The Truth was Out There: Re-Examining “The X-FILES!”
Recently my co-blogger, David, stated he was going to try and watch the entire series of THE X-FILES from beginning to end (nine seasons/a couple episodes a day). As he and I sometimes influence one another regarding what shows to watch, I suddenly felt that this was a great opportunity to revisit the series as well. I hadn’t watched it since back in the 1990’s when I was in my roaring 20’s and an avid X-Phile (sort of the of THE X-FILES equivalent of a “Trekkie” if you’re a STAR TREK fan).
Not long after I began re-watching the series, I found myself becoming enthralled, once again, with Agents Mulder & Scully as well as all the great “monsters” and government conspiracies they relentlessly pursued. As they’d uncover one government plot, new ones would develop, making their search for “The Truth” akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
For those too young or living under a rock during the 1990’s, THE X-FILES was a FOX television series featuring two FBI agents assigned to investigate the bureau’s more “unusual” cases. Fox Mulder was a brilliant agent whose belief that his sister had been abducted by aliens causes him to focus his talents on an obsessive search for the unknown. In contrast, Agent Dana Scully was a no nonsense, non-believer who had the dubious task of trying to reign in her partner while, at the same time, trying to reconcile the things she’s seen and can’t explain.
The series struck a chord with the public, especially those of us who have long believed that the United States Government can’t be completely trusted. It reached its height during the Clinton presidency and it can be argued that our sometimes popular, yet rarely deemed trustworthy, 42nd President aided in its popularity as well. Regardless, past historical events such as the Kennedy assassination and Watergate had inadvertently created a “twenty-something” generation of viewers more willing to believe in extraterrestrials than an honest government. The series became an unlikely hit, was lots of fun, and the chemistry between the shows lead characters created some of the best sexual tension ever seen on the small screen.
Accompanying my new-found admiration for the series was a flood of memories regarding that period of my life when the show still aired. I was 22 when the series began and it appealed to me on a somewhat personal level. Unlike most fans, my father was an actual FBI agent. He was also quite successful in the Bureau and reached great heights in his career before his recent retirement. With a strong sense of direction, he worked his way from a dismissed, teen-aged father to a lofty government position. My parents had divorced when I was eleven and my father and I had never been close. In terms of his priorities, career was EVERYTHING to him while family and children ranked somewhere in the basement next to Mulder’s file cabinet.
Today, my father is the first to admit this and I don’t hold any animosity towards him. Not everyone was cut out for fatherhood and he certainly was good at what he did do. He also never shirked his financial obligations even while completely abandoning his emotional ones. Objectively, I would have to say that he made the world a better place in his own way. In the 1990’s, however, I wasn’t quite so wise nor forgiving.
In the age of Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, public opinion regarding the FBI was less than stellar. I understood why he wasn’t pleased that his eldest child believed he and his fellow agents were spending the tax payer’s money tracking down “little green men.” At the same time, this small token of rebelliousness had drawn me to the series even further.
For the record, the show never suggested it was The FBI nor The CIA that were responsible for keeping the bulk of the secrets. Rather, it presented a “shadow government” – a behind the scenes power elite controlling world events while manipulating the ever-ignorant public. This notion first became popular after the Kennedy assassination and the belief still holds among many to this day.
I was also seeing my future wife, Connie, at the time who watched the show with me. We had been “friends” for awhile, having not quite crossed the line into an actual relationship. Much of the tension between the characters onscreen seemed to carry over to us off-screen. Making it even more fun was the fact that Connie was the stoic, non-believer while I may as well have carried Mulder’s office poster over my head stating “I WANT TO BELIEVE.” This gave us an opportunity to indirectly discuss what was going on between us while officially addressing the show. For example, I had been interested in taking our relationship to the next level and always stated how great it would be to see Mulder & Scully get together. She’d argue that things would soon spoil and it was best kept the way it was.
In 1998 I ended up marrying my “Scully.” Exactly two weeks later we attended an X-FILES EXPO in Chicago. It was jam packed with fans and featured guest appearances from Mitch Pileggi (Agent Skinner) and The Lone Gunman, a lovable band of super nerds who occasionally assisted Mulder in his work. It seemed, at that point, nothing could stop the hit series but, soon after the new Millennium, it quickly began to falter. By the 8th season Mulder (and most of the core viewers) had left the series. Without the weekly Mulder/Scully dynamic, the show had little resemblance to what had made it so great in the first place. Like the recent TV series LOST, by the time it was over, viewers had become dizzy and fatigued from the constant plot turns.
The show spawned two movies, most recently 2008’s I WANT TO BELIEVE. I had high hopes about this film but ended up being disappointed by it. Hearing that they were planning a departure from the on-going alien/government conspiracy “mythology,” I looked forward to a great Silver Screen “monster of the week” show. I, and many other fans, were disappointed with the dull final result which I’m still not sure how to classify. Plus, after years of “sexual tension,” it was downright anti-climactic seeing Fox Mulder and Dana Scully lying next to each other in bed looking bored out of their minds.
2008 would also be the year that my father would retire from the Bureau. I flew out to the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington DC to attend the ceremony which would also feature a speech from The Bureau Director himself. Before gaining special access to the famed Pennsylvania Avenue fortress, there was a vestibule featuring numerous historical items from the FBI’s now 100 year history (also being celebrated in 2008). I was immediately drawn to a glass case in the middle of the room containing a familiar sight. I smiled as I gazed inside and saw the special Mulder & Scully “Barbie & Ken” dolls put out by Mattel during the show’s run.
Apparently since the show’s demise, the Bureau had learned to, at last, embrace THE X-FILES. At least enough to grant Mulder and Scully access to the same building they had fictitiously worked at for nearly a decade.
I must say that I don’t blame The FBI for finally embracing the duo. When you’re a 100 year old agency, representing a government that few people trust, you have to appreciate any show (including one that has you chasing monsters) that manages to make you look downright sexy.
And for that kind of a make-over, who’s really interested in The Truth?