Breeding Ambiguity: The Womb as Alien Space in the X-Files

  • Sarah Hardy


The prospect of maternity and moments of birth are frequent narrative elements in twentieth-century American science fiction and horror. In narratives like that of the Alien film series, human bodies become grotesque wombs for alien fetuses, and the moment of birth is lethal and terrifying. If at times these images of birth refuse to correspond to actual female anatomy, the new life that emerges is almost always figured as infantile, even if it is monstrous. In many such fictions, both the alien fetus and the body that carries it come to represent the ultimate threat to human society. The space of the mother’s body, accordingly, is the focus for description, visualization, and imaginative speculation.


Maternal Body Alien Invasion Family Narrative Pregnant Body Mystical Vision 
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  1. 3.
    See for example Douglas Kellner, “The X-Files and the Aesthetics and Politics of Postmodern Pop,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 57, no. 2 (Spring 1999), 161–175; see also “Deny all Knowledge”: Reading the X Files, ed. David Lavery, Angela Hague, and Maria Cartwright (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Chris Carter’s introduction in Ann Simon, The Real Science behind the X-Files (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999).Google Scholar
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    Paul A. Cantor, Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), 113.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 138. For a discussion of television and its promotion of the “new nuclear family” in the 1950s, see Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (New York: Basic Books, 1992), 23–29.Google Scholar
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    Christy L. Burns, “Erasure: Alienation, Loss of Memory, and Paranoia in The X-Files,” Camera Obscura: A Journal of Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies, 45 (2001), 200.Google Scholar
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    Shildrick, Embodying, 25. For discussion of other anxieties surrounding aliens in popular imagination, see Constance Penley’s and Vivian Sobchack’s essays in Close Encounters: Film, Feminism, and Science Fiction (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991). The uses of the alien that Penley and Sobchack discuss are much more likely than those in the X-Files to aid attempts at narrative resolution.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Sarah Hardy and Caroline Wiedmer 2005

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  • Sarah Hardy

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