On fandom, and being a fan, and The X-Files

Given the upcoming X-Files revival, I’ve spent a lot of time on Tumblr (way more than I’d care to admit as an employee of their indirect competitor), reading fanfic, and generally being a fangirl. It has me thinking about fandom, and my experience as a fan in the early years vs. my experiences as an adult.

When I was a kid, being a fan meant reading fanfic, scouring the shiny-new Internets for spoilers, and having a standing appointment with the television every Sunday night. It appears not much has changed, save for the standing appointment.

One of the benefits of going to a boarding school for part of that time was watching the show with others in my dorm wing — it was a group activity, one of the few times during those years when I was social, and past journal entries indicate there was “animated discussion” amongst us during the commercials.

But for the most part, it was something I kept to myself. I was only tangentially involved with the online fandom at that time, and I was wary of broadcasting my fan love too loudly outside my small social circle, worried about being too different or weird. Yes, my dorm room was plastered with magazine clippings and photos of the cast/characters, and I probably gushed to my friends, but I don’t remember talking about it at length with many, and if I did, they’d lose interest in the topic of conversation long before I did.

I’ve continued to struggle with embracing the “fan” label as I’ve grown older, and my interest in the show waxed and waned. My immediate reaction to anyone who is outwardly passionate about something is, “Wow, you should chill.” It’s hard to enjoy being that person when your natural tendency is to rail against strong emotions, positive or negative, but over the last couple years I’ve gotten better at accepting a wider range of feelings as normal (thanks, therapy!) and thus have learned to embrace my fan status. I’ve reached the point where I’m only slightly embarrassed to share my fanfic with friends and colleagues. 😉

As I’ve grown, I find I identify with different aspects of the show with each re-watch — things I missed as a child became more significant in adulthood. For example, Scully’s pregnancy arc and the disappearance of Mulder for most of season 8 hit much harder after I’d had a child of my own, and given my dad’s recent passing, Beyond the Sea suddenly holds new meaning for me. There are also a number of people creating meta content about the series, allowing me to revisit certain episodes I might have overlooked in my youth and see them from a new perspective — Kumail’s X-Files Files podcast and TV Mouse’s “Times Mulder and Scully Should Have Made Out This Week” come to mind.

It sounds trite, but The X-Files was instrumental in helping me out of a deep depression a couple years ago. Writing fanfic was a way to escape from my hectic family life for small periods, it gave me space to recharge, and provided a low-stress way to stay creative. The X-Files also inspired me to continue drawing and designing.

There are few things that have had such a positive, lasting effect on my life. Fandom is often diminished as a passing phase for teenaged girls, but most of the fans I’ve interacted with are around my age, often older, and they’re amazing, intelligent, successful women and men. All this to say, there’s definitely room for fandom in my adult life.

I still feel like I lurk on the outskirts, though. I’m shy-ish, and it’s hard for me to jump in, especially with an established crowd. There are a lot of folks that watched the show from the beginning, whereas I started around season 5 or so. Not that they aren’t friendly — as a newcomer, I’ve received some of the most amazing feedback on my fic and fanart — I’m just comfortable being a wallflower.

I haven’t expressed my thoughts on the upcoming revival because I’ve had more fun reading others’, and watching their reactions (which range from “OMG YES” to “OMG NO”), but I suppose I’ll indulge myself in a little navel-gazing while I’m on the subject.

To start, I’m probably one of the few, but I enjoyed the second X-Files movie, I Want to Believe. I came into it with almost zero expectations. I don’t recall searching for spoilers; in fact, I don’t remember knowing about the movie until a couple months before it was released in theaters, and at the time my only reaction was excitement.

In my defense, at the time it came out, I was pregnant with our first daughter and preoccupied. It didn’t occur to me to be disappointed. Seeing Mulder and Scully on the big screen was enough to make me tear up. We even got a scene with them in bed together, which (as a ‘shipper) went well beyond what I ever could have expected from Chris Carter. It wasn’t about the predicted apocalypse, there was no resolution to the mythology, but I didn’t care. Not to say it doesn’t have some serious flaws, but I still enjoy the movie for what it is.

Just giving you an idea of where I’m coming from.

The revival is a bit different; I’m more aware of it thanks to revived interest in the series on the whole, and I’ve been more active in the community since I started writing fanfic. I obviously have a distinct picture of how I see these characters post-IWTB because I’ve written about my vision for them. That said, I respect that they’re not my characters, so I’ll accept the new canon as canon, even if I don’t always like it.

There are rumors that CC has broken up Mulder and Scully in this upcoming revival, and that they may even be dating other people. My gut reaction to this is on the “OMG NO” side of the spectrum, but as is my tendency, I’m moderating that with a large grain of salt. It’s too early to tell, and Chris Carter is not above baiting with fake content just to lead the fans astray.

But also? On a basic level…I like angst. I like drama. I like the will-they-won’t-they dynamic, and provided it’s handled in an interesting way, I could buy it. I have to admit to getting annoyed at overly happy fanfic — these characters are tragic, and it’s not realistic to me that they’d have a happily ever after. Their happiness comes in small doses. I like them that way (and I write them that way!) so this setup has potential for me. But (and this is a very big “but”) I’m putting a lot of trust in the writers to make it a well-reasoned part of the characters’ development and not just a manufactured plot device.

My trust may be misplaced. Time will tell.

Then there’s the thing with Scully’s hair, which is apparently a very big thing? It’s a wig, it’s not red enough, the part is in the wrong place, etc. Actually, none of that bothers me as much as the fact that it’s kind of flat on top and just generally not very flattering…but then I thought about it, and came to the conclusion I was being petty.

One of the things I loved about Scully — particularly as a geeky, chubby, frumpy teenager myself — was that she wasn’t supermodel-level hot. She was one of the few leading ladies on my screen who seemed authentic. Her weight fluctuated, her clothes were frumpy, she was imperfect, and she kicked ass anyway. She was smart, sarcastic, empathetic, and a role model for strong, independent women. So I’m choosing to focus on the qualities that initially drew me to her character rather than her physical appearance (let’s be honest, wig or not, she’s always been gorgeous). I’ll embrace the wig, because no matter what Scully’s hair looks like, she’ll still kick ass.

I keep coming back to the simple fact that there is very little they could do to these characters that would make me not watch the next six episodes (and that’s saying something, considering everything they’ve been through). I watched seasons 8 and 9, and even that hot mess wasn’t enough to put me off.

Mostly, I want the revival to scare the shit out of me, or at least spook me the way it did in the early seasons. I want some character development, some lingering touches and glances, maybe a kiss or three. Let’s just say I wouldn’t walk away from my TV in a huff if there were a *ahem* tasteful bedroom scene. I’d love to see them attempt to address the mythology, although untangling that rat’s nest in six episodes is probably way out of scope. At least let us know what happened to William.

But ultimately, my expectations are low. Whether I’m keeping that way as a means of protecting myself, or whether I’m genuinely OK with what Chris Carter and co. throw my way…it’s hard to say for sure until January.

News of the revival broke two days before we learned my dad had cancer. It’s a weird association, but those two things — the excitement of the revival with the dismay at his condition — will always be inextricably linked for me, so maybe that’s why I’m having a difficult time getting worked up. I’ve used up my angst quota for the year. That’s not to diminish the reactions of my fellow fans, because we’re all entitled to our opinions and emotions. Mine are a bit stunted right now, is all.

Regardless of what we get, I’m excited. My childhood heroes are on magazine covers! They’re shooting in Vancouver! It’s premiering on my birthday! I get to see my favorite characters on TV again, and I’m refusing to let myself feel bad about it, even if it turns out to be an underwhelming chapter in the lives of Mulder and Scully.

And while we wait, I have this damn book to finish…


  1. I just started recently watching the series on Netflix from the very beginning. I’d seen episodes here and there when they were on TV back in the day, and I saw a movie (or two?) in the theatre. Th eone thing I like about watching it from the very beginning is the knowledge that there *is* an over-arching arc to the whole series, and I’m coming at it with an eye toward putting little tiny pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together, episode by episode. Anyway, looking at those pictures from the recent filming, my first thought was woah, they have gotten old… but then again, so have I, so have we all. 🙂 In any case, I look forward to finishing the series, hopefully before the new episodes are released! I’m on Seaosn 1, Episode 4, just a few more to go! 😀

  2. Yayyyy we will have to catch up at the GM!

    And don’t get me started. You figure they started filming in 1992 or 1993, over 20 years ago…*cries*

  3. My expectations are low, too, because if I keep them that way, I won’t be disappointed again. I was once of the haters for IWTB–I was depressed afterward for months–but I still cried when I saw them on screen–and I still went to see that turkey five times in the theater. I loved them that much back then. I miss that feeling.

    I don’t care about Scully’s hair or about whether or not M&S are together or not. I agree that happy ending fanfic is often unrealistic.

    My angst quota about TV has been depleted for years. Maybe for some, it’s easier or safer to get worked up about the fate of fictional people? Maybe they like creating online drama?

    I’m sorry to hear about your father. I hope his doctors now have a treatment plan in place and that he’ll recover. My mother and my husband are cancer survivors, 29 years for her this fall and 20 years for him.

    It’s not weird at all for bad news to get linked in your head to other events. In 1986, my parents announced they were divorcing on the eve of my birthday. It colored the event negatively in my mind for years and years.

  4. I think we’re on a similar page, Wendelah. 🙂 Sometimes a little fictional drama is a nice distraction from real life drama, which is probably why I write fanfic, haha! Mulder and Scully are so compelling to me, more so than any other TV partnership. If the revival sucks, I guess I’m going down with the ship (pardon the pun!)

    And thank you for the well wishes; my dad passed a couple weeks after his diagnosis, unfortunately. Cancer was too aggressive. It’s tough, but we’re getting by!

  5. I am so sorry to hear that your father died. Please accept my condolences. Writing can be a great distraction from pain and grief. After my father-in-law had his stroke, I remember sitting at his bedside at the nursing home, working on a story while he slept.

    I hope you can get back to your novel soon.

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