The X-Files: El Mundo Gira

Case: Mulder and Scully enter a Mexican migrant camp to search for El Chupacabra.

Destination: Fresno, California

In a show that is fundamentally about strangers in a strange land, one would hope that an episode about the disenfranchised would be powerful. One would hope in vain.

The fundamental problem with this episode is that it can’t decide what it wants to be. It is one part Mexican soap opera, one part political commentary, one part monster of the week, one part scare fest about agricultural products. Rather than land on any one of these as the main idea, each is jumbled into the other until we are left with an incoherent mess.

What really struck me as I watched it this time was that John Shiban, the writer, tipped over the line into stereotype and I found it jarring. All of the Latinos are somehow less than, superstitious and willing to believe anything. Even worse, the actual cause of all the misery is a deadly fungus that reinforces the idea that the poor and the working class are unclean.

The thrust of this story is the blood feud between the two brothers, fighting over the same woman. To reinforce the stereotype idea, again, the feud is portrayed as a common occurrence in this culture, almost sacred. I struggle with this notion as most of the Latinos I know value family above all else.

I was also bothered by the bald racism portrayed by so many in this episode. The INS agent, the coroner, the coyote, everyone who interacts with the workers either can just barely or doesn’t bother to try to hide their contempt and disdain. This would be fine if this were the point of the episode or if these characters were used for effect. Neither occurs.

Even Mulder and Scully seem unsure about what to do with what is happening around them. Their version of the story, as told to Skinner at the end of the episode, is almost as absurd as the version we hear the older woman telling her rapt audience.

What saves this episode from being completely dire is the flashes of humor and tongue-in-cheek aspects of some of the story. It’s as though the writers and producers knew they were scrambling and decided to groan along with the rest of us.

Other Thoughts

— The chupacabra is a legend in our world as well. Loosely translated as “goat sucker,” it is said to suck the blood from farm animals. I read that the legend may have stemmed from coyotes with severe parasites trying to rid themselves of the mites. Who sits down and figures these things out?

— One small plot point has always bothered me. If Eladio is so keen to go home, why would he run away from the INS who are, in effect, offering to take him there free of charge?

— The other point that amuses me is that after the brothers disappear, Scully seems to be much calmer about the whole idea. Back to stereotypes. If they are going to infect a US city, we need to stop them. If they are going to infect a Mexican city, oh well. I’m sure that is not what Shiban had in mind, but it’s how it comes across at the end.

— Far, far too many alien jokes for my taste.

Quotes

Scully: "Mulder, what we’ve walked into here is a Mexican soap opera."
El Mundo Gira = The World Turns

Scully: "Purple rain?"
Mulder: "Great album; deeply flawed movie."

Lozano: "This guy is better than Eric Estrada."

Final Analysis: An episode that tried to do far too much, it succeeded in much too little. Not the worst episode of the lot, but a far cry from good.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

2 comments:

Heather said...

Chris:
You took one for the team reviewing this so thank you for that. To everything you said... YES, GIRL. (Also, Tuco!)

drnanamom said...

I agree with Heather, thanks for the review Chris and I agree with both of you that it wasn't the greatest. I wondered if that yellow rain contained the enzyme then why weren't more people and places covered with fungus? The one thing I liked about the episode was how well they did the varieties of fungus and the conversations about fungus vs. cockroaches.