Monday, July 21, 2008

The Truth is Out There

Here's an interesting article on the X-Files:

"The Truth About 'The X-Files," by Tom Piatak.


I have recently participated in a discussion of the X-Files and Mr. Piatak's article over on Mark Shea's blog. The discussion is in the comments on this post. I have decided to repost my comment here, making some minor additions and edits.

The context: I am replying to a poster who thought Mr. Piatak overstated the Christian theme in the series ending and demonstrated nothing more than that the show was anti-government.

My comment: I suppose one could look at the closing lines of the X-Files and see a vague spiritualism instead of a pointer to Christianity. One could probably say the same about the following lines from T.S. Elliot's Four Quartets: "And what the dead had no speech for, when living,/They can tell you, being dead: the communication/Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living." But to do so, I think, is to ignore both the context of the lines and the work as a whole.

I have always seen Mulder and Scully as two people who compliment each other. Mulder's openness to mystery helps keep Scully from falling too deeply into a narrow scientism, while Scully's Catholic faith--however poorly practiced--and her distaste for irrational or non-rational explanations helps reign in Mulder's sometimes naive credulity. As I have begun watching the series in a more systematic order through the DVDs, I have noticed that rarely are either Mulder or Scully completely correct in their initial assessment of a case, though both may have a part of the picture. Mulder must expand Scully's narrowness while she reigns in his openness before they reach a conclusion nearing the truth. In this way I think that Scully and Mulder's relationship is an example of what should exist in true spiritual friendship--or, for any "shippers" out there, of what should exist in a healthy marriage--which is two people helping each other overcome obstacles on the path towards truth, virtue and faith.

As for the X-Files being anti-government, I'm not sure it is that simple. After all, Mulder and Scully both work for the FBI for most of the series. That makes them government agents employed by the executive branch. What the X-Files opposed was the military-industrial complex, the secretive and self-perpetuating intelligence community and any other aspect of government that--through secrecy, size and power--becomes a law unto itself, unaccountable to the moral law, to the rule of law, or to the electorate. That may be anti-our-current-government. But it is not anti-government per se, nor is it contrary to the American political tradition. I would argue that neither is it contrary to the best of classical and medieval political thought, which forms part of the basis for the political thought of the Catholic Church.


Catherine Nolan said...

I had a lit. professor once who told me that when he asked his average class of university students whether truth is subjective, the majority would agree - until he mentioned the theme of the X-Files. Many students supported the idea of an objective reality, when they in turn were supported by, well, a television show. I don't know whether that's a good or bad sign.

brendon said...


It would certainly be better if the students had better reasons for supporting the objectivity of truth than just a television show. But at least the show helped them to be willing to consider the idea. That is better than nothing.

Your example demonstrates why it is important for Christians with the talent and the inclination to learn the necessary skills and get involved with producing art, drama &c. A piece of art may be the weakest form of "argument," if you will forgive the use of the term in this context, but it can also be the most powerful, causing people to consider things that they would not normally consider.

Tom Piatak said...

A very perceptive comment on the series in general and on the Mulder-Scully relationship in particular.