Believers and Skeptics: The X-Files

By: Nadia Azad

When discussing texts in class, we usually go over arguments for both the believer’s side and the skeptic’s side. For example, in Dan Chaon’s The Bees, we discussed the possibility of DJ, the protagonist’s son, being a supernatural stalker; however we also discussed the possible clues in the text that suggest that DJ is just a figment of the protagonist’s mind. Sometimes, we even call these types of explanations the “Mulder” or the “Scully” rationalization of the paranormal. However, it was only recently in class that we discussed the origin of these names: the popular television show, “The X-Files,” by Chris Carter.

“The X-Files” is a supernatural horror show about two F.B.I. agents, Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson), who are assigned to “The X-files,” a sector of the F.B.I. that is dedicated to investigating paranormal cases. Mulder, an Oxford-educated psychologist, got in to the “X-Files” due to his search for the truth about his abducted sister, who he believes was taken by aliens. Viewers begin the series from the point of view of Dana Scully, a physics major and medical doctor who was recruited by the F.B.I. and sent to work with Mulder. Scully, in almost every episode, provides the voice of scientific reason to the case, and sometimes, Mulder’s own life. On the other hand, Mulder, who hangs a poster depicting a U.F.O and reading “I Want To Believe” in his office, is the staunch believer in almost everything supernatural. The premise of many of the episodes deals with the conflicting nature of these agents, with Mulder developing a theory of the event they are investigating that is supernatural, and Scully denying this theory in favor of a scientific explanation. As more elements of the case are uncovered, viewers learn who is right.

Not only is the merging of the believer and skeptic a key theme of the series, but “The X-Files” also deals with the search for the truth and government conspiracy. In many episodes, when Mulder starts to uncover truths about the existence of aliens, people higher up in the government (who Mulder and Scully are under the order of) start wiping out evidence and covering up the truth about the paranormal. An excellent episode called “Jose Chung’s from Outer Space” deals with whether two teens who had their memories wiped were abducted by aliens or abducted by the government. Aliens and the government are paralleled frequently by the show, begging the question of if what we really should be fearing is life from another planet, or life that already exists on our own. Watch the promo for this episode below:

While the heart of “The X-Files” deals with aliens, there are also episodes about all sorts of paranormal creatures from the more traditional ghosts and vampires to liver-eating mutants and mud creatures that dwell under suburban neighborhoods. The X-Files, which ran from 1993 to 2002, remains an excellent show that has won 92 awards and been nominated 202 times. It not only provides a dose of terror but also thoughtfulness about the nature of the supernatural. I find it funny that, when watching the show, nearly all viewers become a “Mulder,” almost chastising Scully for her lack of belief when surrounded by so much evidence. However, in real life, most people are more likely to be a “Scully” when it comes to claims about the paranormal. A question that Mulder asks Scully in the episode “Beyond the Sea” is a question that I think is fitting for us all: “After all you’ve seen… why can’t you believe?”


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