Not Only Human

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Vid
Title: Not Only Human
Creator: Killa and Laura Shapiro
Date: 2004
Format: VCR
Length: 4:19
Music: "Not Only Human" by Heather Nova
Genre:
Fandom: X-Files
Footage: X-Files
URL:
screencap from vid of Scully holding a cross

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Not Only Human is a Dana Scully character study vid by Killa and Laura Shapiro. It premiered at the 2004 Vividcon show.

In 2008, the vid was part of Tisha Turk's in media res presentation on vidding. See comments from that below. [1]

Vidder's summary: "Scully searches for answers, but finds only more questions."

As one viewer comments: This "was not only a gorgeous vid but which made me very very happy by treating Scully's religion with respect, unlike way too much of the fanfic I've read."[2]

Song Lyrics Excerpt

Maybe there's a light that's always on
And we're not only human.

Reactions

  • "I thought this was the best vid of the show, for reasons that are intrinsic to the vid as well as personal and contextual. I'll need to see it again to be more articulate; in the wake of the show, about all I could muster was telling Laura, and later Killa, "You vidded my Scully!" The song choice is brilliant; I have and like the CD that song's on (have vidded two songs from it, in fact) and yet had never made the connection between it and Scully. But it's a perfect choice for her and for the show; the use of "not only human" to suggest both the alien and the divine — Scully's science and her faith — takes her central internal conflicts more seriously than the show usually did. I've seen relatively few X-Files vids, and even fewer that are really good; most of the ones I've seen (good or bad) have tended to focus either on Mulder or on the MSR. I was a fan of the MSR, no question, but my interest in it was always grounded in Scully, and it is just a joy to see the character vidded in a way that does justice to her complexity. I will be rewatching this one a LOT."[3]
  • "This is one of those vids that I find myself returning to time after time, because there is so much there, so many layers simmering beneath the surface. This vid is a slow burn - all the symbolism, the parallels and metaphors, they creep upon you gradually instead of hitting you in the face all at once. In addition, some of the transitions are simply out-of-this-world."[4]
  • "This was another vid of the night that left me gibbering then speechless because it was so freakishly brilliant that it MELTED MY BRAIN. I think this was the best vid of the show, and probably the whole con, and how come nobody has done a Scully character vid until now? (It's really too bad, because now the bar is set impossibly high. Heh.) I mean... where to start. The song choice was brilliant--the singer, someone I've never heard of before named Heather Nova, had this gorgeous and ethereal soprano that complimented the otherworldly images in the vid, but the song (unlike the song in Laura's Mulder counterpart vid, "Rook") also had a driving beat, which served to ground the song and the images to the now, to the tangible. So, already from the song choice on, you've got the representation of the root of Scully's inner conflict, the tension between the numinous and the rational--and you see the images representing both sides running all the way through the vids, alternating and intertwining in a really intricate way that defies simple description. There's also the way the title of the song "Not Only Human" carries a dual meaning of the divine and the alien, and we see examples of that, too, in paralleling and contrasting images of Scully in scientific pursuits, and in contemplation of her faith. We also see images of life and images of death, not as extreme ends of a line, but in a circular connection--decomposing body and blossoming flower; life passing from Alfred Fellig's hand to Scully's; the orobouros, which is one of the first images we see. Just layers upon layers in this vid, and it's also incredibly beautiful to look at. I'm in awe."[5]
  • "Such a wonderful vid. I think what really struck me was how so many clips of Scully by herself made her seem so isolated, since viewers of the show expect to see her with Mulder. But that isolation very effectively highlighted her story."[6]
  • "Laura has now (co-)created two X Files character vids that just blow me away. And although it would be unfair to consider this simply in light of "Rook," since it very much stands on its own, I would like to start off by mentioning how well it does work as a companion piece to the other vid. It was always the interaction between Mulder and Scully that made The X Files for me; I tended to be less interested in either character alone than in both of them together, although Scully was my favorite. So it's something of a surprise to me that both of these vids, which concentrate on the single characters and their different quests, strike me as utterly true--as condensing down the essence of characters I'd always defined in terms of each other, and defining them in terms of their individual selves instead, and not falsifying them despite rendering peripheral an element I'd always considered central. And of course I'm rendering it central again, by the contrast and implication, because I can't escape my own obsessions. But the vids are just such a study in contrasts: "Rook" has the color scheme I've always associated with XF, the icy blues, the blacks and whites, matching the chilly ethereal clarity of the lead singer's voice; "Not Only Human" draws on the color palette I so loved in the Biogenesis trilogy/"all things"/"Within/Without," the oranges and yellows and deep verdant living greens, and intersperses them with other rich colors, deep golden light and the reds of blood and fire and tattoo ink, colors that match the warmth of Heather Nova's voice. (Some of the scenes with a golden cast -- Scully in the sand, Emily retreating -- I remembered as being white in the show; I suppose I could pull out my DVDs to check, but it seems much easier to just ask Laura if she and Killa put in color filters. ;) Mulder is always, by default, looking up, looking out, looking at the sky; it's a telling moment when he looks down. Scully is looking down at crosses, hands, microscopes, slides; it's a telling moment when she looks up at the sky, and even when she gazes up at the night sky, she turns, she looks back, she looks down. She looks within. She pulls back the curtain to enter Albert Hosteen's sacred death watch; she opens the door of a temple to enter revelation. So much here, even on first viewing: the paralleling of Scully's religious faith and her scientific inquiry. The emphasis on the body, always the body, the body dying and reborn: the blood from cancer, the blood from gunshot wounds, a corpse disintegrating into the ground and flowers growing out of it, cell division. The dead snake which is the green of living leaves; the dying leaves falling to the ground. The alien's face fading into the child's face: we are not human; they are not alien. This vid made me so happy I almost cried." [7]
  • "Not Only Human traces Scully’s character-arch through the seasons, tying it into the mythology of the show. Scully was many things, but she was a scientists first. And yet, one the central themes of The X-Files was how science and faith, science and supernatural, did not cancel each other out, but when brought together formed something even more powerful. In Scully it was a credo made flesh in the most literal sense possible, and the video shows the strength, fragility and dedication that made her arguably the most interesting female character in recent TV history. While the video is beautiful in its own right, knowledge of canon and X-Files mythology are required for the full impact."[8]
  • "I take pride in being someone who Never Cries At Movies, and I'm pretty sure I had tears in my eyes at the end of this one. A sensitive, visually gorgeous and symbol-laden account of Scully's personal journey, it deals much better with the issue of her religious faith than the show ever did. There aren't enough good things to say about the delicacy and beauty of this vid, and the amazing appropriateness of the song." [9]
These comments are adapted somewhat from a bunch of emails I sent Laura about the vid. I really loved episodes where Scully seemed to be "chosen" for things (I don't like that word, but it's the one that's coming to me) -- guarding Kevin Kryder in "Revelations," seeing the vision of the angel in "All Souls," the "Clyde Bruckman"/"Tithonus" connection -- because they seemed to distinguish her in a religious sense, to indicate that she was something more than an ordinary woman and that if she or the viewers chose to believe so, she might have a really interesting future purpose. That goes a bit beyond a theme of Scully's faith carrying her through times of crisis and worldview-rocking discovery, so I read more into the vid than just her internal journey. I saw something external working on her as well, as I sometimes did in the show.

Now, for me there was always an underlying parallel question of what, besides her work with Mulder, made her a target for abduction/cancer/impregnation/government/aliens/etc. As in, it often felt like she had been distinguished on an earthly plane as well as a divine plane. Obviously, a lot of that was because she was one of the two main characters and there needed to be "drama," but the possibly linked dangers and discoveries about both body and soul were always compelling to me.

So, basically, this vid's focus on the alien and the divine evokes for me that same consciousness of differentness about Scully, the enigma that surrounded Scully-centric eps where I'd be left tilting my head going, "Wow. What does it all mean???"

I found the vid rather bleak, actually, and I know that's not the interpretation others got out of it. But to me the visual power of those closing images to me speaks too much of loss and resignation and letting go. Maybe it's because I associate Emily with loss, and that boat in "One Breath" drifting away with giving up, and the Ruskin Dam scene with loss of control. Letting go can be a good thing, but this sequence of clips felt, to me, like a one-two-three punch of all the crap Scully's been through *insert ritual spitting on CC* and then to end with her fading away in the sand.... I can see a Zen interpretation of that, becoming one with the universe, but at the same time I feel like letting go of personal pain and injury is a loss, somehow. It's better for your soul, sure, gets you to Nirvana faster, but in a way it's like letting go of a crucial and visceral quality that was all your own, and that you earned by surviving.

I think this all honestly just goes back to my interpretation of the show. I still have lingering issues with what Scully went through, obviously, and find it difficult to take anything hopeful from her character arc.[10]

Reactions: In Media Res

From a discussion of this vid, curated by Tisha Turk, at In Media Res in 2008:

  • "One of the most common subgenres of vid is the character study, in which vidders illuminate characters’ emotions or motivations, revel in their charms or foibles, or simply distill the essence of their appeal. Most character studies have a strong persuasive component: the vidder argues for particular interpretations of characters and their places within source texts—interpretations that may align with a show’s canon, revise that canon, or even contradict it. In “Not Only Human,” Laura Shapiro and Killa use character study to reimagine a show’s premise: Dana Scully becomes the focal point not only of the vid but of The X-Files itself. In the show, Scully’s scientific approach to aliens and the faith that occasionally conflicts with it are most often presented merely as foils for her partner’s pursuit of the supernatural and extraterrestrial; even her cancer is, arguably, portrayed as a chapter in Mulder’s story rather than a story in its own right. The vid reconfigures these elements to place Scully, rather than Mulder, at the thematic center of the show. This reconfiguration is clearest in the song’s chorus; “not only human” signals both the alien and the divine, refusing to choose between them: Christ’s heart, the alien organism seen through a microscope, spaceship lights, crosses, ambiguous backlit figures, lights at the end of dark tunnels. But “the light that’s always on” is the light not only of faith or of alien ships but of Scully’s own scientific inquiry, her intellectual work, her agency, beginning with her passage through doorways and continuing in her translation of alien symbols into chemical compounds and her investigation of her own blood. “Not Only Human” thus constitutes one of the many feminist re-visions in which vidders have engaged over the last thirty years." [11]
  • "I am so glad you decided on this vid, which is one of my favorite character studies. The juxtaposition of science and religion that drives so much of Scully’s quest is so beautifully laid out here with the imagery the show provides as the vid not only reflects these tender and careful moments in Scully’s show narrative but also teases out those underlying themes of life and death; pregnancy and cancer; otherness (be it religion or aliens), and faith (whether in science or religion). I’m fascinated by the way I’ve lost a lot of the initial context (it’s been a while since I’ve seen the show and I can’t properly place a lot of the scenes any more) which, in a way, makes the images more strongly connected to the vid itself for me. I’ve noticed that in general before, where I’ve watched a scene in a vid more often than in the show and upon watching the show actually have stronger connections to the vid meaning and context. The visuals are just stunning—that almost gentle fade to sands of time and nothingness in the end, for example, after all the images of violence and decay we’ve had. I like the way you connect it to Sisabet and Luminosity’s vid in the end and the way vids often do appropriate the images for our own reasons/interpretations/purposes. The show is so Mulder-centric and “Not Only Human” really offers a counterpoint to that narrative, offering a reading that makes Scully’s journey not only more central but also more meaningful in a way. Mulder’s questions are almost narrow and limited compared to the larger issues we’re faced with here… It truly is an exemplary vid on so many levels!" [12]
  • "This is one of my favourite vids of all time and I was delighted to read Avi’s message on AIR-l that you would be showing and discussing it. You’re bang on that it is a feminist revisioning of the series narrative. I did extensive research on the women-only David Duchovny Estrogen Brigades back in the mid 90’s and the participants made it clear that they saw Scully as Mulder’s equal, at times reworking the narratives through list discussion in ways that challenged Scully’s “second fiddle” status. In this sense, these female fans were very much the “textual poachers” as outlined by Henry Jenkins." [13]
  • "Terrific analysis of such a beautiful, effective vid. This vid speaks to me in (at least) two ways: 1) as a meta-vid of sorts, a feminist critique of The X-Files myopic focus on Mulder while Scully has faced such a vivid personal journey, and 2) as a character exploration of Scully, as viewers have followed and identified with her journey, even when it narratively may have been reduced to fodder for Mulder’s own personal quest. So it functions as critique, and at the same time expresses an affective viewing position. Of course these two readings aren’t at all mutually exclusive, but I guess what I’m getting at is that this vid really exemplifies how vids themselves exist as their own media texts, open to multiple (and often simultaneous!) modes of engagement and viewer interpretation." [14]
  • "In keeping with Louisa’s point about how “vids themselves exist as their own media texts, open to multiple (and often simultaneous!) modes of engagement and viewer interpretation” — I was very impressed by the finesse with which this vid explored the theme of faith, the the blurring of faith and science. But I never would have read it as a feminist intervention, because for me the source was ALWAYS and ONLY about Scully! :) Then again, I missed out on the era of X-Files fandom proper, so I never had to contend with any collective obsession with Mulder. It’s equally interesting that this vid was made after the fact, in effect looking back on the heyday of the fandom." [15]

References

  1. Not Only Human by Tisha Turk, dated Jan 29, 2008.
  2. Yay!!! and more VividCon squeeing by Shoshanna; WebCite.
  3. Premiere Vid Show, 2nd Half by heresluck;WebCite.
  4. obsessive24's Vid Recs; WebCite.
  5. vonniek's Vividcon report part 2;WebCite
  6. Vividcon Report Part the Second: Vids by cereta.
  7. Vividcon Premieres Show - Initial notes - 1 by thuviaptarth;WebCite.
  8. Kat’s Themed Vid Recs of Doom – Edition 1 dated March 19, 2007; WebCite.
  9. Desert Island Vid Meme, emily shore, April 2, 2007
  10. vid recs: hesychasm, Archived version
  11. Tisha Turk, curator for In Media Res, “Not Only Human” - an X-Files vid by Killa and Laura Shapiro; WebCite, January 2008
  12. comment by Kristina Busse at Tisha Turk's commentary at In Media Res, “Not Only Human” - an X-Files vid by Killa and Laura Shapiro; WebCite, January 2008
  13. comment by rbury at Tisha Turk's commentary at In Media Res, “Not Only Human” - an X-Files vid by Killa and Laura Shapiro; WebCite, January 2008
  14. comment by Louisa Stein at Tisha Turk's commentary at In Media Res, “Not Only Human” - an X-Files vid by Killa and Laura Shapiro; WebCite, January 2008
  15. comment by cyborganize at Tisha Turk's commentary at In Media Res, “Not Only Human” - an X-Files vid by Killa and Laura Shapiro; WebCite, January 2008