The symbolism of Mulder's Office and apartment: a series of rambles
Original date: 8/17/99 - end of season 6
Oh, the sore point of Scully having neither desk nor nameplate in Mulder's office. Were the office merely a physical space Scully could and would have done something about the desk and nameplate, if only to ensure that she could get her work done. It may be that the writers are being incredibly boorish and thick on the subject, but I'd like to go in the direction of the symbolism operating here.
The office is the physical embodiment of the X-Files, and FM's exclusive ownership of the space (despite Scully's joint occupancy) represents the series' premise that the X-Files are both his obsession *and* a projection of his mind. TXF are, after all, more a state of mind than a collection of cases and folders. Thus the office itself is a rich psychic space that Scully enters, operates in, and belongs in, but the space is a manifestation of *his obsession and his take on reality. Desk or no desk she gets her work done so there is obviously room for her activities. She is there with him and he assumes that she should be. (Or takes for granted that she is there.) This is the partnership angle and she has generally been portrayed as a full partner with Mulder on their projects. But that does not mean that the X-Files project from her mind in the same way they do from his. I don't mean to lessen her role in saying that, btw. But it does mean that she does not occupy the space the way he does.
I don't want to push this too far, but here are a few idle thoughts. In *NA her complaint about the desk comes from that sense of psychic separation from the roots of the files. Despite their partnership and despite M's easy assumption that TXF are her life, too, she knows that they do not come from her and she needs a life rooted inside herself. If I can extend the psychic space logic, Mulder even implies that it would be "crowded" if they brought in a second desk, that is, if she too had the same mental relationship to the phenomena underlying TXF. Definitely problem time between them. In Season 6, in *Monday and *Alpha she seems to have moved out (or never moved back in after "I can't help you any more" in *One Son) and stops in to visit. That does seem to reflect her stance toward him at that moment: partnership with distance. "I'll back you, but I'll do it from way over there, not from right behind you." Then there is a shift in *Milagro, where the medal comes to her in "his" office and Mulder calls her at "his" office. And from that office she undertakes to investigate the medal as a clue, making an X-Files leap on her own. And finally, in Biogenesis, Mulder's teasing comment that "I thought this was *my office" underlines that by season's end and especially following *FT, her mental position in relation to TXF has shifted. What he had thought was his, is now obviously theirs. Perhaps he was even playing on her inclination to call it "his" office (if she does that). It marks the end of a season in which x-files seem to come from her, not just because external forces push her into those situations but because of the way she has herself become more Muldery.
Original Date: 8/19/99
Mulder's home has always been an extension of his work, a comment on the fact that TXF are his life, that he has no "home" to go to, only another center for his work, and the more secret stuff at that. There is some indication, I think, that Scully's apartment was her "retreat" (as the fanfic writers put it), but I've never had a sense that his apartment is a retreat for Mulder. It is, in addition, where the X-Files are when there are no X-Files. As such, Scully has occupied the apartment less than his space in the office, but with the same free access and with the same sense of mission, including the care of wounded Mulder, of course, or locating an absent Mulder. The appearance of his apartment in *2F/1S falls into this category, I think.
If we go back to *The End, we can add two other significant uses of his apartment: her caring for him after his attack on Spender while their fates are being decided. Then in FTF, Scully appears reluctantly at his apartment to tell him she is leaving. She steps straight into the very psychic core of TXF -- Mulder's fixation with his father's role and his family's fate -- in order to announce her departure. She obviously cannot stay in this "sacred" core a moment longer than necessary to deliver the news, but in leaving she pulls him out of this mental center/fixation as well. He chases her down the hall to make his plea, showing in physical action how both of them break out of their established common territory and, ironically, make a more private expression of affection in a more public space. Later, in *TU, their private encounter likewise occurs in a very public space, outside of the claims of the files.
Season 6. One of he big changes is that FM suddenly obtains a bedroom, in what could be a metaphor for the possibility of intimacy in his life. The bedroom first appears in Dreamland I in which it is blocked off when Morris finds it -- blocked off, interestingly enough with porn magazines as well as old files, as if to say Mulder has blocked intimacy with cheap, glossy, rapidly discarded substitutes, now that I think about it. Morris then invites Scully into this new space, space which Scully has never seen before, hell, never even realized Mulder had. Even though she knows it is Morris and not Mulder who lures her into the bedroom, she reacts wistfully to it. "No, I don't hate it," she says, roughly in the same tone she used in saying "I like it" to Eddie/Mulder in Small Potatoes.
The bedroom itself shows up three more times, I think: in Monday, when Scully reacts with surprise to the notion of Mulder in a waterbed and Mulder is surprised that Scully doesn't know about it. If you follow my logic, this exchange fits in well with the season's sense that he has made a commitment in his "I love you" that she has not accepted, maybe not even realized. Then, in *FT he pulls her into the intimacy of his darkened bedroom to share with her the realization of his deepest wishes. Yet in the same episode, her hallucinated encounter with the bedroom is the realization of her deepest fear: that is where his coffin rests. The last appearance of the bedroom is in Biogenesis, about which the less said the better. (Diana as fumigator/seductress. What fun we could have with that!)
Scully does not go into the bedroom with Mulder except in his hallucination. But even without bedroom scenes, her presence in his apartment has seemed pretty chummy in season 6, even on business. The most personal, obviously was when she came to his place to exchange Christmas presents at the end of Ghosts, a purely personal gesture that was marked by a gift, a confession or two -- all in all an unusual willingness on her part to give and accept personal feelings within *his personal psychic space, after his attempt to achieve that same thing outside that space. *Ghosts had the first of the leg to leg shots, repeated in Milagro.
P.S. It's possible that Scully lost her own lease after paying for all those little side trips when she and Mulder were reporting to Kersh.
Milagro - some late rambles
Milagro is really rich in the meaning it assigns to space. Scully seemed completely at home in Mulder's apartment, as though she had moved in. Her comfort level with him in his apartment was extremely high (symbolized by their sitting close on the couch) as was their harmony as long as they were together in his space. Except when she disputed the psychic surgeon theory at the beginning, I think all the discord and doubt occurred in other places. It is significant that Padgett's apartment is the mirror-image of Mulder's, reversed so as to say that desire is the reversed reflection of the cerebral. This is symbolized in the fact that the only furniture she doesn't touch in Mulder's apartment is the only furniture she *does touch in Padgett's: the bed. Scully is fascinated by Padgett's space, by its spareness and therefore its quality of absolute focus. The brick wall (which is a symbolic element since that is actually the direction of the street) serves to further concentrate the space by giving it no real external landscape. The symbolism of the brick wall applies especially strongly to the message about writing, but there are really two foci of Padgett's apartment: writing and love, the desk and the bed. Scully enters the space warily, curious but not certain that she wants to be there, interested in the mind of the writer, but ending up testing the space devoted to love. Although she is not comfortable occupying it with Padgett, she tries it on for size, knowing full well that her partner is on the other side of the wall. Despite her anger at Mulder's intrusion (essentially at his failure to trust her), there is no question about her allegiance. She is quickly at Mulder's side again. Although she retains belief in Padgett's innocence, she is fully at home later in Mulder's apartment (no continuing anger) where she participates without a squeak of protest in the surveillance.
The space is equally powerful for the two men as it is for Scully. Mulder and Padgett each violate each other's space and attempt to steal what is most valuable. Mulder erupts into Padgett's apartment breaking the attempted seduction, taking the book and arresting the author, violating the privacy of both writing and desire in virtually the same movement. He also spies on him through the wall, pulling Padgett's actions electronically into Mulder's territory for judgment.
Padgett violates Mulder's territory indirectly in luring Scully away from Mulder's door to his own, preempting Mulder's claim on her time and loyalty. Her visit to Padgett's psychic space at least sways her toward believing in his innocence, although she feels he warrants surveillance for his uncanny ability to predict the murders. Second, Padgett violates Mulder's core in the most vicious and irrevocable way by staging the Nacimiento's attack on Scully in Mulder's own physical and psychic space. Scully is attacked in Mulder's physical space precisely *because of the fact that she feels she belongs with him -- because of the unspoken love that Padgett discerns. For the ending to be "true" she needed to die right where her love was centered.
For the other side of town, see Scully's Apartment.