The American Dream in The X-Files: Ice, Space, Fallen Angel, and Eve
The introduction to this series of posts about the American dream as it appears in The X-Files can be found here:
1x07 Ice (Monster of the Week)
Did I mention that I am completely unqualified in any way to do these posts? Watching this is how I discovered two facts about Alaska: 1) where it is and 2) that it is a US state. I had no idea, I would have said it was Canadian if asked. I have also discovered that it is the US state with the highest proportion of indigenous population, that it borders on the Russian Federation, and that it was previously a Russian colony, Russian America, before being sold by Russia to the US in 1867, becoming the 49th state as recently as 1959. Obviously, therefore, in terms of the anti-dream portrayed by The X-Files we have a reference to colonialism as well as poor treatment of indigenous people. The dream of freedom is illusory if you're sitting on a land that has actually been bought by someone else over your head, after being colonised by another country.
In fact geography (and history, and probably politics) have never been my strong point and I was going to say that I hadn't realised that Russia ever had colonies before realising how silly that sounds. You could also say on this basis that history and possibly current affairs aren't my strong point either.
In the American dream the populace have rights and an important way in which the dream is compromised in The X-Files is by the government ignoring these rights and even destroying the evidence they have done this. Here we see an important reference to a recurring theme in the show, where after the events we see in the episode 'they' torch the base and destroy the evidence. The first of many successive visits from unnamed government officials getting rid of evidence and memories.
1x08 Space (Monster of the Week)
It may be stretching it, but the episode's setting at NASA brings up the Space Race, itself set firmly in the Cold War, which will be referred to in future episodes and is one of the settings for the defence of the American dream.
1x09 Fallen Angel (Core Mythology)
'Your report will reflect these facts' (which aren't facts) indicates that we have the government covering up again. The relevance to the American dream is that if you live in a country where you have rights you expect the government to be something approaching transparent. So much of the plot hinges on the subject of the government apparently hiding what is happening, even from its own agents. I actually think this is one of the mosy dystopian episodes of the show.
Deep Throat (our representation of government corruption and whistle blowing) once again makes an appearance and gives information to Mulder about government cover up. His role is made more complex here by him vetoing the committee's decision to sack Mulder, with the motivation of stopping him blowing the whistle. He also indicates that the information he is concerned about is what Mulder 'thinks' he knows, indicating that not all has been revealed.
Despite the episode being overtly about the show's core mythology, because of its signifcant content on government cover up and manipulation, I am going to count this among the episodes which most reflect the X-Files's negative take on the American dream. 'How can I disprove lies that are stamped with an official seal?', as Mulder puts it.
1x10 Eve (Monster of the Week)
This is a Monster of the Week episode in as much as it doesn't include aliens at all, but otherwise it incorporates many of the preoccupations that we also find in the show's core mythology: unethical medical experimentation, exsanguination, and as so often, the government apparently covering things up, constituting the exact opposite of the liberty and justice for all which is a feature of the American dream. The relevance to the American dream is once again the matter of rights being breached - because you should give informed consent to medical experimentation, but there have been many a programme by the US government where the government have not sought consent but administered experiments covertly. Here the experiments are not actually being conducted by the government but we are prompted to suspect government corruption, or at least interest, by the refusal of the requested investigation by the US Health Department into Dr Kendrick's activities at the fertility clinic suggests that in true X-Files fashion, it's been quashed by shadowy forces in the government. No investigation after maverick fertility experimentation? Seriously? Here, try as I might, I can't find a specific unethical experiment that this could reference and suspect that even though some of the real ones are pretty wild, this is a case of a history of unethical experimentation being 'X-Filesified'. Although there are a number of Adams and Eves we are shown what look like twins, which may be intended to suggest Nazi twin experiments by Mengele and others. Since Eve has prodded my train of thought towards Nazi experimentation perhaps this is also the moment to introduce the subject of Operation Paperclip, when during the Cold War, former Nazi scientists were employed and settled in the US so that their expertise would be on the 'right' side and defending the American dream and not on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. That these men had often committed war atrocities which went unpunished is exactly the sort of problem The X-Files loves and exactly the sort of thing which would question the justice which would be an important characteristic of the American dream.
We also have another visit by Deep Throat to Mulder, who actually enables the agents to visit Eve 8, thus allowing them greater understanding when every other agency is keeping things firmly shut down. As always, the issue here is that there is an absence of transparence about what has actually happened.
Because of the significant content impacting on the justice required by the dream, I consider Eve to be one of the episodes in which the American dream is more the subject of the episode than the background. As always the episode suggests the dream is only a dream, and is laid over a reality where rights are not respected and a possibly rogue government covers this up.
As I go through these posts I am going to keep a tally of how many episodes of Core Mythology and Monster of the Week types have significant content making the American dream in effect part of the plot rather than the omnipresent setting, and so far we have
Core Mythology: 4 (2 with signifcant content relating to the American dream: Deep Throat and Fallen Angel.)
Monster of the Week: 7 (1 with significant content relating to the American dream: Eve.)
As always, I'm totally unequipped to do this so if I've missed anything corrections are very welcome in the comments.