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

Title: In defense of Scully's mothering
Author: LoneThinker (bardsmaid)

Post: I know "mothering" is a loaded word, crammed with shades of meaning (restrictive, controlling, condescending and out-of-touch are some of the less pleasant ones that come to mind) and value--as in "just a mom".

I think Scully mothers people, and I think she mothers Mulder, and I don't see that as a negative. She has a real sense of compassion that shows up in the way she treats people--from crime victims to Gibson Praise to Clyde Bruckman--that seems to come from a deeper, more instinctive base than a mere sympathetic attitude for whoever happens to be in distress. And she is perceptive to the extreme where Mulder is concerned (situations, for instance, that will pull his strings, like the investigation in Paper Hearts.) She seems always to have one finger on Mulder's emotional pulse. But this emotional monitoring goes beyond partner-support or any concerns a counselor (or a doctor, since Scully is a doctor) would have. It flows directly from her love for him (unselfed love, not necessarily romance.)

But why do I think it's more than empathy, or good bedside manner, or that it can't be explained away as a blanket sense of compassion for humanity? Probably because I've been there. 

First off, let's define some terms. Since mothering seems to be such a loaded word (especially for those of you who still go home for Christmas break and have someone telling you it's too late to wash your hair tonight), and since "mothering" is so often confused with "smothering", I went digging in the dictionary to see what it was I was really talking about. And these were the words that caught my eye: tender, nurture, look after or care for. But what I found when I looked up "motherless" in Roget's was much more interesting: under the subheading "helpless" were the words aidless, friendless, and unprotected; under "forlorn" I found abandoned, forsaken, and deserted. Any Mulder-descriptives among these?  <g>

For those of you young enough to be offended by all this talk of mothering, let me assure you that none of this is meant as a negative reflection on Mulder. It doesn't mean he's a wimp or a child. But everyone needs support. Everyone needs to know they're not alone against the world. And those of us who tend toward the obsessive need that tether to a "center" that keeps us from dropping over the cliff edge into the place where dragons are. A friend or a partner may do this for us: they may see us falling, and throw us a lifeline. Or yank us back onto the path before we carry them to ruin along with us. But the mother (speaking of mothering in terms of a descriptive and not a title automatically conferred by mere facts of biology) goes one step further: she is someone who anticipates a need and covers it, or guides away from a possible pitfall in order to protect. Or lets you get just close enough to the stove to learn something, but not to burn yourself. And she does it not because it will get her something quantifiable or save her own skin, but because she loves you and she wants (sometimes desperately) to see you succeed, to grow, to become your own strong person. 

This is the mothering I see Scully doing. I see it in her "Come on, Mulder" in the vending room in FTF; in Anasazi, where in spite of Mulder's drug-induced vitriol she doesn't walk away but rather keeps digging and digging until she's found the contaminated water-softener tank AND been the rock he can lean on when his father dies AND tried to clear him from suspicion in his father's murder AND driven him--unconscious--halfway across the continent to New Mexico so he can continue his search for the information hidden on the digital tape. I see it in the way Scully leans over Mulder at the end of Demons, and in the myriad small touches given at crisis moments that let him know that no matter what else may happen, he is not alone

This is not to imply that Scully has no other kinds of feelings for Mulder. Neither is it an implication that she is strong and he is weak. Mulder has saved Scully any number of times, and beyond the obvious physical rescues, he has given her the inspiration of his passion for his work and stretched the boundaries of her rigidly ordered world. The magic of the bond between them is that they are always there to save each other, no matter how much their professional points of view may clash. And part of Scully's saving is the instinctive, selfless way she watches out for her partner. It's what moms do, too, and that doesn't cheapen it one bit.

 

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