"Women on The X-Files"
by Michelle Erica Green

Babes in the Files

Can I get on my feminist bandwagon about X Files for a moment, please? I would like to see the women on this series get a little more interested in scientific ideas just because they're interesting...not because some they are interesting to the most important men in their lives.

I liked "Kill Switch" a lot, but its heroine, Esther Nairn, falls into the same pattern as Linda Bowman in "Kitsunegari," Sharon Graffia in "Tempus Fugit," Lisa Ianelli in "Synchrony," and several other women we've seen on this series...including Dana Scully, who heads a long list of X Files heroines whose involvement in science, occultism, politics, or esoteric studies began not out of intellectual curiosity, but out of a desire to be with a man who's engaged in such studies. "Kill Switch," for instance, was ambiguous on the issue of why brilliant scientist David Markham died - was it for love, or to get away from his lover, whom he apparently later tried to kill? It's unclear from the episode whether Markham was lured to his death by an artificial intelligence which he helped to create, or because he accomplished what he set out to do and uploaded his own intelligence onto the net, "dying," as Nairn would later, when the electrons which comprised his neural network left his body. Nairn told Scully that her goal in all her scientific labors was to live forever with Markham as a disembodied consciousness. Her research was not abstract, nor for the betterment of humanity. She died chasing true love.

I had similar questions about Ianelli, the brilliant scientist of "Synchrony" who nearly died completing the research of her lover, and Bowman and Graffia, the obsessed sisters of unstable men, one a murderer, the other apparently an alien abductee. I'm not complaining about women giving their lives for their loved ones; we've seen men on this series do that too, though more often they give their lives for their beliefs, their research, their governments. I just want some indication that some of these women DO live primarily for their work, and that some of them men do not. How many women sit around the table with the Shadow Conspirators? Precisely.

On the "Inside The X Files" special last month, David Duchovny described Scully as Mulder's humanizing force. This really bothered me. OK, the X Files were originally Mulder's project and Scully was brought aboard as a skeptic, but that project has been her life for the past several years. In many ways, she's suffered more for her career than has Mulder. Scully plays a much more important role on this series than Mulder's sidekick; for me, she's the more interesting of the two main characters, the one who went in not because of her personal demons but because of her intellectual questioning. She's the one who stays cool-headed and reasonable, she's the one who asks questions for the audience.

It's annoying that on any other series, Scully would sound smart and focused by saying that aliens aren't real, the government doesn't try to assassinate its own, there are no Star Wars weapons, etc.. But on THIS series, because of all the evidence to the contrary, she comes across as naive and oblivious. They are shifting that balance somewhat, but even now, as Mulder becomes a skeptic, he's proven right more often than not. I understand why Mulder never has a social life and why he can't escape his obsession with the paranormal, but I'm not clear on why Scully feels the same way. She wants to solve the mysteries of what happened to her when she was abducted and what the agency she works for is trying to hide, but why does she enjoy spending the rest of her time looking for sea monsters and fluke men? It seems that the answer is primarily because she gets to work with Mulder.

When Mulder stumbles into solo work, the fate of the free world tends to be at stake. When Scully does the same, the crises seem to be about talking tattoos and dolls. It's far more common for Mulder to draw Scully into his area of interest than vice versa, and this seems to be a pattern followed by a lot of the women who appear on this series. I'd like a little more balance.

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