Dr. Dana Scully of The X-Files: A Feminist Scientist Navigating Patriarchies




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Medical doctor and federal agent Dana Scully (portrayed by Gillian Anderson) was one of the two lead characters in the speculative television franchise The X-Files (created in 1993 by Chris Carter) and has thus been a prominent figure in popular culture for almost three decades. This research argues that her character has been a positive and feminist representation of a woman scientist. Scully is indeed able to overcome significant systemic violence perpetrated by different patriarchal systems, especially the bio-terrorist shadow organization particular to the mythology of the series. She accomplishes this by reclaiming her threatened agency in both her professional and her personal lives. By investigating her primary role as a medical doctor, this project traces her development in a more comprehensive way than it would if solely focusing on her as an FBI agent, for Scully always retains her medical expertise and puts it to various professional uses. Exploring the intersection of real-life science, trauma, and feminism in Scully’s journey is the primary goal of the research, since popular culture participates to the representation of society, including science, and fuels discussion in the general public about the large and multifaceted field. While fiction may seem incidental compared to actual scientific practice and policies, the way a franchise such as The X-Files presents a prominent woman scientist remains important, for art exists in dialogue with society and not in a proverbial vacuum. This research unfolds in three sections. The first one, “Scully’s Medical Expertise,” investigates the character’s lineage as a fictional woman scientist, as well as her medical expertise both within the X-Files department and outside of it. The second section, “Scully’s Narrative Journey,” focuses on her personal and professional agency, the issues of her codependent relationship with her longtime partner Fox Mulder (the other lead character of the franchise, portrayed by David Duchovny), and the creative process behind Scully and her longevity. Finally, “Scully and the Bio-Terrorist Patriarchy” explores the general gendered violence featured in The X-Files, the ideology driving the bio-terrorist patriarchy permeating a significant part of the show’s narrative, and Scully’s trajectory from victim to potential savior. Each section addresses core aspects of Scully’s characterization as well as the narrative environment in which she evolves. Regardless of the state of the FBI department and its ties to paranormal investigations and seemingly unexplained cases that give the name to the franchise, Scully remains a medical doctor in all installments. Even with younger generations of women on screen, Scully’s longevity and unique narrative arc still offer ground for discussion about the depiction of women, especially female scientists.



Cinema, Women's Studies, Philosophy