Filing under X

My husband and I have been diligently – DILIGENTLY – making our way through all nine seasons of X-Files in preparation for the new episodes. I saw the trailer, I watched the brief interviews with the cast. My body is ready.

The show started its run about the same time John and I were getting to know each other. It was in full swing when we were full-on dating, engaged and then married. It was our Friday night – because originally the show aired Friday nights – thing.

My parents’ generation had The Honeymooners. I remember my dad telling me very reverently that no one went out until The Honeymooners was over, like it was some kind of law. It also must have aired on a Friday (or maybe Saturday) night, and even if you had plans to head to a party, see a band, or hit up a nightclub, you didn’t got anywhere until the show ended. I found that bizarrely endearing. Remembering of course that there were no options for recording shows, or even seeing repeats at that time. If you missed it, it was gone for good. And then you’re stuck at the party like a chump, while everyone around you recapped it together. That generation’s equivalent of not knowing what “I was in the pool!” or “How YOU doin’?” meant. Crushing to be left out.

Friday night pizza and X-Files became a thing, and if we were heading out (we were young, after all) we made sure to watch the show first. Oh we had a VCR, of course, but there was something about seeing it “live”, while it aired for the very first time, that was exciting. Even if the episode was a dud. Which, let’s be honest, some of them truly were.

Fast forward a couple of years to the arrival of baby #1, then baby #2 a bit later, and I was pretty much over trying to keep up with any and all TV, including X-Files. John watched it occasionally (which is why the episodes from ’98 onwards are often familiar to him as we are rewatching) whereas I probably went to bed after a day of toddler- and baby-wrangling. But every so often I would catch an episode as well, and even though I had no idea what was going on (probably) it was comfortable and familiar to be back in that basement office with Mulder and Scully.

WARNING THERE’S GONNA BE SOME SPOILERS FROM NOW ON OK? WARNED.

We are currently about half way through Season 8, or as I like to call it “Scully Cries”. She really does cry. A lot. In nearly every episode. And sure, fine, Mulder is missing and then dead and then not dead anymore. And she’s pregnant with what may or may not be an alien baby, so there’s hormones (and maybe alien ones at that!) to consider. But still. The crying is a lot. But I’ll probably soldier on through Season 8 and we’ll roll right into Season 9, and then we’ll watch the new episodes, and then I’ll look back fondly on this little experiment.

It’s interesting watching the series again, all these years later. The character of Dana Scully is still, to my mind, one of the best characters EVER created for a woman in all of TV history. She is smart and complex, and has to put up with a whole lot of shit from Mulder and the entire FBI old boys club. She doesn’t back down, and she’s emotionally locked up because she has to be, in order to prove herself, to be taken seriously. At least until these late seasons, anyway. See above for the crying.

Part way through writing this post, I happened to see this great article via Bitch Media. This line in particular is so, so important: “But watching the show as an adult who’s had two decades or so to reflect on everyday sexism, it’s suddenly obvious just how much bullshit Scully has to put up with.”

I was an adult watching for the first time, and am an older adult watching now, but now I finally get it, and the author is so right – it’s the constant challenge to everything Scully says that is so intensely clear years later – it’s indicative of the everyday sexism that is so incredibly rampant in our society.

I didn’t have a crush on Mulder twenty years ago, and I still don’t. He always reminded me of guys I knew that liked to explain things to me, guys who would challenge my knowledge of subjects like music or football, and always find me lacking. Guys I couldn’t ever just talk to about regular things, they had to be the experts and make sure my poor lady brain understood how much they knew about everything. Guys like that bothered me then and they bother me now, but now I know there is a word for that kind of behaviour, and that word is mansplaining. The author of that Bitch article is right. Mulder is a mansplainer. It actually feels good to say that out loud, to recognize that about his character. Oh sure he adores Scully, and he’s very smart and charming af. But he still exists in that world where men get to know it all by default and women need to prove 1000 times over that oh hey, by the way, they know stuff too.

Does this make me any less excited to see the new series? Not at all. I am still excited to see where they take it, how they pick up where the original series left off, and how the characters have changed, if they’ve changed at all.

The great thing about looking back on something like this, whether it’s popular culture or anything at all, really, is that time can give you a clearer lens with which to view it. It’s ok to be critical of something and still enjoy it, and in a lot of ways this clearer vision of a show John and I both love sparked some pretty great conversations. We both remarked on how different it is watching back to back to back episodes over the course of a few weeks as opposed to one episode a week for nearly a full year. That rapid fire kind of viewing alone can change your perspective. Where previously we might have forgotten last week’s episode prior to tuning in for the current one, watching them in succession three or more in a row, you don’t have the luxury of forgetting, so some of the mansplaining and everyday sexism becomes even more cringeworthy and eye-rolly simply because it’s all bunched together, without a week in between to forget.

So give me the strength to finish Season 8, friends. Season 9 is nearly upon us, and then, help me jebus, I might be ready to revisit Twin Peaks.

 

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