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Mulder: Why is it still so hard for you to believe, even when all the evidence suggests extraordinary phenomena?

Scully: Because sometimes looking for extreme possibilities makes you blind to the probable explanation right in front of you.
"You're not a skeptic, Freddy... you're in denial!"

A case of Weirdness Censor where the Epileptic Trees invoked by the characters are so ludicrous that the viewers want to bash their heads against the wall and point out that accepting the supernatural reality would, in fact, be simpler. A marking feature of Agent Scully.

Compare Invisible to Normals, Arbitrary Skepticism, Flat Earth Atheist. Not to be confused with the real Weinstein Kliman Scully syndrome.

Examples of Scully Syndrome include:


Anime and Manga

  • Happens to Cilan in Pokémon during the course of the museum episode. He kept suggesting ridiculous things to explain the mysterious circumstances, even though it becomes increasingly clear that there is a ghost, like iris suggested. Subverted when it's revealed that they're both wrong - it was a Pokemon.
  • People in Mahou Sensei Negima seem to have a lot of respect for the capabilities of CGI. Similarly, Chisame goes to great lengths to not accept the existence of magic till everything she's seen effectively forces her to. It is explained that humans have some sort of strong natural tendency to not believe in magic, and high-magic places have spells cast on them to boost this effect. In the Bad Future it ended up taking a global-scale Reverse Polarity to break this skepticism.
    • Chisame is interesting because she seems to have no Weirdness Censor (and actually complains whenever someone else comes up with an absurd explanation for magic)--she just really does not want magic to be real.
  • Subverted in Ranma One Half, where Kuno-- against all evidence-- vehemently denies that the pigtailed-girl is really a magically altered Ranma...by coming up with an even more ludicrous and unbelievable explanation (Namely, that Ranma is an evil sorcerer enslaving his precious pigtailed-girl, and can instantly switch places with her via his "foul magic"). Unlike other examples Kuno doesn't even bother to try to convince anyone however.
    • Evidence that includes Ranma actually changing in front of him.
    • This is less of a Scully Syndrome and more of preferring utter absurdity over accepting that he can be "swayed" by a man. Apparently, the samurai wannabe either hadn't heard of or does not believe in wakashudou.
    • Kuno creates his own reality.
  • Subversion: L of Death Note fame had the good grace to head off this sort of thing (omnipresent worldwide CIA assassins were suggested) pretty early on.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni has a very... special version of this trope: All murders are shown using unreliable narration where the characters are murdered using magic, and the protagonist has to come up with (often bizarre) explanations for the mysterious murders in order to deny witches (as magic does not actually exist unless people accept it exists).
    • Note, however, that it is IMPLIED there is a much simpler solution...but Battler is Incompetent.
      • UST can do that to a man.
    • If there's no magic, who's Battler arguing with?

Comic Books

  • In Hellblazer, Dr. Thirteen exemplifies this trope so perfectly that this editor would not be even slightly surprised to find out that Dana Scully has a shrine in her closet containing his picture, and kneels before it in prayer daily.
    • In Books of Magic, the Hellblazer himself, Jonathan Constantine, has actually mentioned that due to his skepticism, magic really doesn't work for Dr. Thirteen. His disbelief in magic is strong enough that it causes magic around him to fail even when it should work, thus justifying his skepticism further. Ironically enough, his own daughter, Traci Thirteen, is a powerful mage in her own right.
    • Another explanation comes from Grant Morrison's Zatanna mini-series. There Dr. Thirteen joins Zatanna and a few other DC universe occultists for a seance/spiritual voyage. He seems to at least in some way experience what his companions experience, but he explains everything through quantum physics, not spiritualism or the occult.
  • Mr. Terrific from Justice Society of America is an adamant atheist despite encountering many god like beings and witnessing the use of magic many times; due to this he was unable to communicate with Gog.

Film

  • In Cloverfield, Hud suggests several possible origins for the monster, of the standard giant monster variety. Rob observes that it doesn't really matter right now.
  • Graham and Merrill from Signs stubbornly cling to the belief that the crop circles on their farm are an elaborate prank courtesy of Lionel Pritchard and the Wolfington Brothers, even as this possibility becomes less and less plausible.

Literature

  • The Dresden Files does this. It hams up the "humanity is just too stupid and self-absorbed to accept magic" message. In one instance, following a rain of toads, Billy says that the news will probably blame it on a freak whirlwind. Harry replies, "You'd think 'It's magic' would be easier to accept than that."
    • To be fair, that might actually be a subconscious self-defense move. People who do find out about the supernatural and start looking too hard at it can rapidly get into serious trouble in the Dresdenverse. Examples would include Harry's former girlfriend Susan and his current apprentice, Molly Carpenter.
      • At one point he even says that most people's subconscious has a kind of built-in Weirdness Censor, because if they were to acknowledge some of the strange things they saw as magical or supernatural, it might well drive them insane. Their minds automatically search for a mundane explanation, without their necessarily even being aware of it.
    • The series has the three Swords of Faith, Hope, and Love, wielded by Knights of the Cross, who take their marching orders directly from the archangel Michael and tend to have minor Deus Ex Machinas happen when convenient. The Knight with the most presence in the series is a devout Catholic. The second is an agnostic, who insists that Michael might be some sort of extraterrestrial being. As long as he can come up with an alternative explanation, he's not committing one way or another.
    • Granted there's been real cases of pre-Tornado storms dropping fish and other critters before (generally a Waterspout appears over a school, they get sucked up, falls some time later on land), but still it's not very common.
  • The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul
  • Parodied/subverted in Jingo, when religious nut Constable Visit-the-Infidel-with-Explanatory-Pamphlets is talking about deity-invoked rains of objects to the skeptical Constable Shoe. He runs down a list, and Shoe's rebuttals get weirder and weirder, until eventually Visit mentions a "Sudden and miraculous rain of rain." Shoe replies in exactly the same sort of wording he used before: "Probably solar energy caused water to evaporate from the surface of a body of water, which then condensed into clouds that wind carried across the country, where cold air currents caused the droplets to recondense and fall as liquid water." In other words, the precise scientific explanation for rain.
    • Also worth mentioning, in the same exchange, was a "miraculous rain of elephants." When pressed, Visit concedes, "Well, it was just one elephant, but it made quite a splash."
  • In Left Behind--no one except main characters ever thinks of the mass disappearances as being caused by the Rapture, even though premillennialism is a well-known theological concept. Some possible explanations are rational enough, but everyone believes the Antichrist's bizarre "nuclear warheads-electromagnetism-Negative Space Wedgie" theory. (Main characters, on the other hand, act as if they've read the book jacket.)
  • In Inferno, Allen Carpentier's attempts to interpret his experiences as a product of super-advanced technology are arguably more unreasonable than accepting the reality that Hell exists and he's in it.

Live Action TV

  • Named after Dana Scully of The X-Files, who was particularly adamant in her denial of the supernatural.
    • To be fair, by the end of Season 2, she'd accepted the existence of the supernatural, after being abducted herself, even if she still always tried to find a mundane/natural explanation first.
      • As a semi-practicing Catholic, several episodes alluded to her willingness to accept of such concepts as divine will, miracles, or angels.
      • Sort of justified in that the entire reason she was assigned to work with Mulder was for her to Scully him.
      • If Scully had been right more often, it would have lent more Willing Suspension of Disbelief to the other episodes and left them looking more like a balanced partnership. Subverted in that more than one case with a natural explanation was later described as an X-File.
    • Averted in Coprophages which has, for the first half of the show, Scully sitting back at home cooking up one naturalistic explanation after another for the peculiar deaths and the cockroach infestation... and being right on all counts.
    • Subverted when Agent John Doggett is introduced later in the series. At this point, with her history, Scully is more apt to jump to outlandish theories, with Doggett continually Scullying HER.
    • It's shown in later seasons, on the handful of occasions where Scully encounters an X-File without Mulder along, that Scully's perfectly willing to consider the supernatural explanation if there isn't a more reasonable mundane one (see the episode where she microwaves a creepy doll that's causing people to kill themselves). But not only was she assigned to debunk Mulder's work, but she feels (and is often justified in feeling) that she's required to debunk him and offer mundane explanations, for his safety and hers.
  • The main characters of Supernatural, although aware of the supernatural, argue frequently about whether the case of the week is up their alley. It always is.
    • Except for 1.15, "The Benders", when the monster was revealed to be a family who kidnap, hunt, and cannibalize their human prey and 4.11, "Family Remains", where it was a psychotic brother and sister, born from the rape of a girl by her own father, living in the walls.
  • T'Pol from Star Trek: Enterprise continued repeating that "The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined time-travel to be impossible" long after any vaguely logical person should have at least started thinking of it as a real possibility. She actually used this as a mantra to defeat interrogation by someone who asked what she knew about specific time travellers she'd had contact with.
    • And after that, she time-travelled.
  • Some of the main characters on Lost remain in denial of the island's supernatural attributes. In the season 4 finale, despite having just seen the island vanish, Jack denies Hurley's assertion that the island has been moved. The shock at this and a subsequent breakdown lead to a total 180 in terms of ease of belief.
  • The Muggles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer can come up with various wacky explanations for supernatural events, at some points simply blocking out the memories entirely. (In one episode, when everyone in town lost their voices, the news blamed it on laryngitis.)
    • Buffy herself lampshades it in "The Pack", when she tells Giles (i.e. the guy who convinced her to believe in all sorts of demonic/supernatural weirdness) "I cannot believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me."

Tabletop Games

  • Human beings are literally forced to do this sort of thing to themselves in Mage: The Awakening, as their minds are mystically warped to deny the presence of magic due to the Lie. Should a human's mind not be able to take the strain of denial, the human will either go insane or Awaken and become a mage him-or-herself.
  • The Hindrance "Doubting Thomas" in Deadlands is exactly this. The character does not believe in the supernatural, and even after being dragged kicking and screaming into admitting that supernatural things exist (i.e. even after encountering something that can't be explained rationally), they still insist to try to explain everything "rationally" first. This in the setting where the supernatural is pretty much commonplace, including player characters.

Video Games

  • Nearly every character in the Chzo Mythos series apart from the main characters.

Web Comics

  • A major Running Gag of The Unspeakable Vault of Doom is that the human characters, when faced with the lampooned Lovecraftian star of the series, give an even more ludicrous explanation for what they saw or heard than the obvious alien-gods-of-madness explanation.
  • Besides of its blatant parody of the original character and her opposite counterpart, Sluggy Freelance has Kent, who after being attacked by vampires and among other things seeing one turn to dust before his eyes spoke of having been attacked by "Vampire LARPers"; Dr. Lorna, whose reaction to seeing her coworker turn into a demon was "You must be on drugs, because drugs cause hallucinations and I must be hallucinating"; and the "Nifty News 50" broadcast, which explained a brief epidemic of zombies (well, deadels) as mass hysteria caused by Marilyn Manson (somehow).
  • Parodied in Homestuck when John texts his suspicion that there's monsters in his house.

 [[color:red:TG: dude monsters arent real

TG: thats stupid kids stuff for stupid babies]]

EB: maybe. yeah you're right.

[[color:red:TG: what are you an idiot

TG: of course there are monsters in your house

TG: youre in some weird evil monster dimension come on]]

Western Animation

  • In the Family Guy episode "Petergeist", Lois tells Brian there's no such things as ghosts, after seeing supernatural occurrences. When she sees chairs and the refrigerator upside down on the kitchen table, she concludes that she must have accidentally stacked all those thing upside down and then just forgot about it.

Real Life

  • After a red rain in India, a local "scientist" decided to come up with a "scientific" explanation to counter the peoples' supernatural explanations for the "blood." It was a convoluted and downright-silly explanation involving bats killed at high altitude by a meteor. (The actual cause was red algae - not paranormal, but nowhere near as ridiculous as the bat blood.)
  • Any and every attempt to scientifically justify the existence of real-life vampires. "Explanations" include diabetes and porphyria, both of which actually fail miserably. Aside from the diseases not doing what they think they do (you can't treat porphyria by drinking blood), the vampires they're usually trying to explain were the product of Hollywood and 20th century literature. Older vampire myths are much more like walking dead, revenant or ghost stories.
    • Some scientists now think that rabies may be at the root of the vampire myth.
  • Young Earth creationists like Kent Hovind who try to "scientifically" explain miracles in the Bible, and let's just leave it at that.
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