How Mulder and Scully Rock my Writing World

Reposted from: February 22, 2106 []

We’ll start with a confession: I’m an X-Phile, a fan since the first episode, and I think the revival has been exceptional. So this blog’s gonna wax rhapsodic. You’ve been warned.

x-filesWhen The X-Files debuted, it broke new ground. How could anyone resist the sexy spookiness of each case, the complex and crazy plots, the monsters, and the myth arc—not to mention, the insane chemistry between Scully and Mulder?

I was 26 when the pilot aired, a contemporary of the lead characters, and filled with the same boundless energy and passion for my work. Now that I’m pushing 50, one of the delights of the revival has been watching my favorite dynamic duo face middle age. It’s been funny and charming and moving: Mulder fumbling with his new iPhone app. Scully mourning her inability to take the stairs in 3-inch heels. Both of them dealing with the absence of their son William, mid-life cynicism, and the aging process. (No offense to the actors meant. Anderson is as lovely as ever and Duchovny remains seriously hot, whether shirtless and in Wranglers—woo-woo—or the red speedo.)

This week, I also realized how much The X-Files has contributed to my writing and creative process.  Here’s why:

Awesome archetypes. Mulder’s a classic Hero—at different times warrior, romantic, scapegoat, unbalanced, apocalyptic, and vengeful. Scully’s heroic, too, of course, but in the early seasons, she’s also what Jung called The Platonic Ideal, a source of inspiration for the hero, though not a romantic interest. In later seasons, she served as Earth Mother, a symbol of abundance and fertility, particularly after she became (miraculously) pregnant.

Gender role reversals and equality. I’ve always loved that Scully is the scientist (logical) and Mulder is the believer (emotional). That creates conflict (let’s face it, without conflict there’s no TV show), and conflict is always an opportunity to grow. In the end, their strengths and differences are complementary. Because they’re equals, Mulder and Scully support and save each other—mentally, emotionally, and physically. I mean, sure, Scully was a damsel in distress in Unruhe, but she’s saved Mulder’s ass more times than we can count. Hell, she even shot Mulder to save him in Anasazi.

Secrets, lies, duplicity, and truth. The show’s convoluted plots are maddening for fans, but uncovering the truth isn’t easy. It’s a slippery slope. When we’re young, we think in black and white. The ability to discern shades of gray comes with maturity. The X-Files does a great job at exploring the gray area. How long can you look into the dark before risking the light? Think of Mulder’s desire for revenge in One Breath or his longing for a simple life in Amor Fati,  Scully’s struggle over her sister’s death in Paper Clip and Christmas Carol,  and the great Skinner-centric episode, Zero Sum.

The quest. I don’t think any other television show portrays the heroic quest as well as The X-files. Mulder and Scully battle through each stage of the journey—from the call to action, through myriad trials and destruction, and finally to triumphant rebirth—within each episode and throughout the show. (Even the current 6-episode revival is true to the quest.) Their shared experience is full of rich, classic dichotomies: Light vs. Dark. Heaven vs. Hell. Fire vs. Ice. Nature vs. Technology. Above all, though, Scully and Mulder never surrender. As dark as some of the episodes are, eventually their shared quest makes them turn back to the light.

So how did Chris Carter & Co.  rock my writing world with The X-Files?

My current work-in-progress has nothing to do with sci fi or the paranormal. Far from it. It’s a historical novel, about a nurse who uncovers the abuses perpetrated on children in a Nazi baby factory. Allina, the protagonist, is a logical/cerebral soul who is dedicated to her work. She saves the children by looking into the darkness of the Reich with the help of her love interest, Karl, a classic hero with a softer side. They live in duplicity—pretending to support a regime they hate—as they risk their lives to transport the children to England, and safety. It’s a heartbreaking story. And yes, it’s a serious one, tackling real events that happened decades ago. But the parallels are still there.

Some folks dismiss The X-Files because it’s sci fi, or say it’s silly because it deals with conspiracy theory. But the sci fi genre often allows writers (in print and screen) to tackle societal and political issues with enormous flexibility and creative freedom.

What attracted me to The X-Files more than two decades ago—the hero’s quest, classic archetypes, equal partnership in a romantic relationship, and the need to discover the truth and make a difference—is what motivates my storytelling now.


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