“Guess you could call them human.” -Sheriff Andy Taylor, “Home”
Let’s start with the first thing Jeff and I discussed after watching this episode: damn, it is fucked up that the Peacocks are Southern. Despite living in Home, Pennsylvania for roughly 150 years, they’re established as outsiders by Mrs. Peacock’s reference to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression. The implication is that they are Southerners who came north during or immediately after the Civil War and haven’t changed since. The town of Home is idyllic, a Northern utopia into which evil is introduced by Southern monsters.
The grotesque territory of the Southern Gothic was mapped by Southern writers like William Faulkner, Flannery O’Conner, and Cormac McCarthy; Morgan and Wong are outsiders there, and their efforts come across (to me at least) as cliched and offensive. The association of backwardness, incest, inbreeding, and monstrosity with Southernness is a familiar and disgusting trope; Jeff suggested to me that making the Peacocks Southern was another way for the writers to other them, make them less sympathetic and less human to the viewing audience.
The choice to cast black actors to portray Sheriff Taylor and his wife is interesting too. It’s not especially realistic to find people of color in a tiny rural Pennsylvania town at all, much less occupying positions of authority; the construction of Home as a multiethnic Mayberry (entirely unlike the original; although set in North Carolina, the Andy Griffith Show was blindingly white) serves to establish its utopian character. When the Peacocks brutally murder the Taylors they aren’t just attacking local law enforcement, they’re also explicitly Southern-identified characters destroying a black family, evoking echoes of racist violence in what is supposed to be a post-racial community.
Okay. Fucked up anti-South stereotypes aside, what I really love about this episode is the way that, having positioned the Taylors and the Peacocks as opposites in so many ways, Morgan and Wong give them dialogue that—if you pay attention—shows just how alike they really are in their worldviews.
Sheriff Taylor says this in his first scene:
“I’ve seen and heard some of the sick and horrible things that go on outside my Home. At the same time, I knew we couldn’t stay hidden forever… that one day, the modern world would find us and… my home town would change forever. And when I saw… it… in the ground… I knew that day had come. Now, I want to find whoever did this… but in doing so, I’d like it if the way things are around here didn’t have to change.”
He sees Home as a refuge from the modern world, a preserved piece of an idealized past, and despite the fact that there’s nothing particularly modern about infanticide, he slots the crime into his existing worldview. However, the events of the episode smash that fantasy. The Peacocks are the most old-fashioned family in the area, and just like Taylor, they want to protect their way of life from the encroaching modern world. Just before the raid on their house, Mrs. Peacock tells her sons:
“They’ll be coming now. We knew this day was going to happen. That they’d try to change the way things are. All we can do about changing things… is be ready for it… be ready for them. Let them know, this is our home and this is the way it’s going to stay.”
Later she tells Scully, “This is our home. Why leave it?” And in the end, when she and her surviving son do leave, it’s clear that they’re moving on in the hope of finding a new place to continue living as they have been. In a way, they are both more adaptable and more realistic than Sheriff Taylor.
(Mulder also buys the fantasy of Home as a utopia, and he does it in a familiar way—through idealized memories of a childhood that we know was not really all that idyllic. Scully doesn’t. No one is surprised.)