I only managed to watch the first three or four seasons of the X-Files, but you’ve got to remember, that Mulder and Scully did actually exist in a world where aliens and monsters existed. The rules are different in a fictional world. It’s one of the features of BSG and Lost that wound me up. I find the issue of faith and belief fascinating, and I love it when a show takes the time to explore the contradictions and weirdnesses of the subject, but it’s frustrating when a plot is allowed to climax with ‘and God is real so this is what happens’.
It’s television at it’s worst, really close to television at its best. The thing about faith and belief, is that you never get proof. You either believe or you don’t, and you’ll never, ever know if you’re right. Until maybe you die, and then only if one set of assumptions is true.
But instead we get this vague reassurance that everything is in the place you want it to be. Belief is rewarded with the world being how you will it.
Which is so far from reality it’s upsetting. It’s a panacea. It’s comfort that ‘everything is okay’.
But let’s get back to Fox and Dana. Employed by the FBI, we’ve got the believer and the doctor. Sent out to keep an eye on the weird unsolved or paranormal cases, Mulder finds his beliefs confirmed, Scully finds hers challenged. Except when it all turns out to be straightforward. As I understand it, eventually, Scully becomes so embroiled in the world of aliens, mutants and paranoia, that she becomes the believer, which is likely to happen in a world where weird shit happens.
But taking at the beginning. We’ve got someone who is convinced the world is weirder than it appears, and is willing to listen to any explanation. Then we’ve got somebody who dissects corpses for a living, and relies on science to verify what has happened at any given point. She won’t listen to a theory unless it is possible within current understanding, or proven empirically by new information she herself is studying.
Now. Scully’s view may be the obvious right one to a lot of people. And certainly, a systemic approach to the nature of reality is important and useful. Because, you know, that’s how you work out how reality actually works, which is always going to be useful.
But actually, I think the FBI were onto something. Narratively, they always implied that Scully was sent there to keep Mulder in check. But actually, when dealing with a weird world (which we have out here as well) without having people that will chase after monsters and weirdness, you get buried in a world where some of the stuff that matters is lost.
You should approach science with an attitude of wanting to be debunked. You should approach life as a thing that is going to provide you with infinite marvel and wonder.
Because it is.
Illustration by Rosie‘s Adam (not our paternal Adam)