Agent Scully

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Sci-fi/fantasy character who insists that events be interpreted according to logical rational mundane explanations. Never wavers from this view even though crazy things happen in episode after episode demonstrating how illogical or otherwise bizarre the universe is, prompting lectures from the protagonist to this effect - if they're not busy lecturing everyone else, that is. Once convinced that something is a Windmill, she will never step down from this belief no matter the evidence to the contrary, thus becoming a Windmill Crusader herself.

He or she may have no tolerance for flights of fancy whatsoever. If the character is a parent and their child merrily announces that he or she spent the afternoon playing with fairies, they may immediately retort, "fairies don't exist!" There will, of course, be little to no explanation given for why fairies don't exist; the fact of the matter (in their minds) is that they simply don't exist and you're being foolish for even giving the concept a moment's thought. The fact that children play pretend all the time and actually have a fairly firm grasp on what's real and what isn't is lost on them - such foolish thoughts must be squelched from their heads immediately! Likewise, they have no time for fairy tales - for these stories depict things that don't (or shouldn't) exist, which makes them nothing but frivolous poppycock, never mind the symbolic nature, moral lessons, and literary value they hold.

The same extends to any other magical or paranormal subject or fantasy of any kind - they have no time to think about or consider such things, and if you've been thinking about it you're an idiot who is wasting your time. End of story.

If magic or the supernatural actually does exist in their world and the character is aware of it, they may try to convince themselves it doesn't exist, or failing that, simply act as if it doesn't because respectable people don't go in for such foolishness.

The character is often an adult, but in some cases may be a child who is trying too hard to act mature, or how he/she thinks mature people act.

Derives its name, obviously, from the X-Files character. Scully is an extreme example of the character, drawing on an overinterpretation of Occam's Razor, which is commonly interpreted as, "The simplest theory which explains all of the data is usually the best" (This is because the simplest explanation presupposes least and is usually easiest to test). She tends to take it to the point of believing "The simplest explanation must always be the best, even if it doesn't explain all the data," which is itself illogical, and renders her character very annoying at times. Sometimes, she deems any naturalistic explanation the "simplest" no matter how contrived it gets. This quality may be seen in other examples of the character type as well. Prone to Arbitrary Skepticism.

An Agent Scully may also, obviously, be a Spock, and sometimes even a Straw Vulcan. Can be something of a strawman of those who currently doubt supernatural phenomena because of lack of evidence, placing them in a world where evidence of the supernatural is abundant and having them persist in their doubt.

A point that most X-Files fans miss (or chose to ignore) is that the original Agent Scully is a deeply religious woman who is staunchly devoted to her Christian faith in spite of her scientific and logical view on the world and life in general; in other words, it wasn't always so much logic vs. illogic as two spiritual belief systems in direct opposition to each other. And when the explanation was actually a miracle, Mulder turned into the skeptic. Also noteworthy is that Scully did, over the course of the series, become more and more inclined to believe in whatever theory Mulder came up with, eventually becoming the Mulder to Dogget's Scully.

Compare Flat Earth Atheist and Stupid Scientist. Contrast Agent Mulder.

Examples of Agent Scully include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Seto Kaiba in Yu-Gi-Oh!. He's a Scully to such a degree that traveling back in time and meeting his own ancestor doesn't convince him that the supernatural exists.
    • Less so in the original, where he still scoffs at the supernatural but overall just doesn't seem interested in it.
  • Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya is a Scully with an underlying Agent Mulder: although he says he just wants everything to be normal, deep down he wants everything to be weird and fantastical, as he says in the second chapter's opening narration that he still sort of wished it would be cool if aliens, time travelers and espers existed. Only problem is, being an Agent Scully in a world that actually has aliens, time travelers and espers eventually turns him into an Unfazed Everyman.
  • Nodoka of Saki. Jun's ability to read the flow and react accordingly so targeted opponents will never win? It's just coincidence! Hisa's strategy revolving around her Hell Waits cropping up nine times out of ten? It's just her getting swept up by random deviations and interpreting them as flow or jinxes! Though, this strict worldview actually proves useful in the finals, as it allows her to override Momoko's Stealth Mode.
  • Kirie of Uzumaki. Every week something new and horrifying happens, her boyfriend always saves her...and she's always surprised when something new and strange happens.
  • On a certain degree Hyena Bellamy in One Piece.
  • Hercule/Mr Satan of Dragonball Z. Despite the fact that he has personally witnessed and even been on the receiving end of countless energy attacks since his very first appearance, and the world martial arts championships having used them extensively just a decade prior to his appearance on the show, he still stubbornly refuses to believe in them, calling them tricks, special effects, dreams, whatever justification for them that he can come up with.
    • In the dub at least, he privately admits that all of it may be real, but really hopes that it's not, since he's understandably terrified of the idea of people with the power to singlehandedly destroy the Earth.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In the DCU, occult debunker Dr. Thirteen. Always played straight in his stories despite the fact that the DCU is filled with the occult whenever he's not around.
    • Some of the later depictions, however, have him as a complete idiot - who, for instance, remains convinced that he's not on a ghost pirate ship fighting gorilla nazis because that yeti he saw earlier was a vampire, not a yeti, and if yetis don't exist then this must all be a vivid dream.
    • For more irony points, his own daughter is also a mage—a trait she inherited from her mother. His own life has been full of magic for years.
    • In his defense, Dr. Thirteen is effectively a walking anti-magic zone -- his disbelief is so strong (and possibly backed up by latent mage-talent) that he actually cancels out magic in his vicinity, unconsciously. The man can literally be surrounded by magic and see none of it; not because he's delusional, but because for him magic literally does not exist.
    • Also, he exists in a super-hero universe, where there are perfectly valid non-magical explanations for even the most fantastical things. It's magic he doesn't believe in the existence of, not superhumans.
  • Ted Knight, original 1940s Starman, firmly disbelieves in the supernatural or religious despite having served on the same team as both Dr. Fate and The Spectre. When this is pointed out to him by other characters, he relates their powers to unknown scientific energies.
  • Mr. Terrific of the current Justice Society of America has also shown to be an avowed atheist, giving the same explanations as Ted Knight before him despite having attended a church ceremony conducted by an actual angel.
  • Iron Man fits this role in the Marvel Universe. There is too much weird stuff around the universe: aliens, superpowers, time travel, magic, gods, cosmic entities, women, etc; but he always strives to find a scientific explanation or solution to the problems.
    • Reed Richards used to be this for a while but eventually relented, admitting that magic did exist and also that it was something he would never be able to fully analyze and understand.

Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • The girl codenamed Nahga at Super-Hero School Whateley Academy in the webfiction Whateley Universe. Her friend and teammate Akira has found a girl who looks like Ryoko of Tenchi Muyo!. The girl has similar powers. The girl apparently has a cabbit exactly like Ryoko's (it's actually a prank by Tennyo's roommate). Nahga is not going to believe. As for the real truth, that may be even weirder...
  • Sam Carter is often cast in this role in crossover fanfiction.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Han Solo was this, in the first Star Wars movie. ("I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful "Force" controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.")
    • As was Admiral Motti. ("Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion didn't help you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or give you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebels' hidden fortr--" <choke> )
    • To be fair, since the Jedi were almost extinct and most people didn't see Vader's or the emperor's abilities directly, Han probably had good reason to be skeptical of the claims of an old mystic like Obi-Wan. He may have rethought his position after seeing what Luke does to Threepio in Return of the Jedi.
      • As shown in The Force Awakens, Han is entirely a believer in his older age.
  • Gregg Araki's Nowhere.

Alyssa: "You have to believe in something!"
Elvis: "No, I don't."


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the early Discworld books Rincewind shows similar traits. He learns later.
    • Susan is also a bit of an Agent Scully in her first appearance. Commander Vimes' distrust of magic occasionally leads him here, especially in Thud when he comes up with a perfectly mundane explanation for events which were actually the result of his being possessed by an evil Dwarfish spirit. Including being branded with its symbol.
  • In the Old Kingdom Trilogy, Nicholas Sayre reacts to the strange things that occur in the Old Kingdom this way, partly because for much of the story, he's being influenced by The Destroyer. However, later, when he's thinking a little more clearly, he realizes how stupid it is that he's been ignoring the fact that his best friend beat off zombies with glowing blades of magic right in front of him and his "local guide" has gradually turned into a dark-magic-shrouded flaming corpse.
  • Bailey School Kids: Eddie, and sometimes Melody.
  • Hermione Granger from Harry Potter occasionally fills this role. The most grating example comes up in the seventh book when Xenophilius explains the Deathly Hallows to the trio. While she does bring up a valid point of on how one can't simply claim something exists simply because no one has proven it doesn't exist, her sheer hardheadedness in denying that they could ever possibly exist is simply baffling given that according to everything she was ever taught in the first eleven years of her life, the last seven years of her life did not exist.
  • In Stephen King's IT, a kid named Eddie Corcoran doesn't believe in monsters. When a (very real) monster attacks him, he assumes it's just an actor in a costume, and he's still searching for the zipper on the 'costume' - even while he's being eaten alive.
  • In That Hideous Strength, MacPhee, a die-hard atheist scientist, remains implacably skeptical of all the supernatural events that take place even though he's fighting on the side of the supernaturalists.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Agent Scully of The X-Files, as stated above. In later seasons she actually became an Agent Mulder, and the role of the skeptic was taken over by Agent Doggett. (Even before then Mulder and Scully would occasionally flip roles in conversation, and for whole episodes when the subject was related to Scully's spirituality.)
  • Charles Dickens himself, in the Doctor Who new series episode "The Unquiet Dead".
  • In the Swedish TV-series Mysteriet på Greveholm (The Mystery of Count's Isle) the father of the family is a straight example. In a castle with ghosts, 200-years-old robots, intergalactic princesses and a walking skeleton, he kept on saying that "Everything has a logical explanation".
  • Jack Shephard on Lost is a strong example of this character type. As the leader of the survivors, his one goal is getting everyone rescued, and so he seems to avoid or completely ignore the more supernatural phenomenon on the island. This puts him in repeated conflict with John Locke, who is a strong believer in faith and destiny. No matter what oddities happen on the island (smoke monster, time travel, etc), Jack either has a logical explanation or simply doesn't care. This culminates when Jack and seven other characters are rescued from the island, having just seen the island disappear in front of his face, getting him berated by the normally soft-spoken Hurley:

Hurley: Locke. He moved the island.
Jack: No, he didn't.
Hurley: Oh, really? Because one minute it was there, and the next it was gone, so unless we like, overlooked it, dude, that's exactly what he did. But if you've got another explanation man, I'd love to hear it.

Giles: Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?
Buffy: Uh-huh.
Giles: And there's a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
Buffy: Yes.
Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
Buffy: It's bad, isn't it?
Giles: It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen year old boy. Of course, you'll have to kill him.
Buffy: I can't believe you, of all people, are trying to Scully me!

    • Of course, as it turned out Xander actually was demonically possessed but Giles doesn't start believing this until Xander's behavior moves beyond the normal range of adolescent jerkassness and into things like eating a pig... while it's still alive.
  • Professor Arturo from Sliders is like this, until he finally settles on a theory that some of the alternate worlds they land on have slightly different laws of physics.
  • T'Pol on Star Trek: Enterprise went into Agent Scully mode whenever the question of time travel arose.
  • An interesting subversion in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager; two alien scientists trying to communicate with the "Skyship" (Voyager, which owing to some timey-wimey stuff, had been there throughout that civilization's history) discuss whether there's anyone there. The Agent Mulder firmly believes there must be, while the other claims to "doubt everything". When the Mulder asks the apparent Scully why he's even on the project though, he replies "I doubt everything, remember? Even my own doubts." Which is a much better interpretation of scientific skepticism than Scullyism.
  • Nick Cutter in Primeval takes this role during his first encounter with Connor. After he sees a truck torn to shreds by the Monster of the Week, he changes his tune by the time he runs into Claudia in the bar, who assumes the role of the Agent Scully:

Nick (to Connor): This is just a hoax. Forget it.
(later)
Claudia: You'd be doing me a great favour if you could just confirm that this is all nonsense, Professor.
Nick: I can't dismiss the evidence out of hand.
Claudia: ...Surely you're not giving this whole monster story any credibility, Professor?
Nick: I'm just trying to keep an open mind.
Claudia: People always say that as though it's such a good thing.

    • (Whoever assumed the role of the Agent Mulder turns out to be right here.)
  • On Mystery Hunters, a Discovery Kids show which used science to explain things like supposed alien abductions and ghosts, Doubting Dave, Araya, and Christina all have this as their default mode.
  • On Fringe, Peter Bishop is the resident Agent Scully, at least early on. Eventually he just became the guy who Lampshaded whatever weirdness was going on that week by way of a pithy comment. And then he mostly stopped doing even that.
    • Olivia was often skeptical of Walter's theories and methods in the first few episodes, but she quickly learned that he's almost always right.
  • Played for laughs by The Goodies with their episode on Arthur C Clarke
  • Castle features Becket as the Scully role with Castle fufling the Mulder role. Their other dynamic is also similar to Mulder and Scully.
  • An interesting twist in Psych, where Scully is Shawn, who pretends to be psychic, while Mulder is Gus, the "Non-Psychic" one.
  • Jonathan MacKensie of Shadow Chasers was an anthropology professor with no belief whatsoever in the supernatural. Unfortunately his department head dragooned him into investigating the paranormal—paired with his own personal Agent Mulder, a flamboyant tabloid reporter—placing him firmly in this role.
  • Emma Swann of Once Upon a Time is highly dubious about the idea that she's in a town full of amnesiac fairy-tale characters, but she's definitely realized by now that something's not right about the place, and definitely not right about the mayor.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Linus from Peanuts has a conflicting set of viewpionts similar to Agent Scully's. Normally, he's a perfectly calm and reasonable person - except when it comes to his belief in the Great Pumpkin.
  • In Dilbert, Dilbert takes this role when trying to disprove Ratbert's Psychic Powers in one storyline. He takes it to the Agent Scully extreme when he continues to deny everything even after Ratbert correctly guesses 100 coin flips in a row -- all edge—and another one that ends with inexplicable hovering. He even predicts Dilbert's reaction.
  • Doctor Noodle, the psychiatrist of Candorville, has dismissed supernatural phenomena as hallucinations even when said phenomena is threatening to eat him. At one point, he says it's a matter of rejecting wish fulfillment—it would be just too perfect for supernatural vengeance to bring down on him the retribution he's always felt guilty for avoiding.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Victor Mordenheim of the Ravenloft setting is a solid devotee of this trope, either dismissing the supernatural as nonsense or as a product of as-yet-undocumented, but rational physical laws. This trope is also the Hat of many Lamordians.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In the third Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game, Miles Edgeworth continues to insist that the Kurain Channeling Technique is a sham, even after using an object imbued with spiritual power enables him to see giant locks floating around people's bodies. It's implied that this is because he's in denial after a childhood trauma connected to the Kurain Technique.
  • Keats from Folklore is an example of this trope. Even when being BOMBARDED in the face with the supernatural, he just either insists there's a logical explanation or shrugs and says he's probably going crazy.
  • Pascal Curious from Strangetown in The Sims 2 has a biography that reads like Scully. He believes there is a logical explanation for everything... and he's the one pregnant with an alien when you first start playing his family.
    • That has a perfectly logical explanation: Aliens impregnated him.
  • Battler from Umineko no Naku Koro ni is practically the embodiment of this trope. He refuses to believe any of the murders were committed by magic, and goes the whole series to deny witches, despite the fact that he's interacting with them all the time.
    • The whole point of at least half of Umineko no Naku Koro ni is to force the player to disprove that the assassinations on Rokkenjima were made by a witch, despite the perfect closed rooms and everything that would appear impossible for a human. The wittiest players that unveil the mystery before time are forced to disregard anything magical, as well as question themselves about Beatrice's Red Truth to the point of accepting the truths after a meticulous analysis of the wording and what did the witch really meant with her truths.
      • This, essentially. Really, the point of Battler and Beatrice's little logic battle is for those who are playing along to get more clues and clarifications via Beatrice's Red Truths. It's also justified in that if Battler surrenders and admits that the magic of witches played a role in the murders of Rokkenjima, he automatically loses. So denying magic itself is at least a good place to start.
  • Lucy Reubans from The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure was clearly designed to play the Agent Scully role alongside Nigel Danvers' Agent Mulder, although she's less pig-headed about accepting things she's witnessed firsthand.
  • In Diablo III, Leah dismisses her adoptive uncle Deckard Cain's warnings about the imminent demonic invasion as just more of his "crazy stories". Even though she personally witnesses signs of said imminent demonic invasion. She finally accepts the truth after Cain is murdered by a demon-worshipping cult and a Fallen Angel confirms Cain's warnings.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Nostalgia Critic is a bit of a hypocrite in this regard. He demands perfect logic in the movies he reviews, but acts on his own pure emotion almost constantly.
    • The Critic does act in an internally consistent manner in spite of his emotional outbursts. He doesn't for example praise one movie for certain qualities and then condemn another for the same thing—at least not without major Lampshade Hanging. He doesn't demand movies to explain the supernatural either, just not change the rules under which the supernatural phenomenon operates halfway through.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender, with his sister Katara as Agent Mulder. Although later he stops denying the fantastical things he witnesses and instead simply views them from a logical perspective.
    • Well, that and the rules of acceptable reality are completely different around Aang.
      • Sokka was this so much that, according to Word of God , he should have been a water bender but was to much of a skeptic to be able too.
  • In The Simpsons episode where they go to Africa, Lisa briefly becomes this with a bit of Fourth Wall Lampshading. "What did you just see, Lisa? What did you just see?"
  • Velma from Scooby Doo, and Daphne in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, who is frequently telling Shaggy and Scooby, "There's no such thing as a ghost!" Mostly subverted in that she usually turns out to be right.
    • Played straight in the Pup episode "Ghost Who's Coming to Dinner" in which the gang spend almost the entire story interacting with a real ghost, but at the end Daphne still doesn't believe in ghosts.
    • Also notable that they saw nothing unusual in meeting Jeannie, The Addams Family, or Speed Buggy the talking car.
  • On Invader Zim, Dib actually has this role among the other paranormal investigators---while the likes of Bill are willing to believe anything, Dib manages to believe in aliens but also realizes that guy on the cereal box isn't a real vampire.
  • Diana in Martin Mystery, even though she works for an organization dedicated to fighting aliens and so forth. Her brother, of course, is the Agent Mulder of the show.
  • Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has shades of this despite being a talking purple unicorn with magic powers. She's not as quick as her friends to believe in things like curses or predicting the future, though she's right ("Bridle Gossip") as often as she is wrong ("Feeling Pinkie Keen"). It makes sense since, on the show, magic is really more like a science than anything else.
    • One of Twilight's character flaws is intellectual arrogance -- as she is legitimately one of the most brilliant ponies in history, she almost never encounters anything she is not able to comprehend with sufficient study. This sometimes leads to a tendency on her part to assume that if she can't figure out how something works, it's because the data set she's working from is flawed or falsified (as opposed to it just being legitimately beyond her ability to reverse-engineer). She gets better about this as her character development progresses.