Apocrypha Meets the Pentagon Papers: The Appeals of the X-Files to the X-Phile

By Haggins, Bambi L. | Journal of Film and Video, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Apocrypha Meets the Pentagon Papers: The Appeals of the X-Files to the X-Phile


Haggins, Bambi L., Journal of Film and Video


Introduction: Qualifying As an X-Phile

This paper must begin with a confession: my name is Bambi and I am an X-Phile. This study is both a critical analysis and the musings of a fan. In order to discuss X-Philedom as an insider, it is necessary to qualify. Alas, I was not one of the original legions who flocked to the show in its first season-although I knew some who were. Many of my compadres-some of whom were on the edges of the industry (aspiring actors, writers, and directors) and others who were ensconced in academia-lauded the series for being smart, witty, and challenging. I, however, remained the "Scully" when it came to a show that was rooted, after all, in wanting to believe.

Prior to December 1995, I would have characterized myself as someone who liked The X-Files-I watched the series occasionally-but Friday night was not dictated by watching or taping the show. My conversion to philedom can be explained by referring to Janice Radway's discussion of "the pleasure for the reader." In Reading the Romance, Radway hypothesizes that the readers' "pleasure" may lie "in creating time for themselves outside of the demands of other family members," or might I add other external pressures (Radway, 211). After a particularly arduous academic quarter, I was house-sitting for a couple, who also happened to be X-Philes. Over the course of the next 10 days, I watched 35 episodes of the series (half of the first and all of the second season that had been broadcast). I was hooked. By the beginning of the series' third season, I had whole-heartedly ventured into X-Philedom. Although I remained (and, for the most part, remain) a lurker on The X-Files fan pages and in X-Phile chat rooms, in my offline life in coffeehouses and seminar rooms I enthusiastically expounded on what had drawn me so passionately to the series.

When I began doing work on The X-Files, over five years ago, my viewership experience with the show differed from any other in my long history as a consumer of television-watching the series simultaneously afforded me intellectual stimulation and much needed leisure. I found myself watching episodes I had seen before, making connections in the second viewing that I had not initially grasped, and being (dare I say it) exhilarated by getting the little in-jokes and allusions written in for the true fan.

Since it premiered in September 1993, the show has progressively garnered legions of fans. From its humble first season beginnings (finishing 102 out of 118 shows), its audience has grown significantly. Although the series has not been able to replicate the lofty perch of its fifth season's rating high (the season premiere was viewed by over 27 million people and earned a series-high 22 share), even during its frustratingly Mulderlite eighth season, it has retained (and regained) a solid audience share: "an average of 12.99 million viewers in this season as opposed to 12.97 million last season." (Gates, A&L2). The series has received popular and critical acclaim such as Best Drama Series awards from the Golden Globes, Environmental Media Awards, Entertainment Weekly accolades, and Viewers for Quality Television Awards, and acting laurels from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (statues for Anderson and nominations for Duchovny). The faces (and bodies) of Mulder and Scully have graced the covers of TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone. Scully and Mulder became the fantasy non-couple of the nineties and, in turn, Anderson and Duchovny became the thinking person's sex symbols.

As Mulder and Scully's saga became the Entertainment Weekly poster series and began to garner consistently high marks with Nielsen families, both the program and, I would argue, the X-Phile experience became more complex, and, on some levels, conflicted. The extratextual elements about salaries, egos, and multimillion dollar film and series deals that seeped into discourse surrounding The X-Files became almost as arcane as the show's ever-broadening myth arc. …

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