Written by Amanda, Kathy Adams
Once one of the most prolific ‘shipper groups on the ‘net, fans of the Mulder/Scully relationship (MSR) on the X-Files have been through eight seasons of teasing and rocky times. It’s a miracle anyone is still watching, much less rooting for these two to be together. Herein, Amanda and guest contributor Kathy analyze what the hell happened to the ‘ship, and invite anyone still invested in it to convince us the romance isn’t dead.
Amanda: So our job is to talk about M/S ‘shippers.
Kathy: Why not jump right to the Frohike/Skinner slash? Okay. We’ll do M/S first.
Amanda: I think we should start by talking about the early days, when it was okay to be a ‘shipper.
Kathy: Especially since we’re guilty of a great deal of MSR ourselves. We should fess up.
Amanda: We are! It’s only fair that we admit to it.
Kathy: So, let’s talk about before we lost the faith.
Amanda: Back in the early days, when Mulder and Scully were always looking out for each other, and trying to build a partnership, it wasn’t wrong to want them to be together. Mulder was actually protective of her and stuff.
Kathy: It didn’t seem like they were being intentionally cruel. Like now. We’re talking about the Mulder who wore Scully’s cross (literally) when she was missing. The Mulder who fell apart when he thought Scully was going to die at the end of the cancer arc.
Amanda: And who cried, and threatened people to get her back. The Mulder who didn’t think he could go on without her.
Kathy: The one who cried and shouted in the hallway when she was going to leave him (in the movie).
Amanda: You know, now that I think about it, Mulder was a lot more into Scully than she was into him.
Kathy: Can you blame her? She’s avoided any serious romantic entanglements. And her life was probably kind of lonely, but it was certainly weird enough with all the X-Files work.
Amanda: Well, you have to wonder, what would he have done with her, had he caught her? He was never mister Romance, either.
Kathy: Getting emotionally entangled with someone as emotionally screwed up as Mulder wouldn’t have made her life any easier.
Amanda: It’s not that she didn’t want to, though. She was willing to make out with not-him on the couch in “Small Potatoes.”
Kathy: Now, she tried to support him. She tried to ground him in reality. But imagine doing that in the midst of all the crazy shit they had to do, while also having to support him the way a woman who was *openly* in love with him would. By keeping him at arm’s length, she could shield herself from the storm going on inside him.
Amanda: How very poetic of you!
Kathy: And yes – exactly. What would Mulder have done if he’d ever caught her? He would have run. Because he’s not capable of committing himself to her.
Amanda: So, while all this was going on, the fans were going wild, and writing all sorts of steamy, sexy stories about them admitting their love. Including, um, us.
Kathy: Well, yeah. There is that. Because we all wanted to heal him. We all wanted Scully’s undying love to heal him.
Amanda: But it was okay, right? Because they were two deeply flawed people, who could only talk about their lives with each other, who appeared to be willing to die for each other. And yes, maybe she could heal him, while finding a way to stop her own inner turmoil.
Kathy: Or, we wanted to show how completely fucked up their relationship would have been if they’d given in to their physical desires, without fixing their emotional problems.
Amanda: Well, that was really just us. Most of the ‘shippers wanted them to be happy-ever-after.
Kathy: I’d say 90% of them, if the feedback is any indicator.
Amanda: 90% is probably fair.
Kathy: But once upon a time, it seemed possible.
Amanda: Because no one was an asshole. Yet. Or, rather, no one was an irredeemable asshole.
Kathy: It seemed like Mulder was finally getting into a position where he could learn what had happened to his sister. And then he could put it behind him.
Amanda: And move forward with Scully. Who had, of course, been by his side this whole time.
Kathy: And Scully would be able to open up to him. When she knew he wouldn’t run because of all of his inner turmoil.
Amanda: That’s a freaking lot of inner turmoil going on.
Kathy: Because she kept stuff from him. Because, well, if you were partners with someone as screwed up with Mulder, would you dump your problems and anxieties on him? But that was what made them so intriguing. They were tragic, because circumstances beyond either of their control were what kept them apart. And also, ironically, what held them together as partners in their work.
Amanda: Hence creating the loyalty seen amongst the MSR ‘shippers. Even though Chris Carter et al refused to ever admit they were pushing the viewers into seeing the partnership in even a remotely romantic way.
Kathy: They so denied the ‘shippiness. Unless, of course, they wanted ratings. And then, they let them give each other Christmas presents. Or they let one of them be jealous of the other. Or they stranded them together out in the woods.
Amanda: But that was really later in the series, right? When, you know, normal people were starting to get annoyed at the non-fulfillment of the UST.
Kathy: Mostly later. But that jealousy thing in “Fire” (over Mulder’s ex Phoebe Green) was first season.
Amanda: But the “Fire” jealousy didn’t really bother me. Because it wasn’t overt, and it didn’t disrupt the entire flow of things. Like Diana did later.
Kathy: But it was okay. I mean, we all *wanted* to see them together. But then, if they’d ever decided to be together (and you know, decided to WRITE IT INTO THE SCRIPT instead of surprising us with, say, trying to have a baby together or something stupid like that) we would have all been bored. I didn’t mind so much being teased, and getting my vicarious ‘shippiness fulfilled with fic. In fact, that’s what made the fic good. (You know, when it actually was good.)
Amanda: (Of course.)
Kathy: Oh, Diana. Don’t even start me on what a total and complete and utter nasty terrible decision that was.
Amanda: I can’t remember XF ‘shippers ever doing anything to move along the ‘shippiness, other than writing fic. Can you?
Kathy: I don’t remember any letter writing campaigns, or anything. I don’t remember anyone trying to get people to send in applesauce or anything. Whoo!
Amanda: Not like those crazy Roswell kids, who threatened to send rancid meat to the producers. I wonder why XF never got to that? Is it because the audience is older? Is it because the ‘net was still sort of young back then, and there weren’t as many people around to egg each other on?
Kathy: I honestly think people were content with the status quo. Hey, when I was younger, I wanted all the couples on the TV shows I watched to get together, get married, and have babies. Tony and Angela. The Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Sam and Diane.
Amanda: So if Mulder and Scully were, say, 18, and attracted a teenage audience, CC would be getting slimy alien goo in the mail?
Kathy: I believe he would. But because the same audience that’s drawn to Roswell isn’t so wrapped up in the X-Files, CC was spared the foodstuffs in the mail. Not that some teens don’t like XF, don’t get me wrong. I’m merely generalizing. I *liked* the status quo! I’ll say it again. I liked the occasional USTy moment, and daydreaming in fic about how they might eventually be able to heal each other and be happy.
Amanda: Me, too. I might have been frustrated at times, but I would have stopped watching once they got together. It would have been dull. Because, heaven knows, the mytharc got all f-ed up early on.
Kathy: (F the mytharc. If CC doesn’t care about continuity, why should I care at all?) One of the most intriguing things about them in the early (pre S6) years was their fear. They carried all this fear into their partnership and relationship. When they finally trusted each other, they found a greater fear, in the prospect of losing each other.
Amanda: But I think that’s also what makes the hardcore ‘shippers pretty scary. It was obvious from the beginning that any relationship they would have had would have been filled with paranoia.
Kathy: But even though that fear was great and palpable, their greatest fear of all — was revealing the fear they felt at the prospect of losing the other *to* that other. Paranoia, pain, and heartache.
Amanda: And, in many instances, death.
Kathy: Or disappearance. (Although, I hear that if you die, you can have someone dig you up, put you on life support, take you off, then you take a shower, slough off the deadness, and you’re back up and kicking. Although, a terrible side effect is that you become a complete asshole.)
Amanda: So, for the first five or so seasons, it was okay to be a ‘shipper. When do you think that went downhill?
Kathy: It was. It was a wonderful thing to be a ‘shipper. Until after the movie! Except for “Milagro.”
Amanda: Diana was sort of the beginning of the end, right?
Kathy: Yeah. Bitch.
Amanda: I mean, what was her purpose other than to put the relationship on rocky soil?
Kathy: I think the ‘shipper in me died when Mulder seemed to trust Diana over Scully.
Kathy: I had brief moments of rekindling. But they were just lapses.
Amanda: That’s what separated the men from the boys, so to speak. If you could still be a ‘shipper after that, you were completely off your rocker.
Kathy: I would always go back and remember when she tried to tell him Diana was double-dealing, and he metaphorically speaking, spat in her face.
Amanda: You know, I think that’s the first time we saw violence in the ‘shipperdom.
Kathy: Like, violent fic?
Amanda: When all the fic writers were finding ways to kill Diana off.
Kathy: Oh, yeah. Widespread violence in fic against a recurring character. I mean, fic killed off minor and one-time players all the time.
Amanda: Right. But there were also some ill-organized letter-writing campaigns on the ‘net, trying to get CC to kill her off himself.
Kathy: But boy, did Diana die a thousand deaths. And every one of them was more interesting than the way Diana actually did die on the show.
Amanda: One of CC’s brilliant, “Oops. This character was a mistake. I’ll kill her off screen. No one will miss her anyway.”
Kathy: We needed more than that. What would have been great is if Mulder would have been there at her side when she died. And Diana, in a moment of atonement, confessed it all to Mulder.
Amanda: So she could tell him that she was a double-crossing low-life. And Mulder would be forced to go apologize to Scully.
Kathy: And we get flashes of Mulder’s thoughts as Diana’s talking — images of Scully trying to warn Mulder, and Mulder pooh-poohing her. And Mulder would have to do exactly that. Apologize his brains out. Maybe polish her high-heeled black shoe collection, and then rub her feet for a while. But we so did not get that. Which was odd. The un-interesting and unfulfilling death of Diana, whose introduction had killed the ‘shipper in me, was what finally stamped out the last embers of it.
Amanda: Not at all. But there were still ‘shippers who wanted them together after that. Though I forget the excuses they used.
Kathy: Because Mulder was confused. Oh, poor screwed up Mulder. Forgot the thousand times Scully had nearly died for him. Forgot how he’d pulled her limp body out of an icky gooey alien sarcophagus, and believed Diana over her, killing the trust between Scully and himself.
Amanda: So it was okay that he stomped on Scully’s feelings?
Kathy: No! Not okay! He had no reason. It’s not like he and Diana picked up their romantic relationship where they’d left off, and Mulder’d had some terribly misguided, but understandable reason to trust Diana again.
Amanda: But people thought it was! They thought he would turn around! And it was those borderline-‘shippy eps in season six that made it okay for people to still believe.
Kathy: He did it for *no* reason. And it was totally unbelievable. That was a last ditch attempt to win us back.
Amanda: It was enough for some people, though.
Kathy: They knew they killed the ‘ship for hazy reasons. Those eps left a bad taste in my mouth. See, the trust was the relationship.
Amanda: An entire town thinks they’re in love! Some ghosts tell them how dependant they are on each other! Mulder kisses a Scully look-alike! It made me sick. Partially because there was a tiny part of me that still sort of liked it. Even though it was horribly wrong.
Kathy: It was all they had. Because there was no hanky and no panky. And there was very little emotional intimacy. All they had was trust.
Amanda: So they could not go back to the banter of the early seasons, like they’d never DESTROYED the trust.
Kathy: That’s why *sleeping* with Diana (which I still say he didn’t do) wouldn’t have been as egregious a betrayal of the ‘ship as shifting the trust completely off of Scully and onto Diana. I don’t know how she even looked at him.
Amanda: Well, she tried to push him away.
Kathy: Much less how she would have acted the way she did in the ‘shippy season six eps.
Amanda: There was “Milagro,” you know. Which showed how Scully is a powerful, beautiful, independent woman. And also, IMHO, showed how Mulder has totally missed the boat with her.
Kathy: Yep. Watching that episode was like spending 60 minutes in love with Scully. Obsessed with Scully, I should say. It was hardly healthy.
Amanda: I think it’s always been clear that Scully is the better person in the partnership, and by “Milagro,” it’s been proven a hundred times.
Kathy: But it also showed how Mulder couldn’t really see her anymore. How he wouldn’t see her anymore. So what we seem to be saying is, the out of character way they scripted Mulder’s reaction to the return of Diana to his life is what killed it.
Amanda: At least for us.
Kathy: And at that point, any ‘shippiness was merely theoretical.
Amanda: But there were people who still hung around. There were less of them.
Kathy: Because, see, I could see writing fic if it was in some attempt to pretend the Diana trust-shifting fiasco had never happened. But once it wasn’t ignorable any more, I just can’t see how anyone in their right mind would think that being with Mulder would be good at all for Scully. Scully should go after Skinner. And I was never a Skipper. But at least he respects her. Him and all his nanobots.
Amanda: So let’s talk about season seven. Because, with the threats of Duchovny leaving the show, this is when people sort of got up in arms. People threatening to quit watching. Haven started that “Preserve the Partnership” banner affiliate.
Kathy: Once it looked like he wouldn’t be in some or all of season eight, it was impossible to take it seriously anymore. I mean, even the monster of the week episodes were starting to get tired. Like the guy who had to drive really fast to the left, or his head would explode.
Amanda: And they were always pretty sketchy.
Kathy: The mytharc was completely mangled. The monsters of the week were weak and silly. Mulder’s disappearance loomed on the horizon. They tried in vain to get us to believe in their trust in each other again.
Amanda: But did they, really?
Kathy: “See? They’re all attracted to each other. Sorta. See? Love them!” But you know what, you’re right. The fake shippiness started to slow down. We got a few moments. “all things.” Supposed flirtiness in “The Unnatural,” which I never saw in the first place. Mostly, they seemed like a couple who’d gotten drunk and married in Vegas one weekend, been married about a year and a half, and starting to realize they’d made a horrible mistake.
Amanda: And got a quicky divorce. Off screen, of course.
Kathy: Just like Mulder’s brain tumor diagnosis. Just like Scully deciding to have a baby, and asking Mulder to visit five-fingered Mary, R.N. to make a donation to the cause. Which brings us, sorta, to the topic of CC’s arrogance at the “brilliance of his creation.”
Amanda: Which ceased to be brilliant about halfway through this mess.
Kathy: When I stared, open-mouthed at the television as I found out Scully had asked him to create a test-tube baby with her, or when we found out about the tumor, I could only imagine CC in the writer’s room. “How are we going to pull this off? Oh, wouldn’t it be X-Filesy if all this had happened already, and it just wasn’t important enough to show on screen?” Never mind that Scully looked shocked and destroyed at the end of season seven to discover she was pregnant.
Amanda: Not to mention that it all HAD happened before. Seasons before. Everyone has had cancer, and there have been an infinite number of test-tube babies (much like alien virus vaccines) on this damn show.
Kathy: And she’d at least have not been *shocked* if she’d been trying. Oh, yeah. And it’s so tiring. And you just know that damn baby isn’t going to be pink and perfect and healthy. It’s going to be some genetically engineered fiasco, which won’t be able to remain alive.
Amanda: Or will it? That could be another ploy to make us worry for the entirety of season eight.
Kathy: Um, just LIKE EMILY. All the rehashed storylines have ruined the show. I refuse to be emotional about Scully’s baby.
Amanda: Or even Mulder’s “death” and return.
Kathy: I refuse to be emotional about Mulder and Scully, their relationship, or anything they discover about whatever it is they’re supposed to be trying to figure out. I couldn’t have been more blas* about Mulder’s death. I was shocked, stupefied, and horrified at the death (Joyce’s) on Buffy . Which was right around the same time. And there was Scully, leaning over Mulder’s lifeless body, and all I could muster was, “whatever.”
Amanda: And yet, I just visited ephemeral.org, and just about every story I’ve seen is an MSR. People are still writing about the relationship, and writing about it in the context of season eight.
Kathy: And part of me thought, Scully honey, bury him and move on. We can’t be alone though. I just can’t understand how anyone can hold onto the relationship though all this crap.
Amanda: The opening graphic for Haven right now (www.idealistshaven.com) is a collage of M/S pics with the words: Don’t give up on a miracle…Haven: We thinks it’s about fate.
Kathy: I mean, if we picked an author who just posted an MSR story and talked to them — asked them if Scully was a friend of theirs in real life, would they encourage her to be in love with Mulder…can you possibly imagine any sane person would be able to say yes to that? You know, fate can be bad, too.
Amanda: If fate brings these two together, fate is a fucking bastard.
Kathy: I mean, if I was fated to walk out my front door right now, be bonked on the head by a falling meteorite, and die, it’s still fate. Fate, you’re a prick.
Amanda: So let’s sum up.
Kathy: What CC has done is take a beautiful, painfully tragic story of two people separated only by fear, held together only by trust…and turn it into…something I can’t even describe. It’s that fucked up. I don’t know what they could possibly be to each other anymore. So ‘shippers. Please stop and think about it. Do you really still believe? Honestly? Because if you have a good reason to, I’d love to hear it. I’d like to enjoy the show again.