Scully Effect: What’s behind it

by Johannes

In the Scully Effect, the film character Scully influences many girls and women in their choice of technical and scientific careers

Scully Effect: Rewriting terms

The Scully Effect takes its name from the main female character Scully in the American TV series “The X-Files”. In these films, FBI agent Dana Scully was very successful in this traditionally male-dominated profession. With the help of her additional skills as a doctor of forensic medicine, she solved many tricky cases.

  • Dr. Dana Scully was the first known woman to use rigorous scientific methods on US television in the 1990s. Numerous girls and women took the likeable character Scully, played by Gillian Anderson, as their role model and chose to train or study in the STEM field. This includes the subjects of mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology.
  • Scully does not correspond to the traditional image of women, as she does not have a typical female profession. Furthermore, she does not embody a male, socially awkward scientist in a white coat. Scully’s character combines the positive characteristics of progressive and successful women and men.
  • Scully worked at the FBI with agent Fox Mulder, played by David Duchovny, who was sometimes unpredictable and was often satisfied with extraterrestrial explanations for the mysterious cases. Their superior was the deputy FBI director Walter S. Skinner.
  • 202 episodes of the TV series “The X-Files” were shown by the American television channel FOX in nine seasons from 1993 to 2002. From 2016 to 2018, the series returned to US television with seasons 10 and 11, meaning that there are currently 218 episodes

Research results on the Scully Effect

At first, the positive consequences of the Scully Effect were just a hotly debated hypothesis. But empirical research results prove that the Scully Effect had a demonstrable impact, at least in English-speaking countries.

  • An extensive empirical study on the Scully Effect was carried out by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in collaboration with 21st Century Fox. In February 2018, the research institute “J. Walter Thompson Intelligence” conducted an online survey of over 2,000 professional women who were of an age to watch the TV series “The X-Files”.
  • Of the women who watched a lot of the “X-Files” TV series, 91 percent said that Scully is a role model for women and girls. Likewise, 91 percent of respondents consider Scully to be a dominant female character on television.
  • Those who knew Scully well had a more positive attitude towards STEM and were more likely to work in a science or engineering job. For 63 percent of women working in these fields, Scully was their role model.
  • Also 63 percent of women claimed that Scully boosted their confidence to succeed in a male-dominated workplace. Most women characterized Scully with the terms “intelligent” and “strong”.
  • Exactly half of the women reported that Scully significantly increased their interest in science and technology.
  • In Germany, the individual films from the nine seasons of “The X-Files” can currently be watched free of charge (with lots of advertising) in the Joyn media library. All 11 seasons (without advertising) are available there for a fee. The complete series with seasons 1 to 11 on 59 DVDs can be purchased online at a reasonable price.

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