Anna: Jeff, did you love the final two issues in X-Files?
Jeff: I didn’t love it, but I found it satisfying. As with many of The X-File television episodes, the real joy is in the mystery. The conclusion often seems like an afterthought to a great initial conceit.
A: Well, I did love it – and felt pretty satisfied with the conclusion. Like some of the best X-File episodes, the characters you’ve gotten to know may still come back. Though the story is resolved, there is some possibility that they have an even larger role to play.
J: In fact, Mulder, Scully, Ellinson, and Ohio all come back in the Christmas Special, with a new mystery to solve. While the five part, The X-Files, Year Zero is done, I have a feeling there will be more mysteries for Ellinson and Ohio. Did you find them compelling enough characters that you would want to follow more of their adventures?
A: Sure. Not a resounding yes, but more of a “sure, I think so”. I really enjoyed these last few issues in which there was a temporal inequality emphasizing the present. Obviously, Mulder and Scully are the characters most of us are showing up for (at least I am). But I am, if not fully interested – willing – to learn more about and spend more time with Ellinson and Ohio in the future.
J: Don’t you mean in the past?
A: Ha. I am willing to spend the time with them in the past, at a future point.
J: One thing I did enjoy about the issue #5 and the Christmas Special was that the Ellinson-Ohio story revealed itself to actually be a story about female empowerment, both personally and in the workplace. The X-Files have never really bothered to engage in social issues so I was surprised that the authors of Year Zero took the time to craft a story about women and their struggles against male oppression – both human and extraterrestrial.
A: Do you think that the Ellinson-Ohio story specifically or the overarching story was one of female empowerment? I think it was something that they built to through the entire story – and was equally present in the Mulder-Scully storyline as in the Ellinson-Ohio storyline.
J: Well, the most obvious example is Millie Ohio moving from secretary to Special Agent in the Year Zero story arc. More interesting is her story in the Christmas Special where her boyfriend returns from World War II only to find that Ms. Ohio has become a liberated woman and no longer wants to be simply a wife and homemaker. This story mirrors that of thousands of women in the post-War period. After working for the war effort, they were expected to give up their jobs to returning G.I.s and return themselves to the home and domesticity. Rosie the Riveter was expected to become June Cleaver.
A: I take a bit of an issue with the Millie Ohio storyline. Not her growth as a character, obviously – but the fact that her promotion to Special Agent doesn’t come from her own hard work or personal ethic – it comes from her Senator father. I recognize that “this is how it was back then”…but we’re not back then. And we’re talking about a comic book. I think that the story could have promoted her on her own merit and had a much stronger message of empowerment.
J: Well, then, did you find the Dorothy Sears (aka Deidre Savoy) story more compelling?
A: Compelling? I did find that story delivering a stronger message of female empowerment. For the first four issues, Ms. Sears is portrayed as a woman at the mercy of the villain Mr. Xero and who flees because she fears for her life. In the final issue it is revealed that she had been using Mr. Xero as her way to break the shackles of domesticity.
J: Exactly! Her conversation with Scully as Ms. Savoy, about what is was like to be a woman in the 1940s really elevated the comic from your typical bizarre X-File into something more important.
A: Yeah. Here, what had been an indirect message becomes pretty clear. Ms. Savoy says, “We had very limited roles, very few options. And a Cape Cod house with a picket fence was just a pretty cage – for me, at least.” She then tells Scully how she blew up her house, literally destroying her cage. And “Since then I’ve done what I’ve wanted, when I’ve wanted.”
J: The way the story wrapped up while maintaining its message, I thought, was very clever. I really expected things to end with Ms. Savoy agreeing to enslave herself to Mr. Zero in order to save her son. You know, a return to typical understandings of the role of women, where the message is basically, it was all well and good for Ms. Savoy to have her freedom but now she realizes that her true responsibility is to be a mother to Dell. And, if that means enslaving herself to a man, than that is what she should do.
A: Obviously, that’s not what happened – and what did happen was far more exciting. Women really can have it all.
J: Well, Mulder is always saying, “the truth is out there.”
Anna Josephson and Jeff Michler are both development economists finishing their PhDs at Purdue. They enjoy reading and discussing television and graphic novels together when they are not watching cricket or debating economic theory. You can find their scholarly work here.