Nat Breaks Up With The X-Files. For Good This Time.
Spoilers ahead and a trigger warning for rape.
I said I would not watch the latest season of “The X-Files.” After last year’s convoluted alien conspiracy theory bullshit, I told myself I was done with Chris Carter’s shitty monologues and incoherent plots. I would not give the show—one I had loved in high school—any more of my precious time or energy.
That didn’t work out quite as I’d planned when I found myself without anything to do at the 8 p.m. start of the season premiere. I wasn’t ready for bed, I wasn’t planning on reading or anything, so why not turn it on while I play with the cats? After last season, my expectations were super low; what was the worst that could happen?
Hooboy. I’ll reiterate the trigger warning for rape.
I admit I was only half paying attention to most of the episode (which was more than sufficient, I might add). There’s a monologue by the Cigarette Smoking Man (from here on known as the CSM; he’s the main villain and Mulder’s dad) that’s supposed to be deep commentary on the state of the world, but it’s really nothing special. It’s the ramblings of a mediocre white man—been there, done that.
And then there’s a convoluted plot where Scully is in, and out, of the hospital. Mulder is on a road trip, shouting and waving a gun at people who are part of the “Syndicate,” which is some kind of globe-spanning cabal. My takeaway was that the CSM wants to kill all the humans with an alien virus, and it’s up to Mulder and Scully to find their kid (who is some sort of alien hybrid, I think) and save the day. Fine.
Except it’s not fine, because Chris Carter likes to be shocking. He likes big reveals and big twists, and there is one here: Mulder is not the father of Scully’s child; the CSM is. Apparently, way back in the original series, when the CSM and Scully were working together on something, he drugged and impregnated her.
Um. Holy major consent issues, Batman. What the actual fuck?!
It gets better (and by better I mean worse) when the CSM says he didn’t actually impregnate Scully by having sex with her; instead, he used “alien technology” or something. See? It’s all good. No rape! He just stuck his sperm in a woman without her consent using space magic, so it’s cool!
This isn’t just my interpretation; it’s what Chris Carter said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly following the airing of the episode:
“When CSM says he’s William’s father, is he literally his father, to some biological extent? Along with alien DNA? No. He’s the figurative father if he’s not the actual father. He didn’t rape Scully. He impregnated her with science.”
Ugh. Again I say: What. The. Fuck. You can try and split hairs all you want, Chris Carter, but you wrote the sexual assault of one of your lead characters. It was gross and unnecessary.
And, real talk, ”The X-Files” always had a bad track record with women. Scully may have had more agency than other female characters in the 1990s/early 2000s, but, at the end of the day, she was still subject to the whims of men, be it male characters or a male writers’ room. Scully was never shown to have female friends, and the writers killed off her sister, Melissa, in a case of mistaken identity. If there was anything unbelievable about ”The X-Files,” it wasn’t aliens; it was that Scully didn’t have any sort of life outside of Mulder.
So am I surprised that the beautiful, brilliant Scully is reduced to a pawn in a fight between two men? No. Am I fucking disgusted by how Chris Carter decided to use the violation of a woman’s body as a plot point in this conflict? Yes.
I have a fairly high tolerance for the shitty treatment of women on television; I have to. There are very few shows in the genres I love where women aren’t treated like crap most of the time. This latest development finally put me off “The X-Files” for good, though. I’d be pissed if a storyline like this showed up in any show I was watching, but it especially hurts with Scully.
Scully meant a lot to me growing up. There weren’t any other women on television like her. The character set a new standard and inspired many a Scully knock-off on other shows in the years that followed. To take take such an amazing character and assault her for the sake of shock and, I assume, Mulder’s inevitable manpain—because how a man feels will obviously be more important than the violation of Scully’s person—is awful. I can’t deal with this shit. I’m done.
I think that, from now on, I’ll be sticking to my many fond memories of a character who inspired me. It’s less painful that way.