Welcome back to Nerds & Beyond‘s first Women’s History Month series! As a reminder, throughout the month of March, we will be highlighting different women in pop culture — fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — who we think exemplify accurate and honest portrayals of women in the mainstream media and use their voices to empower and uplift.
If you were alive for any part of the nineties, there’s a good chance that The X-Files was on your massively oversized television screen at least once. If you were a little girl at the time, growing up watching The X-Files almost certainly meant that you wanted to grow up to be like the ever-witty and level-headed Doctor Dana Scully, expertly brought to the screen by Gillian Anderson. Scully was, and remains to be, an amazing role model to grow up with. Not only is she a capable and impressive agent in the FBI, she is also a medical doctor who puts her stock in logic and facts rather than fantastic ideology and beliefs.
Scully was one of the first female characters in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field to be featured in a popular prime-time television show, and the first to be in a leading role.
While women’s presence in the workplace has certainly advanced in many industries since the 1970s, women are still tragically underrepresented in STEM professions, with only 10% of women earning a degree in a STEM field. However, the role of Dr. Scully has caused a notable increase in the amount of women entering STEM fields. According to a study conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, nearly two-thirds of women in the STEM field who are familiar with Dana Scully say the character influenced their career aspirations.
“Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it.”Dana Scully, Season 4 Episode 1 “Herrenvolk”
Outside of Scully’s impressive capabilities as an agent and medical doctor, she is also an interesting and complex character full of vast development throughout the series. Scully is independent and self-sufficient, never feeling that any of the unbelievable X-Files herself and partner Fox Mulder approach cannot be solved through science and rational explanation. Scully wasn’t included in The X-Files as a plot device to further Mulder’s advancement or to work hard on cases to make him proud, Scully was included to work these cases her way in spite of Mulder’s intensity.
Not only did Dana Scully open up the entertainment industry to more women being represented in the science and mathematical fields, the character also inspired countless women internationally to succeed in historically male-dominated fields. Considering The X-Files continues to be a popular series to stream, it’s not a stretch to say that her influence will continue for years to come.
Check out a compilation of some of Scully’s best moments from the official The X-Files channel below, and take a look at our ranking of the scariest The X-Files episodes here.