As some of you probably already know, a film opened today which isn’t called The Dark Knight. It’s called The X-Files: I Want to Believe and if you’re a child of the 90’s, you already know that it’s based on the wildly popular television show, The X-Files, which spawned one of the foremost examples of a rabid internet fan base coagulating around a popular medium. I recently purchased the complete nine-season Collector’s Edition of the former Fox program as an impulse buy, but the more I’ve watched, the more I’m beginning to believe that it was worth every single penny of the $200 I spent for it. (Yeah, nine seasons plus the first feature length film for only $200. Thank God for Amazon.com). It’s a mere coincidence that the release of the latest feature film coincides with my finishing up the fourth – and arguably best – season of the show, but the more time I spend thinking about it, the more it seems so eerily convenient. You see, the film isn’t being very well received by critics (as of its 7/25, a paltry 32% on Rotten Tomatoes) and many criticisms include the idea that the show is “so 90’s” and has no relevance half a decade after its last (and sub-par) season. But with all the shit going on in the world and all the prevalent themes I’m seeing come through Mulder and Scully’s exploits, I’m beginning to think that The X-Files is more relevant ever.
For those of you who remember, season four was bathed in a darker tone than the previous seasons with the revelation of Scully’s inoperable cancer, the murder of X, Skinner’s manipulation at the hands of Cancer Man, and Mulder’s apparent suicide in the season finale, Gethsemane. On top of that, Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man gave us insight into the seemingly black heart of Mulder and Scully’s biggest antagonist, Tunguska and Terma furthered the storyline of the Black Oil mytharc, and Herrenvolk seemed to signal a step backwards in Mulder’s pursuit of knowledge surrounding alien colonization. Though these themes had been discussed before, the depths to which they were explored really made us as viewers feel that Mulder and Scully may have been in way over their heads and that there was no way their effort could be successful. I mean, at the end of the season, one main character is dying and the other is seemingly dead! But, what was really inspirational to watch, and what allows the show and its themes to still be relevant today, is understanding the catalyst for Mulder’s passion; the reason for Scully’s loyalty to him; what exactly the Cigarette-Smoking Man was working so hard to suppress:
Time and time again, Mulder and Scully would risk their jobs, their lives, and the lives of those close to them because they believed that, despite it being controlled by higher powers, the truth was out there and it could be obtained and it would, for lack of a better term, set them free. After all, the phrase “The Truth is Out There” was used in the opening credits of all but 18 of the 201 episodes of the show. My knowledge of their success is limited by my incomplete viewing of all the seasons and perhaps this limits the potency of my argument. But, I do know that Mulder and Scully often come so close to discovering and unveiling the truth that plans of higher powers often have to be modified and improvisations must be implemented to keep certain chess pieces in place so the board of conspiracy wouldn’t collapse completely – at the end of Herrenvolk, the Cigarette-Smoking Man convinces the Alien Bounty Hunter to heal Mulder’s mother, claiming that if he were to lose his mother, Mulder would then have nothing to lose and become an even more dangerous foe. Mulder and Scully aren’t alone in their struggles though, as they are often aided by informants who work for the higher powers and want to help uncover the truth: X (underling for the Syndicate), Deep Throat (founding member of the Syndicate), Marita Covarrubius (Special Representative of the Secretary-General), and Senator Richard Matheson (duh) are all significant figures who arguably risk even more than Mulder and Scully in helping the agents uncover the truth.
But, if you’re still reading this novella, you’re probably saying, “quit confirming how big of a nerd you are, fanboy, and got on with the relevance.” Well, in essence, Mulder and Scully were so dedicated to the idea that the truth could and should be known that they inspired those who aided them and terrified those who opposed them. Here in the United States (Canadians – you can turn off your computers), the Constitution guarantees us a democratic government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” which basically means that if the people want it, the people will get it. If we want the truth, we can have the truth. If we’re displeased with figures that won’t give us the truth, we can replace them with those who will. While our country (Britons – read a different blog) is unfortunately mired in apathy, it is such an exhilarating and empowering idea to think that IF we, the citizens, would make enough noise, then our government has to listen. A favorite song of mine, “Predator and Prey,” by New York City’s best kept secret, Eveneye, touches on the question of should we be afraid of our government or should our government be afraid of us? Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that there aren’t those figures who would work their f*cking asses off to ensure that noise be muffled, but the fact remains that IF enough voices are united, there is no way to shut them all up.
As shit continues to go down that makes us angrier and angrier (Enron, the Iraq War, Miley Cyrus), many of us stop caring or trying because we think that a select group of very few control the course of the nation. But our nation WAS NOT established to work like that and we have in our hands the power to change it – it just takes the right people or enough people speaking up to get the wheels motion. This idea, the idea that the truth exists and it’s our right to know it, is what drove Mulder and Scully so passionately in the 90’s and it only makes sense that it can still be driving them, and us, to this very day. While none of this may change whether or not The X-Files: I Want to Believe is a well-made film, I feel that it certainly answers the question of its relevance.
Jim Rohner is a Film Critic and Associate Producer for Zoom In Online.