The Cave's X-Files Commentary Archives:  Dana Scully

Title: Secondary Partner
Author: lucyskull

Post: Beth, something you wrote hit the bullseye IMHO: "[Scully] truly does feel secondary across the board, constantly striving for equality and recognition but never thinking it will really come."

I work in the Gerontology Department of a teaching hospital. Recently, I learned of a study being conducted by a colleague (by the way, these are unpublished results so do not go out and contact your local newspaper with the news). It consists of giving a computer based test to elderly people. In it, they flash subliminal messages as the test is underway. These messages are short enough so that their conscious mind does not read them, but they are long enough so that they register unconsciously. There are three different types of subliminal messages: neutral ones like table, door, desk; positive ones like smart, good, beautiful; and negative ones like senile, old, useless. When test subjects where given negative subliminal messages there was a significant negative effect in their performance of the test, their blood pressure, their heart rate, their vasoconstriction, and even in their gate. I know that this sounds obvious, but I was amazed that something so subtle had such a big effect. Now, consider how often we get bombarded by negative associations concerning being elderly: TV, magazines, even family.

Why do I bring this up? This study could be extrapolated to many other prejudices in our society. Prejudices against people who are overweight, people of color, women, etc. Brushing off a negative statement or action that you see/hear as directed at you does not mean that it did not affect you.

Many of us in the Cave have brought up the frustration of seeing how Scully is treated as a lesser part of the X-Files partnership. The signs of these are not overt. One might say that they are almost subliminal. We see it in the way 1013 does not think that giving Scully a desk and a nameplate is of any importance. We see it in how colleagues and superiors in the FBI refer to Scully as Mulder's partner, but not the other way around. This attitude does have an effect. The result being that Scully does second guess herself, as Beth pointed out so well. Moreover, this could also be part of the reason that DS disconnects Agent Scully and Dana - as a defense mechanism against the subtle sexism that surrounds her.

This may seem a little preposterous because after all, Dana Scully is a fictional character. How could male writers have the insight into what being a woman in a man's world is about? Has DS been written this way with intent? Or is this a case of the character writing herself?

Reply: LoneThinker


Something Gwoman said just leapt out at me as pure Scully, and that is "You can hear positives for ever, but a negative line is easier to believe." It took me right back to Scully's self-perceived weakness, the one she is trying so hard to hide in *Irresistible, for instance. I think this attitude is definitely very Scully.

Lucyskull is very on-target here, too, regarding the sweeping effects of subliminal messages. We take in so very much more than we realize on a conscious level, and then often play that out without realizing what we are doing, or that it's not the real us.


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