The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense

The Death of Psychology

Bang! Psychology is dead. The age of science is over. (If you don’t believe us, just check out the WB.) Long live Mulder!


MULDER: So what'd you think?

: I'm not sure, Mulder. It was interesting. The end—

: You obviously didn't get it.

: What are you talk—

: That's so typical.

: Mulder, the film was about a boy who supposedly saw dead people.

: First, the boy DID see dead people. Second, and more importantly, he saw Malcolm Crowe, the embodiment of modern psychology.

: What?

: The boy didn't just see dead people; he saw a dead discipline, a dead mentality, a dead era.

: Right.

: Think about it, Scully. What is psychology? It's the epitome of twentieth-century rationalism, secularism, empiricism. For godsake, it's a science of the soul, the psyche, which is an impossibility. How do you scientifically examine an ethereal soul?

: Well . . .

: You can't! And, yet, this is exactly what psychologists pretend to do.

: So you think psychologists should be more like psychics, unaccountable to the real world.

: Well, check out the real estate. Psychics are everywhere; they are the new sages of our disturbed soul. People no longer want to visit their psychologists; they want to hotline their soothsayers. Why is that, Scully?

: Because they have good commercials?

: Because secularism is over. The "real world" of science is suffocating. People want to believe.

: Okay, so what does this have to do with The Sixth Sense?

MULDER: Everything! I mean, consider the beginning of the film. We see Crowe and his wife celebrating the official recognition of Crowe's work by the Mayor of Philadelphia. This is the perfect setup for what follows: the judgment of respectable psychology.

SCULLY: You mean, the intruder?

MULDER: Yes, Vincent, the intruder and former patient of Crowe, enters the scene to expose the fatal flaw of blind rationalism. Remember what he says,

You don't know so many things. . . . Let's all celebrate, Dr. Malcolm Crowe. Recipient of awards from the Mayor on the news. Dr. Malcolm Crowe, he's helped so many children . . . I was ten when you worked with me . . . I had no friends; you said I was socially isolated. I was afraid; you called it acute anxiety. You were wrong! You failed me!

And, then, BANG! Psychology is dead.

SCULLY: Or so we think.

MULDER: Exactly, because in the next scene, we still see psychology hanging around. He is dead, but we don't realize it, and neither does he! Do you know what I call this?

SCULLY: Yes, resid—

MULDER: Residual secularism! We've been so ingrained with "scientific truth" that its presence lingers around, haunting our more preternatural inclinations. We are unable to see that psychology is dead because we've been conditioned to validate its existence.

SCULLY: So Crowe represents the current state of psychology—dead, but still here, a ghost of its former self.

MULDER: Yes. You might say that psychology is dead Crowe, much like Eric Draven.

SCULLY: Eric Draven?

MULDER: You know, The Crow.

SCULLY: Ah, The Crow.

MULDER: But unlike The Crow, who remains on earth to exact his revenge, Malcolm Crowe continues to linger because he must come to the realization of the "truth," which ultimately will expose his own death, his own immateriality—

SCULLY: His own irrelevance.

MULDER: Exactly! Dead Crowe must come to his senses, or his anti-senses. He must acknowledge the possibility of another world, invisible to the eyes, outside the realm of his so-called science. But throughout the film, he desperately clings to his rational perspective, much like you Scully, unwilling to admit to a reality that may very well undermine his existence.

SCULLY: Cheap shot, Mulder.

MULDER: I know, but it heightens our sexual tension.

SCULLY: (eyes welling up with tears) True.

MULDER: Now, check it.

: Check it?

MULDER: There is an interesting connection between the films of Terry Gilliam and M. Night Shyamalan. Gilliam seeks to confront our modern sensibilities by challenging our notion of sanity. His films are an expression of Foucault's Madness and Civilization. For example, in 12 Monkeys, the main character played by Bruce Willis is deemed delusional by a team of psychiatrists—another outdated group of soul scientists—because his description of reality is considered irrational. Do you remember what Brad Pitt's character says in the film?

You know what "crazy" is? "Crazy" is "majority rules." Take germs for example. . . . In the 18th century there was no such thing! Nobody'd ever imagined such a thing—no sane person anyway. Along comes this doctor . . . Semmelweiss, I think. He tries to convince people . . . other doctors mostly . . . that there are these teeny tiny invisible "bad things" called germs that get into your body and make you . . . sick! He's trying to get doctors to wash their hands. What is this guy . . . crazy? Teeny tiny invisible whaddayou call 'em? . . . "germs"!

SCULLY: I'm very impressed, but you're no Brad—

MULDER: Sure I am. (smiles his smart-ass smile) But, to get back to my comparison, Shyamalan also seeks to confront our modern sensibilities, except through the revelation of the supernatural, whether it be dead people in The Sixth Sense, superheroes in Unbreakable, or God in Wide Awake.

SCULLY: Sounds—

MULDER: I'm not done. In Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, the name of the main character who confronts our rationalism is Cole, played by Bruce Willis.


MULDER: Yes, Cole, the same name as the young boy in The Sixth Sense who confronts our secularism. Of course, in 12 Monkeys the man's name is James Cole, and in The Sixth Sense the boy's name is Cole Sears, but in both films they are referred to as Cole. Isn't that intriguing?

SCULLY: You definitely need to get out more.

MULDER: The bottom line is that "the times, they are a-changing." Psychology is dead. Secularism is over. The paranormal lives! The truth is out there. The next thing you know you'll be birthing some supernatural, messianic baby.

SCULLY: Yeah, I doubt it.

posted by editor ::: November 10, 2001 ::: philms :::