“2Shy” reads like a feminist tract, only one that’s been written by a man… but more on that in a minute.
In the mid-90’s, what with all the relationships being formed over the newly popular internet, the public was a little on edge over the inherent dangers of dalliances with near strangers. So what does that have to do with The X-Files? Well, we all know that this show loves to take relatively mundane fears and ratchet them up a notch or too. But more significantly, The X-Files’ success was largely due to its internet fanbase, a fanbase that is still going strong, hence yours truly. No doubt there were people watching the initial run of this episode while spilling spoilers in a chatroom at the same time. I’m sure it’s no accident that the subject of internet dating was broached, probably in the hopes of scaring the pants off of The X-Files’ internet fans specifically.
Chatrooms can be a scary place because of how easy it is to fall for the virtual without being bogged down by the reality; people become reduced to the words that they type. The thing about words is that they can be so convincing. Truly, that’s what they exist for: to communicate a message, to convince. Because of words we can dupe ourselves into believing we truly know and understand someone we’ve never met. We know nothing about their relationships with others outside of what they tell us, let alone their actions or their manner. Words can’t always be trusted, and what we have here is a Monster of the Week hiding behind love poems.
So back to the beginning; I said this episode is a feminist piece written by a man. I might add, he’s a white American male at that. How would I know? I can read the credits.
But even without the credits it’s patently obvious. There are telltale remarks scattered throughout the script such as:
Roommate: She had kind of a weight problem. But 2Shy didn’t seem to care. It wasn’t about sex with him.
The implication being that if it was about sex, 2Shy wouldn’t have been in the Big and Beautiful chatroom. I don’t think I need to point out the inherent fallacy there.
And then again:
Detective Cross: Her name was Holly MacLean. She’s worked this area for a couple of years now but she wasn’t most Johns’ first pick, if you know what I mean.
Yes, because there are very few Johns in this world with a thing for big girls. Men who frequent crack whores that sell their wares underneath bridges in the dark of night tend to be on the lookout for the trophy wife type. Right.
Okay, so I can’t really knock a man for considering women from a male point of view. What other point of view does he have? It’s just that it would have been nice to see a kindly eye directed toward larger women that didn’t have the glint of pity in its iris.
Overall, writer Jeffrey Vlaming does a good job of depicting various degrees of womanhood. We have the desperately annoying, as depicted in the Monica character. She was so bad I was actually relieved when Incanto killed her. The phrase “He’s just not that into you” comes to mind. Then there’s Ellen, the haltingly insecure. It’s her story that we’re really invited to empathize with. Of course, there are the prostitutes, who are, well, prostitutes.
Finally, there’s the enigmatic Dr. Scully who can still do no wrong. And because it’s hard to elevate women without demeaning mankind, her meager nemesis, poor Detective Cross, isn’t given a single redeeming feature. Somehow, I still like him though. I suspect Scully feels the same way judging from her sympathetic reaction to his death.
So we have a smart woman up against a foolish man and some vulnerable women up against a man with inhuman powers. Add the meta-narrative to Scully’s struggle with the backward Detective Cross and you have something that’s a little ham-fisted with its message at moments. It’s hard to believe a detective out of the 1990’s would be so shocked that a woman could be a medical doctor. What’s next? A black astronaut? Gasp!
Whatever the excuse they had to drum up to showcase it, it was nice to see Scully handle herself with such grace and it’s good to see The X-Files infused with estrogen.
Please excuse my enthusiastic snarkiness above because I actually quite like this episode. It doesn’t reach the level of “Squeeze” (1×2) and “Tooms” (1×20), a story arc it clearly took its cues from, but we can’t really expect The X-Files to hit that mark every time. Besides, “2Shy” adds its own twist by giving us a villain who doesn’t just kill on animal instinct or even out of a vague aura of evil. Virgil Incanto is cruel. He doesn’t have to romance these women and then break their hearts, but he prefers to kill with poeticism than with brute force; definitely an admirer of his own work. “2Shy” is also more graphic than “Squeeze” which is in keeping with the aesthetic of, well, every season past Season 1. I don’t remember “Tooms” giving us a body with a hole in its middle section either.
There’s no intention to be condescending or potentially offensive. In fact, I think this episode was written in praise of womanhood. Out of the three men of any consequence in this episode, one of them is vile, one is stupid and the other is Mulder. The women, on the other hand, represented by Ellen, empower themselves and eventually take revenge on the not-as-suave-as-he-thinks Mr. Incanto. That’s why Scully is left to confront the villain in the final showdown and why Ellen is the one who gives him his just reward. There can be no complaints here about Mulder riding in as the White Knight to save Scully at the end of the episode. In this one, the women save themselves.
“2Shy” isn’t alone in its sensitivities this season as the male-heavy dream team behind The X-Files shows increased awareness of their largely female audience with more XY chromosome dominated episodes. Read: Scully’s time to shine.
Where is Scully’s sarcasm at the idea of a fat-sucking vampire coming from? Didn’t she see “Tooms”??
Holly the loveable prostitute draws the line at kissing. Who is this woman? Julia Roberts?
There’s a whole lot of Canadian being spoken in this episode.
I know Jessie’s blind and all, but that doesn’t give her superpowers. How is it she can smell her mother’s perfume hours after her mother entered the room yet the smell of human flesh dissolving in digestive juices didn’t trigger a reaction?
For all the feminism in this episode, would Scully really have gone alone to a potential killer’s house without back up? A killer who spits out stomach acid by the gallon? That’s not girl power, gentlemen, that’s stupidity.
Why did it take so long to figure out where Detective Cross was? There were only thirty-eight names on the list of potential suspects and the list was divided up between at least the three of them. That equals only about a dozen addresses Cross could have been at.
How could anyone possibly have thought “Virgil Incanto” was his real name? I’m going to start calling myself “Dante Alighieri” to see if it sticks.
Virgil Incanto was never destined to be among the great villains. There’s a minimum requirement of three given names: Eugene Victor Tooms, Donald Addie Pfaster, Robert Patrick Modell. The model often applies in real life too: John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy…
Monica: I know what you do, Mr. Incanto.
Incanto: What is it you think that I do?
Monica: All your typing and those packages from publishers in New York… you’re a novelist, right? Or an editor? You see I’m a writer too.
Incanto: What a coincidence. Should you be off writing or something?
Scully: The skin sample contains no oils or essential fatty acid. Well, Mulder, there are any number of factors which could have caused that result. Where are you going with this?
Mulder: Okay, it’s not yet the finely detailed insanity that you’ve come to expect from me, it’s just a theory. But what if he’s not doing this out of a psychotic impulse, but rather out of some physical hunger? Maybe he needs to replenish this chemical deficiency in order to survive.
Scully: From a dry skin sample you’re concluding what? That he’s some kind of a fat-sucking vampire?
Incanto: When you look at me you see a monster. But I was just feeding hunger.
Scully: You’re more than a monster. You didn’t just feed on their bodies, you fed on their minds.
Incanto: My weakness is no greater than theirs. I gave them what they wanted. They gave me what I needed.
Scully: Not any more.
Incanto: I morti non solo piu soli. The dead are no longer lonely.