Why You Should Watch The X-Files

Courtesy Google Images

Courtesy Google Images

Marielle Gleason '16, Staff Writer

The X-Files is getting a revival this coming January, which is the best excuse a person will ever get to try to convince other people to watch a series that premiered over twenty years ago. You may have encountered The X-Files while scrolling through Netflix, perhaps recommended to you “based on your interest in Supernatural”, or maybe your parents watched it occasionally whenever it was on TV (before the days of DVR). The series has garnered heaps of praise and awards, all of which can be discovered through a quick visit to IMDb, but I’d like to try to articulate why this series deserves at least a few episodes of your time.

On its surface, The X-Files is a show about aliens, monsters, and conspiracies. While this concept might seem cheesy or overdone, The X-Files did it first. Granted, a number of more recent TV series provide scarier spooks and better special effects, and I would not recommend the series if you’re simply looking for chilling horror, but The X-Files delivers so much more than ‘90s film technology and latex prosthetics. At its core, The X-Files is about belief and people.

Dana Scully, a medical doctor with a B.S. in physics, is coldly scientific and skeptical. Hired as an FBI agent, she is assigned to debunk the work of Agent Fox Mulder, an expert on supernatural phenomena who works in an obscure portion of the FBI that deals with unexplained events. These events are recorded in a single cabinet of files called—you guessed it—the X-Files. Mulder, a foil to Scully, is impulsive, intuitive, and eager to believe in anything extraordinary. Unsurprisingly, frequent banter ensues as the two travel across the country investigating spooky cases together.

Sound a lot like Scooby-Doo? In Scooby-Doo, the monsters are always easily explained away. The themes of The X-Files, just like its monsters, are much darker and more complex. An iconic poster that hangs in Mulder’s office reads “I Want to Believe”. The X-Files explores the idea that humans, while capable of rationality, have a deep inner desire to believe in something beyond what we can see. The series also touches upon the complexity, variety, and causes of belief. Despite Mulder’s acute desire to validate the existence of supernatural phenomena, which can be traced back to a traumatic childhood event, he eschews traditional religious belief. Scully, however, retains the Catholic faith she grew up with, as evidenced by the ever-present crucifix around her neck, despite its opposition to her trademark skepticism about anything that cannot be scientifically observed.

While the psychological and philosophical aspects of The X-Files are neat, perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the series is the interaction between Mulder and Scully. Despite Mulder’s unconventional theories and Scully’s unforgiving skepticism, she chooses to take him seriously when others simply dismiss him as delusional, thereby endangering her professional image. Mulder, though occasionally arrogant and relentlessly teasing, clearly enjoys and benefits from her challenges. While the agents obviously grow to care for each other, frequently risking their lives for each other, neither explicitly expresses his or her feelings. As a viewer, you’ll find yourself vehemently rooting for the pair to become a couple and cherishing moments that hint at romance. Regardless of the viewer’s wishes, they silently understand that a conventional romantic relationship would risk injuring the deeper devotion and love they share, along with their impeccable working dynamic.

Lastly, Scully is a remarkably real female character. While the series technically has two protagonists, I’ve always perceived Scully as the character from whose perspective we experience the story. I hesitantly include “female”, as her realness would stand regardless of gender, but she is often cited as a pioneer for women in the television world, where real female characters are harder to come by than their male counterparts. Though she’s capable, intelligent, and courageous, she still embodies very human flaws and vulnerability. Her primary inner struggle is that which I love the series for including. Her career, which involves objectively examining often gruesome or disturbing cases, requires her to be emotionally detached. Though she genuinely loves her job, she often finds herself wishing for a more “normal” life, fretting over her decision to join the FBI rather than becoming a practicing doctor and being able to become a mother. While plenty of high-achieving women enjoy their work, many of them still have a desire to settle down and have a family—the classic dilemma of “having it all”. Whereas a lesser series might have painted Scully as a wholly stoic, emotionless figure, given her projected personality, The X-Files does not shy away from exploring the conflicting emotions of a young working woman.

Next time you find yourself at a loss for what to binge watch, check out The X-Files: It’s smart, entertaining, and it might just make you consider going to medical school and joining the FBI in the hope of finding your soulmate.