“Not Only Human” - an X-Files vid by Killa and Laura Shapiro

Curator's Note

One of the most common subgenres of vid is the character study, in which vidders illuminate characters’ emotions or motivations, revel in their charms or foibles, or simply distill the essence of their appeal. Most character studies have a strong persuasive component: the vidder argues for particular interpretations of characters and their places within source texts—interpretations that may align with a show’s canon, revise that canon, or even contradict it. In “Not Only Human,” Laura Shapiro and Killa use character study to reimagine a show’s premise: Dana Scully becomes the focal point not only of the vid but of The X-Files itself. In the show, Scully’s scientific approach to aliens and the faith that occasionally conflicts with it are most often presented merely as foils for her partner’s pursuit of the supernatural and extraterrestrial; even her cancer is, arguably, portrayed as a chapter in Mulder’s story rather than a story in its own right. The vid reconfigures these elements to place Scully, rather than Mulder, at the thematic center of the show. This reconfiguration is clearest in the song’s chorus; “not only human” signals both the alien and the divine, refusing to choose between them: Christ’s heart, the alien organism seen through a microscope, spaceship lights, crosses, ambiguous backlit figures, lights at the end of dark tunnels. But “the light that’s always on” is the light not only of faith or of alien ships but of Scully’s own scientific inquiry, her intellectual work, her agency, beginning with her passage through doorways and continuing in her translation of alien symbols into chemical compounds and her investigation of her own blood. “Not Only Human” thus constitutes one of the many feminist re-visions in which vidders have engaged over the last thirty years.


I am so glad you decided on this vid, which is one of my favorite character studies. The juxtaposition of science and religion that drives so much of Scully's quest is so beautifully laid out here with the imagery the show provides as the vid not only reflects these tender and careful moments in Scully's show narrative but also teases out those underlying themes of life and death; pregnancy and cancer; otherness (be it religion or aliens), and faith (whether in science or religion). I'm fascinated by the way I've lost a lot of the initial context (it's been a while since I've seen the show and I can't properly place a lot of the scenes any more) which, in a way, makes the images more strongly connected to the vid itself for me. I've noticed that in general before, where I've watched a scene in a vid more often than in the show and upon watching the show actually have stronger connections to the vid meaning and context. The visuals are just stunning--that almost gentle fade to sands of time and nothingness in the end, for example, after all the images of violence and decay we've had. I like the way you connect it to Sisabet and Luminosity's vid in the end and the way vids often do appropriate the images for our own reasons/interpretations/purposes. The show is so Mulder-centric and "Not Only Human" really offers a counterpoint to that narrative, offering a reading that makes Scully's journey not only more central but also more meaningful in a way. Mulder's questions are almost narrow and limited compared to the larger issues we're faced with here... It truly is an exemplary vid on so many levels!

This is one of my favourite vids of all time and I was delighted to read Avi's message on AIR-l that you would be showing and discussing it. You're bang on that it is a feminist revisioning of the series narrative. I did extensive research on the women-only David Duchovny Estrogen Brigades back in the mid 90's and the participants made it clear that they saw Scully as Mulder's equal, at times reworking the narratives through list discussion in ways that challenged Scully's "second fiddle" status. In this sense, these female fans were very much the "textual poachers" as outlined by Henry Jenkins. Rhiannon Bury, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Women's Studies Athabasca University (Canada)

Terrific analysis of such a beautiful, effective vid. This vid speaks to me in (at least) two ways: 1) as a meta-vid of sorts, a feminist critique of The X-Files myopic focus on Mulder while Scully has faced such a vivid personal journey, and 2) as a character exploration of Scully, as viewers have followed and identified with her journey, even when it narratively may have been reduced to fodder for Mulder’s own personal quest. So it functions as critique, and at the same time expresses an affective viewing position. Of course these two readings aren’t at all mutually exclusive, but I guess what I’m getting at is that this vid really exemplifies how vids themselves exist as their own media texts, open to multiple (and often simultaneous!) modes of engagement and viewer interpretation.

In keeping with Louisa's point about how "vids themselves exist as their own media texts, open to multiple (and often simultaneous!) modes of engagement and viewer interpretation" -- I was very impressed by the finesse with which this vid explored the theme of faith, the the blurring of faith and science. But I never would have read it as a feminist intervention, because for me the source was ALWAYS and ONLY about Scully! :) Then again, I missed out on the era of X-Files fandom proper, so I never had to contend with any collective obsession with Mulder. It's equally interesting that this vid was made after the fact, in effect looking back on the heyday of the fandom.

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