Growing up in the 90s, it was impossible to escape the influence and omnipresence of The X-Files. It tapped into a fantastic cultural paranoia that seemed dormant (or at least weakened) during the excess and blinding superficiality of the Reagan years. Agents Mulder and Scully were woven out of the same believable cloth as Agent Clarice Starling, cloaking their show’s ridiculous foundations in a shroud of professionalism and respectability. By doing this, it allowed the series’ more subversive concepts and philosophies to be easily swallowed by a viewing audience who wanted to believe. And when I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to believe.
My experience with The X-Files was casual during its initial run. It’s probably thanks to my parents’ stronger interests in the show that planted the seeds of future fanaticism in me. I remember the show being a constant presence on my parents’ television, and even though I wasn’t quite old enough to fully grasp all the dynamics, agency politics, and technical jargon being thrown around, I still found myself fascinated with this world of aliens, monsters, and the shadowy figures who were in control. While the surface elements are what drew me in, it’s the show’s attitudes that keep me coming back, and it’s those attitudes that we need now more than ever.
It’s often forgotten that The X-Files was a show that promoted skepticism and scientific reasoning as much as it did the belief in extraterrestrials. In today’s world, it’s terrifying how easy it is to project a falsehood on the Internet and have it immediately taken as fact. Audiences need role models like Dana Scully, a strong woman who refused to take anything at face value and applied critical thinking to every outlandish assignment she was involved in.
We also need more Fox Mulders in the world: anti-authority figures within the system who don’t restrain themselves or their pursuit of the truth just because they are afraid of the repercussions. If they can do this while having an open addiction to pornography and sunflower seeds, the better for all of us.
To return to less jovial musings, The X-Files gave the popular consciousness conspiracies that were more fanciful than the theories you hear about today. The things that people want to believe in nowadays (the U.S. government either staged or perpetrated a school shooting to enforce stricter gun control laws for example) are far more disheartening than alien colonization or supernatural occurrences. I love conspiracy theories and paranormal subjects (even though I believe next to none of them) because there’s a fantasy at play that feels delightfully wicked instead of the cynical moroseness that seems rampant in today’s subcultures of paranoia. The X-Files can return that sense of fun to believing in all the government scheming and dishonesty that is far too real and unsettling in a post-Snowden America.
We’ve known that Mulder, Scully, and even Skinner would be returning to our television sets sometime soon. Now that “soon” has an official date. The X-Files will return for a limited run (I’m discovering how much I dislike the term “event series”) of six hour-long episodes on January 24th. We couldn’t use them more. We don’t know yet if the quality of these new stories will be worthwhile (to be honest, the tail end of this universe does warrant the use of that Dana Scully skepticism going forward), but if they can capture that same questioning spirit that these characters and their world infused into me at an early age, then it will have been worth the wait.
Until then, trust no one.