This essay was one of many designed to increase our thinking and awareness about personality, individuality, their roots and examples today. It is from a stage one womens studies paper.
“Carol Steedman has argued that over the course of the 19th century, the damaged child with a mysterious past came to be the principle trope of the Self. Choose an example from pop culture and show how this trope operates in it.”
In the popular cult television
series The X-files
the characters pasts, in particular their childhoods are the primary parameters by which the characters are defined. The past experiences, the mysterious history, and damaged beginnings of the characters are what are used to conceptualise the Self
. The characters involved come from imperfect beginnings consisting of influential occurrences, often tragic, sometimes devastating. These occurrences are the mechanisms by which the characters are primarily defined. And the way that these mechanisms act in the series through the characters is what creates an interiority
, a sense of self, in a privatised space.
From the end of the eighteenth century
onwards, there came into being complex ways of understanding childhood as a component of the adult Self, brought on by an explosion of information about physiological and cognitive development
in human beings. This understanding of the influence of the childhood on the end result, adult, was then and is expressed in the way psychologists study the human mind today. This understanding is also expressed in the mass media
, through popular culture
. It is the way we define ourselves today. The idea of the child is used both to recall and to express the past that each individual life contains. Carolyn Steedman argues that this ‘child’, the damages inflicted upon the child and the child’s mysterious past became the principle ways by which a development of concept of the Self is obtained. The damaged child is the way that we identify ourselves. In popular culture - film, television series, comic books, anime and cartoons we see this expression for definition of the Self in the characters involved. The characters tend to exhibit the core of the individual’s identity, being his or her own lost past, or childhood. The childhood explains or gives reason for, even excuses the way that that character or personality is, has turned out, and the fashion in which they function. The childhood of the character is used as a means of explanation for the interiority of the character, where interiority is a sense of self within.
, performed by actor David Duchovny
is one of the two primary characters in the series. Mulder’s childhood began traumatically with one of his first memories being that of his younger sister Samantha, being abducted in the night. After hypnotic regression
many years later, he becomes obsessed with the belief that his sister was abducted by some unknown power. Mulder, now a special agent, takes a detour from a successful career in the FBI into one specializing in the paranormal
, obsessed with discovering the truths hidden in the X-Files. The X-files themselves being unsolved cases in the Bureau, or too unusual or paranormal to be solved. This detour from a to-be successful career was a direct result of the ‘discovery’ via regression of the abduction of his sister. This new direction of career and direction of life, indeed this change in sense of identity and purpose, was a direct result of this apparent incident in his early life at eight years old, the abduction of his sister. We see that this definition of Self, is confined to reasons of his childhood, more specific in the fact that it pertains to a single identifiable incident. The change in Mulders lifestyle and working habits after his revelation reflect the effect his childhood has on his interiority. Mulder moves his office to the basement of the FBI building and becomes cautious of authority in a paranoid way. An often used phrase of Mulder’s is ‘Trust no one
’, reflecting his paranoia. Another is ‘The truth is out there
’ resounding his search for the truth in his life and his work. His occupation he utilises as a conduit through which to conduct a search to reveal what actually happened to his sister, a search for the truth. These activities and changes in identity, a direct result of a single identifiable incident, show that the newly discovered ‘childhood’ is the principle way for Mulder to conceptualise his Own Self. Mulder gives a simple ideology to the situation ‘cause and effect
.’ As he discovered his traumatic past, his Self became altered in proportionate terms. The newly discovered child-figure acted as a vehicle for expressing ideas of the Self, these ideas manifest in his feelings and behaviour. For example, the phrases aforementioned, that Mulder lives by dogmatically.
, preformed by Gillian Anderson
is the second of the two primary characters on The X-files. Scully wears a gold-cross necklace that her mother gave to her on Scully’s fifteenth birthday. The symbolism behind the given cross was of protection by the hand of God
. Scully’s parents are Christian
, and as Scully grew up, her participation with the church was reduced slowly to an inactive faith, aided possibly by her excellence in the fields of science, pathology
particularly. The fields of which so often tend to deny faith in the supernatural
and instil it in human science. Scully’s childhood to adulthood consisted of a saturation in science. She completed a bachelor of science, majoring in physics at the university of Maryland
, a Medical Doctorate at medicine school before going to Quantico
for her FBI
field training. Scully was partnered with Mulder originally in an attempt to debunk his work, employed by high officials in the United States' government
. Mulder’s position in the bureau upheld only by a network of personal connections within the bureau itself and in the government gained through his father, a member of the FBI in his younger years. Scully’s early childhood is less traumatic than Mulder’s, but nonetheless her childhood does imprint primarily upon her identity. From Scully’s scientific background comes a definition of Self as a skeptic
. However, from time to time during the series, and often in case of a life-threatening
situation, Scully resigns her skepticism and visits her pastor at her church. Scully is a scientist and will always be one, so she maintains a scientific distance from things, whereas in these situations that distance is minimised. Her childhood faith dominates and she lays trust in what is not scientifically proven. Scully’s faith in God is particular to her interiority, a sense of her Self within. This notion of interiority is that the Self has it’s own inner space
, a private architecture
that can be conceived as being so private that it is even hidden from ourselves. Scully’s interiority may be as such, that it is hidden from her conscious until a situation of extreme circumstances occurs; for after the situations occur of which I speak, she abruptly returns to her scientific discourse, and skeptic nature. The inner space withing the body has been described by Foucault as ‘that opaque mass in which secrets, invisible lesions, and the very mystery of origins lie hidden.’ This hidden interiority, or internal truth
consists of a complex set of beliefs, feelings and sentiments that are to do with childhood, and to do with the self and the relationship between the two. One can see that not so much a damaged child in Scully’s situation, but a mysterious and complex past is the principle controlling factor concerning her interiority, or her Self within. Her complex past is the mechanism through which her Self is defined, how her identity operates, even if she is not aware of it, it still defines her interiority. Because this child within, represented by her Self, is representative of a lost realm, and hence can be lost to Scully herself. One can also see the hidden Self, privatised to the point of being a lost realm, and the individual themselves not being conscious of it’s existence.
The concept of the Self being created by the damaged child and the mysterious past has a component of time. Time lays its mark on individuals in three ways, according to Wadsworth
. First, and of primary importance, biological experience
. Secondly is the idea of historical time
. This is where the individual investigates their life in comparison to a large-scale social history, and the social changes undergone in that history. The third kind of time deals with the individual’s attachment to a particular period of time. This is concerned with the carrying of the imprint of the time of their childhood. The imprint of childhood on the characters in The X-files is the embodiment of their Self, who they are and how the characters appear on screen. Childhood, the initial experience of life it encompasses and the sense of Self it installs is the main control in terms of the characters’ identity. The X-files takes body invasion
, and vampire
motifs familiar from modern horror and science fiction
film to a postmodern level of Self- awareness
. This is the very Self that is portrayed by the ‘Child’ of each character in The X-files.