Why Joxer and Ares
by Carolyn M. Wallace
The wonderful thing about "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" (a moment of silence, please, as we mourn the loss of this show) is that you can enjoy them on so many levels. You can enjoy the mythic confrontation of good versus evil, the warm stories of friendships established through years of suffering and joy, or you can just watch the pretty men and women in tight-fitting leather bounce around. (My husband has gotten into the habit of gleefully shouting "Cleavage!" whenever a gratuitous chest shot appears.)
The same is true for the Joxer/Ares collection of fanfic stories. Rather than belabor the obvious (we think Ted Raimi and Kevin Smith are hot and we want to imagine their characters getting it on), I'd like to take a deeper, more psychological look at the Joxer/Ares pairing and why I think it works for readers. Specifically, I'd like to take a look at those stories that deal with Joxer and Ares not only as sexual partners, but as two men between whom a true and lasting love develops. I would point out, however, that this is still just my opinion and other people who enjoy the Joxer/Ares pairing may totally disagree with my thoughts on the subject. I can't write for every Joxer/Ares fan, only for myself.
WHY JOXER? First of all, why would anyone choose Joxer as the romantic hero of a story? As Lucy pointed out, "What charm Joxer has pretty much rests on him being a sweet, sincere, pretty much hopeless loser. Well, loser by Greek warrior standards, anyway." Why would anyone make a LOSER the romantic lead?
Because people seem to have a deep-seated neat to root for the underdog. We LIKE seeing Rocky battle his way up from the streets to win the title, we LIKE seeing mild-mannered Clark Kent turn into Superman, we LIKE seeing the Cubs win the pennant--the variations on this theme are endless. With Joxer, we like seeing the geek get the girl (or the boy, in this case) because deep-down we think that means there's hope for US to win, for us to struggle through to that happy ending. Perhaps this is especially true in Joxer's case, because so many of us can identify with him far more readily than we can with Xena, Gabrielle or Hercules. The majority of us are not perfectly beautiful, perfectly coordinated, or able to think clearly in crisis situations. Joxer is not only the underdog, he is US.
WHY ARES? Which brings us to Ares. Why would anyone make Ares the focus of a romance? He's handsome, I'll grant you that, but he's also cruel, sadistic, and bestial in his tastes and practices. He's a murderer a million times over.
And we want to redeem him. The "bad boy with a heart of gold" is another epic theme throughout literature, music, and movies. So Ares has never shown any evidence of that hidden heart of gold--that doesn't matter. We NEED that heart of gold to be there--we WANT Ares to deserve redemption. Because, once again, in Ares we see ourselves--those parts of ourselves that we're ashamed of, that we long to deny, the petty cruelties and sufferings we inflict on others but try to dismiss as being "justified." We NEED Ares to be redeemed, because then we know that we are worthy of redemption, too. Or, in corollary to that theme, we fantasize that we are the MEANS for Ares' redemption, for then we prove that we weren't really so bad after all. If we can bring someone like Ares to the light, we MUST have been good ourselves.
WHY JOXER AND ARES? The stories featuring Joxer and Ares thus serve a dual purpose that I think is unique in all Hercules/Xena fan fiction--they allow the reader to be both the redeemer and the redeemed, the underdog and the champion. The Joxer/Ares pairing stands for the division that exists in almost everyone's psyche, that dichotomy between what we know ourselves to be and what we wish we were, and resolves it the only way such a conflict can be resolved--through love. A love that ennobles and redeems, that cleanses and heals. The underdog and the bad boy with a heart of gold ride off into the sunset and, for just a moment, we are with them...we ARE them. And for that moment, we are noble and redeemed, too.
That is what the Joxer/Ares pairing provides.