First, I think it’s notable that the highest scoring episode is the Pilot, in which 23 of the details I consider iconic appeared. Only Fight the Future scored higher, with 24 points, but it’s a full length feature film. I find this amazing! So many of the details we came to identify as necessary to the show were there right from the start. A friend asked me if it’s possible that we look to the Pilot for what to expect, and that’s why the details we find iconic are the ones we see in that episode. It’s an interesting question. I think that’s true of things like “Spooky” and “Medical doctor”, or Scully performing an autopsy, or the basement office. But many of the details I’ve included in the spreadsheet are incidental to the story being told, like the random touches or Mulder’s rolled sleeves. Those details became just as important to the look and feel of the show, so I think their presence in the Pilot is a remarkable bit of consistency, especially for a show often criticized as lacking that feature.
My next observation is that generally mythology episodes score higher than monster of the week episodes. That’s not true across the board. Vince Gilligan’s stand alone episodes tend to score pretty high as do Darin Morgan’s episodes. It’s possible that the mythology episodes were the closest to a “formula” the series ever came and thus needed a certain look, while the monster of the week episodes could be more experimental. And both Vince Gilligan and Darin Morgan were masters at detail continuity, so it makes sense we would see a lot of these details in their episodes. This idea might be something I’ll explore further.
My top five favorite episodes scored pretty high. Paper Hearts and Memento Mori each scored 17 points, Requiem 15, Pusher 11, and Jose Chung’s From Outer Space 10. Not surprisingly, my least favorite episodes scored fairly low. Excelsis Dei, First Person Shooter, and Fight Club each scored 5 points. I can’t draw too many conclusions from these scores. I created the spreadsheet, so it makes sense that the episodes I love are going to be filled with the details I chose to focus on. There are a few lower scoring (<5) episodes that I like a lot, but no higher scoring (>17) episodes that I don’t love.
When I started this project I was curious whether the details I was focusing on could help pinpoint moments of change in the Mulder/Scully relationship (because for me it’s all about the MSR). I think I had some success with that. In Beyond the Sea Mulder calls Scully “Dana” for the first time. That and his reassuring random touches make me think this is when they go from being just partners to friends. As I’ve noted before, these two characters touch each other a lot. There are loads of little random touches, and those continue throughout the series. But in season 4 we start seeing more personal touches. The forehead kiss in Memento Mori makes it clear these two characters are more than friends; they’re necessary parts of each other’s whole. The forehead touch in Fight the Future is so intimate that we know their feelings have progressed even further. Scully pretty consistently “checks Mulder for head trauma” by ruffling his hair, but when Mulder touches Scully’s hair in Redux II and The Red And The Black, it’s because he’s facing the possibility of losing her. That intimate gesture shows his need to hold on. And when he repeats it in all things…well we know something’s about to happen.
I learned some things that surprised me while tracking these details. Scully doesn’t “not see” all that often (only 8 episodes). That’s about as often as Mulder loses his gun (9 episodes). Although I hear a lot of complaints that the show puts Scully in peril too often, the numbers show otherwise. Throughout the series Mulder is attacked or shot 66 times, while Scully is attacked or shot 47 times. And Mulder saves Scully a total of 18 times, but Scully saves Mulder a total of 17 times. I’d say that’s a pretty fair balance. Another fun realization: I knew Mulder and Scully rarely call each other by their first names, but I was surprised to learn that Scully only calls Mulder “Fox” twice in the entire series, and both instances were written/co-written by Glen Morgan.
I think the biggest surprise for me by far was how seldom Mulder places his hand on Scully’s lower back. I was under the impression that this was the most commonly used gesture in the series, and I expected to see it in almost every episode. It’s there right at the very beginning, and we see it in 13 episodes of the first season. But after that it’s pretty rare. I was so happy to see it make a reappearance in season 11.
Just a note about the scoring. When I created the spreadsheet I tried to choose details that could be identified objectively. I didn’t want to include anything that would require me to interpret a scene or a character’s motivations, partly because I wanted to be able to mark the spreadsheet quickly as I watched, and partly because I recognized that others might have different interpretations. But how do you know precisely when Mulder calling “Scully” becomes “Scuullllaaaayyy”? As I did my rewatch, it became clear I would have to make some judgment calls. For instance, I defined a “Mulder ditch” as any time Mulder went off without telling Scully where he was going or why, but someone else might also include any time Mulder did something even though Scully asked him not to. I counted times Mulder or Scully were shown in hotel rooms they were staying in but not times they were investigating a case in a hotel. I counted not only times Scully said “Mulder, it’s me” but also times Mulder answered the phone “Mulder” and Scully immediately said “It’s me” (and vice versa). So it’s quite possible that someone else using this same spreadsheet could come up with different scores.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has followed along with this project. I loved your comments, encouragement, and suggestions for future spreadsheets. I loved when friends pointed out details they spotted or asked for answers based on the data I’d collected. You’ve helped make this whole effort extremely enjoyable!
So here it is, the completed spreadsheet. Take a look, and please let me know if you find any surprises or draw any interesting conclusions!
One thing I love about The X-Files is that it often leaves questions unanswered. Not everything is wrapped up in a neat little package at the end of an episode, or season, or ever. I think the ambiguities make the show more interesting. It feels natural to have questions, and I love that the show doesn’t shy away from that.
One benefit to all these unanswered questions is they leave room for viewers to come up with head canons to fill in the gaps. This is especially true when it comes to the Mulder Scully Relationship. Almost every Shipper I know has a favorite MSR head canon or two. I’m no exception.
A lot of fans express their ideas through fanfic. I’ve spent uncounted hours reading and re-reading and loving these stories. I’m constantly blown away by the talent in this fandom, and I am extremely grateful that these fan/writers generously share their work with all of us. I’m also in awe of their ability to create situations for such well known characters in a way that makes them completely recognizable. I love how fanfic expands the universe of The X-Files.
I don’t write fanfic. I don’t know how to construct a story or develop a plot, and the idea of trying to create dialogue causes me endless amounts of stress. But for some reason lately I’ve felt compelled to write out some of my favorite head canons as sort of “non-fic fanfiction.” They’re almost completely lacking in story, plot, and dialogue. They’re more descriptions of what I think happened based on clues we see in the show, or in one case maybe just wishful thinking. They’re simply my attempts at filling the gaps.
My Most Unfortunate Head Canon
This theory solidified in my mind during my last rewatch and I had to write it down. Coincidentally, it was just before Admiralty posted her extraordinary fic, The Whole Truthhttps://archiveofourown.org/works/21234686/chapters/50558084. Although we reach some of the same conclusions, there’s really no comparison. Her story is a brilliant work of art, intricately detailed, thoughtful, and completely true to the characters. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s truly beautiful.
I think Mulder had sex with Diana Fowley during The Beginning in Season 6. I know, I KNOW! It’s a horrible thought. I didn’t want to believe it, but the more I think about it the more evidence I find to support it. I wouldn’t characterize it as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but certainly to my mind it’s established by a preponderance of the evidence. The good news is that it’s never explicitly mentioned in the show. So if you want to go on thinking it never happened, that’s perfectly legit. But here’s why I think it makes sense.
As background, I have to look at Fight the Future. In the hallway scene after Scully tells Mulder she has resigned from the FBI and argues that he never really needed her, Mulder makes a beautiful speech telling her how wrong she is. She’s kept him honest, she’s made him a whole person. As moving and heartfelt as his speech is, I don’t think it’s a declaration of love. It’s more of a declaration of “I don’t know exactly how I feel, but I don’t want to find out by losing you.” It was a reaction to the thought of losing Scully as a partner, as someone he has come to depend on. I think it’s significant that they were talking about their work, and when Mulder said “I owe you everything Scully, and you owe me nothing,” he was telling Scully what she’s meant to him in that work. It was an emotionally charged moment, and it would have led to kissing and sex if the bee hadn’t interfered. But they really weren’t ready for that step, because they hadn’t come to terms with how they felt about each other, and they certainly had never discussed it. The aftermath would not have gone smoothly in the long run.
But the bee interrupted them and Scully was abducted, and Mulder went to the ends of the earth to rescue her. And in doing so he found undeniable proof of the existence of aliens. But then Scully denied that they had proof! Mulder was pissed, and he felt utterly betrayed. Not just by Scully, but by Skinner, who voted against reinstating Mulder and Scully on the X-Files, and by Diana, who got the assignment.
But mostly, he was frustrated with Scully’s refusal to believe what he saw in Antarctica. He reminded Scully that he had saved her (“You would have seen them too, but you were passed out over my shoulder.”) I think at that point Mulder was thinking that before Antarctica he owed Scully everything and she owed him nothing, but now they’re even. Out of frustration and anger he also questioned whether he really needed Scully, since she never believed him anyway. Scully reminded Mulder that he said her science has kept him honest, and he responded that this time her science is wrong.
Just when Mulder is feeling his most frustrated, Diana Fowley reappears. She tells Mulder that she’s making sure someone on the X-Files is serving his interests, someone who believes in him. She reminds him that she and Mulder found the X-Files together, and she offers to work with him. Fowley tells Mulder she wants to help him find proof, not because she doesn’t believe but because she does and she wants to help him prove it. This is music to Mulder’s ears. So Mulder makes his choice to go with Diana, leaving Scully to care for Gibson Praise. And Diana listens to him and agrees with his theories, and it feels so good to be deferred to for a change.
When Mulder and Diana are at the power plant, the situation gets a little scary, a little dangerous. Then they find the creature and Mulder is proven right. It’s exciting and validating, and there’s this huge adrenaline rush. Mulder is feeling really good right now, and that feeling gets associated with Diana.
It’s telling that in the middle of this scene Scully calls Mulder to tell him about the virus she found in Gibson Praise. Scully sees the virus as a step toward the proof they need, but Mulder doesn’t need any more proof. He shuts her out without telling her what he’s found.
After the power plant incident there’s a cut, and the next scene is back in Washington D.C. I think the sex happened between those two scenes. Mulder had just had this extremely exciting experience with Diana. She’s also told him she believes him and believes in him. They have a romantic history together and she’s showing signs that she’d like to rekindle that. I think they go back to her hotel and have sex.
Back in D.C., though, Mulder and Scully are ordered to cease all material association with the X-Files. And the next scene we see between Mulder and Scully is really tense and awkward. Scully tells Mulder that Fowley’s report makes no mention of Gibson, that it seems to protect everything but Mulder. Mulder defends Diana, pitting her against Scully, accusing Scully of asking him to make a choice between her and Diana. I don’t think that’s at all what Scully was doing, but I think Mulder is reacting this way because that’s what he’s going through in his head.
Scully hands Mulder a file and tells him what she found in the virus and in Gibson and apparently we’re all part extra-terrestrial, whatever. But then Mulder finally gets it. He understands that Scully never gave up on him, that she kept looking for proof because she wants the truth, which is the same thing he wants.
After this Mulder comes to his senses. I think it was this conversation with Scully, but I’m not really sure. I’ll have to think about that some more, or let someone else think about that. But he only had sex with Diana that one time in Arizona. (I think what Mulder says to Diana in his dream in Amor Fati supports this: “I sleep with you one time and you lay all this on me?”) At some point Mulder told Diana he wasn’t interested in resuming their relationship, and there was never going to be anything between them other than the past.
Then Mulder went to the Bermuda Triangle. His experience on the 1939 ship, the thought of never seeing Scully again, made him realize what he had to do. When he woke up and told Scully he loved her, he meant it, completely.
When Scully confronted Mulder with her suspicions about Diana in One Son, Mulder reacted childishly. He lashed out at Scully because he was embarrassed and even guilty that he had slept with Diana. Not because he wasn’t free to make that choice, but because he knew he made it for the wrong reasons and he regretted it. So in his childish response, he tried to shift “blame” to Scully, telling her she was making this personal, which was a really bonehead thing to say. The man may know he’s in love with Scully, but he hasn’t figured out how to convince her of that yet.
I haven’t come to any conclusions about Diana’s motivations. Like Scully, I don’t trust her. I don’t know if she had real feelings for Mulder at this point, or any point, or if he was just a means to an end. The show doesn’t give us enough information to go on, so I’ll leave that to the fandom’s talented fanfic writers.
What the Shadow Man Doesn’t Know
I’ve had this theory for quite a while but just recently put it into words in response to a conversation on Twitter.
After Mulder and Scully have sex for the first time in all things they fall asleep together in Mulder’s bed. When Scully wakes up a couple hours later she has a moment of panic. Not regret, just a need to process on her own before facing him. So she gets out of bed, goes to the bathroom to get dressed. Mulder is awake but doesn’t let her know this. He knows her, knows she has to process. He’s content to let this proceed at her pace. To him it’s just like her “oh brother” when he told her he loves her in Triangle. As she’s leaving she can’t help a little feeling of triumph. She did this. But she has to think about what it means, by herself, so she leaves.
They don’t see each other at work the next day, each called to separate duties. Maybe there’s a brief awkward moment in the office, but there’s not really time to say anything.
By the time Scully gets home, she has regrets. Not that they slept together, but that she left without saying goodbye, without talking. She’s restless. She decides she can’t let this wait a moment longer, so she calls Mulder. She stammers on the phone and wonders why it’s so awkward, it’s just Mulder. She manages to ask if he can come over, and he’s on the way before she even hangs up the phone.
Mulder arrives, still determined to follow Scully’s lead, so he doesn’t say anything about last night. He probably makes a stupid joke which falls flat. She starts talking a couple of times, but she can’t get to the point. He reaches out and touches her hand in encouragement. That’s all it takes. They end up in her bed, yadda yadda yadda.
Through all of this there is no mention of the night before. There’s still no talk of the future. They leave together the next morning, but there is no repeat performance in her apartment before Mulder is abducted.
When the Shadow Man tells Scully he knows that one lonely night she invited Mulder to her bed, Scully realizes that he has in fact been watching, but she also realizes that there’s a limit to his knowledge. He doesn’t know that that wasn’t their first time, and he doesn’t know there were other times after that.
You’re My Sweetheart
I came up with this post-Babylon head canon between seasons 10 and 11 as way of leaving Mulder and Scully reconciled. I altered it just a bit in light of Plus One, but I still think it works. It’s what I want to believe anyway.
The case wrapped up, and Mulder invited Scully over for dinner. Things have felt more comfortable between them since they started working together again. They’re on their way back to being them. There’s still so much to work through, but they’re both feeling like they’ll get there. It seems natural to spend some time together after work, so he asks and she says yes.
He waits for her on the porch listening to some music. The Lumineers aren’t his typical choice, but there’s something about this song, on this day, that just speaks to him.
Scully arrives and they start right away with their banter, and it’s so familiar and so comforting. Underneath it there’s a sense of reconciliation, of understanding, of connection. This, whatever it is, is right. They belong with each other.
Mulder invites Scully to walk with him. This was always something they loved about being out in the country, away from prying eyes. It was something they could share even when she could venture out into the world and he couldn’t. Again, this feels right, it feels like them.
They’re speaking from the heart, and though they’re not yet talking about their relationship, in their own way they’re acknowledging it. Mulder hears music. Not the trumpets of angels. No, it’s that song again. “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart.” If there was ever a song that summed up in a trite phrase how he felt about Scully, that was it. He’s a little embarrassed about that sappy thought, but then he doesn’t care. He just wants to enjoy this moment. She wraps her arms around him, and he knows she feels the same.
They wander back to the house and she stops at her car to get the bottle of wine she brought. Inside, dinner smells delicious, but Mulder tells Scully it still has to cook for about an hour. He takes the wine from Scully to open it. “So we could…” he starts. Scully shocks herself by blurting out “we’ll think of something.” That was their little joke when they were on the run, filling countless hours by exploring each other’s bodies. Mulder stills, looks at Scully. He doesn’t want to presume that was her intent, is willing to let the comment pass as just a slip of the tongue. But Scully realizes she doesn’t want to let it pass. This is exactly what she wants. She reaches for Mulder, and they kiss passionately. He leads her up the stairs.
After, they both understand without saying that there’s a lot more work to do on their relationship. This was wonderful, and it was right, but it was right now. It’s a step in the direction they both want to head, even if they’re not sure how or when they’ll take the next one.
A couple of weeks ago I was watching D.P.O., when I noticed that Scully was wearing sunglasses. It occurred to me that we don’t see that very often, so I took this pic and posted it on Twitter, commenting about how unusual it was.
That started a discussion about the many recurring details in The X-Files, and a lot of folks chimed in about the ways they’ve tracked them. Some use a journal or their phones to jot down noteworthy details as they watch. Some look for recurrence of just one or two specific items. A few of us suggested that a spreadsheet would be an effective way to keep track of all this data, and I decided that was exactly what I needed for my next rewatch.
I should mention that I’ve never created a spreadsheet before in my life. My brain isn’t really wired for that kind of information organization, and my eyes typically glaze over when I come across charts and graphs. So I guess that’s why this seems like a pretty big deal for me and why I felt compelled to blog about it (writing about my experience comes much more naturally).
I began collecting details to include and got LOTS of suggestions. I had over a hundred items on my list! I knew I’d never be able to track that many details in a single viewing, so I had to narrow it down a bit. I took out details that were sufficiently tracked elsewhere, such as recurring characters, and others that occurred too often to be considered noteworthy, like Scully’s cross (although times that Scully wasn’t wearing her cross could be an interesting detail to track…). Since my goal was to create a list of items I could track while watching every episode without stopping to analyze each scene, I removed items such as facial expressions (Scully’s eyebrow lift and Mulder’s eyebrow wag, various lip/tongue activities), tone of voice, and innuendo, which would take a closer examination or were subject to interpretation.
I ended up with 56 details on my list. That’s a lot, I know, but they’re all easy enough to spot so I think it’s manageable. I grouped them into categories to make tracking easier as I watch. Here’s the list:
Phrases Mulder it’s me Scully it’s me Sculllaayyy Mulder voiceover Scully voiceover Mulder “Dana” Scully “Fox” Medical doctor Spooky Mulder Things sunflower seeds flashlights Mulder’s porn green acid blood
Actions Scully autopsy Scully doesn’t see Mulder profiling Mulder is shot/attacked Scully is shot/attacked Mulder in hospital Scully in hospital Scully saves Mulder Mulder saves Scully Mulder sport Mulder touch/taste evidence Mulder cries Scully cries sharing umbrella Mulder loses gun slide show Mulder ditch
Platonic activity hand on lower back forehead touch forehead kiss hair touches random touches hugging
Locations Mulder’s apartment Scully’s apartment basement office rental car hotel elevator parking garage
I scored a few random episodes to test out the spreadsheet, and I was able to track everything pretty easily. Moreover, it was really, really fun to do (admittedly I don’t get out much). So I’ve started my complete rewatch. I’m about halfway through Season 1, and one initial observation I’ve made is that the two most commonly occurring details are “random touches” and “Mulder’s rolled sleeves”. That’s really no surprise. I mean Mulder touches Scully a lot. A lot a lot a lot. And Mulder’s rolled sleeves are almost as ubiquitous as Scully’s cross. In fact, that’s a difficult detail to track since it’s so common.
I’ve also thought of some details I wish I’d included in the spreadsheet, such as “1013” or “1121”, Mulder telling Scully “always”, a call to Danny, a trip to the forest, anyone saying “I want to believe”, a scene in a cemetery, an Elvis reference, a scene in a stairwell, and a reference to cattle mutilation. I guess those will go in a spreadsheet for my next rewatch!
So what will I do with all this data once it’s collected? The possibilities are endless!!! First thing that comes to mind is creating episode- or season-specific drinking games. That’s always fun. And imagine being able to answer whether Scully saved Mulder more often than Mulder saved Scully, or whether Mulder really lost his gun often enough to justify the ankle holster, or whether there was ever an episode where they DIDN’T touch in some way. Seems like essential information for an obsessed Phile, so it’s high time I started collecting it!
I’ll post periodic updates and share observations as I go along. I might even make some predictions and then report on how accurate they were. My goal for Season 1 is to see whether these details can be used to pinpoint the moment Mulder and Scully went from being just professional colleagues to friends. I’m also interested in identifying any details that seem iconic but really don’t occur very often. I’ll let you know what I find out.
I’d love some feedback on this project, so if you have thoughts or suggestions please let me know, either here or on Twitter!
Here’s a link to the spreadsheet for anyone who wants to follow my progress:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.