Whoosh! Issue 76 - March/April 2003

By Robert Boesch
Content © 2003 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2003 held by Whoosh!
10002 words

He Loves Xena, He Loves Her Not (01-06)
Nietzsche: A Sometime Misunderstood Guy (07-13)
Übermensch and Beyond Christianity (14-19)
And What About Those Nazis? (20-26)
Karl Marx Enters the Picture (27-34)
Getting Back to Xena (35-48)
Making Sense Out of It All (49-66)


He Loves Xena, He Loves Her Not

[01] In an article called "Examination of Xena as Nietzsche's 'Überbabe'", Bradley Danbrook argues in Whoosh! #68 (05/02), that if German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had lived in the present day, Xena: Warrior Princess would surely have been his favorite program and his most appreciated episodes would clearly have been the Wagnerian RHEINGOLD trilogy.

[02] I have not seen the RHEINGOLD trilogy [Note 01], but one should remember that Nietzsche, who was in his early years a great admirer of Richard Wagner, later became an even greater opponent of Wagner. One of Nietzsche's late works was titled The Case of Wagner (Der Fall Wagner). In this, he says that Wagner's operas are an expression of neurosis and degeneration.

[03] One reason for Nietzsche's opposition was Wagner's pseudo-Christian philosophy. The Christianity of Wagner had more in common with Schopenhauerian Buddhism than with the Christianity of the Catholic Church, because for Wagner the Catholic Church was infected with Judaism. Another reason was Wagner's anti-Semitism, rooted in the ideology underlining Der Ring der Nibelungen. The Ring was a metaphor for the modern, money-based society, which alienates mankind from nature (for which the Rheingold metaphorically stood). A demonic force forged the Ring and the drive for its possession was responsible for the decline of mankind, which was essentially a decline of the Aryan race.

[04] However, this race is a pseudo-metaphysical principle and not simply a biological fact, as it often is reduced to. At its core is the Manichaean idea of the fight of two entities in opposition. The light entity is true to human nature (and is basically identical with the Aryan race), whereas the dark entity is the principle of the corruption of this nature. This principle of corruption for Wagner is embodied in the Jewish race. The Jewish race was supposed to be the opposite of all what was good and pure. Therefore, the pure blood of the Aryan race was a pseudo-religious idea that focused on salvation, as one could see in Parsifal, which centered on the search for the Grail, that functioned as the metaphor for the pure blood of the Aryan Christ. The Aryan race was an ahistorical, transcendent principle that had to be realized in the immanence of history - by extermination and eugenics [Note 02].

[05] Wagner's idea of redemption came out of his ideal of a society without contradictions and alienation [Note 03]. There was nothing Wagner thought more deeply about than redemption, as Nietzsche wrote in The Case of Wagner. Therefore, I would put a question mark behind the assertion that Nietzsche would have liked the RHEINGOLD trilogy [Note 04]. What is more interesting, however, is this question: would Xena: Warrior Princess have been Nietzsche's favorite program?

[06] Contrary to Mr. Danbrook, I can give no easy answer to that. Nietzsche's philosophy is a problematic topic, and in a certain way, Mr. Danbrook gives a disputable interpretation of it, especially when he writes at the end of his article:

Xena willfully succumbed to death. She was not killed, nor could she ever really die the death of a mortal. Her struggle was superhuman, and beyond the realm of the ordinary. Xena was and is a super-being. The timeless metaphysical battle between good and evil will forever play itself out in Xena's immortal soul.
This conclusion seems to me hardly compatible with Nietzsche's basic ideas.

Nietzsche: A Sometime Misunderstood Guy

[07] Nietzsche tried to overcome concepts like good, evil, or the soul because they were metaphysical. Metaphysics, for Nietzsche, was a way to negate the concrete life. To create a timeless metaphysical sphere, was, in Nietzsche's eyes, exactly the fatal flaw of Socrates and his most important heir, Christianity. Christianity created a realm beyond the ordinary and therefore devaluated concrete life for an invisible and untouchable realm of ideas and ideals. In Christianity, for Nietzsche, the soul has to seek redemption, and this redemption can only be found beyond the material sphere of concrete life. This means that the realm of the ordinary is only a prison of the immortal soul, and the soul has to find its 'real life' beyond this world. Therefore, the real life for the Christian takes place in the realm of metaphysics. This is, for Nietzsche, simply a sign of weakness and degeneration, compared to the religion of pre-Socratic Greece. Christianity sacrifices the very essence of life because it is too weak to bear this essence [Note 05].

[08] This Christian idea -- and for Nietzsche, Christianity is only Platonism (i.e., metaphysics) for the common people -- is what Nietzsche wants to overcome, and the program to overcome this idea is the concept of der Übermensch. If religion is only a useful illusion of man, helping him to bear the burden of life, the Christian idea of god outcomes as the lowest form of all ideas of god. Because, instead of encouraging the will to live, it devaluates life itself. Therefore it is only a symptom of the lack of will to life and it is good to get rid of it. Because you should push what is falling anyway.

[09] For Nietzsche, Christianity has shown its incapacity to improve the will to life [Note 06]. It has devaluated the realm of the concrete for a realm of ideas and ideals that now have become devaluated themselves. God is dead and the Nietzschean Übermensch learns to live with this "terrible truth" (die furchtbare Wahrheit, as Nietzsche calls it). But the terrible truth of the death of god has also a pleasant side. It opens the world again for new challenges, a new life.

[10] The idea of the death of god (declared first in The Gay Science - Die froehliche Wissenschaft) does not come out of nothing. Since the 'autumn of the Middle Ages' the idea of the world as a well-ordered cosmos created by the will of god was in dissolution. Instead of god, it was man who became the center of the universe. History no longer was the unfolding of a divine will, but the product of humankind's own actions. However, the independence and disclosure that was gained had a high price. No longer could man count on any divine intervention and the universe he was living in was cold and empty now and its final word was death. Ironically, a Christian thinker, Blaise Pascal, already articulated the growing feeling of despair of modern man in the 17th century. Pascal argued that the only hope for the desperation of man is god. For Pascal, who was also a great mathematician, the reason of the heart is wiser than the reason of the mind, and therefore, it is still possible to believe in god, despite the facts of science.

[11] But one century later, after the French Revolution had tried to replace god, finally by the reason of the mind, it ended in absolute freedom as pure terror, where the sole work of freedom is death - a death without inner significance, the coldest and meanest of deaths, like splitting a head of cabbage (as Hegel writes in his Phenomenology of Spirit), where the reason of the heart can no longer offer comfort. The English poet Lord Byron puts this feeling in those "undying words," which Nietzsche quotes in his book Human, All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches):

Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most must mourn the deepest o'er the fatal truth, the Tree of knowledge is not that of Life

[12] Modern man is trapped in a no-win-situation. He has lost the security of tradition only to be thrown in a brutal, senseless world without hope. [Note 07] This pessimism reached its peak in the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, who deeply influenced both Nietzsche and Wagner. For Schopenhauer, who presents a kind of philosophical Buddhism, life is only misery and suffering, and the only solution is to overcome the will to live and find peace in the non-existence. It was exactly this feeling of death and despair that attracted the young Nietzsche to both Schopenhauer and Wagner.[Note 08] It was exactly this feeling of death and despair that Nietzsche tried to push away with his idea of the will to power.

[13] Whereas Wagner follows Schopenhauer in the way of the negation of the world (for Schopenhauer as much as for Wagner, the affirmation of life is the product of the Judaic infection of Christianity, which was, according to them, in his pure form identical with Buddhism and was brought by Alexander the Great from India to Europe) and the accentuation of pity as the mode of behavior towards every creature, Nietzsche goes the opposite way. He wants to say yes to life in spite of all pain and costs. He wants to live dangerously and no longer restricted by any moral laws. Like Schopenhauer and Wagner, Nietzsche separates Jesus and an original Christianity from the Judaized Christianity developed by Paulus. The main difference is, that Nietzsche's charges against the Paulina Christianity are the opposite of those made by Schopenhauer and Wagner).

Übermensch and Beyond Christianity

[14] In this sense, you have to understand the idea of the Übermensch. It is the project of a human being no longer in need for a god like the Christian one. It is strong enough to live its life with all its difficulties, ambiguities, and without the hope of redemption, either in this world or in a metaphysical beyond. The Übermensch does not simply accept the burden of existence like the antique Stoics did. Instead his maxim is amor fati, love your unchangeable fate. The idea of being an Übermensch reveals itself as the masochistic attempt of loving the misery that you have to suffer anyway. What seems to be the highest form of individualism, turns out to be the negation of the individual.

[15] So, if Bradley Danbrook writes,

Throughout Xena's attempt to reclaim her soul, there exists a Sisyphus-like futility to her struggle. There is a persistent sense that, regardless of the magnitude of her transformation and putative redemption, ultimately her struggle will end in failure. Her soul will remain unsaved. How un-Christian and how very nihilistically Nietzschian
he forgets to consider that the roots of this nihilism are lying in Christianity itself. It was the founder of Christian theology, Saint Augustine, who made clear that only the grace of god could save the sinner, regardless of his personal efforts [Note 09]. That is what Augustine calls the maiestas dei. It was this idea that Martin Luther took up in his fight against the Catholic Church, which, in his eyes, sold a good that only god could give.

[16] The ideas of the Reformation were not only weakening the institutions of the church and providing a framework for the highly needed separation of state and church, they also were giving the rising capitalist society its theological blessings. This was especially as Max Weber showed in his famous writings about the connection between the Protestant spirit and the ethic of capitalism. In Protestantism, where everything is dependent upon the grace of god, personal success becomes a sign of predestination, a worldly proof of the fact of being elected for eternal salvation. If humans do not want to rest in a state of weakness and insecurity against god, they have to prove their worth to him, and by proving this worth to god, humans gain the idea of their worth -- but against god, as a result of the power of their own selves. But the price of becoming an independent individual is to survive in a society where the traditional relations are replaced by abstract norms. The invisible hand of the market now becomes the indicator for the will of god.

[17] As the Antichrist is only bringing out the plan of god, Nietzsche, the son of a Protestant preacher, is bringing out only the radical consequences of Protestantism, which deepens the gap between god and man as much as it is secularizing divine providence into human history, both sets humans in an immediate relation to god.

[18] With the rise of social Darwinism, which understands social relations simply as the human mode of the natural struggle for survival, predestination was replaced by selection as the survival of the fittest. It is no secret that the Nazis liked the idea of the Übermensch. However, for their version of the Übermensch, it was necessary to have a subhuman (Untermenschen - subhumans - was the term of the Nazis for the Jews or the Russians). Predestination as the will of god was replaced by selection as the will of nature, the majesty of racial superiority. According to the Nazis, this will of nature has to be fulfilled, because the decline of mankind is a result of disregarding the law of selection.

[19] When Hitler claims himself to be brought to the German people by providence (dem deutschen Volk von der Vorsehung gesandt, as he liked to say), he therefore promises salvation through the restoration of the Aryan race. The idea of being an instrument of a higher principle becomes the driving force of violent activity. Like Hitler says in Mein Kampf:

by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord (indem ich mich des Juden erwehre, diene ich dem Herrn) [Note 10].
History now is the realization of an ahistorical idea, and this is possible only because of a secularized Christianity. In Christianity, god and man, eternity and temporality are no longer irreducible distinctions, but instead god becomes man in Jesus. The idea of god becoming man already implies the apparently opposed idea of man becoming god, an idea that is giving birth to modern society as much as it is a result of this society.

And What About Those Nazis?

[20] The destruction of faith and metaphysics, that Nietzsche finished, does not eradicate the sources of faith and metaphysics [Note 11]. It only leads to the void of nihilism, and this void produces the need for pseudo-religions. Nihilism as complete cultural relativism and the need for fundamental principles on which you can rely (may this be by race, religion, or class) are the two sides of the same coin. The pseudo-religion of National Socialism is a hopeless attempt to re-create immediacy and self-evidence of social relations, that modern humankind has lost already [Note 12]. The paradox of this attempt produces the Manichaean structure of this pseudo-religion. It has to have an enemy, because the contradictions have to be externalized to preserve the illusion of immediacy and self-evidence. The destruction of this "objective enemy" (Hannah Arendt) is the road to salvation, and this destruction is the necessary result of an inevitable clash of two opposed principles, embodied in two essentially different class of people (who represent the fight of light against darkness, good against evil) [Note 13].

[21] Therefore, the interpretation of Nietzsche given by the Nazis is not simply a vulgar misreading of his ideas. In a certain way, it is a consequent radicalization of the idea of the Übermensch, as Nietzsche understands it. The concept of amor fati underlies the idea of a "heroic realism" (heroischer Realismus, a notion coined by Werner Best in 1930 - Best later became one of the most influential SS - intellectuals of the Third Reich). The heroic realist is not simply the passive object through which fate fulfills itself, but the willing executioner of this fate (he is nicht nur Material, sondern zugleich Traeger des Schicksals, as Ernst Juenger wrote). For the heroic realist, necessity is freedom [Note 14].

[22] And if only this heroic - and therefore tragic - attitude towards life counts as adequate, it is logical to reestablish the social relations of the time this attitude had its height: the time of the pre-Socratic Greeks. Nietzsche's admiration of the esthetical standpoint towards life, which he wants to find in Greek society, results in a social theory that favors the privileged life for a minority. For Nietzsche, slavery is necessary, because only the slavery of the most makes possible the freedom and luxury for the few [Note 15]. The minority of the Übermenschen earn their benefits by looking death in the eye without blinking.

[23] Nietzsche's Übermensch shows all signs of the white aristocratic male who has to lead the masses like a flock. For Nietzsche, modern society is showing its degeneration when there is no shepherd, only one big flock. Nietzsche despised modern democracy and was full of admiration for the great man, the leader -- figures like Caesar or Napoleon. His goal was to establish a society that is based on virtue (in the Machiavellian sense of the word), rank, and the segregation of a caste-system [Note 16].

[24] But Nietzsche probably would have despised the Nazis as he despised the anti-Semitic movement of his time [Note 17]. For him, anti-Semitism was resentment, a revenge of the weak. Therefore, the Nazis would not have fulfilled his ideal of the Übermensch.

[25] Yet, in spite of the fact that Nietzsche was an anti-anti-Semite and hated the German nationalism of the Kaiserreich of his days, his philosophy can provide not more than a metaphysical grounded elitism, which is simply the reverse of the scientific positivism of his days. He could not provide more than a pseudo-religion, the religion of the Übermensch. Not so much the diagnosis given by Nietzsche is the problem, but the therapy he prescribes. Nietzsche had no idea of compensation for the loss of the tragic attitude of the antiques or the religious self-evidence of the Medievals. He could only see decline and degeneration, and he had nothing to put against it than the anachronistic idea of a post-Christian antiquity.

[26] In Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra), the formulation of his new religion of the Übermensch is still ambiguous, oscillating between pessimism and an exaltation full of involuntary humorous pathos and lack of irony (regarding that fact, Nietzsche might have liked Seasons Four and Five of Xena). In the works afterwards, this insecurity is pushed away by a brutal vitalism that can hardly hide its desperation and that is nothing more than the mask of death. In this sense, the Xena of the days before meeting Lao Ma (who has some Schoperhauerian touch) is in fact a Nietzschean Übermensch.

Karl Marx Enters the Picture

[27] Reading these arguments, why would you want to save anything of the idea of the Übermensch, and what does it have to do with Xena: Warrior Princess?

[28] There is in fact a progressive aspect of Nietzsche's Übermensch that could be saved. For Nietzsche, the Übermensch is a rich, free individual, no longer ruled by resentment, bigotry, and the lust for revenge. His richness is understood as generosity, his freedom is not isolation but the friendship of equals, joining each other for the sake of community. Of course, as I mentioned, this ideal is limited to a small number of people, while the masses have to provide the material basis for this elite.

[29] Given this ahistorical assumption of Nietzsche -- already Aristotle made the point, that technological progress could make slavery unnecessary -- you could think of a generous and free, but simultaneously social individual who has overcome the contradictions of modern capitalist society.

[30] It is one of the basic ideas of Karl Marx (who died a few years before Nietzsche lost his mind), that with the development of the human capabilities and needs [Note 18], it becomes possible to create a society in which the development of the free individual is the basis for the development of society itself.

[31] In this sense, I will try to give an idea for a different interpretation of Nietzsche's Übermensch, a kind of 'Marxian Übermensch', and I will do this by taking Xena as an example of the ideology of capitalist individuality. An individuality, that mistakes its own historical condition as a timeless conditio humana, as much as it mistakes the fact that it is driven by specific historical contradictions as a metaphysical battle between good and evil.

[32] The character of Xena could be understood as a representation of capitalist individuality, of the contradictory, or, as I could better say, ambivalent nature of this individuality. A nature of course, that is what Hegel called "second nature" (zweite Natur), which means that this nature is a product of the historical process, but it disguises its own historicity and therefore seems to be nature as such. This is what Marx calls ideology: the necessary wrong consciousness (notwendig falsches Bewusstsein) of humankind about the second nature of capitalist society, a consciousness that has no idea of its own history and its own social mediation. The capitalist individual is alienated to his own social mediation, which is a changeable historical process. It misunderstands her own social relations as an unchangeable natural fact. Therefore, his own social mediation seems to be objective and ahistorical. [Note 19]. This is the basic contradiction of capitalist society.

[33] This leads me to a few general theses of the pseudo-nature of this capitalist individual. The capitalist individual is indeed like the notorious figure of Robinson Crusoe [Note 20], an isolated individual. But contrary to Robinson [Note 21], it can only exist in social relations, and with capitalist development, the isolation of the capitalist individual is growing as much as his dependence upon society. This growing contradiction is affecting the growing ambivalence of the modern individual and results in the growing need for simple solutions and plain dualism in times of crisis and disorder.

[34] Therefore, a potential Marxian Übermensch would have to deal with its own ambivalence and with capitalist contradictions in a different way than by regressing to dualism. They would have to do it without denying the true point of Nietzsche's philosophy. Modern individuals can no longer rely upon god and the security of religion, but rather have to live as the early Greeks in the tension between chaos and order [Note 22].

Getting Back to Xena

[35] Obviously, the Xena in Season One lives without the security of religion, and she is an isolated individual who only relies upon herself. In this sense, Bradley Danbrook sees Xena as an Übermensch, because "few are made for independence - it is privilege of the strong", as he quotes Nietzsche. However, in capitalist society, independence is not the privilege of a few, but the destiny of all people. The capitalist individual is free, as Marx stresses, no longer bound to other people. But this freedom from personal, immediate compulsion is replaced by the slavery to the products of its own creation, by, what Marx calls, the violence of things [Note 23].

[36] This violence of things, appearing in the blind necessity of economic laws, is the result of the peculiar form of social mediation in capitalist society, where the relation between persons is expressed as a relation between things. [Note 24] The common expression for this relationship is money. Money as the necessary mediator between people and their wants becomes itself the object of wanting. Money is the expression of a form of social mediation where the products of human activity have gained a life of their own. What ought to serve human needs has become the master, as capitalist individual is a slave to money. Money, says Marx, is the true god of capitalist society [Note 25]. Its cult becomes an end in itself, like the will to power of Nietzsche's Übermensch or Xena's lust for blood.

[37] Only money makes it possible to be an independent individual within the dependence upon social relations. Therefore, in a capitalist society people seem to be no longer bound to other people. [Note 26] Society seems to be simply the eternal struggle for material wealth - a struggle of individual against individual (Homo homini lupus, in the famous words of Thomas Hobbes).

[38] Such a capitalist individual in a postmodern antiquity is Xena in SINS OF THE PAST, where she unsuccessfully rejects Gabrielle's offer of companionship, to quote Mr. Danbrook. This lack of success seems to have its reason in a growing weariness of being a Nietzschean Überbabe. The Xena of SINS OF THE PAST is no glorious hero, rather a "lonely, pathetic woman", tired of being a warrior. She buries secretly her armor and weapons, and as she takes up her sword again, she does not fight for the pleasure of fighting, but for a bunch of villagers who are in danger to be enslaved.

[40] Xena says that she travels alone. Nevertheless, she also says that it is hard to be alone. When Gabrielle answers "you're not alone", where Xena expected no answer, Xena's transformation from a Nietzschean Übermensch to a social individual begins. It is nothing else than the redemption she looks for.

[41] That is what attracted me to Xena: Warrior Princess, long ago in SINS OF THE PAST. The idea of an ambivalent hero, torn apart by the compulsion to stay a Robinson, an isolated island, and her need for redemption -- redemption in the sense of becoming a social individual. That is in essence the problem of overcoming capitalist society. In this sense, the search for redemption is not a timeless, metaphysical act, but a social act that takes place in history, in the realm of ordinary life.

[42] From the beginning, Xena's search for redemption and her struggle against the backlash of becoming a Nietzschean Übermensch again was inseparably connected to her relationship with Gabrielle. This relationship represented the possibility of a society where people depend upon each other and where pseudo-natural laws no longer govern their relations. Instead, these relations are freely chosen: "Our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could".

[43] This brings us to my interpretation to one of the best scenes in television history, the scene were Xena refuses to accept the death of Gabrielle in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE.

[44] Xena's refusal of Gabrielle's death is immediately connected to her search for redemption. This refusal is a fight against death as the result of violence. The non-acceptance of Gabrielle's death is the non-acceptance of death as the destruction of social life, with relationship as its central expression. Death here is not a natural fact, but a social product, produced by social circumstances that could be changed - and changing the world once was the idea of Xena: Warrior Princess, wasn't it?

[45] When Xena tells Marmax, "What do you know? You've killed so many", and he replies "So have you", the connection between the dead Xena of the past and the living (because loving) Xena of the present is obvious, as well as her struggle to stay alive. Living implies not being a lonely, untouchable stranger, but instead being a related, loving and therefore weak human. To live this weakness and share it with other people shapes the idea of a 'Marxian Übermensch'.

[46] Xena's struggle against death here is a struggle against the inner death that turns humans into "destroyer

[s] of nations". It is a struggle no longer against the weakness that love implies, but a fight against the causes that force humans to fight that weakness in order to survive ("hard times breed hard people"). Because fighting the weakness could end in turning the inner death to the outside by killing other people.

[47] In IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE love and death (death because of social violence) are contradictions that cannot be reconciled. The fight against death is the principle of love, and Xena's fear and anger ("Don't you leave me!") is the acceptance of her weakness as a living individual as well as an expression of her love. To love and to be loved implies the capacity to be vulnerable, and it requests conditions, in which people can allow themselves to be vulnerable [Note 27].

[48] Xena's quest is essentially anti-heroic and with IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, her search for redemption is over. She no longer is the lonely, untouchable hero, but a related human, which has gained its humanity by accepting its vulnerability that lies in its dependence. In this acceptance lies the strength of this Übermensch: "Any fool can risk his life. It takes a hero to risk his heart." So, in its best moments, Xena: Warrior Princess talks to us about the idea that our independence is a sad illusion that we had better overcome before it is too late.

Making Sense Out of It All

[49] This interpretation of Xena: Warrior Princess, of course, makes sense only for a limited period of the show, for the first two seasons. Since Season Three, the violence of death no longer is the final word in the Xenaverse. In BITTER SUITE, it only takes some cheesy singing, and all the bruises disappear. In FALLEN ANGEL, Xena and Gabrielle, nailed to crosses, simply are resurrected from the dead. The protagonists now are not much more than vessels for deus ex machina solutions in the eternal fight between good and evil.

[50] The shift in the concept of Xena: Warrior Princess from a storyline with concrete individuals to one with transhistorical personifications of abstract ideas [Note 28] may easily be seen if one looks at the transfiguration of death, death not as a biological fact, but as an arbitrary social act, in IDES OF MARCH. Violent death here is no longer the ultimate absurdity in a cruel world. Instead, it becomes "a triumph" [Note 29] by the role, it serves in a metaphysical battle.

[51] Along with this, the Xena of IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE with her desperate fight against the death of her lover is replaced by a Xena that is accepting the sacrifice of Gabrielle [Note 30]. The self-denying of Xena, her willingness to sacrifice herself for 'her way' is at the same time the denying of the other individual, the sacrifice of Gabrielle.

[52] This transformation from a desperate fight against the violence of death to its affirmation only is possible where individuals become subsumed under abstract ideas. Such an individual gains its importance by its connection to a higher principle. This higher principle is a value in itself, wherefore the life of the individual is regarded primarily as a means to the accomplishment of a superior purpose. The world has turned upside-down, as the higher good no longer is a concrete condition of life but instead an abstract ideal. Life itself has become a mere objectification of a transcendent idea, may it be called god, fate, race, class, or state.

[53] To present the violent death of individuals as a triumph, it is necessary to devalue the individual life by giving its death a spiritual meaning. The negation of the individual is at the same time the transfiguration of its violent death, the sacralization of this death as a means in a higher cause. This ideology of death produces a well-known by-product, the aestheticization of death. This aestheticization becomes exemplary in the crucifixion-visions throughout Season Four.

[54] In his article "The Dreaded Crucifixion Vision - Or - Sex At Last!," William James gives a fine description of this aestheticization:

The vision is quite beautiful. It is accompanied by a gentle, fluted music, and exists in a clear, blue-white light. The wind pushes snow flakes across the scene. The background is white and stark, populated by a few Romans standing in ones and twos, a horse rider, and by two other crucifixions. The spoken words have a clear, soft, bell-like quality. It frightens Xena every time she experiences it.

[55] Of course, this chill is what you call a thrill. The relation between Xena and Gabrielle presented here is a fine example for the romantic idea of the Liebestod, which means that love only in death can come true. But this fulfillment is no trivial corporeal experience where bodily fluids are exchanged. Instead it is a metaphysical experience "beyond sex," where death is the pure form of sexuality, because it allows only unity, not separation. Death in IDES OF MARCH is not "commonplace" (as Mr. James says about death in the Xenaverse) anymore. Rather death has become the essence of life, because life itself bears only meaning through death.

[56] Before the Ring Trilogy, Wagner was already interested in this theme. It was in a text for an unwritten opera called Jesus von Nazareth, where Wagner first developed his idea of the Liebestod (which later became the central subject for Tristan und Isolde). For Wagner, the Liebestod is the perfect action of love (die vollendetste Tat der Liebe; its not simply perfect - vollendet, but most perfect - vollendetst). It is so because it is the sacrifice of the personal existence for the common good (das Opfer unseres persönlichen Seins selbst zugunsten des Allgemeinen). In this sense, the Liebestod of Jesus is the role model for a society, which is no longer governed by the principle of egoism (which is for Wagner of course the principle of Judaism).

[57] So it is maybe no accident that the idea of the Liebestod in Xena: Warrior Princess goes along with an obscure Christianization of the show, which replaces the accentuation of life and the obvious 'subtext' of IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, resulting simply from the corporeal intensity of the "Don't leave me" scene, by the trivialization (which goes along with its sacralization) of death and the idea of eternal soulmates. Souls live on after the death of 'their' bodies, which devaluates the body and with it, sexuality of course, as much as they elevate the incorporeal soul.

[58] Unfortunately, the identity of humans is not separable from their bodies, while those incorporeal souls have to be presented with the same old mortal bodies they 'lived in'. That is why even the angels in Xenaverse have to bleed and die. But given the claim that this is also only a part in the timeless metaphysical battle between good and evil, fighting by immortal souls, the only worry is if the actors can hold a straight face, confronted with lines like:

"Your forgiveness has made your soul as pure as this water. Gabrielle, you truly are - a beautiful spirit. We know you'll do honor to these wings."

[59] The religious turn of Xena: Warrior Princess since the introduction of Dahak [Note 31] is only a symptom of the basic contradiction of capitalist society. The decline of the show has to be seen as a reflection of the incapability to deal with the ambivalence [Note 32] of the capitalist individuality other than returning to metaphysic dualism [Note 33]. This dualism causes a storyline like the one of Season Four, with its disgusting one-way street to crucifixion and the aestheticization of death in IDES OF MARCH [Note 34].

[60] No longer is the story about concrete individuals fighting for their happiness, which has its foundation in the happiness of all (and nothing else is the higher good), and what requires the changing of the fatality of history. Instead, the fulfillment of this fatality in the name of a metaphysical pseudo-entity becomes the focus. Like in Greek tragedy, humans are not merely much more than living illustrations of an unchangeable fate [Note 35] and all the super-powers they have gained does not change a thing on that [Note 36].

[61] Episodes like IDES OF MARCH and FALLEN ANGEL retract the potential emancipatory subtext of IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE and replace it by a crude syncretic Christianism, which reaches its funny climax with the fabulous destiny of Callisto, who, after being in Tartarus and Hell and serving the Devil, became an angel, but only to be reborn, after she was conceived by Xena like Jesus was conceived by the Virgin Mother of God. But after reincarnation as Eve, this angel behaves like Angelus. Like her mother, who she never really knew, she likes to crucify, especially Christians (one reason might be that it is easier to crucify humans than centaurs?), because she has to turn from Saul to Paul, and like Saint Augustine, she has a divine experience with her mother in Ostia. I do not know what happens to her in Season Six, but I would suspect she becomes The Pope [Note 37].

[62] Since the introduction of the crucifixion-vision, the show is only the mystified reproduction of the human condition of every day life in capitalist society, and all the seemingly fantastic adventures lead only to the same old stale feeling of boredom and emptiness. Nowadays, the idea of following some higher will has lost all of its dignity and greatness, because in capitalist society, this higher will is nothing else than the logic of capital.

[63] Trying to recreate Greek tragedy - as Season Four did - might seem as a Nietzschean approach to life. In this sense, you could argue, Nietzsche would have liked IDES OF MARCH. But ask yourself if that is a reason to be happy. As Nietzsche could have learned from Hegel, the concept of the tragic is limited to antique society, where even the highest of all gods was captured by fate.

[64] The ideal of the tragic and therefore heroic individual supposes social relations in which the conditions that surround the individual have not gained an independent objectivity against the subjective intentions (insoweit darf die umgebende Welt der Zustaende und Verhaeltnisse keine für sich bereits unabhaengig vom Subjektiven und Individuellen wesentliche Objektivitaet haben, as Hegel writes in his Aesthetik about the ideal of the heroic individual). Only in such a society can there be no contradiction between what one wants to do and what one ought to be doing. But this implies social relations where humans are not already suffering of "transcendental homelessness" (transzendentale Obdachlosigkeit, as the pre-Marxist Georg Lukàcs called the modern condition of humankind). In a capitalist society, the price for regaining tragic is its decay to Kitsch, the mawkishness of lightning white-clothed spirits in front of dead bodies on crosses. Yet, Kitsch also becomes the reverse of brutality and the last sanctuary of hope.

[65] The trashy aestheticism of the pseudo-Christian Kitsch in FALLEN ANGEL [Note 38], that Nietzsche would have hated (and for good reasons), is only the logical consequence of the recreation of Greek tragedy in IDES OF MARCH. I would argue that Nietzsche could have loved Xena: Warrior Princess in season 4 and 5 for exactly the same reasons he would have hated it. His own concept of amor fati produces the need for a pseudo-religion, because in a world where the actions of humans have no decisive and changing quality, their result will only be a feeling of resignation, as Gabrielle articulates it in a formulation that echoes Nietzsche's idea of the eternal return of the same:

"It's over-- or is it? Xena? Do you ever? Do you get the feeling that sometimes-- nothing is really over? You know, it just-- keeps coming back around, but it's-- it's wearing a different face. It's-- it's the same underneath."

[66] As long as the contradiction between individuality and society reproduces itself either in the primary of the atomized individual over the common interest or in the sacrifice of the individual for the sake of a higher cause [Note 39] history will repeat itself. In this sense, the destiny of Xena is our own.

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