World’s Best FBI Dad

Part 3 of the Father Figure series

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When I decided to write a series on Mulder’s father figures I knew immediately that I would include Walter Skinner. He is the World’s Best FBI Dad after all (credit goes to Karen@rainknight on Twitter for the moniker). I wrote the first two installments, on Deep Throat and Bill Mulder/CSM, knowing I would conclude the series with a piece about Skinner. But when it came time to write that piece, I was stumped. The idea which seemed such a natural follow up just wasn’t coming together. So I had to re-examine my previous assumption. Did Skinner and Mulder really have a father/son type of relationship?

The fact is, Walter Skinner is an enigma. Not just to us, but to Mulder and Scully as well. We know almost nothing about him. In one episode (Avatar) we find out he has a wife, his marriage is on the brink of ending, they appear to have some sort of reconciliation, he puts his wedding ring back on, and then … nothing. We never see or hear about Sharon Skinner again. And while we learn a little of Skinner’s backstory in One Breath, and it’s expanded upon in Kitten, that’s really all we know. As Scully comments in that latter episode, “even after all these years, we know precious little about Walter Sergei Skinner beyond the professional.”

The last time we see Sharon Skinner, in Avatar

I like to think that Skinner would have been Uncle Walter to William, and in fact we see a deeper connection between Scully and Skinner in Mulder’s absence, but I can’t imagine William growing up thinking of Skinner as Grandpa. Skinner is more that nice man who cares for you and your parents, who shows up on holidays or the to occasional dinner. He’s not the ever present family member, giving 5 dollar bills and unsolicited advice and telling tales from the past, that your father’s father would be.

Skinner’s interactions with Mulder are almost exclusively work related. The closest we get to a personal father/son type interaction is Triangle. Skinner is no longer Mulder’s supervisor at that point, and he’s risking his career to help Mulder (who is definitely not carrying out a work assignment) or even be seen with him. But he does help Mulder, and then he shows up in Mulder’s hospital room with flowers and an offer to kick Mulder’s butt but good. There’s clearly some affection and authority which goes beyond the work realm. Similarly in I Want to Believe, Scully calls on Skinner in his capacity as a bigwig at the FBI, but it’s the personal affection for Mulder that we see as Skinner cradles Mulder to keep him warm.

Mulder demonstrates similar affection in Requiem, when he’s sure the X-Files are being shut down and he invites “Walter” to “sit a spell,” and again in The Truth when he wants to greet that “big bald beautiful man” with a kiss. These are rare moments of friendly intimacy in an otherwise professional relationship.

That’s not to denigrate Skinner’s importance to Mulder. The little we know about Skinner’s background includes the fact that he joined the military as soon as he was old enough. During his time in the service his innate honor and integrity would have been honed to the point that he understood the value of protecting those you serve with. He carried those values with him to the FBI, where his fierce loyalty led him to put himself on the line for Mulder more than once. In Memento Mori he makes a deal with the devil himself (well, CSM) to save Scully’s life so that Mulder won’t have to.

Skinner makes a deal with CSM to save Scully, and Mulder, in Memento Mori

While Skinner and Mulder don’t have much of a personal relationship, Skinner still fills the role of father figure in some respects. Quite often Skinner’s interactions with Mulder in the course of their work take on a fatherly tone. He’s certainly an authority figure. He provides wisdom, guidance, and protection. The scene in Anasazi when Mulder takes a swing at Skinner strikes me as a great example of their on-the-job father/son dynamic. Skinner lets Mulder act out for a while but then reels him in when necessary. When Mulder lashes out, Skinner puts a stop to it but doesn’t hurt him in the process.

Skinner putting Mulder in his place in Anasazi

On the job, Skinner tends to treat Mulder as a father would a son, and Mulder responds to him the way a son would a father. Skinner is on Mulder’s side, and Mulder (almost always) recognizes that, even when he defies protocol or direct orders to get what he wants. In Redux II, although Scully’s almost sure Skinner is working against them and has been from the start, Mulder doesn’t believe that. He trusts Skinner to take care of him, even though he knows Skinner has evidence which could convict him. And, as we see, Mulder’s trust is well-placed. Blevins is the Syndicate’s inside man; Skinner is just trying to help Mulder find the truth.

Mulder’s faith in Skinner proves to be justified in Redux II

This father/son dynamic doesn’t seem to exist outside of work, however. Whereas we saw Mulder seeking a personal connection with Deep Throat, wishing they could take in a ball game together, I think Mulder is always aware that Skinner is his boss, and that keeps their relationship from getting overly personal, despite the affection they feel for each other.

I can’t say Skinner is a true father figure to Mulder. But in the realm of their interactions, he’s certainly the World’s Best FBI Dad. So in his honor, I’ve made him a Father’s Day card, in traditional grade school acrostic format:

World’s Best FBI Dad

Assistant Director for life




Role Model

Skinner, still dealing with Mulder’s antics, in Babylon

Skinman…but don’t call him that

Kickass defender






Who’s Your Daddy?

Part 2 of the Father Figure series

In this installment I take a look at the two men who claim to be Mulder’s biological father: Bill Mulder and the CSM. What, if anything, did they give him besides DNA? How did their presence in Mulder’s life impact the man he became?

Bill Mulder

Colony opens with a voice-over from Mulder in which he talks about the risks he takes in pursuing the truth about his sister. Once he and Scully start investigating the deaths of identical doctors, they have an argument about the costs of pursing the case, the risks they are taking. Scully asks Mulder whatever happened to Trust No One (the advice Deep Throat gave them as he died)? Mulder quips, “I changed it to Trust Everyone, I didn’t tell you?” This is a cute line, but it’s really very true. Like a neglected child so starved for affection that he lacks appropriate boundaries, Mulder will follow just about anyone. But why? Why is Mulder willing to take these risks, to pay this price?

Enter Bill Mulder. Cold, distant, judgmental Bill Mulder, who deflects Mulder’s attempt to hug him, who withholds any sense of approval by making sure Mulder knows it was his mother who wanted him there. We start to understand Mulder’s motivation for risking everything to find the truth. He’s trying to prove to his father, and to himself, that he’s worthy of love. He wants to make up for something that wasn’t his fault. And Bill Mulder lets him struggle and condemn himself.

After Mulder trades the Samantha clone for Scully in End Game, Mulder has to tell his father what happened. It’s clear what he fears most is rejection, and that’s exactly what he receives. Mulder can’t even face Bill when he says he lost Samantha. Bill responds not with compassion but with a show of authority, demanding that Mulder consider what this will do to his mother. He leaves in disgust, as Mulder falls apart. Even if we don’t yet know the level of Bill’s involvement with Samantha’s abduction, his action here is unpardonable. We see that he long ago rejected Mulder, shifting the blame for the family’s destruction to him. Contrast this with the very next scene, in which Scully tells Mulder he can’t blame himself, and we see just how lacking the relationship between Mulder and his father is. This sort of comfort should have come naturally from father to son. We see that Mulder can go to Skinner, Scully, and X for help, but not to his father. Instead, he again risks his life to try to earn back his father’s love.

As the series continues and we get more glimpses into Mulder’s family of origin, we get the impression that Bill was a good provider in a financial sense. The family had a nice home, they had a summer house. There were some changes after Bill and Teena divorced, but Mulder was probably never left wanting, materially.

We also learn that Bill gave Mulder a sense of security. In Aubrey Mulder tells Scully that he used to have nightmares that he was the only person left in the world, but when he was lying in his bed terrified he would hear his father in his study cracking sunflower seeds. That provided the sense of reassurance Mulder needed, that he wasn’t alone. We also know Mulder has fond memories of sharing activities with Bill. He talks about being in Indian Guides with him in Detour. So, at least until Samantha’s abduction, there was nurture and warmth.

But there were also secrets. There was abuse. In Mulder’s flashback in Demons he sees his parents fighting. They’re both yelling, and Bill gets physical with Teena. Even at that young age Mulder takes it upon himself to protect Samantha.

In Travelers we learn that Mulder and Bill are estranged. There had to be a point where young Mulder rebelled against the strict authoritarian his father had become, the man who made him feel he was to blame for the family’s losses. Because their relationship was dysfunctional, the reconciliation that often comes as a child matures to adulthood was missing, and it was easier to avoid each other.

At the end of his life, Bill Mulder has regrets. Not just about his part in the Conspiracy, but about how he let it impact his relationship with his son. His desire to protect Mulder resurfaces after a confrontation with CSM in Anasazi, and he seeks assurance that CSM won’t harm Mulder. Despite CSM’s threats, Bill calls Mulder, seeking reconciliation, forgiveness, absolution. It’s telling that Mulder drops everything and comes when his father calls, and doing so saves his life, as he’s not in his apartment when a shot is fired through the window. Mulder’s quest to prove himself worthy had him on a path toward destruction, and some fatherly guidance, love, concern provided the necessary course correction.

When Mulder arrives Bill hugs him, the reverse of the situation we saw in Colony. Bill tries to make amends for the past. He starts by offering excuses (it was so complicated then, the choices that had to be made), but then he praises Mulder, assures him he’s smarter than Bill was, he’s his own person. Before he’s able to give Mulder any concrete information, though, he’s shot. With his final breath, he asks Mulder to forgive him. I think Mulder does so immediately. He still needs to find the truth, but he has no desire to hold the past against his father.

We see Bill Mulder once more in The Blessing Way. Bill tells Mulder in his vision/visitation that he is ashamed of the choices he made when Mulder was a boy. He thought he could bury the truth, but now he needs Mulder to uncover it. Bill is shifting the burden to Mulder to set right his wrongs, just as Deep Throat did in EBE. This is the family legacy, Mulder’s destiny regardless of who is playing the role of father, and he gets assurance that he will find the truth if he goes forward.

It seems clear that Bill Mulder saw himself as Mulder’s father. He doesn’t appear to be aware of the possibility that CSM is Mulder’s biological father (he calls Mulder the life to which I gave life in Blessing Way). But regardless of biology, he raised Mulder and provided for him, he loved and nurtured and comforted him, at least for a time. He abdicated his responsibilities when his decisions tore the family apart, doing damage to their relationship and Mulder’s psyche. There was damage, but not destruction. In the end, Bill Mulder sought and received forgiveness. Moving forward, Mulder focused on the good memories whenever possible, while trying to uncover and understand the truth.


I can’t really write about Mulder’s father figures without discussing CSM. I’m going to keep it brief though, because of all the various roles CSM plays (arch-nemesis, super villain, evil incarnate) the role of “father” is the least convincing. He demonstrates some characteristics of a father, but only on the surface. He’s presented more as a contrast to the other father figures in Mulder’s life.

From the start we see CSM as a vaguely menacing figure. We don’t know much about him, but we can see he’s in a position of authority. Mulder’s not working directly for him, but CSM seems to be calling the shots. In Erlenmeyer Flask, CSM ends up with the alien fetus Scully retrieved to exchange for Mulder, and we understand that he orchestrated Mulder’s kidnapping in the first place. While both Deep Throat and CSM are using Mulder for their own agendas, CSM is ruthless, rather than benevolent.

Skinner provides another contrast. He’s Mulder’s direct supervisor, and he doesn’t hesitate to reign Mulder in and redirect him when necessary. But when he does so it’s understood that he’s acting for Mulder’s own good, or at the very least for the good of the FBI. Time and again Skinner puts his neck on the line to protect Mulder and his search for the truth. CSM seeks to control Mulder as well, to guide him and his work. In Little Green Men we find out he’s been bugging Mulder’s phone, and in Sleepless we learn he’s using Krycek to control Mulder. CSM ostensibly protects Mulder, making the argument that to kill Mulder would risk turning his religion into a crusade. But it’s not fatherly devotion that motivates him. Unlike Skinner, CSM is only trying to further his own ends. He’s using Mulder, plain and simple.

Like Bill Mulder, CSM claims to be Mulder’s biological father, but we know that whatever sense of familial affection he claims to have for Mulder, it isn’t reciprocated. Regardless of any biological connection, Mulder will never see CSM as a father. As starved as Mulder is for paternal affection, he is able to see through CSM’s manipulations. CSM has shown repeatedly (in Duane Barry, Anasazi, Wetwired, One Son, Amor Fati, En Ami, and The Truth for example) that he will deceive and betray Mulder, culminating in their final scene together in My Struggle IV. In the ultimate act of betrayal, CSM shoots the man he claims is his son. Where in the end Bill Mulder was willing to lay down his life to lead Mulder to the truth, CSM shows his true colors by attempting to end Mulder’s life to keep the truth hidden. While Mulder forgives the father who raised him, he kills the father who betrayed him.

Father Figure

I’ve already written about Mulder’s mother, so I thought I’d tackle the topic of his father. Turns out that’s a much more complicated issue. One of the major themes in The X-Files is Mulder’s relationship to his various father figures. This will be the first in a three-part series looking at how Mulder was shaped by the presence, or absence, of a paternal role-model.

When getting started on this topic I tried to identify the attributes of a father so I could discuss who most filled this role for Mulder. The qualities that came to mind were biology, nurture, authority, wisdom, guidance, love, affection, protection, and provision. I’m not sure Mulder received all of these from any one figure in his life. The question for me was whether he received enough of them, at the right time, and who he turned to when he needed these qualities.

Deep Throat

The first father figure we’re introduced to is Deep Throat, in the episode named for this character. When Deep Throat first approaches Mulder he warns Mulder sternly to leave the case alone. He tries to give Mulder advice, but he doesn’t give Mulder any answers. Naturally, Mulder ignores him and investigates the case anyway. The dynamic we’re seeing here is that of a father and adolescent son. The father isn’t used to having to explain himself; he expects to be obeyed without question “because I said so.” The son is no longer satisfied with blindly following orders, however, and he starts to question the wisdom of his father, deciding to strike out on his own whether he’s fully prepared or not. In the end, Mulder has learned some things through his experience, but he needs the reassurance of this father figure that he’s on the right path. Deep Throat guides Mulder to the truth, asking him “Why are those who believe in extraterrestrial life not dissuaded by all the evidence to the contrary?” When Mulder answers correctly that “All the evidence to the contrary is not entirely dissuasive,” Deep Throat smiles like a proud father. He then rewards Mulder with the information that “They’ve been here for a long, long time.”

Deep Throat makes several appearances in Season 1, reinforcing his role as Mulder’s surrogate father. In Ghost in the Machine we see Mulder reach out to Deep Throat when he doesn’t have the clearance he needs to investigate the case. Deep Throat scolds Mulder for contacting him instead of waiting to be contacted, but the point is that when Mulder asked for help, he responded. His tone with Mulder is very parental, not giving answers but guiding Mulder with a series of questions that help him find the answers himself. At the end of the episode they are sitting together on a park bench, with Mulder seeking approval and Deep Throat providing reassurance.

Deep Throat offers Mulder protection in Fallen Angel, preventing the X-Files from being shut down. And he shows affection for Mulder in Eve, talking about taking in a ball game together, passing on information from his past as though sharing family history. In Young at Heart Deep Throat teaches Mulder about the facts of life, filling him in on the government’s involvement in genetic experiments.

In EBE we see that Mulder puts Deep Throat on a pedestal, commenting that Deep Throat could get them great seats if they were ever able to see a ball game together, telling Scully he trusts Deep Throat implicitly. But then Deep Throat misleads Mulder. Like a son learning for the first time his parent is fallible, Mulder is crushed and he confronts Deep Throat in anger. Deep Throat’s reaction mirrors Mulder’s. He appears angry and then hurt that Mulder is questioning him. When he tries to explain his hope that Mulder could set right the wrongs that have been committed, Mulder lashes out, asking “Who are you to decide that for me?” Mulder, the child, is becoming an adult, realizing he has to think for himself. Mulder now knows that Deep Throat is willing to lie to him and use him to accomplish his goals. Although Deep Throat claims to be admitting to dark secrets in hopes that Mulder can help him atone for his past, Mulder remains disillusioned.

In Erlenmeyer Flask we see Mulder as the adult son. He still trusts and respects Deep Throat, but he now sees him as a person, with flaws and limitations, rather than an omniscient god-like figure. Mulder challenges Deep Throat with a newfound confidence, acknowledging that he’s been the dutiful son, but showing they’re on equal footing now. In the end, Deep Throat works with Scully to save Mulder, but he takes the back seat in the endeavor, in recognition of the more significant role this adult relationship with a partner has in Mulder’s life. He passes on one more bit of fatherly advice, to Scully, telling her to “Trust no one.”

Mulder sees Deep Throat two more times, in visions. In The Blessing Way, Deep Throat is the first person Mulder encounters. He calls Mulder “friend” and urges him to live, to keep fighting monsters. This is someone Mulder clearly respects and trusts, someone whose guidance he needs and misses. Again, in Amor Fati, Deep Throat is the first person Mulder encounters in his dream, and Mulder is clearly happy to be reunited with him. They show affection as they talk of lessons learned from the past and hopes for the future. Regardless of the purpose of Mulder’s dream, it seems clear that in his mind Deep Throat is a beloved, trusted, and missed father figure.

It’s interesting that when we first meet Deep Throat, we know nothing about Mulder’s biological father. But the relationship Mulder develops with his mentor/informant suggests he was in need of a father figure. The only thing we know about Mulder’s childhood is that his sister was abducted when he was 12 years old. This family trauma must have disrupted Mulder’s bond with his father, and his relationship with Deep Throat seems to pick up at this point in his development, as he’s entering adolescence. Mulder’s connection with Deep Throat as a surrogate father helps him move forward into adulthood.

Deep Throat’s story arc is a beautiful illustration of Mulder’s progression from adolescence to adulthood. It starts with Mulder’s child-like dependency on Deep Throat for guidance, protection, and direction. As Mulder grows in confidence and understanding, his interactions with Deep Throat are strained, but there’s still an acknowledgement of the wisdom to be gained from history. Mulder the adult no longer needs constant supervision, but he can reflect back on what he’s learned from Deep Throat, bringing that wisdom with him as he moves from self-sufficiency to a committed partnership with Scully.

Flashback Friday

I’ve been working on my next post for a while, but it’s taking longer than I expected so it’s not ready to share yet. Also, I’ve been so distracted by planning for X-Fest that not much else is getting done! Since I don’t have anything new I thought I’d share a reflection I wrote a couple of years ago about the first time I met David Duchovny. It’s not about The X-Files, but I figure anything about David Duchovny is X-Files adjacent. This reflection was included in Bulletproof Iconic, a collection of blogs, letters, and pictures by fans thanking David for his music, fan contact, and inspiration in his 2017 US tour.

David Duchovny holding the Bulletproof Iconic collection, delivered in person by MelT

Since writing this reflection I’ve been lucky enough to attend another concert (Vancouver in October 2017) and see both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson at a convention (Spooky Empire in October 2018). But my first time was such a wonderfully memorable experience, and revisiting it still makes me unbelievably happy.

Reflections on My Day with David Duchovny

First a note about the title.  I attended David Duchovny’s book discussion at Town Hall Seattle and his concert at The Crocodile on February 19, 2017.  And while it’s true that I actually spent more time waiting in line to see the man than in his actual presence, there wasn’t a moment of my day that wasn’t spent thinking about him, talking about him, listening to him, and best yet conversing with him (that may be overstating the nature of our interactions, but I’m going with it).  So as silly as it seems, I will always remember the day as the one I spent with David Duchovny.

Also, I’m only going to include my thoughts on two memories from the day.  There are many more, which my friends and family are by now tired of hearing about, but these two mean the most to me. 

Front row, ready to see David Duchovny in person for the first time ever!

My friend and I were early enough to the book discussion that we were able to get seats in the front row.  So when the discussion was opened to audience questions, I hopped right up and was first in line at the microphone on our side of the room.  I got to ask a question, and David answered it, and it was an incredible experience to have him talking right to me, looking right at me, responding to something I had asked. 

I asked David whether Miss Subways started as a screen play like his first two novels did. He said yes, although he thought it always should have been a novel.

But it gets better!  After the Q&A David was signing autographs.  There were 600 people in attendance, and we were told that David would sign books and CDs, but it would be just signatures, nothing personalized.  As we were waiting in line I could see that David was doing his best to look up and smile at each person before signing his autograph…and that smile…it was breathtaking….  Anyway, as I got to the front of the line someone took my book, opened it to the right page, and handed it to David to sign.  He looked up at me, gave me that smile, and then with a look of recognition said, “Oh, good question.”  I can’t even describe how thrilling that was!  Is that silly?  I don’t care.  David Duchovny smiled at me, recognized me, and complimented me!!! 

But what really struck me about the whole thing was that this could have felt like an impersonal assembly line, but David was being so gracious and doing his best to make it meaningful for the people standing in line, that I (and many others too I’m sure) left feeling like I’d had a personal interaction with this talented, beautiful man. 

There was a lot more waiting in line before the concert, but again we were front row for the big event.  I don’t have a lot of experience attending live music performances other than the symphony, and this was my first time at a club show.  It was … different… and I can’t honestly say I’d go to another…unless it was David Duchovny.  I love his music, and his high-energy performance didn’t disappoint. 

Photo by: Janeen Jenson
Fangirling in the front row

But again, what I was most struck by was his generosity.  It seemed that David was doing his best to make a personal connection with everyone in the crowd.  I had a moment which I feel was just for me, as I’m sure almost everyone in attendance did (even if it was the same moment). 

Photo by: me
I was that close!

For the second encore of the night, David and his band performed The Weight.  The song was an opportunity for David to show his appreciation to his amazingly talented band, and he did so in such a beautiful way that I’m getting teary again as I think and write about it.  Each band member sang a verse of the song, and as they did, David danced over to them and stood behind them as they sang, so the audience would focus on them.  David swayed behind them, rested his head on their shoulders, played with their hats, and it was so incredibly sweet.  Keaton Simons, who had opened for David, came on stage and joined David for the choruses.  They were really enjoying themselves, and again, it was incredibly sweet.  David’s moves across the stage were positively goofy and adorable, and he wasn’t trying to be the cool rock star, just the lovely man showing appreciation to his band and the audience.  Reliving this special moment makes me unbelievably happy. 


I went to Crypticon in Seattle on Friday night, and my experience was both very surreal and very real.

As soon as I learned that some major X-Files players would be at a con so close to my home I made plans to go. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see Mitch Pileggi, Nicholas Lea, and William B. Davis when they were practically coming to me! (Annabeth Gish was also scheduled to be there but, sadly, had to cancel at the last minute). But then I learned that my son had two short films selected to screen at the Crypticon film festival. There was no way I was going to miss this con!

I got there when the doors opened at 4:00 because I wanted enough time to see the X-Files stars before the film screening at 7:00. Turns out there was plenty of time. This was a much smaller con than the other two I’d been to, with no lines to wait in, and it didn’t really get busy until later. So I got my pictures with Mitch and Nick and WBD.

I also took a few pictures of them talking to other fans.

I was with my friend Dita, the wonderful lady who heads up the Mitch’s Pledgies fan group and coordinates their fund-raising efforts for No Kid Hungry. Dita was catching up with Mitch and taking pics for fans who came to the table. And we just sort of hung out and chatted with Mitch and Nick. Well I actually didn’t do a lot of chatting because I’m awkward AF, but I did manage to ask Mitch and Nick some questions, and I told them both about my son’s films, so I was extremely happy with the experience.

Then Dita told Mitch we were heading to dinner, and he said he’d probably join us in a bit. I thought that was really sweet but it would never happen. But then…it did! Mitch Pileggi and his assistant joined us for dinner!!! We sat and chatted and had dinner together for about a half hour before I had to leave for the film screening.

The conversation was just very real. We talked about families and home renovations and politics and travel. But it was also surreal. I was sitting across the table having dinner with the man whose face was on my shirt! Mitch is a lovely, sweet, funny and kind man, and the dinner was an amazing experience I’ll never forget.

I didn’t realize it, but my son had been in the bar and had seen this play out. As I walked out of the restaurant to head upstairs to the film screening room, my son caught up with me and asked “Did you just skip out on dinner with Mitch Pileggi to watch my film?!!!” I got a big hug and major mom points for that!

I know this is an X-Files blog, but I’m still a proud mom, so I’m including a link to one of my son’s films, Night of the Living Trees. It has a sort of Schizogeny vibe to it, so that’s a bit of an X-Files connection.

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.

In Defense of Teena Mulder

Opening Statement

In my corner of the fandom, Teena Mulder is almost universally reviled. She’s seen as at best distant and uncaring, and at worst callous, manipulative, and downright evil. And I tended to agree with that characterization. But then one day as I was watching The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati, I noticed something I hadn’t before. When Teena is in Mulder’s hospital room and we hear what’s going through her mind, her thought is “I love you my darling boy.” That shook me. She wasn’t manipulating anyone or anything. We just caught a glimpse of her true feelings for her son. I decided I needed to look closer at the relationship between Mulder and his mother, to see if I had gotten it wrong.

I rewatched every episode with Teena Mulder and paid close attention to her interactions with Mulder. I also looked at how Mulder remembered her in flashbacks. What I saw surprised me. I found Teena to be a much more sympathetic character than I originally thought. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not Mother of the Year material. But I found her relationship with Mulder to be rather close, if dysfunctional, until events within the series led to an estrangement. So maybe Teena Mulder isn’t the monster many of us think her to be.

The Evidence

Mulder genuinely cares for Teena

We first meet Teena Mulder in Colony. When Mulder arrives at his father’s house, Bill tells him, “She wanted you to come.” This tells me that Teena either didn’t want to exclude Mulder from this family situation or that she needed him there for support. The next scene shows us it’s the latter. Mulder tucks his mother into bed, and she looks to him for reassurance. Their roles in the parent/child relationship seem reversed. He’s the caregiver; she seeks comfort from him. This could be the natural progression of an aging parent and adult child, but I don’t think so. I think Mulder took on that role a long time ago, when Samantha disappeared. Mulder doesn’t seem to resent this part. He seems to genuinely care for his mother. In any event, Colony shows us a close and fairly comfortable relationship.

Mulder tucks Teena into bed in Colony

Teena Mulder’s next appearance is in The Blessing Way. And this is significant to me: the first person Mulder goes to see after he’s healed is Teena. Teena is thrilled and relieved, she hugs Mulder with tears in her eyes. It could be argued that she knew from Scully that Mulder was alive and she is just putting on a show here, but I don’t buy that. I think her reaction is genuine.

Teena can’t bring herself to face the past

Of course we learn that Mulder is there not just to reassure his mother, even if that was his first instinct. He also needs her to remember the past. Teena tells Mulder she doesn’t know, then says she doesn’t remember, then finally asks him not to do this to her. So it’s clear she has information she’s not willing to give Mulder. I can understand why some people fault Teena for this. Mulder just wants the truth and she won’t help him. But when we learn in later episodes what she’s been through, how she’s been used and traumatized, her plea of “don’t do this to me” takes on a new meaning. It’s not just an attempt to avoid the past. It’s a cry of desperation.

Teena relies on Mulder for emotional support

Mulder reassures Teena in Paper Clip

Mulder again goes to Teena for information in Paper Clip. Teena eventually reveals that Bill chose for Samantha to be abducted because she couldn’t make a choice, and she hated him for it. I don’t think Teena is saying she hated Bill for choosing Samantha instead of Mulder, because she just said she couldn’t choose between her children. She’s saying she hated Bill for taking part in this scheme at all. Once again, we see Mulder caring for his mother, as he comforts her while she cries. Teena relies on Mulder for emotional support, though she doesn’t seem capable of offering him the same, and Mulder quite willingly gives it.

Mulder has been the parental figure for a long time

We start to learn more about Teena’s past in Talitha Cumi. She meets with CSM, and he talks about her children and compares himself to Bill Mulder. His words seem like a veiled threat to me. Teena, true to form, says she’s repressed it all. I think Teena actively tries to forget the past, but she really can’t. Instead she lives like a person in shock. This is why Mulder had to take on the role of caregiver at a young age and why she let that happen. After her confrontation with CSM, Teena has a stroke. When Mulder hears the news he rushes to see her and immediately starts caring for her in the hospital. This behavior isn’t odd under the circumstances, but we already know it’s their normal dynamic.

Mulder Cares for Teena in Talitha Cumi

Teena is a victim, not a conspirator

When X shows Mulder pictures of Teena with CSM, Mulder refuses to believe there’s an illicit connection, responding, “I know my mother.” Mulder is a man who sees conspiracies everywhere, but he doesn’t believe his mother could be involved in one. He sees her as a victim, not as a co-conspirator. I think this has to do with the things he witnessed as a child. It’s one of the reasons he has become the parent figure/caregiver.

Mulder blames himself for Teena’s pain

The other reason Mulder has taken on the caregiver role is he believes he’s responsible for everything his mother has gone through. In Herrenvolk, Mulder tells the Bounty Hunter he’s willing to die to save his mother’s life. He’s trying to atone for his guilt over not being able to protect his sister. He even tries to bring the drone Samantha to his mother to replace the child she lost. When he fails, he’s despondent.

Mulder is despondent at Teena’s bedside in Herrenvolk

Their relationship can’t weather Teena’s denial or Mulder’s misplaced guilt

Mulder goes to his mother’s house in Paper Hearts looking for answers. Teena is surprised but happy to see him. She calls him “Honey,” and he’s affectionate as well, hugging Teena, rubbing her back, assuring her it’s okay that she doesn’t remember. This is just more evidence of the close relationship they share. But it also becomes clear in this episode that Mulder has always felt responsible for Samantha’s abduction. His parents must have realized this. I think Teena was suffering the effects of her own trauma and was unable to give her son the emotional care he needed. Mulder, trying to make amends, became the caregiver.

Bill Mulder is much more culpable, as we see in Demons. To be fair, it’s never quite established that the flashbacks Mulder experiences are true memories. But if they are, they explain a lot about Teena. I think that, while the details may not all be accurate, the sense impressions are, and Mulder is remembering more than he’s confabulating. We learn from these flashbacks, which Mulder describes as “very vivid, very real,” that Bill Mulder abused Teena, at least verbally. At some point Teena fought back, but she wasn’t able to prevent Samantha’s abduction.

Mulder’s flashback of his parents fighting in Demons

Mulder goes to see Teena to confront her about the things he’s remembering. When Teena sees him pull up in front of her house, there’s a big smile on her face. I never noticed this before, because I always remember what comes next, but Teena is clearly delighted to see her son. But then Mulder accuses her of keeping things from him, and she turns cold. This has always been Teena’s trigger, being confronted with the past she wants to forget. When he accuses her of betraying her husband with CSM, Teena slaps Mulder. When her denials won’t satisfy him, Teena lashes out.

Teena isn’t capable of giving Mulder what he needs

I think a lot of people see this scene between Teena and Mulder as representative of their relationship all along. But I think it more clearly shows a turning point. This is where it goes from close to distant, from affectionate to cold. What’s fascinating is Teena’s last attempt to care for her son, telling him he’s bleeding. But he’s been the caretaker for so long that she doesn’t know how to do it, and she runs away. So does he, and it’s a long time before we see Teena again.

Teena turns her back on Mulder in Demons

We don’t see Teena at all in seasons 5 and 6. Her next scene is the one in Amor Fati that started me re-evaluating Teena. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking scene. Mulder can’t speak or move, but he’s screaming for his mother in his mind, and she can’t hear him. She says she loves him, but she also gives him over to CSM knowing he’s completely helpless. I don’t understand Teena’s motivation here. But I want her “I love you my darling boy” to count for something, so I have to believe she really thinks this is the only way to help Mulder.

Teena shows her true feelings for Mulder in Amor Fati

By the time we see Teena again in Sein Und Zeit, Mulder is surprised to hear from her. He asks if she’s okay, but he has no interest in continuing their conversation, and he doesn’t call her back.

Teena finally leads Mulder to the truth

For a long time I couldn’t understand or forgive Teena’s next action. Without answering any of the questions Mulder has been asking for years, she kills herself. But when I started to consider her life, and the trauma she’s suffered through abuse and loss, I knew she just wasn’t capable of having that conversation with Mulder. She redeems herself in Closure, though. Once Teena is in a place where her past can’t hurt her any more, she reaches out to Mulder with information he needs to find the truth. They both have closure, and I find it really very beautiful.

Teena leads Mulder to the truth in Closure

Closing argument

Teena Mulder was robbed of her opportunity and ability to be the kind of mother she wanted to be. She was married to an abusive man and involved with a manipulative monster. She was forced to choose between her children and when she refused, her agency was taken away from her. This broke her. She tried to carry on, but the only way forward was to turn to her son and place her burden on him. Their relationship became dysfunctional as Mulder took on the role of parent to his mother, but the bond was unmistakable. They were both too haunted by the past, though, and when Mulder’s search for answers disrupted the status quo, the bond was damaged. In the end, Teena’s love for Mulder found expression and offered him the gift of closure.

Teena never gave Mulder the emotional support he needed and she let him blame himself for things that weren’t his fault. But she did what she could to protect him. I can’t argue that Teena Mulder was a “good” mother, but she wasn’t a monster either.

The Skip List

The X-Files is my favorite show of all time. I am constantly in the middle of some sort of rewatch. Usually I start at the beginning and watch sequentially, although occasionally I’ll bounce around as the mood strikes me. Sometimes I’ll do a theme rewatch, but I have trouble sticking to it and often find myself watching additional off topic episodes. Following my last complete rewatch I started watching again from the beginning (because of course I did), but I knew there were some episodes I’d want to skip. I decided to create a list of “Episodes I Just Don’t Want to Watch.”

Not all of these are episodes I never want to watch, although some are. I made the list as I was going along, not beforehand, so some episodes are on the list just because I didn’t feel like watching them at that moment, while I would happily watch them another time. If I got to an episode I wasn’t sure about I asked for input from friends. If they could give me a reason why the episode was worth watching, I did. In most cases I didn’t regret it. Sometimes all it takes is a single line, or look, or touch. Sometimes the episode is too important within the context of the season to skip, even if I don’t particularly enjoy it.

I chatted with some friends as I was building my list, kept them updated season by season, and gave them a chance to talk me out of skipping certain episodes. When I finished my rewatch I looked at the list as a whole, and I was surprised by some of the results.

Episodes I Just Don’t Want to Watch

(Oct. ’18-Feb. ’19)

Season 1

  • Miracle Man
  • Shapes
  • Born Again

No real surprises for me here. I find these episodes drag. I don’t hate them though. I can manage them on a complete rewatch, but there’s really nothing that I look forward to about them. I considered skipping Young at Heart, but then Mulder goes and winks at Scully near the end and I couldn’t miss that.

Season 2

  • Red Museum
  • Excelsis Dei*
  • Dod Kalm

*This is one of two “never watch” episodes. It doesn’t exist for me even in a “complete” rewatch.

I thought the rib-eating, face-wiping scene in Red Museum might be enough to entice me to watch, but not this time. The episode just has too much going on, none of which is very exciting, for me to want to follow.

Excelsis Dei is garbage. It should never have been made. There is no way Mulder would NOT believe in entity rape or be so dismissive of a victim, and the xenophobia regarding the generic “Asian orderly” is offensive.

Dod Kalm is one that I will often watch for the sheer number of times Mulder touches Scully in the first two minutes, but that wasn’t enough for me this time. The slow pace of the scenes on the ship wasn’t what I was in the mood for.

I didn’t skip 3. Huh.

Season 3

  • The Walk
  • Revelations
  • Teso dos Bichos
  • Hell Money

This season was the biggest surprise for me. It’s one of my favorite seasons of The X-Files, but other than season 9 it had the largest number of episodes I felt like skipping. None of the episodes on my list surprises me though. They’re not good. I guess season 3 has some high highs and low lows.

Season 4

  • The Field Where I Died*
  • Sanguinarium
  • El Mundo Gira

*The second of my two “never watch” episodes

I know a lot of people love TFWID (and a lot of people don’t), but it just doesn’t work for me. It bothers me so much when I watch it that I have given myself permission to never watch it again. And as it turns out that’s just fine, because nothing that happens in the episode is of any consequence to the rest of the series. There are some absolutely beautiful images that I have no problem looking at though, as long as there’s no sound.

Sanguinarium, yuck. There’s nothing in the story or performances to overcome the unpleasantness.

El Mundo Gira I can enjoy from time to time. It has a lot of problems, but it’s not completely unwatchable. Just not on this rewatch.

I could have skipped Teliko, but the tagline keeps me coming back. Deceive Inveigle Obfuscate!

I was going to skip Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man, just because there’s so little Mulder and Scully and no x-file. But some friends convinced me to reconsider, and I’m glad I did. It’s such a good hour of television, even though it doesn’t fit the X-Files mold.

Season 5

  • Travelers

I don’t think I’ve ever made it all the way through Travelers without falling asleep. So I didn’t even try this time.

Season 6

  • The Beginning
  • Agua Mala

The Beginning is unpleasant. I remember it well enough that I don’t need to rewatch it to keep up with the mythology episodes that come after, so I didn’t see any need to put myself through it.

A lot of people love Agua Mala, but I’m not one of them. I find the constant bickering annoying rather than funny, and the jokes seem forced. Easily skippable.

I was convinced to watch Alpha by friends who think Jealous!Scully is hilarious. I could go either way on that.

Season 7

  • En Ami
  • Fight Club

The tension between Mulder and Scully at the end of En Ami was almost worth watching, but after the retcon in My Struggle III I’m in no hurry to revisit the episode.

Fight Club is truly terrible. Some of the banter between Mulder and Scully at the beginning (“Don’t go thinking I’m going to start doing the autopsies”) makes me want to watch it on occasion, but not this time.

I probably should have skipped First Person Shooter as well.

Season 8

  • Redrum
  • Surekill
  • Salvage

I think Redrum is a pretty good episode, but it’s one that really depends on the surprise making it worth watching. I had seen it recently enough that I didn’t feel the need to watch again this time.

Surekill and Salvage, ho hum.

Friends helped me decide Invocation was worth watching. There were some important Scully/Doggett moments.

I have skipped The Gift more often than I’ve watched it I think. But I’ve recently come to accept that Mulder’s Mysterious Brain Disease makes sense, so I watched it. I’m glad I did. It fits, dammit!

Season 9

  • Nothing Important Happened Today
  • Nothing Important Happened Today II
  • Daemonicus
  • 4-D
  • Hellbound
  • Provenance
  • Providence
  • Audrey Pauley
  • Underneath
  • Improbable
  • Scary Monsters
  • Jump the Shark
  • William+
  • Release
  • Sunshine Days

+I watched only until we see Mulder reflected in Scully’s eye

Clearly the episodes I wanted to watch would be a shorter list. I watched Lord of the Flies because I had just finished Breaking Bad and I wanted more Aaron Paul. I watched Trust No 1 because I had seen a discussion on Twitter about Scully’s reaction to the Shadow Man’s “one lonely night” comment, and I wanted to re-evaluate it. I watched John Doe because it’s a great episode. And I watched The Truth because there are so many wonderful moments I can overlook the parts I dislike.

As for the rest…eh. They just don’t draw me in as much as I’d like. Once in a while is enough for me.

Seasons 10 and 11

I didn’t skip any of the revival episodes. They’re new enough that I feel there’s still a lot I can get out of watching them.

And that’s the list. Now it’s time for my next rewatch!

Social Media Community

My Experience in the X-Files Fandom

This blog is adapted from Heart Eyes 4 David Duchovny: Creating a Social Media Community in the X-Files and David Duchovny Fandoms, by Pamela Stafford, M.A. and Cathy Glinski, J.D., presented at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association annual conference on February 21, 2019.

My name is Cathy Glinski.  I’m an avid X-Phile. I was a fan of the show when it originally aired, and I’ve been rewatching it continuously since the summer of 2015.  I joined Twitter 2/19/16 to talk to others about The X-Files, and I first saw David Duchovny in person one year to the day later. This blog recounts my personal experience with developing a social media community within the X-Files fandom.

Social media allows you to interact with the world, but narrowed to individuals with common interests. It makes your world bigger and smaller at the same time. What is community?  The definition I’m focusing on here is “A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

I was drawn to social media by the need to talk about The X-Files with others who shared that passion (this was at the time leading up to the revival of the series in 2016). I was looking for this “fellowship as a result of sharing common interests” that makes up a community. I was already on Facebook.  All middle aged moms are. So I tried an X-Files Facebook group, but I didn’t really like the tone of the conversations I was encountering, and there was no way to tailor my interactions.  I was either in the group or not.

That’s where Twitter came in.  I knew from a podcast I listened to that there were fans on Twitter talking about The X-Files.  So I set up a Twitter account, and I started following a few people, and that led me to others who led me to others.  Before long I was interacting with a group of people who seemed to be just as obsessed with The X-Files as I was.

My Facebook friends are all people I know personally. I can talk to them about all the things going on in my life, and they’re somewhat interested. But almost none of them are interested in talking X-Files with me. By contrast, I know very few of my Twitter friends personally, and I wouldn’t share much about my life on Twitter. But I can talk to them about X-Files nonstop and they will never get sick of it. We recently spent a full week in conversation about when Mulder and Scully first had sex, and that’s ok! That’s still a community.  It’s a broad group of people with limited common interests.  It’s shallow, but it’s meaningful on the level it exists. It’s a different type of community, but serves a valid function.  It’s fun.

This shallow community has led to deeper interactions as well. One of my mutuals put together a private chat group with others who had similar reactions to posts about David Duchovny.  That was the start of what I came to appreciate as true community. This very small group started by talking about our appreciation of David Duchovny and The X-Files, but soon we were sharing our personal stories as well. We found we had other things in common. We’re of similar in age, professional women, who share attitudes about not only fandom but other aspects of life.  This deeper level community group has become very important to me.

And it was this community which led me to step out of my comfort zone and try new experiences. When our group first started chatting we talked about how we would never be able to meet David in person. We wouldn’t enjoy a comic con, we’d never have an opportunity to attend a concert or book discussion, and even if we did we’d be too nervous to talk to him.  But now we’ve done all those things!

In the past two years I’ve attended two of David’s concerts, a book discussion where I got to ask him a question, a meet and greet, and two photo ops (one with Gillian Anderson as well). I’ve also attended two fan conventions and met all the major stars of The X-Files. And I attended a fundraising event where I met the creator of the show, with whom I had an actual conversation.

I’ve also discovered and pursued a new found interest in podcasting.  I started with contributing to The X-Cast, an X-Files podcast, first with ideas but then as a guest on the show.  And that community led me to a classic movie podcast hosted by another member. I’ve been a guest on The Movie Palace podcast twice, as a legal expert discussing classic courtroom movies.  I never would have imagined myself doing that, and it’s a direct result of engaging with the X-Files fandom on social media.

One of the conditions I made for myself when joining Twitter was that I would only post positive comments. I think I’ve stayed true to that.  I’ve never had any negative comments made to or about me—that I know of. And that’s really key for me. On Twitter I can scroll past negative tweets, I can mute, unfollow, block.  Simple steps that make a world of difference. We have less invested in relationships in this type of community.  It’s not as significant or painful when they end. And there’s no reason to let these relationships cause pain or discomfort.

For me, participating in a social media community has truly been self-care.  It gives me an outlet for positivity, an opportunity to spend some time on something I enjoy.  And a real source of joy for me has been developing friendships that extend beyond fandom interests.  So I do my best to avoid negativity and would leave completely if I couldn’t.

I’ve never really kept my fandom a secret from friends or family.  I just don’t talk about it a lot with most of them because they don’t get it. I’m not trying to keep anything hidden though. My close friends and family all seem to be enjoying my obsession, I think because they can see how happy it makes me. But also because it’s not something they would have ever expected from me.  I get the sense people enjoy that I seem to be acting out of character.

My take away from evaluating my experience in a social media fandom community is that through social media I was able to expand my world by narrowing my focus. I’ve found that this concept, while a revelation to me, is considered obvious to others somewhat younger than I am.  I think these generational differences in expectations regarding social media would be worth exploring further.

What’s more, and what’s most important to me, we have the ability to shape the community we engage with, both by limiting who we interact with and by the types of interactions we have.  My life is better because of the community I’ve found through engaging in a fandom on social media.