“I don’t think she was an accomplice. I think she was just trying to get away.”
These words, spoken by Mulder at the end of the episode “Monday” perfectly encapsulate the fear and danger in trying to leave an abusive relationship. She was just trying to get away. Only you can get out, no one can do it for you. No one can save you. You might die trying to get away, but even that is preferable to perpetual hell.
We know that the woman named Pam represents every woman. We only hear her name once. This could be done intentionally to both signify how she could be any woman, every woman, but also to show that these women aren’t just statistics and victims, but whole people with unique identities. She’s not just some woman. She’s Pam. It lends weight to everything that will happen after. She has a name, people and things she loves, a life, favorite foods, favorite movies, favorite books, dreams and goals.
But any woman (one just like Pam) can find herself in an abusive relationship. Smart women. Strong women. Because gas lighters are smart too. At least when it comes to this. Emotional manipulation is what they’re best at, and there’s usually no indication you’re in an abusive relationship until it’s too late. Using an amalgamation of countless real life stories, we can infer that Bernard probably started out sweet, telling Pam she’s beautiful and perfect and the only girl he’s ever felt this way about, that she deserves the best, and shouldn’t have to work. So he’ll work (as a janitor) so she doesn’t have to. It sounds very romantic and appealing until you realize that he’ll have her right where he wants her-with no financial independence of her own and no way to leave him once he starts showing his true nature.
But this is all just speculation right? We don’t know it’s an abusive relationship. The X-Files has always been subtle but profound. They don’t come right out and blatantly say anything. But we do have one important clue. So like Mulder and Scully we take what little evidence we have and run with it. We know this woman is living the same day over and over and has tried everything possible to stop the explosive ending from happening again. She drugs Bernard; it doesn’t work. She hides his keys; it doesn’t work. She even calls the cops on him herself. But like she says “he always gets here.” And she’s always there with him. There’s nothing she can do to change her circumstances.
When Bernard asks her why she’s always in a mood she replies “because nothing ever changes.” On the surface this is obviously directed at the “deja vu” of the repeating day. But beneath the surface it’s a commentary on the stagnant nature of being trapped in an abusive relationship. Often, the abusive party will apologize for their behavior and swear it’ll never happen again. Inevitably it always does. The only possible outcomes are a woman finally putting her foot down and getting away, living out the rest of her days in Hell, or when her abuser accidentally or intentionally kills her.
I like this bit from the show because you’d think calling the police would be more than enough. Calling the police with a tip about a bank robber with a bomb headed for a specific bank should be enough to stop Bernard, but for whatever reason, it isn’t. Going to the police for help if you are in an abusive relationship should get you out of it, but it often doesn’t. How many news stories include the details of a woman going to the police, filing a restraining order against her abuser and basically doing everything she’s “supposed” to do–“the right thing”–in order to save herself. But often abusers are controlling and possessive. They try to control where you go, who you can and can’t talk to, even how much money you have. When they lose control, the fear of no longer being able to possess the person they want can send them onto a violent and destructive path. But before that happens, they will do everything in their power to maintain that control. They’ll violate restraining orders, stalk, break into houses, whatever they need to do to try to talk the person into taking them back. The particular news story I’m thinking of ended with the woman dead after just such a series of events. She tried to get away, and he killed her. A final act of ultimate control. If I can’t have you, you aren’t going to be with anyone else. If I can’t control your existence, then you’re not going to exist.
But back to the main clue the woman is in an abusive relationship. One of the things she tries in order to change her circumstances is to tell Bernard “I’m not going with you.” He replies “Look, I’m not asking.” This is what abusive relationships are like. You don’t get to decide for yourself how you will live. You are told what to do. And you do it, or else. Frequently watching his episode I asked myself why doesn’t she stick to her guns? Why doesn’t she refuse to go with him? Probably because whenever she tried to say no, she got beaten. She’s afraid. You can see it in her face, her eyes and the bags beneath them, her stance. You can hear it in her voice. She is truly in hell. And there’s only one way out.
At the end of the episode Pam finally realizes what variable needs to change in the events of that Monday. She needs to be the one in the bank, not out in the car. She needs to be the one to get hurt. Bernard is responsible for killing her (accidentally), all the while claiming he was doing this for her. But as is the misplaced feeling of most abusers, that’s not really love. No freedom. No peace. That’s not a loving environment. Money won’t make her happy. Pam actually looks relieved as she lies on the floor of the bank bleeding out.
“This never happened before,” she says with the same optimism she exhibits whenever Mulder remembers something from the repeated day. Maybe this will do it. Maybe it’s finally, finally over. Maybe she’s finally free.
This is all juxtaposed with Mulder and Scully’s healthy relationship–one built on friendship, trust, independence, and mutual respect. Their banter with one another, even on a bad day, brings jokes, smiles, and conversations on fate versus free will. Scully volunteers to cover for Mulder and deposit his check for him, and (as always) they both try hard to save each other’s lives once inside the bank. We even see Scully cradling Mulder with gentle care, in stark contrast to the stiff and cold body language between Bernard and his girlfriend.
In this episode, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban cleverly show the hell, and all too often tragic ends that abusive relationships can meet.
Let me be clear about one thing right off the bat. As a lover of the English language I’m always searching for the exact right word to describe something, and I don’t use the word “incomparable” lightly. I use it because no relationship I’ve ever seen on television compares to how realistic and effortless the chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson is on The X-Files. When they perform a scene together, there’s absolutely no sense of actors repeating lines from a script. It’s genuine. Viewers believe a real conversation is happening between two actual people who know each other as well as Mulder and Scully would.
Remember my post from a few weeks back about how Gillian Anderson was, superficially speaking, the antithesis of what the show was looking for in a female lead? –> (Dana Scully) The reason she got the part anyway was because no one in the room could deny the lightning they’d trapped in a bottle when they saw the unprecedented chemistry between the two. Chemistry on T.V. is like Voice in fiction. It can’t be taught or forcefully applied, but when a writer taps into it, and it’s right, they’d be a fool not to run with it because it’s not something easily harnessed.
Don’t take my word for it; listen to what The X-Files team has to say on the subject:
That’s not to say that the hard part is over. Chemistry is one thing, but then it’s up to the writers to give the characters excellent dialogue, and not let that potential go to waste. Luckily, the show is as well-written as it is well-cast. Let these Mulder and Scullyisms courtesy of Snakey973 be your proof:
When Mulder and Scully interact it’s easy to believe the two have known each other well and for a long time. Viewers believe that they know each other personally as well as professionally, and not only spend much time together at work, but outside of it as well. They have the kind of back-and-forth that happy long-term couples have, where they can joke with each other and understand and appreciate the other’s sense of humor. Their use of sarcasm, the faces they make at one another, and the way they good-naturedly give each other a hard time are all characteristics of real relationships. You can always tell when two people aren’t comfortable around each other because they are being too polite. Mulder and Scully share an intimate comfort and speak to each other as I would to my closest friends.
I’ve seen shows like Stargate-SG-1 (Jack and Carter) and 12 Monkeys (Cole and Cassie) come close, but I still have yet to see a real competitor for The X-Files in the chemistry department. The stars seem to have aligned perfectly over this one creative endeavor, and fans are eternally grateful.
As promised, every week leading up to the X-Citing X-Files revival, I’m posting something nostalgic and with a certain paranormal bouquet. This week, let’s take a look back at some of the wonderfully unique gifts Mulder has given to Scully over the years.
In the season 2 episode, “One Breath,” Scully wakes up from a negative prognosis after her family has literally pulled the plug and given up on her. Mulder, who has been having an extremely difficult time dealing with his first ever taste of losing his best friend, visits her in the hospital with a unique gift. He doesn’t bring her flowers, or candy, but a VHS tape: “I brought you a present,” he says. “Superstars of the Super Bowl.” To which Scully sarcastically replies, “I knew there was a reason to live.” There’s so much to love about this scene. Is that really the movie he brought? Or was he making a joke to cover for something more sentimental? Or is that really what it is–something he had lying around his apartment? After all he’s been too worried and preoccupied to shop, and couldn’t just show up empty-handed. Is it something he feels they can enjoy watching together later? It certainly wouldn’t be the only time on the show that he tries to get her interested in football. And it’s not as though the two don’t watch movies together. At any rate, the gift reflects the stage in their relationship: we’ve known each other for over a year, and I’m doing my best to show that I have valued that time with you, and care for you.
In the season 4 episode, “Tempus Fugit,” one of my all time favorites, Mulder and Scully eat dinner where he surprises her with a dessert with a sparkler shining in it, a “Happy Birthday” song, and a pretty little gift box. Scully remarks that in 4 years working together, he’s never remembered her birthday, to which he retorts that he prefers to do it like dog years. I always figured that Mulder, often joking to deflect genuine emotion, simply has found something worth giving her this year. Think about it: the less someone makes a big deal of holidays and occasions, the less they give gifts, the more meaningful that gift will be when they finally decide to give it. In this episode, Mulder gives Scully a gift worthy of tears, though it may not seem that way at first.
Scully opens the gift box to reveal an Apollo 11 medallion commemorating that mission, and is grateful but relatively confused. As Mulder is about to explain why he gave it to her, all X-Files hell breaks loose and the agents embark on a tragic two-episode investigation. At the end of part two, “Max,” after losing friends but not faith, Mulder and Scully stare at the stars, and Scully tells Mulder she figured out what he was going to say:
“I was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell me why you gave it to me or what it means. But I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women; extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals. What can be imagined, can be achieved. You must dare to dream, but it is no substitute for perseverance and hard work. And teamwork, because no one gets there alone. And while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifices of those who make these achievements and dreams possible.”
Mulder, as per usual deflecting the depth of that sentiment, jokes that he just thought it was a cool key chain. But of course, Scully is right. This gift is made all the more important by the stage of the relationship that it is presented in–the season of Scully’s terminal cancer diagnosis, where Mulder once again will be struggling with the reality of losing her. Mulder realizes that things he used to be able to do alone, aren’t worth it anymore, and that he no longer wants to continue this quest without her. That’s what the medallion means.
In the season 6 episode, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas,” even though the agents said they weren’t going to exchange gifts, at the end they reveal that they “got each other a little something.” The audience doesn’t get to see the gifts revealed, but only Mulder and Scully smiling while excitedly shaking boxes and untying ribbons. I actually like that we don’t know what they got each other, because we get to speculate, and that’s so much fun.
To me, it looks and sounds like Scully got Mulder a VHS tape (oh, 90s). But what is it? The two obviously enjoy watching movies together, if the season 7 episode “Je Souhaite” is any indication. But what movie would she choose for him? Or maybe, she is re-gifting Super Stars of the Superbowl simply so they could share in the memory of that moment, when their relationship, and the gifts themselves were less evolved. And it looks like Mulder gets her….I don’t know….a salami? But I rest assured that whatever it is, his explanation is better than the gift itself. After all, things don’t matter–it’s only stuff. Words, loyalty, friendship, love, trust, and showing appreciation for those qualities is what matters.
Later, in the season 6 episode, “The Unnatural,” (another episode that appears in my top 5 favorites overall) Mulder is prompted into an emotional epiphany by Arthur Dales, who stresses that Mulder need pay less attention to the heart of the mystery, and more to the mystery of the heart. Mulder is touched, and moved by Dales’s story of love–all kinds of love–being more important than any alien truth, so again, he decides to show his ever-growing appreciation for his partner. He calls Scully to meet him for a “very early or very late birthday present.” In other words, he gives her a “no-reason present,” which are often the best kinds because they prove you don’t need a special date or occasion to show your love and appreciation for someone.
Under the stars, and with a beautiful song playing in the background of the episode, Mulder teaches Scully to play baseball–to momentarily forget her cares and worries that he and his quest have inflicted on her over the years, and to let her know that her loyalty has never been undervalued. Though of course he doesn’t have to, Mulder insists on putting his arms around her, helping her position her hips, and hold the bat. The gifts are becoming more romantic as their relationship does. It is a truly beautiful moment on the show, and with all the horror the two experience, those are so wonderful and rare.
By the time we reach the season 8 episode, “Empedocles,” their relationship has evolved pretty much as far as a romantic one can. Our dynamic duo is having a baby together, and to a pregnant Scully, Mulder presents a doll. This is such a sweet, and truly touching physical gift, that Scully makes this face when she opens it:
Mulder explains that the doll is a family keepsake that he discovered while going through his late mother’s things. Scully helped Mulder through his mother’s tragic death, and we know how much a special family heirloom would mean to him. That he would give it to Scully solidifies that she and the baby are now his family. And as always, the thought behind Mulder’s gift makes it all the more meaningful.
Well, X-Philes, did I miss any wonderful, unique Mulder gifts over the years? What are your favorites and why? Please comment below, and don’t forget to visit every week for more X-Files nostalgia as we move closer and closer to the revival.
The X-Files is back and I just can’t keep calm about it! I’ve been watching since I was six years old, and have waited thirteen years for new episodes, but I know without doubt it will be worth the wait. This show and its characters have meant so much to me, and I know I’ll share the excitement with many other Philes when we see Mulder and Scully light up the dark places with their flashlights again on January 24. While we’re waiting, here are ten important things I learned from growing up watching The X-Files.
1. Don’t give up. Or the value of hope.
This is a theme on the show that runs from season one, all the way to the most recent movie, I Want To Believe, and I expect to see it in the new revival as well. No matter how much adversity Mulder and Scully face–and it’s a lot–ranging from loss of family members, kidnapping, threatening, disease, memory theft, near-death experiences, mind games, and Cigarette Smoking Man burning their life’s work to ash–they never, ever quit. Scully got close once, in the movie Fight the Future, when she had finally reached her limit of never having acquired any physical evidence to back up their claims. And her wavering almost made Mulder lose his faith too. But in the end of Fight the Future:
And at the end of the series:
Scully: Why would I accept defeat? Why would I accept it, if you won’t? Mulder, you say that you’ve failed, but you only fail if you give up. And I know you – you can’t give up. It’s what I saw in you when we first met. It’s what made me follow you… why I’d do it all over again.
Scully: And what has it gotten you? Not your sister. Nothing that you’ve set out for. But you won’t give up, even now. You’ve always said that you want to believe. But believe in what Mulder? If this is the truth that you’ve been looking for, then what is left to believe in?
Mulder: I want to believe that… the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us… as part of something greater than us – greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen, to what’s speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves.
Mulder and Scully will never give up. They don’t have it in them. I don’t want to have it in me either.
2. The importance of wanting.
“I want to believe” is so much more than just words on a poster. It’s a mantra–a way of life. What we want, if we want it badly enough, can become what’s real.
“I want to believe” means never accepting the futility of the quest. If Mulder loses his belief, his passion, he would give up. Those are the darkest points in the show–the moments where Mulder thinks he wants to believe too badly, and that he has believed lies, and that his willingness to believe has led to all the misfortune in his life. But Mulder is that guy who everyone thinks is crazy, and is completely right about the oncoming storm. There is a conspiracy, there are aliens, people are out to get him, and if he ever stopped believing that, we would all be doomed, because there would be no one left advocating for the human race.
Hope, drive, goals, something to live for, the idea that there must be something more than what we know–what’s the point of living without that feeling?
3. Science and faith are not mutually exclusive.
Mulder shows little to no interest in religion in the show. However, he does believe in the paranormal, in ghosts, in at least some type of afterlife. Scully, the skeptic scientist, was ironically raised to believe in God, and never takes off the gold cross she wears around her neck. She refuses to believe in anything paranormal without hard evidence, yet believes God is watching over her unquestioningly, and this has often helped her cope with the most difficult moments in her life. A few of those moments have even swayed Mulder to her way of thinking, especially in the last episode when he touches his thumb to Scully’s cross and then to her lips, and the two confess that they ultimately want to believe in the same things.
But one of the most interesting moments in the show comes at the end of “Redux II” in season 5. Desperately seeking a cure for Scully’s terminal cancer, they’ve tried everything from radiation therapy, to Cigarette Smoking Man’s magical computer chip placed under the skin of her neck. It is never revealed to the viewer what officially sends Scully’s cancer into remission, but what we do know for sure is that she doesn’t start getting better until she embraces her faith and starts praying for a miracle.
When it comes to science and faith, you can hold them both sacred. And it doesn’t hurt to believe in something divine.
4. Small victories matter, and they’re sometimes the only ones we get.
Through all of Mulder and Scully’s hard work in Fight the Future (and if you want to know exactly how much hard work, you need to watch the movie because I can’t possibly list it all here) all they are ultimately able to do is get the X-Files reopened:
Conrad Strughold: Oh, you look hot and miserable. Why have you traveled all this way?
[we see that it reads: “X-Files reopened. Stop. Please advise. Stop”]
This doesn’t seem like much, after you’ve rooted for them throughout the entire movie, but a small victory can lead to a big one later. The X-Files being reopened will lead to Mulder and Scully continuing to fight the good fight, uncover more truths, and most importantly, keep their faith alive.
They may never be vindicated, but that doesn’t mean the journey wasn’t worth while. The universe is vast and we are so small. We can only control what we do. And Mulder and Scully stand up and fight the good fight every time, no matter how often they fail. Small victories matter, and they’re sometimes the only ones we get.
5. Teamwork: because no one gets there alone.
One year for Scully’s birthday, Mulder gives her an Apollo key chain, and Scully has a nice, long, tear-filled, two-part episode to ponder its meaning. At the end, while Mulder and Scully look at the stars, she says:
“I was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell me why you gave it to me or what it means. But I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women–extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals. What can be imagined, can be achieved. You must dare to dream, but it is no substitute for perseverance and hard work. And teamwork, because no one gets there alone. And while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifices of those who make these achievements and dreams possible.”
Mulder jokes that he just thought it was a cool key chain, but it really is a symbol for the hard work they put in with each other and for each other, and an expression of his gratitude that she is in his life.
In Fight the Future, Mulder tells Scully:
“I don’t know if I wanna do this alone. I don’t even know if I can.”
Mulder and Scully only trust each other, and can only count on each other. All you need is one person. But you at least need one. If you try to go it alone, you will eventually perish under the weight of the solitary journey. But with a good friend shouldering half the burden, anything is possible.
6. Friendship is just as important as romantic love.
Chris Carter kept us waiting for seven long years for the obvious love between Mulder and Scully to come through officially on screen. But even if they’d never had a physically romantic relationship, what they had–each other’s company–would have been enough.
Having someone to depend on, lean on, who is always there for you, makes all the other tragedy in their lives worth it.
7. What true love is.
Mulder and Scully’s relationship did finally evolve into a romantic one, and I think it’s the truest love I have ever seen on television or elsewhere. In the beginning, all their affection was shown through concern for one another, worry, jealousy, a hand-hold, a touch, a hug, a meaningful look, a poignant moment. There was zero kissing for seven years, but it was obvious there was love between them. As Chris Carter says, Mulder loves Scully, and Scully loves Mulder.
When Scully informs Mulder she has cancer in season 4, Mulder is forced to confront his feelings for his partner. He can’t live without her. Later, as Scully lies dying of cancer in her hospital bed, Mulder all but falls apart. He realizes how close he is to losing her, and cries at her bedside while she sleeps, holding her hand.
The tables are turned in season 7 when Mulder is the one in danger. After a horrifying ordeal with CSM tampering with his brain, and imagining living an entire other life of creature comforts without his quest, in which aliens end up destroying the earth, Scully saves Mulder in more ways than one. She physically gets him out of the operating room, but in his hallucination, she snaps him out of his metaphorical slumber demanding he “get up and fight the fight.” When he recovers he tells her: “The end of my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You… were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant… my touchstone.”
Scully sacrifices a prominent career in medicine, her sister, and her health to follow Mulder on his quest. Mulder goes on an epic, dangerous journey multiple times to cure Scully’s inoperable brain cancer, and save her from alien experiments. He literally goes to the ends of the Earth for her in Fight the Future when he rescues her from Antarcica. Mulder and Scully are there for each other in the good times and bad, can always count on the other, and always feel safe, comforted, and loved in the other’s company. That is true love.
8. The underrated value of truth.
It’s rare in this life that we ever actually know what’s true. Greed rules, lies reign, dishonesty often prevails. Even if Mulder and Scully never made the truth known to the world (yet*) To have it just for themselves, to know it, is something they never stop searching for. At times, it may not seem important, but why should we just accept whatever we’re fed? Why not try to uncover it? When you really think about it, it starts to eat away at you, like it does Mulder.
Agent Monica Reyes (In defense of Mulder): “What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it?”
Fox Mulder: “I’d like to congratulate you. On succeeding where so many before you have failed. A bullet between the eyes would’ve been preferable to this charade. I’ve learned to pretend over the past 9 years. Pretend that my victories mattered only to realize that no one was keeping score’. To realize that liars do not fear the truth if there are enough liars. That the devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil is a collaboration of men which is what we have here today. If I am a guilty man, my crime is in daring to believe, that the truth will out and that no one lie can live forever. I believe it still. Much as you try to bury it, the truth is out there. Greater than your lies the truth wants to be known. You will know it. It’ll come to you, as it’s come to me, faster than the speed of light. You may believe yourselves rid of your headache now, and maybe you are, but you’ve only done it by cutting off your own heads.”
The truth wants to be known. And it deserves to, for the vindication of those seeking it everywhere.
9. Self Confidence.
Don’t care what anyone thinks of you. Mulder certainly doesn’t:
“I’m the key figure in an ongoing government charade, the plot to conceal the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. It’s a global conspiracy, actually, with key players in the highest levels of power, that reaches down into the lives of every man, woman, and child on this planet, so, of course, no one believes me. I’m an annoyance to my superiors, a joke to my peers. They call me Spooky. Spooky Mulder, whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was just a kid and who now chases after little green men with a badge and a gun, shouting to the heavens or to anyone who will listen that the fix is in, that the sky is falling and when it hits it’s gonna be the shit-storm of all time.”
This show teaches you to be confident in yourself no matter what anyone else thinks. It doesn’t matter if the whole world thinks you’re crazy. Be you, believe what you believe in, and one day, even if it takes decades, you will prove everyone wrong. And even if not, you lived your life in a way that was true to you, and that’s enough.
This is something every character on the show struggles with. For some, like Skinner, the decision is made more difficult by threats and precarious situations. Krycek can never decide what side he’s really on, but in the end, is usually just out for himself. Even Kersh has a moral epiphany in the series finale, and saves Mulder, doing “what he should have done a long time ago.” Mulder and Scully, will fight to do it every time, no matter the cost. That cost is usually the highest–the loss of family members, health, respectability, your life’s work, your sanity. But they never give up. They keep at it because they believe in what they do, and that bringing about justice is always right.
Even if you become an annoyance to your superiors and a joke to your peers, stand up for what you believe in, like Mulder does. The world will always need people like Mulder. Mulder not only stands up for the little guy, but represents him. This is why I love the Max storyline. Even though it’s short, Max is one of my favorite characters. Max’s story ends tragically, but that’s why we need Mulder to live on–so that Max and others like him will never be forgotten. Mulder is the only one who believes their stories, or cares about their plight. Mulder represents the Maxes of the world: The losers, the nerds, the geeks, the weirdos, the uncool, unpretty, and unbelieved–people who are never heard, people who when heard are called crazy, those beaten down by life at every turn, losing friends, family, and respectability, while acquiring diseases and alien tortures. Max is that weird guy, with the glasses and crazy hair that everyone always made fun of, only to die a horrible death without ever being vindicated. We need Mulder and Scully investigating that death, making sure it wasn’t for nothing, or at the very least, that the one thing Max has at the end, is that someone knows the truth. Mulder is the voice of the voiceless.
I want to shed new light on Scully’s quote from earlier:
“And while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifices of those who make these achievements and dreams possible.”
We can not forget the Maxes. If we do, nothing in our own journeys will be meaningful or right.
Mulder keeps Max’s hat on the coat rack in the X-Files office as a constant reminder to keep fighting for the truth.
These were just 10 of so many poignant moments on the show. There are so many valuable truths to be discovered in the writing of The X-Files, and I discover more each time I delve back in. What are some things you learned from the show? Share your favorite moments below. Until the revival episodes air, I’ll miss it so.
“Baby’ me, and you’ll be peeing through a catheter.”
She was on The X-Files in 1993, and as one fan says:
If you don’t understand what we mean by most women on T.V. today being portrayed as complete idiots, watch two seconds of any episode of Two and a Half Men. Go on, try to formulate an argument that women on Two and a Half Men are portrayed in any quasi realistic way.
But as it always has, the science fiction genre shows women in strong and intelligent roles. On the cult SciFi classic TheX-Files which aired in 1993, Dana Scully became an inspiration for strong women everywhere.
Despite her small stature, rest assured that Dana Scully can kick ass. She’s handy with a microscope as well as a gun, physically fit, can take down a man twice her size, and has on multiple occasions. Remember when she beat the bajesus out of Donnie Pfaster, destroying her apartment in the process? Man, did that guy have it coming. In addition, Scully is mentally and emotionally strong, not only holding her head high through her sister’s murder but always demanding answers, even if she had to find them herself. The characters on this show go through a lot–A LOT–of emotional destruction, and Scully is strong through it all, even giving Mulder a shoulder to cry on when he breaks down over his mother’s death.
Dana Scully is a medical doctor, forensic scientist, and an FBI agent, making it all look easy in a “man’s world.” She gave up a promising career in medicine to the disappointment of her father, because she’s a strong, confident woman who does what she wants, and doesn’t live her life to please others. Scully thought she could make a difference at the FBI. And she has.
Scully totally legitimizes Mulder’s division, the X-Files, which is often subject to ridicule due to the paranormal nature of the cases he investigates. Let’s be honest. Mulder is such a nutbar when we first meet him that he was going nowhere fast. Dana Scully humanizes him and evens him out, providing a logical counterbalance to his crazy.
Chris Carter has said that when he created the show, women were still generally thought of as emotional, artistic, right-brained characters. He wanted to do a role reversal in making Mulder the emotional one, and Scully the scientist. The result? Dana Scully’s character has inspired hundreds of little girls to go into STEM majors, particularly the sciences. Scully made it not only normal for a woman to go into this kind of work, but cool. It’s what’s known as The Scully Effect–the noticeable uptick of women in STEM majors since 1993. Gillian Anderson still receives letters from girls she inspired with her character, and we owe her for bringing Scully to life, because she’s the absolute perfect actress for the job.
Chris Carter has also said that the role of Scully was meant to be played by a tall, blonde, voluptuous vixen. Don’t forget this was the era of Baywatch, and Pamela Anderson was the epitome of what was considered sexy. You might be thinking that today “geek chic” is all the rage with shows like CSI, NCIS, Bones, and Fringe. Well let me tell you, that’s only because The X-Files took a risk by going in a completely different direction. In walks Gillian for her audition at 5’3 with red, unruly hair, freckles, and a healthy body weight that would make most models want to throw up their 3 daily calories. Luckily for us, her chemistry with David Duchovny was phenomenal and she was cast in the part. I’m so glad it was Gillian above anyone else, and here’s why:
Gillian Anderson, of course, is gorgeous. But she wasn’t the “ideal woman” people wanted to see on T.V. She was short, un-anorexic, hadn’t yanked out all her eyebrow hair, and since it was the 90s, dressed in baggy clothes with enormous shoulder pads, and wore short heeled shoes, doing nothing to elongate her short stature. She was beautiful, but she was REAL, not some plastic, airbrushed, complex-inducing swimsuit model. Scully looked like a woman you might actually see working at the FBI. She was real, and she was gorgeous anyway. Dana Scully never compromised a damn thing about herself or her appearance.
To illustrate this point, Scully falls in love with Mulder, and watches for seven years as past flames, and a few new ones, come in and out of his life. These women are always beautiful, tall, and thin, and sometimes wearing short shorts (Bambi), or undressing in his apartment for no apparent reason (Diana Fowley). Scully never changes her appearance or her clothes to get Mulder’s attention. She never wears a shorter skirt, or unbuttons her blouse. Her outfits become more modern as the seasons progress, but that’s more the styles of the time changing than her character. She is a complete professional, never allowing Mulder to see her out of full FBI attire (I think we see her in jeans a total of once, while she’s on vacation) and always closes her bathrobe tightly before answering the door in her pajamas. Scully is what’s known as a lady–something that’s becoming out dated, and old-fashioned.
But guess what. She get’s Mulder anyway! And she doesn’t have to compromise one iota of her integrity to do it. He falls in love with her without the short shorts, or overt sexual advances. Scully did it with brains, wit, grace, strength, personality, and often by showcasing her unadulterated honesty in telling him the truth. Scully doesn’t try to be anything other than what she is (she has rather more important things to do, like discover the origins of an ancient alien virus) and gets exactly what she wants because of it, whether it be a job, answers to a case, or a relationship.
Earlier this week concerning a post on strong female television characters, I read a lot of comments complaining that we are just looking at actresses, and that actresses are nothing special–not like strong women in real life. I disagree. Little girls watch T.V. and see that it’s not only men in exciting professions, and that it’s not only normal, but cool to speak your mind, be authoritative, strong and go on adventures. Fictional characters can inspire real greatness, just like Uhura inspired a young Whoopi Goldberg, and just like Dana Scully inspired thousands of girls to go into science majors. Words matter, and so do fictional characters. They can make a difference. If I may borrow a magnificent quote from Albus Dumbledore: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?“
Remember our discussion on Uhura, and if any little girls out there were paying attention? They were. They still are. I was a nerd in school, in both Science and English. I still am a nerd. I’m short, and certainly don’t have the face of a model– something the mean people in my school never failed to call attention to. I’ve had friends say “you seem like the kind of girl I’d have hated in high school because you’re blonde and skinny,” (It doesn’t matter. Mean people can, and will, find something wrong with you) and “I always just assumed you were popular in high school because you’re always so confident.” Part of the reason I’m confident today is because when I was growing up, Dana Scully made me feel cool even though I was a smart “nerd,” beautiful even though I was short and imperfect, tough even though I was a small girl, and strong especially when it was most difficult to be. For still inspiring girls all over the world to this day, including myself, Dana Scully is and always will be a kick-ass woman of SciFi.
Needless to say, The X-Files was my absolute favorite show growing up, and still is. We X-Philes have been waiting with bated breath for the return of Dana Scully in the show’s revival later this year. Perhaps it’s fate that the week I decided to write about Scully, Fox confirmed six new episodes! I’m moving my post up, in conjunction with this most joyous event! I can’t wait to see this kick-ass woman back on T.V.!