Season 11 of The X Files kicked off last night on Fox, with beloved characters Mulder and Scully returning to our small screens to discover that the truth is, indeed, still out there. But was the season premiere's twist too out there for even the show's most fervent fans?
The first episode back, written by series creator Chris Carter, was the usual mix of confusing flashbacks, surprising cameos (oh hi, Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose!), and the slow untangling of the show's complex mythology. Like most Carter-penned episodes, it was an entertaining yet bewildering mix of familiar faces, muddled plot, dreary dialogue and fast-paced action. In other words, it felt like business as usual for long time fans -- until the episode's closing minutes. That's when the Cigarette Smoking Man revealed that he, not Mulder, is the father of Scully's son, William.
In a series of flashbacks, we get scenes from season seven's "En Ami" episode, in which Scully and the CSM take a road trip and she wakes up with no memory of going to bed. At the time, he insisted he didn't drug her. However, last night's retcon has CSM telling Skinner that he used that opportunity to impregnate her. When Skinner presses him about who William's true father is, CSM responds, "I am. William is my son."
Viewers (myself included) immediately took to Twitter to decry the plot twist, which is being criticised for once again victimizing the show's beloved female lead, an especially galling move in the midst of the #MeToo movement. Carter then made it worse by refusing to categorize the situation as rape, saying in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that CMS is "the figurative father if he's not the actual father. He didn't rape Scully. He impregnated her with science." When asked what led him to this move, Carter said "It adds to the characters in an interesting emotional way."
Fans were quick to point out the problematic implications of Carter's response and wonder if the thorny issues of consent would be addressed in future episodes.
except she was impregnated *against her will* and the fact that it's apparently not considered r*pe speaks volumes https://t.co/cmju6NkqOF
— Carly Lane (@carlylane) January 4, 2018
Chris Carter comes under fire for his all-male writers’ room. Chris Carter also trots out an infuriating, upsettingly tone-deaf twist in #TheXFiles premiere. Gee, could these two things be related?
— Sara Netzley (@SaraNetzley) January 4, 2018
#xfiles Also: there are ways to tell stories centered around women's pregnancies without reducing those women to their reproductive systems. Chris Carter has, for ALMOST 25 YEARS, failed to grasp this.
— Amy's 2018 wishes: Black Panther & Wrinkle in Time (@spooloflies) January 4, 2018
— brittany (@brittania_) January 4, 2018
So, in 1 hour, Dana Scully had a medical emergency, left the hospital & was in a serious car crash, returned to the hospital & was smothered with a pillow & nearly choked to death, & lastly, her child was the result of rape & Mulder isn’t the father? #TheXFiles pic.twitter.com/51bkLf6CkZ
— Hadley (@SpookyHadley) January 4, 2018
Next week's ep is fun! But, yes. https://t.co/bwBlTwwoH6
— Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall) January 4, 2018
Dana Scully deserves better. Gillian Anderson deserves better. And the millions of girls and women looking up to this character over the last 25 years deserve damn better, too. #TheXFiles
— Amy Turnbull (@JolinarSG1) January 4, 2018
2016: It's ok to offer Gillian Anderson HALF the amount of $$ we offer David Duchovny.
2017: It's ok to have an all-male writing room. pic.twitter.com/IKUu6X0uHn
— 2018, it’s me (heather + porg) (@NerdHeather) June 26, 2017
I think there are showrunners who would see the backlash, admit it was tone-deaf considering current revelations of powerful men taking advantage of women in vulnerable positions & do what could be done to rectify things before final edits. Carter isn’t one of them. #TheXFiles
— Amanda Shavers-Davis (@AHShavers) January 4, 2018
— Kel Fitzgerald (@closer2fine) January 4, 2018
— Amy Novondo (@AmyNovondo) January 4, 2018
— Alisa Hassett (@alisaghassett) January 4, 2018
Anyone who knows me knows the character of Dana Scully has had a hugely positive, meaningful influence on my life. Tonight's episode - and the disturbing, implied rape of her character - have affected me in a deeply visceral way.
Not cool, Chris Carter. New low.#TheXFiles
— Sarah Rose (@MaybeSarahRose) January 4, 2018
I'm seeing a lot of people say #TheXFiles reveal is actually a lie & while I really hope that's true, I'll still be pissed that they even went there at all. Dana Scully deserves better. We all do.
— Emma Scully (@xceteras) January 4, 2018
— Huei Ming (@huei_ming) January 4, 2018
— Kate (@bassicallykate) January 4, 2018
AMEN. Those of us who used to be proud of how this show pushed boundaries and promoted strong female leads are now hanging our heads because that female lead has been reduced to an exploited vagina. #TheXFiles https://t.co/CvVL1MqQHJ
— C (@Derek2008) January 4, 2018
Scully is a brilliant doctor & scientist who has an unwavering moral compass, a passion for knowledge and truth, & a sense of loyalty that won't quit. Using a female character as a punching bag & continuing to violate her for some mediocre dude-focused plotline is unacceptable.
— Jennifer Still (@jenniferlstill) January 4, 2018
— Brittany Kaplan (@BrittanyLKaplan) January 4, 2018
Let's scream it from the mountain tops: Using rape ("medical" or otherwise) as a plot point is lazy, awful writing. Using rape ("medical" or otherwise) to shock viewers is irredeemable. #XFiles #MyStruggle3
— The XX Files Podcast (@doubleXfiles) January 4, 2018
What do you think? Did the show go too far? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!