In Defense of the MSR
by Zuffy (email@example.com)
originally written 3/6/99
This is something I posted in March 1999 in response to several other Philes who were arguing that Mulder and Scully's relationship was essentially one of wartime comrades and would likely disintegrate at the end of the Quest. After watching *Amor Fati, I went back to this post and wanted to share it with others who have hope for M&S.
Call me deluded, but here goes: I like the war analogy & All Quiet in particular. I think the factors you name powerfully explain the tenacity of the relationship between two people who are opposite in such important ways. But I am leery of reducing an extraordinary relationship to only one of its aspects. It is not just what they are doing together that unites them, it is what they do *for each other. Their dependence on one another applies not just to dealing with the external enemy; it also comes in dealing with themselves - i.e. Mulder dealing with Mulder and Scully dealing with Scully. The way they pull and tug each other are not smooth elements of the relationship yet they provide a glue that I do not think their common work alone provides. Therefore I am more hopeful than you that as their mission in life may change, the glue may yet remain.
Mulder does things for Scully's psyche and Scully for Mulder's that they do not always consciously want yet these things have proven extraordinarily important. On several occasions Mulder has made it clear that he would just like her to agree with him; he does not always want her contentiousness. The way she keeps him intellectually honest is hard and painful for him. Yet, she forces him to be more than he would otherwise be. She saves him from slipping into glibness and isolation, from being broken by CSM, from exclusion by those who would banish him. She grounds him by the example of her integrity (a flame that burns bright in him) and by the way her presence in his life fires some of the best elements of his own character. She forces him to confront himself in a way that Phoebe or Diana never could. Likewise, the way Mulder forces her to stare straight in the face of the limits of knowledge and logic (those core things for her) sometimes shakes her from the inside out. His passion and sense of meaning have resonated in her soul and she grasps at the exhilarating but dangerous imagination that their partnership gives her. She can reach far beyond herself with him. At the same time, he gives her a freedom to be herself that is extraordinary. In their disagreements, he pushes her to be herself and to see his POV at the same time, an amazingly discordant request. He does not want the agreement of a Scully who is no longer Scully. In asking her to believe, he also asks her to *feel more. This is, as we have seen, one of the hardest things for her. As viewers, we see the things that they give one another in the context of their X-File cases, but I believe that what they give is independent of those cases. Those things operate in both the particular context of what happens to be going on, and in a crucial deeper sense of life, pure and simple. On the level of what it means to be "me."
They generate sparks of life and meaning in each other in almost secret ways. By this I mean that each of them is to some degree unaware of the effect he or she has on the other's deepest sense of self and well-being. This is one of the mysteries of loving someone, I think. We may grasp why we love but we don't always understand why we are loved back. We saw that unawareness in the hallway scene in FTF, for example, when Mulder poured out his confession. Scully was stunned. Scully has not confessed in the same way, and I simply don't know whether intuitive Mulder has a clearer sense of his place in her psyche. The depth of these things gives each of them a profound ability to hurt the other because that hurt can zero in on the core of being. To a significant degree, I think their professional partnership actually *dampens the articulation and verbal exploration of their bond, as they seek not to let other things they might feel interfere with their jobs, their mission. As they seek to avoid exploring these emotions. But it does not mean that such a bond cannot or should not exist or might not develop if allowed.
Back to the military analogy. I am not rejecting it at all. I have read All Quiet, poetry of the period, and "The Things They Carried" (Tim O'Brien, on Vietnam), among other things. Surely their isolation together has created a bond through their common efforts and a special kind of bond through experience. And yes, they will absolutely put their lives in the other's hands. None of these things can be discounted. Still, if we can start with the battlefield analogy, we should not *end there. Analogies have the virtue of crystallizing part of the truth…. but only part. Despite their common mission, M&S have differed strongly about aliens, the conspiracy, the paranormal and the monstrous. Their union and unity depart from that of wartime: it is rooted in the turmoil of difference as well as in the common goal. It is rooted in an almost paradoxical *satisfaction with that ferment. Yes, they would surely each admit that their constant disagreements have advanced their common goal, yet the inherent tension in their points of view combined with the freedom each has to walk away from the quest means that staying together is based on a level of personal commitment a little beyond the military analogy. Why do they each risk death to keep each other safe? Yes, loyalty and commitment (soldiers do this, too). Yes, too, that each believes the particular gifts of the other are crucial to their common success. Yes, the place each has in the other's soul. Yes, therefore, that each is unsure whether life without the other is worth living…quest or no quest.
Well, I agree with others that I find it a little hard to picture M&S in a "normal life." The series is not set up to let us see that side of them. What do they talk about at lunch on a slow day? How does Mulder deal with his dry cleaner? Does Scully shout when the mechanic's bill comes in at twice estimate? We don't know. We don't have a complete picture. But the elements of their relationship that go deep into the psyche allow me to think that even at the end of the quest, supposing they survive it, that bond *can find expression in a continuing relationship. As CSue says, loving someone is a decision you make again and again, it is a commitment that you form and for which you find new ways of expression. Many couples fall in love in one set of circumstances (say in college or on the job) and then find themselves going through different "lives" together: a shift in profession may dampen the earlier common interests, unemployment casts one into dependence, relocation leaves one partner emotionally adrift, serious illness shakes the certainty of always having the other person, children profoundly change the stakes, obligations, and issues in a relationship, and so forth. As life changes there are new things to do, to confront, to debate, define, suffer, and solve. Enduring relationships move on and grow--or shrink. I simply do not believe that the profound understanding we have seen between M&S starts and stops with their mission statement or their memory of past adventures. Unless CC simply decides to choose to trash the relationship, I think there is room for hope.