aka: The Skeptic
is a sci-fi/fantasy character who insists that events be interpreted according to mundane explanations. They never waver 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
, he or she will never step down from this belief no matter the evidence to the contrary
, thus becoming a Windmill Crusader
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 matter
people don't go in for such foolishness. There is sometimes a sting in the tail, though, where the Agent Scully's disbelief actually prevents
supernatural powers from working - and in real life, many alleged psychics blame "negative energy" from investigators for causing their abilities to fail.
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 Dana Scully, a character from The X-Files
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. When the explanation truly was a miracle, Mulder turned into the skeptic.
Compare Flat Earth Atheist
and Stupid Scientist
. Contrast Agent Mulder
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Anime and Manga
- 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.
- The series rather effectively zig-zags this trope and its sister, Agent Mulder, with its two main characters. At the outset, Kyon is an Agent Scully who admits to having been an Agent Mulder before growing up; his life gets turned on its head when he meets Haruhi, who seems to have never left her Agent Mulder phase. As mentioned, the prompt appearance of the very supernatural elements he's sceptical of very quickly forces him to tune down his Scully-ness. The irony is that the real, enduring Scully is in fact Haruhi herself, who remains oblivious to the weirdness she's causing partly through the efforts of Koizumi and company, but also through her buried sceptical streak that prevents her from readily believing the supernatural things she longs for and professes belief in actually exist. Her scepticism is so resilient that in fact even when Kyon outright tells her what's going on, in Sigh, she refuses to believe him, though she claims it's just that his version is "too obvious".
- 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. He doubts the existence of places like Sky Island, saying that the ships falling from the Sky are simply those caught in the Knock-Up Stream (although the Knock-up Stream is the way by which it is possible to reach Skypiea and the way Upper Yard was blasted into the sky). However, much of this attitude is motivated by looking down on the people who would spend their lives chasing dreams.
- Hercule/Mr Satan of Dragon Ball 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.
- 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.
- One story depicts that supernatural events just don't happen around him specifically because he doesn't believe in them.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hobbes takes this role while debating the presence of a ghost in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series. He becomes an Agent Mulder when it finally shows up.
- In Ardashir's My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic / Silver John crossover My Little Balladeer (available here) Twilight Sparkle takes this attitude both towards diabolism and zombie ponies. Justified, in that both are forms of magic rare in Equestria.
- Frank Sunderland in Coming Home doesn't believe James when the latter tells him that he is getting attacked by demons or believes the blood writing in the grocery store was a horrible prank and thinks James is going mad at first.
- Home with the Fairies teleports Maddie from her apartment in America to a field in Middle-earth, the setting of The Lord of the Rings. Maddie, who has no belief in magic, tries to think of a mundane explanation. A kidnapper drugged her and dumped her, but there are no tire tracks. Maddie is dreaming, but can't wake. She is in a remote part of Canada or America, but no one speaks English. Maddie is not a Flat Earth Atheist; after finding more evidence, she accepts that she is in some fantasy world.
- 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, especially since she's hidden under something that fits the general description of one of them (and is in fact one of them).
- 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.
- Ogilvy in The War of the Worlds is an early example, claiming that green flashes seen on Mars are a meteor shower or volcanic eruption. They are actually cylinders that are the beginning of an Alien Invasion. The trope is subverted when Ogilvy later discovers that they are Martian spacecraft and comes around to believing in aliens, although it doesn't end well for him.
- In David Eddings' Elenium and Tamuli series, most members of the Elene church refuse to accept magic exists, to the point of literally turning their backs and pretending it's not happening when someone does it in front of them. This is despite several orders of magic-using knights being an important part of the church. Particularly true to the Scully trope since this is mainly due to conflict with their own beliefs rather than actual skepticism.
- Similarly, in the Belgariad and Mallorean, this trope is the Hat of the Tolnedrans, who constantly refuse to accept magic exists even when it happens right in front of them. Even more bizarre is when they refuse to accept the god Torak is real, despite apparently accepting that their own god Nedra and the other "good" gods are. This seems particularly odd given that several characters are initially skeptical of magic, since it's fairly rare in the setting, but are convinced when shown evidence. No reason is ever really given for why the Tolnedrans refuse to accept it; being the Scully is simply their hat, and that's the end of it.
- Inspector Glebski from Dead Mountaineer's Hotel was affected by this trope.
- Agent Scully of The X-Files, as stated above. 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. 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. 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 Agent Mulder to Dogget's Agent Scully. 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. It's also implied that Scully was right more often than not. The show just doesn't bother showing all the times she and Mulder drove out into the middle of nowhere to investigate a hoax or a case of swamp gas.
- Doctor Who
- Charles Dickens, in "The Unquiet Dead", who was sure that the genuine medium was a con-artist.
- In The King's Demons, Turlough, asked whether he can call on Hell, says that of course he can, and so can Hugh, and Hugh's more likely to get a response.
- 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.
- Eventually, Jack becomes a man of faith after Eloise Hawking's convoluted, supernatural plan to return to the island works.
- Tony Vincenzo, Intrepid Reporter Carl Kolchak's editor in Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
- There's an interesting twist to the trope in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which, in a first-season episode, turns it into a verb — "I cannot believe you, of all people, are trying to Scully me!"
- For the record, the Scully was Giles, who assumed that Xander's recent shift in behaviour (being a Jerkass to Willow, hanging out with morons) was just him being a teenager. When he learns that Xander and pals ate a pig, he starts taking it a lot more seriously.
- 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.
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 fulfilling the Mulder role whenever a case appears to have a supernatural element. Unlike many of the others if this type she is only truly wrong once and even that one is debatable. 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 Swan 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.
- And, by Season Two...she's given that up.
- Detective Murdoch of Murdoch Mysteries has an extremely rational and scientific mind. He's sometimes tormented by ideas of his enthusiastic assistant Constable Crabtree, who plays his Agent Mulder.
- Sqn Ldr Helen Knox of Invasion: Earth initially has the much more mundane idea that the pilot of the crashed UFO is an agent of a more earthbound foreign power trying to breach UK airspace, although she does come to believe in the aliens in the end.
- 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.
- 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.
- Palladium Books's Beyond the Supernatural features Nega-Psychics, skeptics so firmly convinced that psychic abilities, magic, and the paranormal do not exist that their own (ironically) inherent psychic abilities subconsciously negate magic and psionics around them. This, of course, leads to some...interesting times when the party includes other psychics or arcanists. At least one group would always trick the nega-psychic character into running an errand before casting a spell, or force them to stand far away from the other characters so their abilities wouldn't cancel out.
- 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. Then there's the reveal that he is a supernatural being too.
- 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.
- 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.
- Arguably, Pence in Kingdom Hearts II. He always tries to find a logical explanation for whatever crazy thing happens in Twilight Town, including a moving bag (a dog is trapped in it), balls being thrown down an alley (Roxas throwing them), a moaning tunnel (Vivi practicing how to fight) and, in the manga adaptation, Sora's amnesia (brain surgery).
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials And Tribulations , 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.
- Arguably nearly the whole world in this regard, considering the channeling technique not only works in summoning spirits of the dead, but the channeler PHYSICALLY changes to look like the person they're summoning. The only reason this technique isn't used in court is when they first tried, the summon worked correctly... the spirit just gave a bad testimony, so they took it as a failure for the whole thing.
- 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.
- Sluggy Freelance
- Parodied in The X-Files parody "The Slug-Files" with Agent Kruller, who insists on mundane explanations for everything from the photograph of an alien to a robot arm (admittedly, she was right about that, except it was built to do laundry, not make coffee), a talking ferret, and being abducted herself. She's still marginally more reasonable than her counterpart Agent Muldy, who keeps imagining stuff that isn't happening so much he doesn't notice the equally crazy stuff that is happening.
- In "K'Z'K", when Dr. Lorna sees Gwynn turn into a demonic monster, she thinks Gwynn must be on drugs, because "Everyone knows drugs cause hallucinations, and I must be hallucinating." When it's all over, she joins the news anchor Stone Johnson in blaming the sightings of zombies and demons on mass hysteria caused by the existence of Marilyn Manson.