Television Drama- "The X- Files"

Essay by Elise89High School, 12th gradeB-, August 2006

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Television Dramas often make comments on particular viewpoints and attitudes towards certain ideologies present in society. Characterisation is an important element in television drama, as through the construction of characters, non-print texts are able to construct and promote a desired viewer response. Characters are constructed in television dramas through the actions, dialogue and physical appearance of the character, and the opinions formed against them by other characters within the text. "The X-Files" is a rich example of a text that utilises the element of character construction to successfully develop and promote a particular viewpoint towards issues such as extraterrestrials and government conspiracy, that arise from within the plot.

"The X-Files" recurrently deals with things beyond the boundaries. The serial continually pursues the idea of extraterrestrials and other paranormal activities in the hope of unveiling the 'truth' behind the overwhelmingly large amount of unsolved FBI cases. "The X-Files" is based upon the activities of two FBI agents, Fox Moulder and Dana Scully as they attempt to explain the unexplainable.

The episode Abduction evolves around the hijacking of several innocent civilians by Duane Barry, a self proclaimed alien abductee. Agent Moulder and Agent Scully's involvement with the case, however, begins to unravel the issue of government conspiracy and links into the central theme of "The X-Files", 'that no one is to be trusted'.

Agent Dana Scully is represented as a medical doctor specialising in the field of forensic science. Agent Scully was assigned to "The X-Files" alongside her long-term partner of Agent Moulder. Agent Scully's position within the text represents 'knowledge' and 'reason'. The attitude that she expresses clearly demonstrates in her belief that science is the only credible form of evidence that will expose the truth. Her strong belief supporting scientifical reasoning often portrays her to be sceptical of Agent Moulder's often socially incorrect stance on the paranormal. Agent Scully values hard work in order to obtain concrete evidence to back any theories proposed through her work on "The X-Files". Her determination for the truth is made evident within the episode of Abduction. For example, upon discovering the implanted microscopic chip in Duane Barry, Agent Scully knowingly risks her own life by scanning the item through a local supermarket's cash-register. Agent Scully situates herself in such a position in a bid to verify whether the piece of metal was in some form of a labelling device.

Viewers perceive Agent Scully as being intelligent and well educated. This is communicated to the viewers through the tone of her voice and the style in which she dresses. Agent Scully's voice comes across as being highly sophisticated and confident. She always maintains a high level of grooming and frequently dresses in business suits. This confirms the fact that Agent Scully is both intelligent and well educated. Viewers are positioned to respect Agent Scully and recognise her as being extremely good at the job she assumes. This response is constructed by the judgment of Agent Scully by other characters within the text. For example, when Agent Scully is reportedly abducted, her boss praises her work and states how well liked and respected Agent Scully was within the FBI.

The X-Files positions females in a role unfamiliar to those constructed in other television dramas. Agent Scully is represented as being independent, intelligent and in a role of great power. These attributes are rarely associated with feminine roles within television, as modern society still largely views women as being the typical 'uneducated, stay at home mothers'. The episode Abduction goes further and casts a female in a role repeatedly undertaken by the male gender. The FBI Woman, who assumes complete charge over the hostage negotiations, is viewed as holding immense power and authority over an almost completely male workforce. This is established by the woman's authoritive tone of voice and the confidence she exercises while relaying information to her colleagues concerning the case. The positive construction of Agent Scully and the FBI Woman has aided in establishing identities as role models to women across the globe. Women aspire to be like these characters as they are compassionate, smart and strong willed- non physical characteristics that have excelled them within their profession. The X-Files enables women to reflect upon their own role within society and explore the possibilities of women in medical and scientifical positions.

Agent Fox Moulder is represented as a criminal psychologist working exclusively on The X-File branch of the FBI. Agent Moulder's burning passion towards the paranormal stems from the unusual circumstances surrounding the disappearance of his younger sister, Samantha. Agent Moulder's faith lies within the existence of the truth and the existence of Samantha. It is in search of both of these that he continues to pursue the elusive despite grave threats to his own life. Agent Moulder's craving to expose the 'truth' is made apparent within the first episode of Abduction. He endangers his own life by falsely dressing as a qualified paramedic and entering the hijacked travel agency to 'attend' to a wounded hostage. These drastic actions carried out by Agent Moulder demonstrate the extent in which the agent will reach in order to unveil the truth behind any paranormal claims.

Viewers are positioned to view Agent Moulder as being a normal everyday person who genuinely cares for individuals associated within his life. This representation has been constructed through the depiction of Agent Moulder in his swimwear at the beginning of Abduction. This scene allows viewers to come to the realisation that Agent Moulder does possess a 'normal' life aside from his work involving The X-Files. The caring aspect present in Agent Moulder's personality is demonstrated for example, by the immense passion and willpower that arises from within-side the agent, as he attempts to trace the whereabouts of Agent Scully and her psychotic kidnapper, Duane Barry.

Agent Moulder has been constructed in a way in which viewers perceive him as being professional, trustworthy and determined. His character is portrayed as being professional by continually appearing in suits whilst investigating The X-Files. Suits encourage viewers to respond to the character as being trustworthy and intellectual. The credibility of Agent Moulder assists in shaping viewer's attitudes towards the prospect of government conspiracy. They are more inclined to trust and agree with Agent Moulder's suspicions over the government's involvement because of his positive portrayal.

Duane Barry is represented as a former FBI agent, suffering everlasting damage to his brain after being shot in the line of duty. Viewers are made aware of this incident, as it is the underlying basis explaining his permanent residency at the mental institution. Duane Barry is portrayed as being largely psychotic. This portrayal is constructed through the judgement and opinions of other characters within the text. For example, the FBI Woman openly describes Duane Barry as being out of his mind by employing statements such as 'the guy's a psycho' to illustrate the condition suffered by Duane. This illustration generally reflects society's attitude towards individuals permanently housed at mental institutions and evokes great sympathy, not directly towards Duane Barry, but rather the situation in which he is in. Viewers are aware that Duane's condition has resulted from a work-based incident and are therefore more sympathetic towards his character, as they come to the realisation that he once was a 'normal' working-class individual. The depictions of Duane Barry's proclaimed alien abduction experiences further reinforce the sympathetic viewer response. During these scenes, close-ups of his facial expressions reveal great pain and fear. Despite certain aspects of the text evoking a high level of sympathy towards Duane Barry, viewers find it difficult to accept his absurd claims concerning alien abductions. The general lack of acceptance exhibited, positions viewers to distrust the issues in which Duane Barry promotes. Through this, the issue of government conspiracy is further established as viewers concede to the possibility of a complete government cover-up in an attempt to conceal the 'truth' from the general public.

The element of character construction plays a significant role in constructing and shaping a desired viewer response to issues occurring within television dramas. Television drama positions viewers to accept the varied attitudes and opinions promoted by the characters constructed within the text. The X-Files effectively employs character construction to create a negative attitude towards issues that it raises, such as extraterrestrials and government conspiracies. Viewers are positioned to questioned the credibility of such issues and acknowledge the main theme presented by The X-Files 'that no one is to be trusted'.