In Defence of Fox Mulder

by Sage

(Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for The X-Files all the way up until season ten! Read at your own risk.)

I first discovered the website ‘Bitch Media’ upon searching Google for articles discussing one of my favourite TV shows, The X-Files, and its positive messages connected to feminism. Instead, I found the exact opposite: an article entitled “In Rewatching The X-Files, One Thing is Clear: Mulder is a Real Jerk”. In this article, the author talks about their realization that, without the ‘haze of nostalgia’, Fox Mulder is a sexist character. As someone who loves Fox Mulder as dearly as you can love a fictional character (which is very much), I decided to check it out. My first impression of the site was that of exasperation; it was obvious that, with a title like Bitch Media, the owners were trying to ‘reclaim’ the word bitch, a word that many feminists consider a ‘gendered slur’. And, as for the article itself? Well, I’ll admit it: the article made me angry. Not just because it was framing one of my favourite fictional characters as an ‘anti-feminist’ character, but because… he isn’t. And that’s why I decided to write my second article for this blog taking apart the argument put forth by Bitch Media.

The article begins with the author reminiscing about how she used to love The X-Files when she was a teenager. It’s not until the second paragraph that everything begins to go downhill; specifically, this line: “Before finishing even one episode, I realized something even worse: Agent Mulder is not a dreamboat. In fact, he’s an asshole … who spends most of the series mansplaining to Agent Scully.” I was already cringing. ‘Mansplaining’ is a term that stops me from ever taking someone seriously. Same with ‘manspreading’. I mentioned ‘gendered slurs’ before, like the word ‘bitch’? Well, ‘mansplaining’ isn’t a slur, but it certainly is gendered. Apparently it’s only okay to use gendered insults when they don’t affect you. Huh.

The next passage that I will comment on is this: “It’s suddenly obvious just how much bullshit Scully has to put up with. Not only does Mulder routinely dismiss her extremely practical ideas, but her knowledge often gets the side-eye from other men in the male-dominated world of law enforcement. In episode after episode, she has to defend her ideas to Mulder, her boss Agent Skinner, small-town cops, and a rotating cast of folks like the Lone Gunmen.” I’ll admit, this was the part where I started to laugh. Yes, Mulder routinely dismisses her ideas, but it is not because of her gender. It’s because he believes in the supernatural, and she does not. I can safely say this because we actually got to see Mulder interacting with a partner who he had no respect for, and this was a man. Yep, it was Alex Krycek, back in the season two episode ‘Sleepless’. Comparing their interactions in this episode with Mulder and Scully’s in any episode will show you that there is a mutual respect between them that is impossible to break, despite the fact that their beliefs are polar opposites. In fact, this is exactly why the two characters play so well off of each other. Still skeptical? In the first X-Files movie, Mulder says to Scully, “You saved me! As difficult and as frustrating as it’s been sometimes, your goddamned strict rationalism and science have saved me a thousand times over! You’ve kept me honest… you’ve made me a whole person. I owe you everything, Scully, and you owe me nothing.”

As for Skinner, I would argue that Skinner is far more inclined to believe what Scully says than what Mulder does. For most of the series, he, like Scully, does not believe in the existence of extraterrestrials. Not only does he share her views, but in the season two episode ‘One Breath’, Skinner says, “Agent Scully was a fine officer. More than that, I liked her. I respected her.” Yes, you read that correctly. Skinner respects Scully, and cares about her too. Many times throughout the series, he is one of her most valuable allies.

And as for the Lone Gunmen, their lives are literally devoted to proving conspiracy theories and exposing the supernatural. Of course they wouldn’t agree with Scully’s rational, medical opinions. But as the series goes on, they grow to respect her too. They bring Scully flowers when she is in the hospital, and protect her son in season nine. Scully says in the season nine episode ‘Jump the Shark’ how much they meant to her.

It is true that law enforcement was a male-dominated world during the run of The X-Files. However, Scully is able to hold her own. The reason she has to fight for respect is not because she is a woman, it’s because she works with ‘Spooky Mulder’.

The author then goes on to analyze several exchanges between Mulder and Scully that apparently prove that Mulder is a ‘mansplainer’ and a sexist. One of the episodes she brings up is ‘Never Again’, an episode from season four. To be honest, I was guessing that this episode would be mentioned somewhere, because I was surprised and even disappointed with Mulder’s attitude towards Scully when I first watched it. Here is the exchange the author has cited from this episode:

MULDER: So you’re refusing an assignment based on the adventures of Moose and Squirrel?
SCULLY: “Refusing an assignment?” It makes it sound like you’re my superior.
MULDER: Do what you want. Don’t go to Philadelphia, but let me remind you that I worked my ass off to get the files reopened. You were just assigned. This work is my life.
SCULLY: And it’s become mine.
MULDER: You don’t want it to be.

The problem here is obvious: Mulder considers himself more committed to the X-Files than Scully is. Coupled with the fact that, earlier in the episode, Scully asked Mulder why he was the only one who had a desk and he responded by saying that he considered one of the corners ‘her area’, ‘Never Again’ paints Mulder in a very bad light. If this had been the first episode I had seen, I might have agreed with the author of Bitch Media’s article. However, this is exactly it: the only way I would have agreed would be if I had not seen any other episodes.

Fox Mulder is one of the most complex and dynamic characters I have ever encountered in all my years of reading, writing, and watching. However, the author of this article makes him sound very one-dimensional. She believes that Mulder’s attitude is derived from how little he respects Scully. But she is overlooking a crucial piece of the puzzle: the trauma Mulder went through that fuels his obsession. His sister was abducted when he was a child, and it broke his family apart. Scully may be devoted to the X-Files, but Mulder clung to the idea of the supernatural because it was his only hope of getting his sister back. So although I disagree with his attitude in this episode, I can definitely understand why he reacted in the way that he did. Just like Scully, Mulder is flawed. And he should be.

The author ends her article on this charming note: “Mulder and his eye-rolling can go get permanently abducted for all I care.” And yet the author emphasized throughout the article how much she loves Scully. Below, I have provided two photos: one of Scully when she found out that Mulder had been abducted, and one of when she thought she had lost him forever.

This is what you want for her? If so, I would take a second look at how much you actually like The X-Files.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time for me to put my opinion about Mulder out there. Namely, why I believe Fox Mulder is a feminist character.

In season five, there are two very important episodes in which Scully discovers that she has a daughter; a strange, half-alien girl named Emily who was born during Scully’s abduction in season two. Upon further investigation in the episode ‘Emily’, Mulder discovers that Emily’s conception was just another experiment performed on Scully. And when he meets one of the doctors responsible, he calls him out to his face. Not just for their conspiracies, but for the fact that they impregnated women without their consent. He calls them ‘medical rapists’, a phrase which has stuck with me ever since I watched that episode. He was looking past his personal bias toward conspiracy theories and seeing the actual impact that their testing had on women like Scully. That, I think, was one of Mulder’s most important feminist moments.

There is an episode in the revival series, ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster’, that features a transgender woman. A lot of people were upset about the portrayal, so I was bracing myself for the worst when I saw the episode– but it was much better than I was expecting. Mulder explains to another character what the term ‘transgender’ means– and although it wasn’t the best explanation I’ve ever heard, the fact stands that he was respectful to her.

There’s another point I want to bring up, but it’s less about Mulder’s purposeful feminist actions and more about the way he was written. Despite the fact that Mulder was a male TV lead in the 90s, he was not a cold, ultra-masculine character. The writers of the show did something very important by letting Mulder cry. He was not an emotionless, stereotypically ‘masculine’ character. He was always human first.

A lot of people seem to believe that just because someone is in a position of power (such as male, straight, or white) they are automatically a terrible person. Because Mulder is a white and presumably straight man, people judge his actions in a much different way than they would Scully’s, for example. If she had done any of the things that the author brought up, she would be seen as a powerful feminist icon. (Which she already is, but still.) People would be outraged at Mulder asking for a desk from Scully. You may not agree with me there, but I’ve seen terrible things on Tumblr. We should not empower women by putting down men. The same goes for people of colour and white people, LGBT+ people and straight people, transgender people and cisgender people, etc. The only way to achieve true equality is for both sides– oppressed and privileged– to respect each other.

The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis

Hey everyone! This is Sage here! I hope you’re all enjoying your March break. I’ve already watched about a season of Grey’s Anatomy since Friday night. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I’m here to talk about an issue that is very important to me; the dangers of self-diagnosis.

Self-diagnosis is quite self-explanatory; it is the act of diagnosing yourself with an illness or disorder instead of consulting a doctor or mental health professional. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it’s become something of a fad on tumblr, and has become the basis of many arguments in the mental health community. As someone who is very interested in psychology (and hopes to become a therapist!), I’m here to debunk one major argument used by many pro self-dxers:

“It’s not like I’m hurting anyone by doing this, so what’s the problem?”

Well, actually, you can. Not only can you hurt other people, but you can also hurt yourself.

Some psychologists are so fed up with their patients self-diagnosing themselves that they become skeptical of their other patients. Imagine, for a minute, that you were a psychologist; you spent almost a decade in university to learn about the intricacies of the human mind. You’ve studied textbooks and diagnostic reports and finally, you get a job where you can do what you’ve always wanted to do; help people. And then imagine someone comes in and tries to do that job for you. Someone who thinks they know as much as you, or even more so, after hearing about a disorder once on tumblr and then researching it for twenty minutes. It would be frustrating, devastating even, to know that someone in front of you needed your help but refused to let you give it to them. Besides, it would make you angry to think that they thought they could diagnose themselves. Even professional doctors and psychologists cannot diagnose themselves because they cannot be impartial.

As I said before, self-diagnosis can be dangerous to you too. In fact, you’re the one who can be hurt the most. If you self-diagnose yourself with a disorder– let’s say OCD, for example– you are going to start looking back at your behaviour and wondering what you can use to validate your self-diagnosis. Chances are, you’ll label things as symptoms when they really aren’t. But here’s the worst part of it; if OCD symptoms are always on your mind because you are constantly monitoring your behaviour for them, you are going to start showing symptoms even though you weren’t before. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

An incorrect self-diagnosis can cause physical harm as well. If you manage to convince a psychologist that you have a disorder you don’t actually have, and they prescribe you with medication, there could be consequences. There are many different medications out there to help with many different symptoms and illnesses, but it can be dangerous to take the wrong one for what you’re struggling with. For example, if you self-diagnose yourself with depression, you may decide to start taking antidepressants. But if the symptoms you misinterpreted as depression are actually symptoms of bipolar disorder, you could cause your mental illness to take a turn for the worse. PsychEducation’s article “Antidepressants That Aren’t ‘Antidepressants’” states these facts: “Antidepressants can make bipolar disorder worse in several ways … They can cause hypomania* where there was none. They can induce cycling**, or make it worse. They may keep a person from becoming truly stable.” (PsychEducation). Therefore, if your treatment involves medication of any kind, it is of the utmost importance to receive help from a professional.

You can also believe that what you have is a mental disorder when, in reality, you have a different problem entirely. This article, “The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis” by Psychology Today, explains this quite well. The article states, “One of the greatest dangers of self diagnosis … is that you may miss a medical disease that masquerades as a psychiatric syndrome. Thus, if you have panic disorder, you may miss the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism or an irregular heartbeat. Even more serious is the fact that some brain tumors may present with changes in personality or psychosis or even depression.” (Psychology Today).

As I said before, I love psychology. I’m fascinated by the human brain and the disorders that can arise in it. I’m conscious of the social stigma around mental illness, and self-diagnosis is doing nothing to combat that stigma. It puts a bad light on the people who do their research, but know that in the end, they cannot diagnose themselves. It gives fodder to the people who will stop at nothing to shun mentally ill people. And it can hurt you, both mentally and physically.

All I can hope for is that this article can help someone out there before it’s too late.


*Hypomania = an emotional state characterized by a distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting throughout at least 4 days (PsychCentral)

**Cycling = not the sport in this case, but rapid mood swings characteristic of bipolar disorder.

Sources:

Welcome to Athena’s Olive Branches!

Welcome to Athena’s Olive Branches! Like the goddess Athena, we try to pursue knowledge and learning. On this blog, we will try to create a place of rationality and humour in an increasingly opinionated world. We will write our opinions about feminism, social justice, politics, and much much more!

Here we will be introducing our writers:

Hey hey hey, it’s Ava! I enjoy wasting my life on the internet and laughing at cringey things on tumblr.hell. On a more normal note, I like writing, logic puzzles, science, and dogs. I was once a social justice warrior/SJW, and as a result I now enjoy laughing at the ideas and attitudes that I once possessed. I now value critical thinking and analysis on every issue. I don’t label myself according to any political ideology, because that is how I fell prey to confirmation bias last time. My goal on this blog is to express my ideas in writing, and to bring a new perspective to the issues that interest me.

Hello, my name is Cullen. I love reading, writing, singing in the shower, and computer games. I have a strong passion for history (stuffy, I know). When I was younger, I had trouble understanding why feminism existed. I saw rampant hypocrisy, and little willingness to work towards real change. However, last year I met a wonderful group of friends, who helped show me that feminism doesn’t have to be about hating men like the crazies turn it into. Rather, intersectional feminism can be a positive agent of social change for improving the lives of women, men, and all the world’s people. On this blog, I will try to talk about history from a feminist perspective, and about feminist issues in the third world.

Hey, I’m Sage! I’m a nerd who loves the X-Files, Pokémon, and my two cats. I’m proud to be a feminist, and I always will be. However, like any other mainstream movement, there are definitely people who do misguided things under its name. I believe that it is important to respect everyone, no matter who they are. On this blog, I will be posting mostly about mental illness and the sometimes backwards role SJWs play in fandoms. If you’ve read this far, I hope you have a great day!

Greetings, and well met. I am Josiah, a feminist (true meaning of the term), Wiccan, and nerd/geek (not actual definitions, but rather the pop culture slang meanings). I enjoy politics, nature, history, literature, and music. I’ll be planning mainly on writing articles on previous world politics and comparing and contrasting it with what’s currently occurring in the world today, as well as possibly a few movie or television show reviews and recommendations. Till then, when we have actually written something, blessed be.

If our mission interests you, feel free to follow us! We are looking forward to posting here, and hope you are too. Have a nice day!

– Sage, Ava, Josiah, and Cullen