Wednesday, July 23, 2008

X-Files - Scully's tragic journey

Salon's Rebecca Traister has a nice article up about her hero-worship of Dana Scully over the years. As the second movie is about to be released, it is worth noting that for me, and perhaps for the creator himself, Chris Carter, the show was never really about Fox Mulder. No, the journey that we were taking for nine long years was really the tragic assimilation and destruction of Dana Scully.

Fox Mulder was the freak, the loner, and the brainy, handsome loser. Instead of using his intelligence and knack for profiling to work in the prestigious behavioral science unit, he chose to work in the basement on a little-funded section called 'The X-Files'. Aliens, ghosts, monsters, ESP, and all manner of 'unexplained phenomena' was the gimmick. Obsessed with his nine-year old sister's apparent alien abduction, Mulder had allowed his obsessions to dominate his life and his career.

But Dana Scully was different. She had a promising career as both an FBI agent and a doctor. Assigned to basically spy on 'Spooky' Mulder, she quickly proved a solid counter balance. Mulder was quick to believe, while Scully used reason and science to counter her new partner's wild assumptions.

For the record, there is a common misconception about the show, that of Scully always being wrong and Mulder always being right. In more episodes than not, they ended up both being a little wrong. There usually was something unexplained and supernatural afoot, but there usually ended up being a scientific explanation behind the phenomena. It often was a haunted house or a monster in the woods, but there was usually established science behind the haunting and that monster always had a biological origin.

Alas, for Scully, her tragedy was that as the years went on, she quickly became enveloped in the far-reaching conspiracy that made up the 'mythology'. Her twin sister was murdered, she was abducted (by aliens?), she was rendered infertile, and had tracking devices planted in her neck. As the later seasons unfolded, she would lost not one, but two children that were apparently (miraculously?) born of her fertile womb (one child died of a mysterious illness, the other was giving to a random farm family for adaption). To be fair, Mulder paid a terrible price as well, losing his father to gunfire and learning some very disturbing secrets about his family history in the process. But, it was Mulder's quest and his choice about whether to endure. Scully was never all that willing a participant, yet Mulder's obsessions soon consumed her as well.

After nine-years of ghost busting and alien-hunting, she ended her television journey as just a female version of Mulder. Embittered, alone, as completely obsessed with the powers that lurk in the shadows and the things that go bump in the night, Scully's descent was complete. By the end, with Mulder having left her in the final season, she sounded every bit as loony as Fox Mulder, every bit as distrusting, and every bit as cut off from the society that the planned to make her home. In the end, as she helped Mulder escape from government custody and went on the lam with him, she had signed off on every bit of potential that she had arrived with. While fans begged and pleaded over the years to make Mulder and Scully a romantic couple, their final union was one of bitterness. Scully ended up with Mulder because she truly had no where else to go.

While the first reviews are not overwhelmingly optimistic, they seem to imply that it continues that arc of Dana Scully and correctly renders Fox Mulder as merely the antagonist in this most unfortunate relationship. Considering all she has lost, it would be only logical that Scully would often rue the day she ever met the sunflower seed-eating, porn-loving, paranoid-nutcase who would slowly but surely wreck her life.

Scott Mendelson

2 comments:

Uuldrik said...

I have to argue with you on some very valid, basic points. True, she made choices to fallow Fox, but it was never out of bitterness. Have you even watched the show? She fallowed him because of love. And even in her own words, she stated in the final scene of the series, "that's why I'd do it all over again." She wouldn't give up, just like Fox (again something she herself states in that final scene). They were polar opposites in many a way, but they grew to love each other and they found the one thing that makes all the pain worth it. They found love, the real kind...the kind that has kept thier relationship going despite all the years of loss. In the words of Chris Carter himself, "Scully loves Mulder and Mulder loves Scully."

Uuldrik said...

I have to argue with you on some very valid, basic points. True, she made choices to fallow Fox, but it was never out of bitterness. Have you even watched the show? She fallowed him because of love. And even in her own words, she stated in the final scene of the series, "that's why I'd do it all over again." She wouldn't give up, just like Fox (again something she herself states in that final scene). They were polar opposites in many a way, but they grew to love each other and they found the one thing that makes all the pain worth it. They found love, the real kind...the kind that has kept thier relationship going despite all the years of loss. In the words of Chris Carter himself, "Scully loves Mulder and Mulder loves Scully."

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