If you’re a woman in science, technology, engineering, or math, chances are you found some childhood inspiration in agent Dana Scully of “The X Files.” And if it wasn’t you, it might’ve been the woman next to you. It’s called The Scully Effect, and what was originally just anecdotal evidence (“You loved her as a kid? Me too! She’s why I signed up for science camp!) has now been officially studied and named by the Gina Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which studies gendered depictions in movies and TV and their effects in the real world. As reported by SeeJane.org, in a sample of 2,021 women, 63% of those who were familiar with the character said that she increased their faith in the importance of STEM fields in general, and half of those women said she increased their own personal interest in those fields.
But producers at Fox were originally hesitant to go with then-unknown Gillian Anderson and wanted instead to copy the popularity of busty blondes in onscreen hits like “Basic Instinct.” As Gillian Anderson told the Sydney Morning Herald, “They were looking for someone bustier, taller, leggier than me. They couldn’t fathom how David and me could equal success. At the beginning, nobody trusted that I could do anything. I had no body of work behind me at all, and, certainly Fox felt very strongly that I wasn’t the right person for the job.
Fox producers wanted Dana Scully to be a busty blonde
It’s hard to envision anyone but the incomparable Gillian Anderson in the role. Not only did she win an Emmy and two SAG awards for the nine season role, but it launched her career, as well (via ScreenRant). But believe it or not, Fox studios originally wanted to cast Baywatch star Pamela Anderson instead.
Nothing against Pamela Anderson, but it’s hard (and frankly a bit painful) to imagine how the character of Scully would have been different if she had been written with Pamela Anderson’s fame and specific appeals in mind. Thankfully, executive producer Chris Carter insisted on Gillian Anderson saying that her read of the part brought the most integrity to the role.
Gillian Anderson considers the Scully effect a great honor and said, “At the time that Scully showed up, we didn’t see that type of female represented very much at all out in the world of television … And so, to suddenly have an appealing, intelligent, strong-minded female who was appreciated by her pretty cool male coworker was an awesome thing to behold, and I think that a lot of young women said, ‘That’s me. I’m interested in that. I want to do that. I want to be that'” (via Simon Fraser University).
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