OK. It's time for a confession. Although I don't say it often-and even lie in certain company-I hate the X-Files.
I can think of fifty things I'd rather do on a Sunday night than watch Mulder and Scully run around dark hallways and act surprised all the time.
I get no joy from X-Files parties, didn't go see the movie, and hate the song. When I hear people discuss Mulder and Scully's ambiguous relationship I glaze over. And when I heard that the actors who play Mulder and Scully hate each other in real life I smiled.
Perhaps hate is really the wrong word because it isn't so much that the X-Files are terrible; it is more that the show is boring. Dull. Not exciting. We're talking snooze-able here.
But the X-Files is suspenseful and exciting you say. It is about real science, but with a twist of the supernatural. It's about puzzles and aliens. It is about intrigue. You can't be against intrigue can you?
No. I'm not against intrigue, but there's not too much intriguing going on between 9 and 10 p.m. on Sunday nights on FOX. It's monotony dressed up like Goth. It's formula covered in darkness and highlighted with strange green men.
Let's recap an episode-it doesn't take much. Weird crime scene. Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully suspicious. Mulder goes nuts. Mulder bonds with the weirdos. Mulder knows the answer. Mulder tries to convince Scully. Mulder tries to convince his boss. The weirdos almost kill Mulder/Scully. Scully is convinced. Mulder and Scully win.
By now it's 10 p.m. and the good guys are once again victorious. You can go to sleep easy knowing you're protected by Mulder and Scully, the good guys fighting against both the system and the aliens.
The only tension that keeps the show moving is the fact that Scully and Mulder desperately need to get it on. But unrequited, unexciting nerd love can only take us so far. How long can I care about two FBI agents too obsessed with themselves to realize they're in love? Ego-obsessed professionals might be sexy, but in terms of character depth they are limited.
So why do people subject themselves to the X-Files? Because it makes them feel smart. Because for an hour they are investigative scientist types, running alongside Mulder and Scully on their search for the Truth.
There's nothing wrong with living through TV on occasion. I'm sure that subconsciously I like Ally McBeal because I really want to be an anorexic lawyer that has visions. And I'm sure my friends who like the X-Files like to feel like they're cracking the codes as well. There's nothing wrong with that.
But I don't think voyeurism makes for good TV. Characters and plot make for good TV. The X-Files isn't about characters. It's about placing Mulder and Scully in a new environment every week. It's about milking the Mulder-Scully sexual tension thing for all it's worth, until we don't care if they ever make out.
Speaking of milk, you can't write a diatribe about the X-Files without mentioning the big pickpocket called trend-worship. How far can FOX go to milk the teenagers and Gen-Xers of this country of their money? How cool can two TV characters really be? It's just TV, guys.
Now that I've come clean I feel better. I urge all X-phobes to do the same. Soon it might be trendy to hate the show, and we'll all have to reevaluate our tastes once again.
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 8, November 6, 1998
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