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I, Scully

July 25, 2008

If you’d been in my neighborhood on Halloween in 2000 or so, you would have come across a cranky adolescent in a trenchcoat and a shade of lipstick too bright red for her age. That was me, knocking on doors for one of my last Halloweens. “Oh what are you? Inspector Gadget?” the ladies at the doors would ask.

“No” I said through my give-me-candy smile. “I’m Agent Scully.”

I made it exactly five houses worth of this same conversation before I packed it in and vowed never to go out on Halloween again. Teenage histronics? Yes. Was I legitimately upset? Yes, because even at 13, if I was going to pretend to be anybody or anything anywhere, it was going to be Dana Katherine Scully.

Rebecca Traister knows why. Her article explains it in ways I couldn’t quite form, even in my love-hate excitment for the new X-Files movie. (I’ve got ticket for tonight’s 7:50 showing, Chris Carter’s going to tear my heart from my chest, heat it in an oven with garlic and rosemary, and throw the whole thing in garbage, isn’t he?)

In this summer of Dark Knights and Hellboys and Iron Men, it’s refreshing to be reminded — as we will be this weekend, with the opening of “The-X-Files: I Want to Believe” — that not so long ago, there was a science fiction series with a woman at its core, a heroine whose major goals were more about disproving the existence of extraterrestrial life than marrying Big, a chick who spent more time chasing fluke worms down toilets than trying on shoes.

And while I spent three or so of my last years worried about the feminist implications of female characters in fiction, she makes an excellent point about the subtle, complex strength of the character that Gillian Anderson brought to life, not just some chick looking hot karate chopping dudes ( I’m all for that, but Buffy, et al., aren’t exactly easy for me to relate to.)

But Scully’s surety was solid, stable, rigid; every time she saw something she thought she’d never see, we saw it crack, sparks fly from it. She was forced to question herself, grow, change. In short, she got the better arc, and her journeys were always, by dint of the setup, more intricate and moving.

I cannot imagine growing up without thinking “What would Scully do?” more often than not, nor my sheer excitment over dissecting a cat in high school bio. Some of it seems silly now that I’m grown up (and nearly the same age as Anderson when she started on the X-Files), but strangely, Scully doesn’t seem fictional to me. She’s just a part of who I would become.

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