Coming To Terms

I’m a shipper. Die hard, true blue, to the core shipper. I have been since I saw my very first episode of The X-Files in 1994 (The Host). I have always found the Mulder/Scully Relationship to be the most compelling part of the show, the thing that makes everything else about the show more interesting.

Office banter, in Jersey Devil

I knew from the very start that The X-Files appealed to different people for different reasons. My husband started watching early in Season 1, and he kept trying to get me to watch with him, saying it’s this great show about aliens, and the paranormal, and government cover ups…it just didn’t sound like something I needed to watch. I was pregnant, tired, not going to stay awake on a Friday night for that. When I finally gave in and watched with him, I realized the show he had been describing was not the show I was seeing. To be fair, I do love all those elements that appealed to him, but it’s The Ship that drew me in and kept me coming back.

What does the term Shipper mean?

I first heard the term shipper when I started engaging with the fandom prior to the revival in 2016. I wasn’t part of the online fandom during the original run of the show. It just didn’t fit into my life at the time. I was lucky if I got to watch the show as it aired every week. Once I dove into social media fandom, though, I realized that a line had been drawn at some point between shippers and non-shippers. (Even as I write that I understand there are going to be people who want to tell me the correct term is noromo, not non-shipper. I promise, I’ll get there.)

The first definition of shipper I heard was something along the lines of “someone who wants Mulder and Scully to have sex, on screen, and believes they’ve been having sex since day 1.” It was said facetiously, I get that. But I’ve had that definition in the back of my mind ever since. I think it’s what makes a lot of people feel defensive about calling themselves shippers, and what makes other people look down on those of us who identify with that segment of the fandom. But it’s really not what I mean when I say I’m a shipper.

Working together even when they’re not, in The Host

I call myself a shipper because it was the relationship between Mulder and Scully that drew me into the show and made me want to keep watching. As I said, my first episode was The Host. Mulder and Scully were not even working together at the time, but they were so clearly important to each other. They trusted each other, they valued each other, and they liked each other. That’s compelling stuff. I wanted more of that. I wanted to see these two agents solve cases and search for the truth and fight for what’s right, and I wanted to see them do it together. It was a beautiful depiction of a partnership.

That partnership developed into a deep and abiding friendship. In so many of the early episodes we get to see Mulder and Scully having fun together, teasing each other, caring for each other, helping each other. War of the Coprophages to me is a perfect example of the scope of the Mulder/Scully friendship. Mulder calls Scully when he’s in the mood for a philosophical discussion, he calls her when he needs her expert advice, he calls her when he can’t sleep, and he confides in her about an early moment of self-discovery. He also hangs up on her when he thinks there’s a prospect of romance with someone else. Scully spends her night off talking to Mulder, researching the answers he needs. She drops everything when she thinks he’s in danger and drives up to lend a hand. These are things you do with your best friend.

Late night confession, in War of the Coprophages

I remember reading an article about The X-Files some time around early Season 4 with a kind of “will they or won’t they” focus, and I was genuinely surprised. At that point it had never occurred to me that there were romantic possibilities. It’s odd to think about that now, looking back, knowing how the relationship developed, but at the time I saw them as platonic partners and friends. Now, like many shippers I can go back to any episode from any season and point out “shipper moments,” and it’s fun to speculate as to how early Mulder and Scully realized they were in love. But when I’m honest with myself, I don’t think they were aware of any romantic feelings between them until Fight the Future. I think the almost kiss in the hallway came as a surprise to both of them.

The almost kiss, in Fight the Future

Incidentally, I was thrilled with the Fight the Future hallway scene. I was so glad they almost kissed, and so relieved that it was interrupted by that bee. I wanted to see them work through more before they became involved romantically. I’m a huge fan of angst and the slow burn, and we get plenty of that in The X-Files. Fight the Future got them re-evaluating their feelings for each other. After that I can’t help but focus on the romantic nature of the relationship.

How can you not ship them?

It’s easy for me to understand different perspectives among people who consider themselves shippers. There was amazing chemistry between David and Gillian from the start, with looks and touches that could readily be characterized as sexual. And there’s enough ambiguity in the stories that plenty of interpretations are feasible. What was harder for me to understand was how anyone could watch the show and not be a shipper. Did some people think there was never any romance between Mulder and Scully? How could they think that, given what we see in all things, Existence and The Truth (I won’t even get into the flirting in Season 7). It finally occurred to me that I needed to ask people what they mean when they say they’re not shippers. So I did.

The most perfect scene ever, in Requiem

Several people told me they’re just not interested in the relationship. It’s there, but that’s not why they watch the show. My husband is one of these. He loves the stories and the cases and the conspiracies; the rest is unimportant. Among that group there were some who felt that the episodes suffered in quality once the show started exploring the romantic relationship.

Others told me that they wish the relationship had never become romantic. They see Mulder and Scully as partners, friends, and soul mates, with a unique platonic relationship which makes them, and the show, more interesting. The show was different from other shows because of the way the relationship was portrayed, and it moved toward mediocrity when romance was introduced. Interestingly, some in this group expressed that Mulder and Scully should not be involved with anyone else romantically. They seem focused on the artistic impression of the show, and they like the idea that the Mulder/Scully relationship could be an ideal.

The ideal friendship, in Memento Mori

What I didn’t find was any group of people who believed the Mulder/Scully relationship never became romantic, which is what I always thought noromo or non-shipper meant. There were plenty of people who felt the show would have been better without a romantic element, but no one who denied it existed.

Aren’t we all in the same boat?

I’m so glad I engaged in these conversations! I realized that not only does ship mean different things to different shippers, but it means different things to non-shippers. Most of all I was struck, as I often am, with how this show can appeal to so many different people for so many different reasons. I’ve never come across another show like it in that respect. It presents complex ideas with complex characters who don’t fall easily into the stereotypical romantic pairing, and it leaves room for viewers to interpret what we see and gather meaning from it. So I’ve come to terms with the fact that we don’t all ship Mulder and Scully in the same way. And really, that’s one of the great strengths of the show.


X-Files Revival Premiere cake

Here it is. This is what started it all. My BFF Tami knew how excited I was about The X-Files revival, so she had this amazing cake made for me to celebrate the premiere. Sitting on top were the Mulder and Scully action figures that would become the first pieces in my collection. For a long while they were my only pieces. They were fun. I enjoyed having them in my office. But I didn’t need any more. After all, I’m not a collector.

But then…well there was an eBay auction of X-Files memorabilia for Gillian Anderson Charities. That really appealed to me. I could buy one little piece of the show I loved and benefit a worthy cause at the same time, and that would be enough. I placed the winning bid on this, an autographed call sheet and sides from the last day of shooting on The Truth. I had it framed. It was beautiful.

Suddenly I was off. I bought some Funko Pop figures, some issues of TV Guide featuring The X-Files, J.J.Lendl’s Arcadia poster. I went from having an X-Files Corner in my office, to an X-Files Wall, to needing to rearrange furniture and add shelves.

I started wondering if I was going overboard. Do reasonable people spend money on mementos from a 90s TV show? If not, do I want to be a reasonable person? I did some soul searching, asking myself why I felt the need to build this collection. I knew I wasn’t interested in profit. I had no intention of selling these items that brought me so much joy. Then I finally realized that was the key. Joy. This collection, much like my engagement with the X-Files fandom, was bringing me joy.

What’s more, I was bringing that joy into my work day. I work as an appellate attorney representing people who can’t afford counsel. I spend my days immersed in a lot of miserable situations, and it can get to me. But surrounded by my collection I can pause, look around, and see little reminders of my favorite show. And suddenly my day is a bit brighter and I can carry on.

So I embraced my addiction to collecting, and I went kind of wild. I bought some action figures here, some artwork there, scripts, books, coffee mugs (so many coffee mugs). My friends and family embraced it too, adding to my collection for every occasion, or for no occasion at all but just to make me happy. Along the way I learned a few things.

a few of the treasured gifts I’ve received from loved ones

There’s an amazing amount of talent dedicated to X-Files art

I’m constantly blown away by the gorgeous X-Files art I encounter, by incredibly talented artists using their gifts to create art out of their love for the show. It brings me joy to support this work, and by far my favorite thing to collect is X-Files art, whether posters, hand-lettering designs, comic books, stickers, or buttons. My office is filled with these treasures.

I’ve experienced so much generosity

One thing that has surprised and delighted me is the spirit of giving in the X-Files artistic community. I look at a calendar every day created by fan artists who donated their creations in support of Women for Women International. I have also been gifted with wonderful works by Catherine Nodet, Cortlan Waters Bartley, Alison King, Audrey Loub, and JJ Lendl. This generosity has inspired me to give back. I have no artistic ability. I won’t be creating works of art for anyone. But I give in ways I can, supporting favorite causes of artists associated with The X-Files.

Clockwise from center: silk screen print from Cortlan Waters Bartley, X-Files card from Catherine Nodet, Christmas Fox card from Alison King, Irresistible sketch from Audrey Loub,
and Scully portrait from Catherine Nodet
J.J. Lendl gifted me with this Paper Hearts poster to complete my mini shrine to my favorite episode

Memorabilia for a cause

A large portion of my collection was acquired through online auctions to support charities. I’m a sucker for eBay charity auctions and will always bid on something. It’s the only way I’ll purchase memorabilia.

Autographed Fight the Future poster, proceeds to the American Cancer Society in memory of Kim Manners

Some things are worth remembering

Last but by no means least, my collection contains photos. To be sure, I’m thrilled I’ve had the opportunity to meet and have photos taken with several X-Files stars, and those photos are featured in my collection. But just as treasured are photos with friends I’ve made through the X-Files fandom and was lucky enough to meet IRL.

So I don’t know if I have anything profound to say to wrap this up. People have asked about what I collect and why, and I’ve tried to answer that here. I guess my takeaway from thinking about this topic is that I feel happy every time I enter my office, and that’s not a bad thing.