Darkness and Light: The Psychoanalytic Dynamic of M/K Slash Fiction

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Title: Darkness and Light: The Psychoanalytic Dynamic of M/K Slash Fiction
Creator: MJ/MJR91
Date(s): May 14, 1998
Medium: online
Fandom: slash, X-Files
External Links: archived copy at X-Files University; WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Darkness and Light: The Psychoanalytic Dynamic of M/K Slash Fiction was written by MJ/MJR91 as part of "X-Files University, School of Slashology/Gay Studies, College of Interdisciplinary Studies" where fans wrote articles and essays devoted to examining the fandom surrounding the TV show X-Files.

It is a companion piece to The Codependent Partner: An analysis of the Mulder/Krycek Relationship and He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss): Exploring the Abusive M/K Relationship.


Simply put, in the minds of most X-Philes, there is a simple mathematical equation: Mulder is good. Krycek is bad. The general weight of one's perceived goodness and the other's perceived evil tend to neutralize each other, so +1 + -1 = 0.

However, if this equation were truly the case, then "The X-Files" would be reduced to early TV-western good guy - bad guy simplicity of "The Lone Ranger" variety. The levels of angst and UST experienced by both Mulder and Krycek could not exist, because their characters would be too black-and-white to tolerate ambiguity. And that both have striking ambiguity, ranging from their handling of their work to their inherent sexuality, is part of the attraction of both characters - both to the viewing/reading X-Phile and to each other. (If there's any doubt as to sexual ambiguity on both sides, see "Sleepless" and "Tunguska." In the two-part "Patient X" and "The Red and the Black," in the fifth season, Krycek is with Marita Covarrubias in the first episode and kissing Mulder in the latter.)

Psychoanalytically speaking, Krycek appears to be a symbol of the X-Phile's id, or primal, animal unconscious. The id is not immoral but amoral, responding to and acting on basic impulses - for food, sex, shelter, and pleasure. It places no moral value on how these desires are obtained, it merely seeks to have them fulfilled. Mulder is the superego, the expression of the authoritarian parent. The superego has absorbed lessons from parental, religious, and social authority; it is always warring with the id, attempting to prevent the id from gaining expression of its desires. His occupation symbolizes legal authority; his quest for truth in the face of conspiracy is the search for moral authority. (Hall, A Primer of Freudian Psychology.) Freud saw neurosis as caused by unresolved issues in the unconscious battle of id versus superego for supremacy in human affairs. The connection of Mulder and Krycek is not a negating of the other, therefore, but a continual dynamic - a struggle for the primacy of intellect and the rule of law, if you will, against brute force and animal instinct. However, the superego cannot restrain the id from all action without the psyche bearing the scars of repression of natural desires. The result of Mulder's complete subjugation of Krycek would be a manifestation of neurotic symptoms; Krycek is a necessary part of the psychic balance within the "X-Files" mythos as a whole.

This explains, psychodynamically, the essential attraction of M/K slash fiction. The battle of id and superego between Mulder and Krycek is evident superficially on "The X-Files"; however, the tension between this neurotic struggle and the clear though subtextual UST of the two men is recognized by the number of X-Philes who feel compelled to slash the two in fanfiction. (I recommend a thorough reading of the "No Common Senses" series by JiM on Mulder/Skinner Slash Society, and an examination of "Ghosts" and "Lovers" by torch.) The simplest and most logical way to create a balance of conscious and Shadow, to resolve the war between the two when depicted as two persons of allegedly opposing behavior and temperament, is to fuse the two into a whole, most obviously through a sexual/romantic relationship. This is a way , of providing a sense of stability, of psychological balance of the two, without forcing temperamental change on either and with allowing each to experience personal growth away from their own carefully constructed "id" and "superego" facades. (Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person; see also "Lovers" by torch. The "Names" and "Numbers" series by Mona, though well written, are openly advertised by Mona as revisionist Krycek.) From the slash author or reader's point of view, this may provide a cathexis for the slash enthusiast, allowing the reader/author herself (slash writers are predominantly female) to experience a sense of wholeness by projecting this fusion of opposing states and the resolution of neurotic tension on to herself, particularly if she identifies with one of the characters. (In other words, there is "redeeming social, literary, or educational value" to slash regardless of the amount of NC-17 material contained in it.)

Additionally, slash fiction serves as a cathartic to the X-Phile whose own enjoyment of the series is affected by the neurotic struggle of these two very central characters, providing as it does an alternative to the unresolved sexual neuroses presented by Mulder and Krycek on the televised episodes (see discussions on xslash list; also, see Mona's nonfiction essays on Mona's Slash Page). [1]


  1. ^ Mona's Slash Page essays were here