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Why Dana Scully from ‘X-Files’ Is The Ultimate Icon

Even to the person who’s never seen an episode of The X-Files, the name “Scully” probably sounds familiar. Diehard fans of science fiction and ‘90s nostalgia will recognize her memorable bright red hair, skeptical looks and dry comments. She’s half of the pop culture duo Mulder and Scully. The X-Files established a new level of creativity for sci-fi shows, created a standard for the classic “will they, won’t they” romance and introduced the world to the dynamic character of Dana Scully.

She’s inspirational.

Dr. Scully has been a fictional role model for many women. The sight of the medical doctor performing autopsies and dropping scientific facts on TV is a reason for girls interested in STEM fields to look up to her. She’s been a source of inspiration for other female characters on crime TV shows, too. If you love Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU, Temperance “Bones” Brennan from Bones or Maura Isles from Rizzoli & Isles, you have Scully to thank.

She has looked killers, aliens and evil government agents in the eye with little fear. In trailers for the show’s most recent season, even hospitalization is not enough to stop Scully from her quest for the truth.

Throughout the show, she’s had a reputation for being a badass. Scully in her FBI jacket, yelling at a hotel clerk to “pick up the phone and make it happen” when the building needs to be evacuated, is a memorable scene from The X-Files movie. Shots from a trailer for the newest season show her kicking in a glass door. Scully’s just as tough as she’s always been. From chasing down bad guys, gun and badge in hand, to handling sexist local law enforcement with sarcasm and wit, Scully’s earned a place of inspiration in the eyes of many. In 2018, the era of the girl boss, Scully’s intelligence, wit and determination are more relevant than ever.

She’s complex.

Scully is as well-developed a character as her male partner, Fox Mulder. The way she is written shows her flaws and dimensions. She isn’t just defined by her relationship with Mulder. Scully experiences internal struggles between her scientific discipline and the strange sights she encounters in her work with the X-Files department. The show portrays the conflict between her career in secular science and background in the Catholic faith as well. In the reboot tenth season, Scully experiences the mixed bag of emotions that comes with Mulder reentering her life.

She has emotions.

She gets angry and upset. When it first aired in 1993, The X-Files set into motion the idea of complex female characters within the world of sci-fi and crime. Scully is both strong and vulnerable. Her struggles with her career, faith, skepticism, relationships and motherhood have long provided women with a character to relate to.

Scully’s complexity resonates with both workaholics wondering how their future career will impact their life and skeptics reevaluating their relationship with their faith. Viewers outside of those two perspectives can appreciate her dimensions in other areas, too.

From romance to science, Scully is as detailed and complex as the real-life modern woman.

She’s stylish.

This observation may seem surprising to fans of the original show. Scully’s cringe-worthy shoulder-pad pantsuits are just as iconic as the woman wearing them. Since the era when cellphones looked like bricks has come and gone, The X-Files has adapted in several ways. Mulder and Scully investigate modern threats of terrorism, use electronic presentations instead of slide projections and having their own theme song as ringtones on their smartphones.

The most praiseworthy adaptation, though, is Scully’s style evolution. As she tells Mulder in a season ten episode, “Back in the day, I used to do stairs and in 3-inch heels.” Scully’s outfit of choice is still a pantsuit, but now it’s one that’s sleek and tailored. Just as the new episodes of The X-Files still include autopsy scenes and monsters, Scully is still nodding back to the show’s roots with her look. It’s a strong, assertive look that emphasizes Scully taking her place among the ranks of a new generation of female heroes that she helped create.

Much has changed since Scully first became Mulder’s partner. The new fashion Scully wears, accompanied by her classic gold cross necklace, is the perfect tribute to the rebirth and iconic nature of her character and the show as a whole.

Scully has already gone down in history as one of TV’s most iconic female characters. With the new seasons, she’ll become a role model for a new generation and cement her place in the hearts of lifelong fans.

Brianna is a sophomore journalism major at the University of Florida. She loves both writing and reading, and she plans to become a librarian. When she's not in the library, Brianna can be found dancing to Fleetwood Mac, putting together a Pinterest moodboard or listening to a true crime podcast. You can find her on Instagram @brianna.moye and Twitter @brianna__moye
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