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Recently, I began re-watching The X-Files, a 90’s television program about a fringe department in the FBI devoted to investigating “unexplained phenomenon”—-paranormal activity, extraterrestrial life, government conspiracy, alien fetus contraband, and the like. Heading up the X-Files is Fox Mulder, a brilliant psychological profiler who has been marginalized in the FBI for his strong belief in all things paranormal; his partner, Dana Scully, is a medically-trained skeptic who acts as Mulder’s foil (sexual tension abounds).
But in the middle of Season 2, Mulder comes across one unexplained phenomenon that he just can’t bring himself to believe in: Rape.
. . . Okay, so it’s specifically arape committed by the invisible spirit of a septuagenarian Alzheimer’s patient living in a retirement home [“Excelsis Dei,” 1994]. Michelle Charters, an orderly at an assisted-living facility, contacts the FBI claiming that she was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by a resident while on duty. According to Charters’ medical report and a self-shot video she provided to the FBI, “the abrasions and contusions here would be consistent with her claims,” Scully notes, and the examination revealed “injury and tearing associated with sexual trauma.”
But what’s not explained by the medical report? Charters “claims to have been raped by an invisible entity,” specifically the projected spirit of a long-time resident who had repeatedly groped and made sexual comments toward Charters in the past. Sure, the whole spirit-rapist thing sounds pretty unlikely, but this is just the kind of paranormal twist that, in nearly every other episode of the X-Files, Mulder would immediately believe, back up with evidence from several previous X-Files cases, and then aggressively investigate. This time, Mulder cites a couple of other X-Files documenting “entity rapes,” notes that none have ever been substantiated, and is basically like, “well, fuck it.”
Over the past season and-a-half, Mulder has instantly accepted the following explanations for otherwise “unexplained” crimes:
– a slain police officer with a penchant for origami animals is reincarnated as a 9-year-old suburban girl in order to exact revenge against his former partners (and complete his widow’s origami animal collection);
– the spirit of a dying bank robber, shot by Scully in a botched robbery, assumes the body of another FBI agent in order to exact revenge upon her (and hook up with his ex-girlfriend);
– an extraterrestrial parasitic organism living deep under the Alaskan ice invades the bodies of Arctic scientists, leading them to all murder each other;
– the members of an Amish-ish community known as “the Kindred,” who somehow have the ability to instantly switch from male to female, murder people with their superior powers of seduction (and bury dying members in the sticky residue of some sort of restorative cave);
– a criminal who Mulder helped capture in his first FBI case, presumed dead, is actually alive, killing people again, somehow growing younger, and now has a salamander hand;
– a centuries-old man who can stretch his body to inhuman lengths commits a series of murders in order to provide sustenance before returning to hibernate in a nest;
– a former alien abductee, with the help of a government conspiracy bent on dismantling the X-Files, kidnaps Scully and offers her up to the alien beings, who perform tests on her for an unspecified period of time before returning her to Earth in an unexplained coma;
– a Vietnam veteran who, through a strange war experiment, was left without the ability to ever sleep, murders the surviving members in the company by projecting his violent dreams into reality.
But when a woman contacts Mulder and Scully and informs them that she was raped by an invisible spirit, Mulder’s all like, “What, that’s impossible!”
But Mulder agrees to go to the retirement home anyway, where he tells Charters that he can’t go forward with her case without some kind of physical evidence, as if that has ever been necessary to Mulder’s investigations before, ever. Then they go on a nice tour of the facility with Charters’ boss, who tells Mulder and Scully that Charters is just a big whiner, and also the weirdest thing is happening at the facility where all the patients who used to have Alzheimer’s magically don’t have Alzheimer’s anymore. Meanwhile Mulder is just farting his way through the whole process, telling Scully things like, “I think this is going to turn out to be a huge waste of time, just like all the other X-Files on entity rape,” as she attempts to figure out WTF is going on in this facility, where all the Alzheimer’s went, and how invisible people are raping (and now killing) all of the facility’s orderlies.
Then Mulder tells Scully that they’re leaving, checking out of their hotel, and heading back to Washington “with a big goose egg,” and she’s like, but, but:
Scully: What if there’s a connection?
Mulder: Between the rape case and the Alzhemiers? You mean, when they’re not drawing childlike pictures they’re violent sex offenders? . . . You think Michelle Charters was raped by a 74-year-old schizophrenic?
Scully: It’s possible.
Mulder: . . . an invisible 74-year-old schizophrenic?
Scully: Well maybe it’s not the medication. Maybe it’s the place itself.
Mulder: Are you saying the building is haunted? Because if you are, I think you’ve been working with me too long.
Scully: I’m saying there might be an environmental reason for what’s happening there . . .
Mulder: I think you’re looking too hard, Scully, for something that’s not there. I think that Michelle Charters concocted this story to get out of a job she hates.
Scully: Her lip required 13 stitches. The blood to her head resulted in a subdural hematoma. That’s quite a concoction.
So Mulder is finally like fiiiiine, and they return to the retirement home, where additional shit goes down:
. . . and so Mulder finally puts his Oxford-trained brain to work, immediately determines that a guy he refers to as “The Asian Orderly” has been growing illicit mushrooms in the old folks’ home basement as some sort of medicinal treatment from “his home country,” and the mushrooms were making the Alzheimer’s go away and also helping the spirits of dead residents seek revenge against their former orderlies by . . . well, that part’s not really explained, actually! But whatever, case closed—-Mulder never needs any real evidence, anyway, as long as the case doesn’t have anything to do with rape.