It has been a couple of years since The X-Files ended… OK, fine, it has been more than a “couple” of years, but I still avidly look for anything related to the show. Thanks to the wonderful World Wide Web, there is always something new.
I recently rediscovered a commentary on the show written a couple of years ago which features a point of view I have seldom (if ever) read before. In X-Files: Scully’s Tragic Journey, Scott Mendelson discusses how the show was about the journey of Dana Scully’s assimilation and her ultimate destruction as she got increasingly wrapped in the alien conspiracy (i.e. the mythology), paying a steep price (the murder of her sister, her own abduction, her ensuing infertility, etc.) While Mendelson acknowledges that Fox Mulder also paid a dear price, he argues that, as the quest was his to begin with, it cannot compare to what Scully, an innocent bystander of sorts, paid.
No doubt Scully’s life would have ended up quite differently had she never met Mulder. But to blame him for her destruction seems quite patronizing. On the one hand, it implies that Mulder’s position as a believer, the one she has joined him in, is below that of a non-believer. On the other hand, it places the onus of her current position on Mulder, making of Scully a helpless, hapless, weak female caught in the grasp of stronger male. This of course completely demeans the capacity of one of the strongest, most empowered female protagonists in recent television history.
After all, Scully is a very intelligent, strong, independent woman. To blame Mulder for ruining her life implies that she was unable to make decisions for herself and thus, had no choice in the matter. It also reflects a lack of understanding of the process that both characters went through while the show was on air. Mulder, who was prone to believing anything at the drop of the hat, was consistently, continuously, and successfully challenged by Scully to become a little more scientific about the matter. Scully, who believed only in what the hard sciences could prove, was also consistently, continuously, and successfully challenged by Mulder to open her mind to new possibilities. They became a complimentary team. And when Mulder was thought dead, Scully attempted to keep his legacy alive by clinging obstinately to the same tenants that Mulder once clung to, but managed to step out of her grief to reach her previous, more balanced approach to work.
At the conclusion of Season 9, is Scully’s life actually wrecked? In The Matrix, was Neo’s life wrecked because his eyes were opened to the truth? Of course not. Rather, his life truly began when he was ‘unplugged’ and lived in the real world, however more difficult that was. Scully was ‘unplugged’, in a way, from her narrow minded perception of the world through the hard sciences and she opened her eyes to a broader perspective of the world. Because she is a strong, highly intelligent woman, she was also able to do the same for Mulder.
If one believes that a successful life for Scully would have been an amazing career, a family, and a house with a white picket fence in which she and her husband would have hosted dinner parties on Saturdays and the whole nine yards, then yes, Scully’s life did get ruined. But what if life is about something else? In the universe of The X-Files, there are aliens, and there is a government conspiracy selling out the human race. Is dedicating one’s life to stand up for justice really wrecking one’s life? In my opinion, the only really sad thing about Scully as we last saw her is that she lost her voice; while in Season 1, she vociferously would counter Mulder, she doesn’t quite have that passion to expose the truth anymore.
One can of course easily see the reflection of Scully’s journey in the ‘real world’ universe, where more and more individuals are denouncing the status quo – the career and the white picket fence – to adopt alternative lifestyles that allow them to contribute to the betterment of society, from people who go on volunteer vacations instead of going to resorts, to those downsizing their homes quite significantly, to those quitting high paying jobs to dedicate themselves to noble causes. The decreasing passion Scully demonstrates as the experiences of the nine years of The X-Files deflate her passion are also reflected in the hopelessness that many today feel in the face of seemingly omnipresent injustice.
Mendelson is right in that Scully is bitter, but perhaps that’s because she has been reading or listening to people like him, telling her that her life is wrecked. Does she believe that the conspiracy is real? If so, does she believe that she did everything she could to counter it? If the answer to both questions is yes, then she should be proud of the sacrifices she did in the name of her fellow humans, and try to look for another way to spread the truth.
Because, my friends, the truth is out there.