Scully Doesn’t Care: Why Men Loved ‘The X Files’

 

“You disparage Scully?”
“Who?” my wife asked.
“Gillian Anderson, she was Scully on The X Files,” I said.
“You mean that gross show?”

My wife is not wrong, “The X Files” was often gross. In fact, it was downright disturbing at times. In retrospect, it was also pretty badly produced, often poorly acted, and occasionally made no sense. None of that matters to me. I’m sentimental about “The X Files” and it has nothing to do with the quality of the show. It holds a special place in my heart because, despite its flaws, it was always there for me.

It may or may not surprise you, but I was kind of a dork in high school. I wasn’t smart enough to be an academic nerd, or geeky enough to be a comic-book nerd; I was more like 50 percent dork. I played some team sports, but I also founded a photography quartet called The Phototards. I had a few girlfriends but never attended a homecoming or prom. Some weeks I went out on Friday night, but on others I found myself sitting alone in my room with nothing to do. It was on those nights, friends, that “The X Files” came to the rescue.

Credit the program schedulers at Fox for nailing their target demographic: single guys stuck at home on Friday nights. I wasn’t a loser, but I sure felt like one sometimes on Friday until 9 p.m. when Scully and Mulder showed up, a welcome distraction from ponderings over pretty girls I didn’t have the courage to ask out all week. It was a far better option than watching “Step by Step” or “Dateline” with my mom — at the time anyway. No offense, Mom.

We didn’t find Scully attractive; it wasn’t about that at all. Mulder was a dork — like us — and Scully was right there with him, no condemnation, no judgment. She was all action in muted dialogue with zero sex-appeal. The last thing we needed on those nights was to see people having fun. No, we needed to see Scully crawling under a dilapidated shed with her Glock 9mm, ready to double-tap some mysterious creature a second before it sank its teeth into Mulder. Scully never knew what was going on, but she knew how do deal with it, and we adored her.

Gillian Anderson, the actress who played Scully, eventually went on to other things. The last thing I saw her in was the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. She was a fine Lady Dedlock according to my wife, but I don’t recall her knocking the doors off the role. I also see on IMDB she played Miss Havisham in Great Expectations but I haven’t seen it. For all I know she may deserve awards for her post-“X Files” work; I’m the wrong person to ask. But in my book — and I dare say for many guys of my generation — she will forever be respected as Scully, who was there for us when we needed her, not as a shoulder to cry on (Scully wasn’t “feely” like that) or a form to objectify (Scully would have punched you in the jaw), but as a rock.

Scully reminded us that sometimes the week doesn’t go as planned, resulting in a bunch of messed-up situations, and if we’re not smart she’s gonna have to bail us out again next week. It’s almost as if Scully would tell us, “Man up. Get off your duff and make a better choice. Do something better with your time.”

But if we didn’t, Scully was always there for us.

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There are 39 comments.

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  1. Member

    Mulder was dorky, but he packed a gun and looked pretty good in a suit. That’s not full-on dork.

    • #1
    • April 20, 2019, at 3:26 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  2. Thatcher

    Like many men I had a bit of a crush on Anderson’s, Scully character. Unfortunately I once Anderson on a talk show. Dumb as a box of rocks. Destroyed the show for me.

    • #2
    • April 20, 2019, at 3:48 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Like many men I had a bit of a crush on Anderson’s, Scully character. Unfortunately I once Anderson on a talk show. Dumb as a box of rocks. Destroyed the show for me.

    Well, she was often wrong to Mulder’s often right.

    • #3
    • April 20, 2019, at 4:20 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Like many men I had a bit of a crush on Anderson’s, Scully character. Unfortunately I once Anderson on a talk show. Dumb as a box of rocks. Destroyed the show for me.

    Well, she was often wrong to Mulder’s often right.

    I find the Mulder/faith vs. Scully/reason characterization annoying.

    It would be at least as accurate to say that it’s one strategy for reasoning versus another. Something like William James (Mulder) vs. Descartes (Scully).

    You could even make a good case that Scully is unreasonable for not believing when the evidence stares her in the face. To be fair, I think she eventually believes anything; there’s just a skeptical period of thinking it through a bit more and waiting in case more evidence shows up, which it often does.

    • #4
    • April 20, 2019, at 4:42 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Coolidge

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Like many men I had a bit of a crush on Anderson’s, Scully character. Unfortunately I once Anderson on a talk show. Dumb as a box of rocks. Destroyed the show for me.

    I think that’s why they’re called “actors.”

    • #5
    • April 20, 2019, at 4:43 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  6. Coolidge
    TBA

    I’ve never met a real live half-dork before. Is there a charisma bonus or minus? 

    • #6
    • April 20, 2019, at 4:56 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Member

    “X-Files” is on Amazon Prime right now. I’m about 3.5 seasons in.

    • #7
    • April 20, 2019, at 4:56 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    I’ve never met a real live half-dork before. Is there a charisma bonus or minus?

    We have evidence for a conclusion, TBA. He “had a few girlfriends.”

    • #8
    • April 20, 2019, at 5:03 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Coolidge
    TBA

    I saw her in The Fall where she played a rather unlikeable detective and in American Gods where she plays an interesting goddess. My understanding is that she isn’t planning to return in the future seasons. 

    • #9
    • April 20, 2019, at 5:03 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    I’ve never met a real live half-dork before. Is there a charisma bonus or minus?

    Considering Mulder’s career path, included Californication and the fact he claimed to have a sex addition, I’m guessing bonus.

    • #10
    • April 20, 2019, at 5:31 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Contributor

    The truth is out there. @vinceguerra certainly gets at a bit of it.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the April 2019 Group Writing Theme: Men and Women. There are plenty of dates still available. Tell us about your favorite couple, witty or tragic observations between the sexes, or perhaps the battles and truces. Or do something entirely different. Maybe a musical or dance post! Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    May’s theme will be blossom midway through April’s showers.

    • #11
    • April 20, 2019, at 5:31 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    I saw her in The Fall where she played a rather unlikeable detective and in American Gods where she plays an interesting goddess. My understanding is that she isn’t planning to return in the future seasons.

    They replaced her with a Korean actress as “New Media”.

    • #12
    • April 20, 2019, at 5:42 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    I’ve never met a real live half-dork before. Is there a charisma bonus or minus?

    Considering Mulder’s career path included Californication and he claimed to have a sex addition, I’m guessing bonus.

    He managed to lose Tea Leoni as a result of that sex addition.

    • #13
    • April 20, 2019, at 5:43 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Thatcher

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Like many men I had a bit of a crush on Anderson’s, Scully character. Unfortunately I once Anderson on a talk show. Dumb as a box of rocks. Destroyed the show for me.

    I think that’s why they’re called “actors.”

    No I understand actors and roles. Anderson’s stupidity was breathtaking. I have talked to a few others with my same point of view.

    My personal theory is that Anderson played Sully so well because she is so stupid and devoid of personality that they could build a completely separate entity in her.

    • #14
    • April 20, 2019, at 6:10 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Contributor

    The X-Files was consistently the best show on TV in the 90’s.

    We even had a watch club in high school… Yes, we were geeks too.

    • #15
    • April 20, 2019, at 6:22 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Podcaster

    Wait. You’re not talking about that devastating redhead… Vin Scully?

    • #16
    • April 20, 2019, at 6:39 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Member

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk) (View Comment):
    The X-Files was consistently the best show on TV in the 90’s.

    The first episode I saw, it completely sucked me in despite the conditions: a tiny TV in a loud kitchen after finishing a shift waiting tables. I couldn’t stop watching.

    It holds up pretty well, in my opinion. There are some episodes much better than others, but consistent, slow-burn character movement, then a season finale that tossed everything in the air for a bit.

    • #17
    • April 20, 2019, at 6:45 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  18. Moderator

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Like many men I had a bit of a crush on Anderson’s, Scully character. Unfortunately I once Anderson on a talk show. Dumb as a box of rocks. Destroyed the show for me.

    I don’t know where she stands on other things, but she participated in an ad campaign that showed that people who don’t buy into cutting carbon dioxide emissions deserve summary execution.

    • #18
    • April 20, 2019, at 8:13 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Member

    Chris O. (View Comment):

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk) (View Comment):
    The X-Files was consistently the best show on TV in the 90’s.

    The first episode I saw, it completely sucked me in despite the conditions: a tiny TV in a loud kitchen after finishing a shift waiting tables. I couldn’t stop watching.

    It holds up pretty well, in my opinion. There are some episodes much better than others, but consistent, slow-burn character movement, then a season finale that tossed everything in the air for a bit.

    What got me hooked on the show was the humor mixed with horror/SF elements. Then it went off the rails about season five. 

    • #19
    • April 21, 2019, at 5:52 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Coolidge

    The basic plot line of “The X-Files” is indistinguishable from “Scooby Doo.”

    • #20
    • April 21, 2019, at 8:01 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  21. Member

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Like many men I had a bit of a crush on Anderson’s, Scully character. Unfortunately I once Anderson on a talk show. Dumb as a box of rocks. Destroyed the show for me.

    I think that’s why they’re called “actors.”

    Some are better at acting than others. Ted Danson has been trying for decades to shed the image of a stupid ex-jock/bartender by taking on more cerebral roles. He has failed utterly – the stupidity is in his DNA.

    • #21
    • April 21, 2019, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Member

    Much like Dr. Who, I just don’t get it. I heard all the constant hype and tried several times to see what it was all about. I didn’t even make it through most episodes. The stories were just so off and I thought everyone was so wooden. Maybe I should let myself get sucked into giving it another try yet again.

    • #22
    • April 21, 2019, at 2:44 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Coolidge

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Chris O. (View Comment):

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk) (View Comment):
    The X-Files was consistently the best show on TV in the 90’s.

    The first episode I saw, it completely sucked me in despite the conditions: a tiny TV in a loud kitchen after finishing a shift waiting tables. I couldn’t stop watching.

    It holds up pretty well, in my opinion. There are some episodes much better than others, but consistent, slow-burn character movement, then a season finale that tossed everything in the air for a bit.

    What got me hooked on the show was the humor mixed with horror/SF elements. Then it went off the rails about season five.

    Neither of us ever watched the show consistently until two years ago when it was on cable. We quickly became hooked.

    There was a marathon of the shows one month. What amazed us both was that so often, one show would be so well written in terms of theme and suspense. And well acted as well. The episode would leave you thinking about it long after it was over. Then the following episode was merely phoned in. Never could figure out why the discrepancy.

    • #23
    • April 21, 2019, at 5:41 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Contributor

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    There was a marathon of the shows one month. What amazed us both was that so often, one show would be so well written in terms of theme and suspense. And well acted as well. The episode would leave you thinking about it long after it was over. Then the following episode was merely phoned in. Never could figure out why the discrepancy.

    Chris Carter was far more invested in some plot lines than others. Also, the team of writers varied hugely across the show’s run and they even had guest writers as diverse as Stephen King at one point coming in to do standalone episodes.

    But the hooks of the show pay off in the end.

    Just never watch season 10 or 11.

    • #24
    • April 21, 2019, at 6:30 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  25. Member

    The Great Adventure! (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Like many men I had a bit of a crush on Anderson’s, Scully character. Unfortunately I once Anderson on a talk show. Dumb as a box of rocks. Destroyed the show for me.

    I think that’s why they’re called “actors.”

    Some are better at acting than others. Ted Danson has been trying for decades to shed the image of a stupid ex-jock/bartender by taking on more cerebral roles. He has failed utterly – the stupidity is in his DNA.

    I once heard that actors are models who can read. I always thought Anderson’s “acting” consisted entirely of striking a series of poses in rapid succession.

    • #25
    • April 21, 2019, at 9:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Contributor

    We didn’t find Scully attractive; it wasn’t about that at all. Mulder was a dork — like us — and Scully was right there with him, no condemnation, no judgment. She was all action in muted dialogue with zero sex-appeal.

    Dude.

    I mean, I get that it was Moonlighting for dorks, but yeeeesh, we’re not talking Gladys Kravitz here. Yes, her nerd-acceptance and non-romantic connection on an intellectual plane was key to the relationship, but – well, maybe I just belong to a strange, non-representative sample of people who find Gillian Anderson attractive.

    • #26
    • April 21, 2019, at 10:22 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  27. Member
    Vince Guerra Post author

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    well, maybe I just belong to a strange, non-representative sample of people who find Gillian Anderson attractive.

    Gillian Anderson was attractive, Scully was not. If the goal on Friday night was to see a gorgeous woman on the screen, there were a hundred better options. 

    • #27
    • April 21, 2019, at 11:12 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Coolidge

    Vince Guerra (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    well, maybe I just belong to a strange, non-representative sample of people who find Gillian Anderson attractive.

    Gillian Anderson was attractive, Scully was not. If the goal on Friday night was to see a gorgeous woman on the screen, there were a hundred better options.

    However there was an intense chemistry between Scully and Mulder. With Mulder being a nerd, that chemistry offered guys who were stuck inside an their inner nerdiness some hope.

    Since “nothing happened” between them sexually, the chemistry kept building up. Their bond kept intensifying because of all the times they had each other’s back. (I am not sure I got past season five yet, so if something does happen in season six or beyond, pls don’t offer up spoilers.)

    • #28
    • April 22, 2019, at 1:11 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Vince Guerra (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    well, maybe I just belong to a strange, non-representative sample of people who find Gillian Anderson attractive.

    Gillian Anderson was attractive, Scully was not. If the goal on Friday night was to see a gorgeous woman on the screen, there were a hundred better options.

    However there was an intense chemistry between Scully and Mulder. With Mulder being a nerd, that chemistry offered guys who were stuck inside an their inner nerdiness some hope.

    Since “nothing happened” between them sexually, the chemistry kept building up. Their bond kept intensifying because of all the times they had each other’s back. (I am not sure I got past season five yet, so if something does happen in season six or beyond, pls don’t offer up spoilers.)

    True story.

    • #29
    • April 22, 2019, at 1:11 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Member

    Chris O. (View Comment):

    It holds up pretty well, in my opinion. There are some episodes much better than others, but consistent, slow-burn character movement, then a season finale that tossed everything in the air for a bit.

    As others in this post, I was part of a watching group in college and we stayed together after graduation and the show’s move to Sunday. The Internet was relatively new and small. One of us found a drinking game in rec.arts.tv.x-files or maybe a weird place that started with http. We gave it a try for one of the season finales. We’d consumed quite a bit when the final scene came and Scully shot Mulder. “Scully shot Mulder! Scully shot Mulder! What do we do?” Nothing that crazy was on the list. The decision was to finish what you had, refill your glass, and finish that too. Good times.

    One time we also made Romulan Ale from a recipe in the back of a Star Trek fan magazine. I remember it had blue Curacao for the coloring, some other liquors, and some fruit juices. It was not great so we stuck the pitcher in the fridge. A few months later it was rediscovered at the back of the fridge. The fruit juice had fermented and the potency had increased. We brought it back out and it was much better.

    • #30
    • April 23, 2019, at 1:33 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
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