Everything I am today, I owe to Dana Scully.
I was allowed to watch The X-Files at age 7, just in time for Season 3. In hindsight, this was an excellent parenting decision made by my mother and father. Dana Scully was unlike any other woman I had seen on TV before. She was a medical doctor and FBI agent who acted independently, who openly questioned the male coworker with her skepticism of his paranoia.
I had just finished the Illustrated Classics edition of Moby Dick, so I adored Scully's attachment to Melville's classic as well. As a young girl who loved science, monsters, and extraterrestrials, Scully was the epitome of everything I wanted to be: a woman who was smart, a woman who pursued her passion in the science field, and a woman who did not crack under pressure. I still maintain to this day that Scully is one of the best written characters on television ever, regardless of gender.
When I heard about the triumphant six-episode return of the X-Files, starring Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) and David Duchovny (Fox Mulder), I unabashedly squealed with glee. In order to celebrate Scully's return to the TV screen, here are my top three X-Files episodes with Scully's most feminist moments.
Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'
I love this episode for a myriad of reasons, and not all are related to feminism. This episode features Jesse Ventura (not to mention Alex Trebek) as a Man In Black. Ventura had this iconic line that became emblazoned in my memory: "You probably thought you saw something up in the sky other than Venus, but I assure you, it was Venus."
That being said, to me, the true standout moment in "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" is when Scully recognized that sexual trauma happens regardless of gender, and that the mind reacts to this trauma in different ways. This is highlighted when Scully, after questioning Harold (a teenager who was abducted with his girlfriend, Chrissy) finds out that the pair engaged in consensual sex. Mulder brushes this fact off. However, Scully remains firm, stating:
"So we know that it wasn't an alien who probed her. Mulder, you've got two kids having sex before they're mature enough to handle it."
Something finally dawns on Mulder, as he responds: "So you're saying that all this is just a case of sexual trauma?"
Scully responds: "It's a lot more plausible than alien abduction, especially in light of their contradictory stories."
Scully acknowledging that sexual trauma for both men and women can occur regardless of consent on prime-time TV is a huge feminist moment in my book.
Home is an episode that haunts the memories of many fans of The X-Files for obvious reasons. Dead babies, murder, and incest are topics that aren't taken lightly. Understanding that, Scully had several standout feminist moments throughout "Home." The first occurs upon the autopsy of an infant, in which Scully uncovers a myriad of genetic defects, along with the fact that the infant inhaled dirt and debris prior to death, indicating the child was buried alive. Scully lays it down for viewers of the X-Files, as she says:
"Imagine all a woman's hopes and dreams for her child and then nature turns so cruel. What must a mother go through?"
Going by all of the films with motherhood and birth featured prominently, mothers go through a lot, and to male directors or writers, motherhood and birth are terrifying themes indeed. In that sentence, however, Scully instead brings a sympathetic response to something monstrous.
Scully also fights for women throughout "Home." When Scully and Mulder are discussing the fact that the Peacock Family (the suspects in this episode) are "not really the type that can get dates," and are likely to practice inbreeding, Scully immediately thinks about the welfare of the woman located within the Peacock home.
"But if the instinct and the need is strong enough, they will answer it any way that they can. Now a woman gave birth to that child, Mulder, and my guess is, against her will."
In lieu of solely focusing on the suspects, Scully brings attention to the fact that the alleged mother of the child found buried beneath the dirt of a baseball field needs attention (and potentially rescuing). Because I mostly watched Wild Discovery when I watched TV, Scully was the first woman I ever saw on television who stood in solidarity with another woman.
When Scully and Mulder arrive at the Peacock home, they discover that Mrs. Peacock, who was thought to have passed away in an automobile accident, is in fact alive. When Scully tells Mrs. Peacock that she and Mulder will be getting her out of the house, Mrs. Peacock refuses. Mrs. Peacock says that she will remain behind to look after her children (who are also her lovers), saying that they are "good boys."
Scully counters this assessment, mentioning that the Peacock boys murdered the Sheriff, the Sheriff's wife, and a Sheriff's Deputy. In a moment that haunts my dreams, Mrs. Peacock turns to Scully, and says:
"I can tell you don't have no children. Maybe one day you'll learn... the pride... the love... when you know your boy will do anything for his mother."
Now that quote will haunt your nightmares too, sorry about that.
"Syzygy" is an episode about potential supernatural murders at a small town high school that received mixed reviews, but one that I adore for one singular moment. As fans of the show know, for the majority of the first three seasons of The X-Files, Mulder drove. In "Syzygy," Scully has had enough of this patriarchal BS.
Scully asks to drive. Mulder protests, and demands that Scully let him drive. Scully then roars:
"I’m driv… Why do you always have to drive? Because you’re the guy? Because you’re the big macho man?"
Scully verbalized the minds of thousands of feminist viewers, and for that, I will always love her.
Although I grew up to be a student of gender studies and not biology, as I had dreamed of at seven, Scully's influence on my childhood and the development of countless other young girls is just as valid. I want to believe that during the upcoming six-episode revival, Scully will do the same to an entirely new generation.
The truth is out there.