A Sort of Homecoming
Fan Viewing and Symbolic Pilgrimage
She says nobody wants to believe
You're the same as everyone.
What makes me unique? My dark life.
…And you think you're a guest, you're a tourist at best
Peering into the corners of your dark life
—Elvis Costello, “My Dark Life” from Songs in the Key of X
A back alley in Vancouver. A road tunnel in Los Angeles. A gravestone in Guildford. A mock-up of the Rover's Return pub. Graceland. The study of fan pilgrimages is sufficiently established for us readily to accept the idea that some dedicated followers of cultural texts or icons—in the above cases, The X-Files, Blade Runner, Lewis Carroll, Coronation Street, and Elvis Presley—will travel across the world to often mundane places that fandom has made sacred and special (see, respectively, Hills 2002; Brooker 2005b; Brooker 2005a; Couldry 2000; King 1993). But the idea that watching television constitutes a “symbolic pilgrimage” may still prompt a sceptical response. Such is Roger Aden's assertion in his chapter “Transforming the Panopticon into the Funhouse: Negotiating Disorientation in The XFiles” (1999: 149).
Aden makes grand claims about fan viewing, presenting the experience of sitting down to watch The X-Files as symbolic pilgrimage—a trip without drugs, a journey and return without leaving the easy chair. Fans, according to Aden, leave their structured, everyday environment to enter Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully's diegesis—a fictional world that