured and imprisoned after Hera shows up, but Aphrodite gets herself out of trouble. In the end, Palamedes is restored to life and everything works out for the best.

[27] At the end of the episode, Aphrodite remarks, in a foreshadowing of things to come, that she and Hercules make a good team. Hercules replies that it is so, and he that he is also glad to see another side of Aphrodite. "Which side is that?" Aphrodite asks coquettishly. "You IN-side," Hercules answers.

[29] It is a pity the Aphrodite character does not develop much again until MOTHERHOOD but instead is relegated to bonehead comedies, with rare exception.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

[30] Aphrodite next appears in the Xena episodes THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER...(56/310) and FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318). Although classified as bonehead comedies, these episodes also reveal some additional aspects of the Aphrodite character, as well as help establish the relationship between Aphrodite and Gabrielle that will become crucial in MOTHERHOOD.

Ooph!  I was hoping for a soft landing!  This guy's HARD!

Aphrodite and Ares become powerless in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER.

[31] As QUILL opens, vandals who have spray- painted Xena-related graffiti all over the place have defiled one of Aphrodite's temples. Aphrodite is hopping mad and seeks revenge by casting a spell to make everything Gabrielle writes come true. This starts out innocently enough, but things get dicey when Gabrielle inadvertently relieves both Ares and Aphrodite of their godly powers.

[32] In a hilarious exchange between Aphrodite and Ares, made all the better by a superb acting job from Alexandra Tydings and Kevin Smith, Aphrodite deduced that the whole series of events was set in motion by Ares himself because he wanted Xena distracted and out of the way. It was Ares who was responsible for defiling Aphrodite's temple. "You figured that all out by yourself, did you?" Ares asks. Aphrodite responds with, "Hey, don't believe everything you hear about blondes".

Back To Basics

A new show called JACK OF ALL TRADES and CLEOPATRA 2525?  No, seriously, what's replacing HERC?

A prim and proper 'Dite and the God of Love in STRANGER IN A STRANGE WORLD.

[33] The Aphrodite character gets a boost in the Hercules episode STRANGER IN A STRANGE WORLD (H64/405). Here, Aphrodite seeks Hercules' help because Zeus is dying. Hercules is not too keen on helping Zeus, but Aphrodite's evolution from totally vain to "goddess with a heart" has gotten her out of the house.

[34] It seems that there is a parallel universe that has a copy of everyone in our own, with two caveats: the people in the other universe are quite different in character, and if someone dies in one universe, their copy dies in the other. The "Sovereign" in the alternate universe wants to become king. He will marry the Queen (Aphrodite 2) to do this, but before he can, the current king (Zeus 2) has to die, so the Sovereign has been poisoning him slowly. Trouble is, "our" Zeus is also ailing, and this is what has upset Aphrodite.

[35] Hercules begins to put pieces of the puzzle together, and he needs to get to the alternate universe to rescue Iolaus and set things right. Aphrodite assists by helping to get Ares really angry. When Ares and Hercules fight, and Zeus breaks it up, a gateway to the other world opens.

[36] Aphrodite, and Aphrodite 2 for that matter, do not have a lot of screen time in this episode, but this episode does show that Aphrodite has become more involved in solving the problems of gods and mortals than she had been in the past. Indeed, throughout the whole crisis of Zeus dying, only Aphrodite and Ares, of all the gods, take any sort of role in the affair.

Back To Bonehead

[37] The episode FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS from Xena's second season was created when the star, Lucy Lawless, was seriously injured. Kevin Sorbo was badly hurt himself during Hercules' fourth season and some episodes were created around that. One of them was ONE FOWL DAY (H76/417), shot when Sorbo was in recovery and still had to take it easy. A previous episode, PORKULES (H75/416), had him present minimally.

[38] Alexandra Tydings supplied the voice of Katherine the pig in PORKULES and reprised that role as pig- turned-human in ONE FOWL DAY. Alex appeared as Aphrodite in FOWL as well. This Aphrodite was all good deeds and good works, with no vanity or vengeance motives. All Aphrodite wanted to do was make people happy without thinking of herself first. It was a brief appearance for the character, but a positive one.

[39] There are mixed results in the next series of appearances, virtually all bonehead comedies. LOVE ON THE ROCKS (H99/518), a fifth season "Sorbo-lite" Hercules episode, again highlights Aphrodite's problem-solving skills in Hercules' absence. Aphrodite helps Iolaus 2 saves the seas from Discord's machinations, and this episode establishes quite the rivalry between Discord and Aphrodite.

[40] The episode is revealing in that when remarks are made about Aphrodite and her appearance, she can become quite angry and defensive, but she also will see a task through even though there is no direct benefit to her. If she can have a little fun while she is at it, so much the better. Aphrodite is touched by the genuine love between Iolaus 2 and a mermaid, sobbing that theirs is "a love that can never be". Quite the statement from the goddess of love herself.

[41] In the sixth season Hercules episode, LOVE AMAZON STYLE (H105/602), Aphrodite is despondent because she and Hephaestus are "splitsville". Her spells do not work right, and Hephaestus cannot do his work properly either. Things do not go well until the two of them get back together. Aphrodite is more herself after that.

[42] Aphrodite is lectured by Gabrielle in IF THE SHOE FITS (80/412). A little girl runs away from her father and stepmother. The girl finds her way into one of Aphrodite's temples. Aphrodite takes a shine to the rugrat and does not want to give her up - the goddess wants a "happy ending" for the spud. Gabrielle points out that for the girl to be happy, she has to work things out herself, and that requires her to see the whole problem, not just treat a symptom. This begins a series of Aphrodite/Gabrielle pairings in future episodes.

I'm not as think as you drunk I am!

Gabby and 'Dite are on a mission in LITTLE PROBLEMS.

[43] After a spell of good intentions goes bad, Aphrodite teams up with Gabrielle in LITTLE PROBLEMS (98/508), and in PUNCH LINES (101/511) Xena and Gabrielle are seeking rest in one of Aphrodite's temples as Gabrielle spills her guts about her latest troubles to Aphrodite. It is like watching a mini- slumber party. If nothing else, these two episodes show how close Gabrielle and Aphrodite have become, and even Xena must have felt safe in Aphrodite's temple to seek rest there while very pregnant.

[44] The Discord/Aphrodite rivalry is to blame for Gabrielle getting bashed on the head and having the very bad trip known as MARRIED WITH FISH STICKS (105/515). At best we can say that Aphrodite is very concerned for Gabrielle's health in the closing moments of the episode.

Development At Its Best

Yuk!  You know hard it is to wash dried blood out of your hair?

Aphrodite comforts Gabrielle in MOTHERHOOD.

[45] Aphrodite's final appearance to date was in the episode MOTHERHOOD. In all previous appearances of the character, all but two have been in comedies. MOTHERHOOD is no comedy. Alexandra Tydings' portrayal of Aphrodite in this episode stands out, especially for making a generally comedic character so riveting in such a dramatic episode.

[46] Aphrodite is noticeably absent in the arc of episodes leading up to MOTHERHOOD. After the events that transpired in the episode, it is easy to see why. In all the chaos of MOTHERHOOD and the episodes preceding it, Aphrodite could have chosen to do what several gods did: nothing. While we did see many gods join in the all-out effort to destroy Xena and Eve, Aphrodite instead chooses to look out for the welfare of her mortal friend, Gabrielle.

[47] Even as Hephaestus is killed, and we immediately cut to a reaction shot from Aphrodite, who, while not present, feels a stab at her heart in the moment of Hephaestus' death. Aphrodite does not seek vengeance, however. She seems resigned to the destruction taking place around her. Perhaps she and Hephaestus had words about it beforehand. We do not know.

[48] We do know that of all the gods directly involved in the conflict, Aphrodite is one of two who survive, and the only one to survive with immortality intact. Yet self-preservation is not her primary concern. Throughout the episode she is chiefly concerned for Gabrielle. If anything, Aphrodite dislikes the bloodshed done by both sides of the conflict.

Never Say Never Again

[49] Although there is a lot more living space on Olympus these days, Aphrodite did survive the twilight conflict, immortality intact. Who can say what direction her character will take next, assuming we see her again? Will Aphrodite assume the mantle of Hera? After all, as Hera pointed out in GOD FEARING CHILD (102/512), she and Zeus created mortals.

[50] Several gods are still around to continue the mythos: Aphrodite, Cupid, Cheron, Lachrymose, Hermes, Psyche, Eros, and several others. As far as we know, the gods of other realms are intact as well.

[51] Even in a world where gods are not necessary, or in a world where traditional gods have been superceded by mortals with godlike powers, it would be nice to think there was a place in our hearts for the goddess of love. It is not so bad to imagine a world without war or discord, but a world without love would be pretty lifeless.


Bret Ryan Rudnick Bret Ryan Rudnick
Whoosh! Staff
IAXS Executive Committee
"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons"
When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art.
Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite line: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP, 30/206; Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

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